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December 28, 2009

The Wavering Guards: Whose side are they on?

The following post is based on the experience of a trusted source in Iran.
Normally it’s the mothers and fathers looking for their arrested sons and daughters, but this time it was the son, looking not only for his mother and father, but his uncle, aunt and seventy-nine year-old grandmother. He waited with other parents in a Tehran holding facility, which doubled as a resting place for various government forces.  “Excuse me, could I just get my keys from my parents please?” he lied in the hopes of speaking with his family.
To which the guard responded, “No, just stay with your uncle tonight.”
“But my uncle’s with them.”
“Then stay with your aunt,” said the guard.
“She’s in there too,” he replied.
“Go to your grandmothers, then!” said the guard. Unlike the US, in Iran, it’s safe to assume that one’s extended family live in such close proximity.
“But, you’ve arrested my grandmother too!” he pleaded with frustration.
“Well, then you might as well join them,” the guard joked and perhaps taking pity on him, showed him to his parents.
His family along with many others were arrested near Tehran University without even having had participated in the Ashura protests.  Apparently, one Basij told the crowd they couldn’t enter a street near Tehran University. As they were turning around to leave, another guard told them to sit down causing everyone to ask, “Why?”
To which the guard responded, “Everyone, get in the van!”
The men and women were separated in the area, similar to how they are for prayer in mosques. There were about seventy women in a room, all of whom who had to turn and face a wall the moment a Basij or police officer entered the room to rest—a forced gesture of modesty.
The men, which totaled 400, were kept in another room. Guards in both rooms kept asking, “Is anyone sick? Is anyone sick?” out of fear of having someone die on their watch.
Each room was filled with camaraderie as the detained shared stories of how they were arrested. It even turned into a reunion of sorts as one fifty year-old protester met a long lost friend who had participated in the 1979 Revolution with him.
The guards’ amateurish behavior even provided the detained with something to laugh at. His mother witnessed one of the robot-dressed militia men, try numerous times to fit in through a door which was clearly too small for him with all the gear he was wearing. After several failed attempts, the guard finally realized he had to turn to his helmeted-head to the side to fit through the door.
Women in Iran are known as shirzan, the lioness, for their bravery and  cunning. Yesterday, they proved worthy of the title as they destroyed their cell phones and threw them down the toilette to avoid confiscation—leaving the guards in possession of only ten phones.
Fortunately, this one lucky family was freed with nothing more than a mark on their record. Well, not all of them. The youth’s uncle went to the bathroom during documentation of the detained, leaving without a trace.
Though the guards proved inept in their administrative capabilities, their inability to confiscate cell phones from seventy women, to walk through doors and to document who was in their custody; their intimidation tactics proved effective. One guard told a 16-year old, “Hey there good looking, I screwed two pretty assholes like you just yesterday.” The family left unscathed physically, but emotionally fired up, vowing to take to the streets more fervently than before.
Perhaps the guard’s failure to conduct the most basic procedures was due to their incompetence and lack of training. But, this seems doubtful considering the regime dealt more decisively with larger protests after the disputed Presidential elections. Or was their failure to let such straightforward tasks fall through the cracks because they just don’t care anymore? Perhaps they’ve had a change of heart after seeing women protesters rush to their rescue or their morale is low after witnessing peaceful protesters beaten by their peers? These guards can’t revolt to show their disheartenment, but they can sure do a shoddy job.

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