For most who attended the demonstration in support of the Iranian rebellion tonight in San Francisco’s Union Square, it was, as well, an opportunity to connect with friends. But in contrast to the brutality of the Islamic Republic’s crackdown on the streets of Tehran, this was a joyous occasion. As we chanted, sometimes in English, sometimes in Farsi, this was the outpouring of a people who have waited thirty years—for many of them, longer than they’ve been alive—to get their country back. It was a time to celebrate.
I saw a few people in headscarves, a few wrapped in the old flag of Iran from before the Islamic Republic, and a few who covered their faces in fear of who might be collecting identities. They will be returning each night to Union Square, they say, until the United Nations votes to condemn the stolen election.
For me, it was a night filled with irony. I have just, hopefully, completed a master’s degree, over thirty years after my first time attending college, at Sacramento City College, in Fall 1976, where some of my fellow students protested the Shah’s rule. I learned of secret police and torture then, and did not know then how to reconcile these accounts with mainstream media reports.
I finished my associate’s degree in business data processing at American River College, also in Sacramento, the same year the Shah’s regime fell. Now, after a bachelor’s in mass communication, and a master’s in speech communication, I still do not how to reconcile mainstream media reports with the reality they so often fail to report, a reality inconvenient for “authoritative sources.”
Since the Shah was driven from power, flying to the United States ostensibly for medical treatment, I have learned that the United States did not merely, as President Obama recently admitted, “play a role” in the overthrow of the Mossadeq government in 1953, but masterminded a coup d’etat to affirm corporate hegemony over Iranian oil fields.
So it was ironic that this demonstration was held in a square in a center of capitalism, surrounded by such brands as Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Westin, and many others. At the center of the square is a monument to the Spanish American War, a war initiated, not unlike some more recent wars, on fabricated grounds, that constituted a beginning to the U.S. overseas empire.
Though the square gradually emptied at the end of the demonstration, the joy has not dissipated. Not only are these people grateful for the occasion to reconnect with each other, but they expect a secular democracy in their homeland. They believe their moment has come, and they will be brutally crushed if this rebellion fails. It is more than ironic that Obama now says that the Iranian people must select their government and that the U.S must not appear to be “meddling,” for just as I remember the U.S. condemned as the “Great Satan,” having provoked the Islamic revolution in 1979 with its involvement in 1953, it is now inescapably responsible for the present condition of their country. This revolution cannot be allowed to fail.