Letters From Iran
Tamar YonahTamar Yonah hosts the most popular English speaking radio talk-show in...
Below is a dramatic email exchange between myself and an Iranian listener. Zareen (not her real name) took part in a recent demonstration in Tehran that was called for by the Green Movement. She was arrested after shouting slogans. She was beaten, handcuffed, blindfolded and threatened. Here is the email exchange I had with her below. (A very few changes were made in this email exchange, and only for the sake of clarity. Text that is in BOLD script, are my replies/questions to Zareen.)
I took part in Monday's demonstration in Tehran that was called for by the green movement and I was arrested and in custody for 8 hours. It was of the worst days of my life, because I did not even imagine that would happen. The revolutionary guards were all over the place and treating the demonstrators so harshly, Tamar it was very painful, but I am lucky that I was freed by midnight and I find that the prayers of my Noahide friends helped because they knew I was going to join and prayed for me.
For a couple of days I did not go to my online Torah classes just for being scared, but I cannot go idle like that any more, I am back online.
Zareen, can you come on the show to and tell us about the demonstrations, what it was like being arrested and what the 'FEEL' of the street is?
Will this put you in danger?
I am desperate to share that experience with you, but I dare not.
Tamar I would Love to be on your show and tell all about it, I am desperate to share that experience with you, but I dare not. I am still in the country and I do expect them to come back. The authorities have my phone number, they have my address now and even my cell number and they threatened me, at least as long as I am in Iran. I am so scared of being on air, but I am planning to move out first to another country and from there maybe to the USA, gradually. Tamar one day I will convert and one day we will meet in Yerushalaim :) Amen :)
The thing is even if I am in another country, I will not fear being on your show again, now in Iran my mom just wants to get me out the moment I fetch a passport, It is no more safe for me, because we do not know what happens next, I just want to tell you that I felt like being in the Holocaust being blindfolded and being cuffed and being brutalized, and not being said what will happen next, I was feeling for the victims of Holocaust, because for them there was no hope of being freed, no hope for grace and mercy that is how I felt. Tamar I just feel so bad to say no I won't be in your show, because for me there is nothing I would love more, as to come on and talk from my heart. If u think it will not be dangerous for me, I will come, as u suggest my dear :)
Much love from Iran.
No, Zareen, if you feel it is dangerous for you, then do NOT come on the show.
Would it be alright if I read your emails over the show and not give out your name?
And if so, can you write me another email telling me what it is like on the streets? How many people are demonstrating? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Less/more? Is the Iranian TV news and media covering your demonstrations or are they censoring it so no one can see or know? Do you see other news media from the outside there, like CNN, BBC, FOX and/or Al Jazera? Can you describe what it was like being arrested? Were any threats made against you? Again, don't answer these questions if it will put you in danger. Ask someone you trust and who can think straight, what they think, if you like. And let me know if I can read your emails (and the answers to the questions) over the air or not.
[Dear Tamar] As you have noticed it is better if as long as I am in Iran I do not come on air, especially after Monday's happenings...
Tamar I talked to this guy who was in the "Dialogue Among Civilizations" organization at the time of [former President of Iran from 1997-2005] Khatami, and his friends were in high-tech and in charge of the servers there, well at the time of the former president they were all kicked out of that building and replaced by new people of their own, these people continued their activities through an NGO by the same name. Anyway, he told me that emails and messages are safe and no problem, the thing is I cannot detach myself from the world. I feel I belong with the online community, because we are suppressed here, it is hard that we bar ourselves also from the interent to the outside world. I will be happy to answer any of your questions via email as long as I am in Iran and when I move out I will be honored to come on air any time that you find appropriate.
Ok now I will try to answer your questions my dear Tamar :)
What it is like on the streets?
Tamar, you can imagine a main street that connects four main squares in a row, hours before the demonstration which was meant to be peaceful and without even shouting slogans, the police and the revolutionary guards and all the different agents they had in official uniforms or in regular plain clothes were on both sides of the street. The number of motor bikes were amazing, like you only see in action movies and the bearded guys in uniform did look huge and scary.
First , one did not assume a demonstration would take place, because somehow people were scared of even looking at one another, you could hear them talking on their cell phones telling other people " ah, too many forces out on the streets, nothing can be done". The thing is, by each crossing [intersection] you could see 20+ motor bikes parked in a row, as if they wanted to sell them lol, it was even scary to look them in the eyes.
As I would look back and see how many people are there in the sidewalk, I would see masses of people just walking, conscious, on a regular day u would not see as many people decisively walking in that direction, and so quietly, from the other side you wouldn't see many people walking in the opposite direction.
As I got myself a tea and sat on a step, and looked at people who were passing, on their face, I saw people smiling at me. Women, men, the smiles were very meaningful, reassuring, as if these people were sharing something that they did not wish to demonstrate in shouts, because we all know that the level of tolerance of rulers is so low, we have learnt much from the past year, we did not wish to create chaos.
It was through the smiles and the growing number of the people walking fast towards the " Freedom Square" that made one realize that people have decided to reveal that the green movement is not dead despite all the mistreatments.
Tamar they started the clash, the guards. They came in the back of the trucks with their tasers in their hands and their caskets in massive numbers shouting slogans, and then, as we approached "Revolution Square" on the crossings, they pushed back the people using their sticks [clubs], swearing and shouting, and beating people.
How many people are demonstrating? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Less/more?
Tamar, I was arrested maybe half an hour after the demonstration was called for, and from that moment I did not see the streets but for as long as I was on the streets I saw the growing number, hundreds, and half an hour after 3 PM I could estimate thousands from the other side of the streets, from the buildings facing the streets. You could see many people just watching, some hiding behind their windows, some showing themselves openly from the windows, I just loved to wave at them lol The numbers were increasing exponentially, despite all the measures.
Is the Iranian TV news and media covering your demonstrations or are they censoring it so no one can see or know?
Tamar I personally have boycotted the IRI tv for as long as we do not have freedom, for as long as this country wants to act as the bully of Middle East, while this region is calling for union and fraternity and that could change every thing for all the people who belong here and the generations that come after...
But, I asked someone who attentively watched to see if the Feb14th demonstrations were covered and the person said no, not even a bit, only the Feb 11th demonstration that is held annually on the anniversary of the revolution as the reminder of the change of regime from a kingdom to its current state, was covered. There are some people who take part like a ritual, and those who are taken and brought to the demonstration through their offices, through the military, through the schools, and etc.
Do you see other news media from the outside there, like CNN, BBC, FOX or Al Jazeera?
The use of a dish antenna and a receiver by people in the country is illegal.
Tamar, although the IRI has many tv stations that are viewed only through a satellite receiver, including PressTV, still the use of a dish antenna and a receiver by people in the country is illegal, even through the laws passed by the parliament. With all that there is, almost no house is without a dish on top, unless the family is too revolutionary to allow for that, but every now and then to still make the people realize they could face problems for that, houses are raided and the receivers confiscated and people fined. Some years back having a satellite dish could even bring about more serious consequences.
Well, through those satelite dishes, we are able to view the channels --that we can view free of charge. There is no possible way for paying and watching cable, so there are some stations that we can view and some that we cannot. BBC, ALjazeera, and CNN could be watched here, not Foxnews though, but what is the main attraction for people is the Persian BBC and the Persian VOA, and people call the stations and talk and there are programs people like, and you know most of the people do not speak English so cannot understand what CNN and the rest of those channels say. But I am sure they would at least change the channel and feel happy, when on any of those English speaking news channels Iran is being reflected.
Can you describe what it was like being arrested?
Seeing people being beaten by the guards and the other guards chanting together " Hezbollah Hezbollah..." somehow made me feel like shouting.
We were not supposed to shout slogans to begin with, and I knew that. But the moment was very disturbing, seeing people being beaten by the guards and the other guards chanting together " Hezbollah Hezbollah..." somehow made me feel like shouting as strongly and as loudly as I could " Death to the dictator" a few times, and it was exactly that moment that many of the guards in uniform or in regular clothes jumped over my head and beat me and dragged me to the van that was parked by the crossing [intersection]. I did try to resist, because we have read that we should not be caught, and we can resist that, but there was no chance, too many of them there, and they looked so terrible, they shouted and swore and threatened, they used most disgusting and terrifying words. There were already three more demonstrators in the van, in the back seat, and there was this guy who would video record each person who was dragged into the van.
Before being handcuffed and blindfolded I saw a guy of whom they broke his head with their sticks, I saw a huge man who was clean shaven (you could not even suspect that he would be one of them) just move into the van and shout at a guy with a most terrifying voice and threatening him of [with] sexual assault. You know that was enough for me to understand I was very wrong shouting slogans, because then you are in their hands and you have no way out and you do not know what happens next. I felt my heart was bursting out of my chest and I would cry as a new guy was severed and pushed into the van and tasered.
The van was filled with many, many, guys and every one would say" I came just to watch! I have a store here I am a businessman, I have nothing to do with the demonstration.." pleading to just be freed. For the next few hours we were cursed [and told] to keep our heads down and not dare to look from the corners, being jammed in the van, and we could just hear the sounds of the streets, we could hear chaos, I guess they parked the van in a dead-end, they were talking with their headquarters to know where they should take us, and I could hear that all their places were filled and not vacant! So they drove us around and cursed us, well I was not beaten again, especially when I was moved to another car, I guess we changed a couple of cars, and then I asked for my cuffs to be loosened, and they did so, it was hurting. Then into a building and interrogation, it was very scary, very, very scary, but I was mentally crashed, and they did not beat me, just at the moment of arrest. They got all my info, different people would come and have an ideological debate with me and they would encourage me to speak back and when I did, I would hear a very scary voice whispering in my ear" now don't you act an intellectual for me, you know what we do to people like you..."
To me it was all confusion, but I did admit right away that I was there for the demonstration, what should I deny? I had shouted slogans.
They asked me about my religion and I said I was born to Shiites, they ask what are you right now? Bahai? I said I was not sure, I was more a secular. They said if I did not believe that Islam was the best religion ...and I said I was researching religions, and one said he had friends who were Satan worshippers. They said if I did not like the laws here I was not invited to stay back and I could go live in any country I felt like, like the USA if I did not like it here.
What they were looking for was a direct link between me and the green movement organizers, which was missing. I was not directly involved I just read the websites through a proxy and decided I would go and join.
They got my signature and all my info and said that I will be released, but this time if I was back in the streets, no mercy for me, and I well understood that. The last moment before taking us back into the cars the same scary voice told me "Miss Marxist, go back to the kitchen and stay away from the streets".
It was the midnight, we were released in an obscure lane and I had no idea where I was, what time it was or what I had to do next, being blindfolded for hours. Even to the last moment I thought we were being taken up the stairs to be pushed down, so we would die like that, because I had seen a video of treating some university students like that, when their hostels were raided last year.
That was a nightmare and thank G-d it is over, but I fear going back to the streets, even to buy myself something to eat.
Were any threats made against you?
They threatened me of rape, and being "taught good lessons"
Many threats Tamar especially when we were first arrested, the guys who dragged us to the van, how different they looked and how scary they were and they threatened me of rape, and being "taught good lessons" and I was feeling paralyzed with fear when I listened. They were scary, especially when they looked you right into the eyes and I am incredibly lucky that the ones who interrogated me were not the ones who arrested me in the first place, but I am sure that if I am arrested again, this time I will have to deal with the frist group, no morality, no mercy, some seemed like criminals who had killed many and are now serving life, but out of jail to handle the situation and be pardoned or awarded, that person could do the things they would or they threatened to do.
Sorry my dear Tamar, I write too much, as I speak too much :) I hope that is ok with you.
Did you see any cameras or news crews AT the demonstrations you were at?
Tamar I did not see any cameras or news crews nothing. Only the same man who was one of them [the authorities] video recording the ones arrested, one by one, as they were pushed into the van.
Was any news agency covering it?
No news agency was covering the event, and when I was interrogated the interrogators said if any one recorded my shouting slogans and posted that on the internet, that that would be shameful, because that would make other countries think here in Iran people and the government are not together! Well, the sole device was the cell phones of people and they confiscated every one's cell phones when arrested.
What is your message to the world?
Tamar, I want the people of the world know that people in Iran do try under harsh circumstances to change the mould of our own regime, which is young but stubborn, insisting on the same points and not trying to listen to what people of the country or the world around needs. This movement is supported by people with many different ideological backgrounds and what they want could be very different, what they have in common is the common sense of knowing and believing that this regime needs a very serious change to adjust to the needs of people, and the place Iran deserves to have in the region and in the world. The Iran that I have on my mind is a friend and ally of all the countries in the Middle East and you could not find a single country in the world calling Iran an enemy. Open and receptive to the younger generation. Freedom, freedom we need and a freedom that would not end into yet another chaos. We support the movements in the face of the totalitarian regimes and we hope for a better future for all the region :)
Much love from Tehran,
Why isn't the People's Revolution attempts in Iran not front page news in the mainstream media?
These people are trying to overthrow their Islamic Jihadist regime. Shouldn't the West or International Community be helping them? Or at least giving them decent media coverage? Why is the media silent? Why is U.S. President Obama silent? Why are stories of Lindsey Lohan walking out of a store with a necklace not paid for, more important than a massively important news story such as a revolution attempt agaisnt the Mullahs? The Iranian Islamic regime has threatened the leaders of the Green Movement with targeted assasinations in order to smother any resistance against their regime. Why is this not headline news everywhere? Why aren't world leaders helping these young moderates in Iran to overthrow their Jihadist regime? You can leave your comments in a talk back box below and Zareen will hopefully be able to read them as well.