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Iran: 22 Bahman's Reality "No Victory, No Defeat"

At the risk of overloading readers with analysis, I think Pedestrian's snapshot --- with a compelling eyewitness account --- and interpretation deserve full attention. It complements both the "inside Tehran" narrative we have posted and my emerging sense, from other information and analysis, that any "defeat" for the opposition yesterday was a tactical miscalculation rather than the end of the challenge to the Government:

Khordaad 88 has translated numerous eyewitness accounts of today’s demonstrations. We will continue to bring you more in the next few days.

Here is one account:

Iran Analysis: The Regime’s Pyrrhic Victory
Iran: The Events of 22 Bahman, Seen from Inside Tehran
Iran on 22 Bahman: Ahmadinejad “Wins Ugly” (This Time)
The Latest from Iran (12 February): The Day After 22 Bahman

Before the demonstration, we screamed, we shouted: this is such a stupid idea [gathering at Azadi]. We kept arguing that we could not “capture” Azadi Square, and this will only help the enemy. No one listened.

I let a pedestrian get in my car. She was crying. She said they were all on our side, but we did not dare move. They [government supporters] had come from 6 a.m. There was a boy who had a very religious look to him, with a beard and a keffiyeh. He wiped the sweat on his forehead with his keffiyeh, and asked her: “how do you know they were all on our side?” the girl responded between tears: “because they were not repeating the chants heard over the loudspeakers.” And the boy was calling the system every unprintable name under the sun.

I asked: so why didn’t you shout something else?

She said: because there were scores of security forces scattered between us. And besides, you couldn’t tell if the person standing beside you was a government supporter or not.

I asked the boy: so why have you made yourself look like this?

He said: “they told us to. I read so in balatarin.” [the plan was to "look" like government supporters, get in front, and "capture" Azadi Square]

When my wife heard the word “balatarin” she shook her head and I wish I had a keffiyeh too to wipe off my sweat.


Many are talking of whether today was a “defeat” or a “victory” for the greens. Certainly we have to wait some more and observe more, but given what we know … I do not look at events in such terms. What was there that was supposed to be “won” that is now, “lost”? Yes, given the lack of a huge turnout, there will most likely be even more pressure on opposition groups and human rights activists in the following weeks/months … But given where we stand rightnow, this moment, what was really lost? The Iranians inside Iran either chose to stay away from the protests, or could not gather in big numbers, or … But this is the end result. So, if you were an average Iranian who supported the opposition, what would be lost for you?

If you are a student, activist, etc, in Iran today, you have yet to know. And that’s it exactly: we don’t know yet, to be speaking so loudly of defeat and loss.

I am personally not disapointed, because after seeing the incredible turnout for Ashura, I was certain the state was busy preparing for 22 Bahman from the day after Ashura …  They were incredibly surprised that day and they were not going to let it repeat itself, given that it was such an important day for them. It was important to make the opposition look like small groups of eghteshahgar[attention seekers creating disturbance] and to secure the city full force.

Expecting anything else was pure blissful optimism.

Add to that the grave miscalculation by the greens themselves.

I think here is where the diaspora is actually influencing the state in Iran for the worse.

I was at an Iranian salon a few weeks ago. The 57 year old lady who I’ve known for more than a decade now told me: “I have been wanting to go to Iran for two decades now. I am waiting for after 22 Bahman, since the regime will be toppled that day, and then I’m going.”


I spoke to a traveler agent, a friend of the family, who said that at least a dozen people had called her and told her to make them reservations for Iran – but not to confirm their ticket until 22 Bahman, when they would know that “the regime would be toppled for sure.”

There was a vote on balatarin yesterday where 85% of people (almost 11, 0000 individuals from inside and outside Iran) voted that the greens would “take over” Azadi Square. These thoughts were further amplified by questionable individuals like Mohsen Sazegara who was giving tips on VOA on “what the protesters should do after taking over Azadi”. There were talks about “over 3 million opposition forces” attending the rally. I think this is a perfect example of where the virtual world and the expat community circulates their visions of sugar plum fairies on TV stations … and they have become liability for the movement. When you raise expectation above the real capacity of a movement , that only results in disappointment and despair.

The reality was that after Ashura, today was not going to be an easy day, and, that the greens should have at least made a better plan. Given tight security and the lack of a good plan … this was inevitable.

I think today was more a “reality check” than a “defeat”:

  • the state has far more security resources at its disposal than what we’d like to believe

  • the state has far more resouces in terms of getting out supporters/call girls/fans/oblivious forced presence/etc than we’d like to think

  • we have to think beyond street protests

Reader Comments (12)

Interesting read. I'm very curious to know what the opposition will/can do from here on.

February 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAZ

"The reality was that after Ashura, today was not going to be an easy day, and, that the greens should have at least made a better plan"

The question is - Has the coup disrupted/jailed/tortured/raped/executed enough of the opposition leadership to prevent effective planning? I don't mean the political leadership (Mousavi, Karroubi, Khatami). I mean the street level, tech savvy student activists that are the backbone of any social movement in the modern era.

I think maybe we have drank a wee too much of our own kool-aid when we talk about how "broad based" the opposition is and how it isn't just students this time. That may be true, but they are still the ones who organize everything.

February 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack

opposition is over....we are the permanent is has the victory foe ever..coz he is honest and faithful....god damn all those idiots who call themselves green!!!!WE ARE UNCOUNTABLE
الله اكبر...خامنه اي رهبر

February 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterATEFEH

Re the high res photo of Azadi Square here

There appears to be MANY MANY people in the main streets leading to the Square (I can imagine millions) - but comparatively very few inside the square itself.

I can imagine why this is so - but who are the people in the roads?? Protestors or regime supporters??


February 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

@A, if u think u r a part of majority why u stole Green slogan ?! 'we r uncountable' is a very green slogan, and if they r not .. WHY this much brutality is needed to spread this huge number of people?killing,torturing,keeping in jail ?! for innocent people? who will realise the pain inside the families ?uncountable is for the people who r giving their lives ,and not being PAID for doing or saying anything! AND please check the meaning of 'honest' and 'faithful' in the dictionary.!
History is a great teacher and i dont know why some people try to ignore its lesson?
hope to see our iran in peace and freedom soon ...

February 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersara

they r protestors ,inside the azadi sq. were only the people that government brought that day ,as u can see the huge number of buses ,but necessarily not the real supporters!

February 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersara


Thank you - yes, that is interesting.

Although there are MANY buses (has anybody counted them?), they only hold around 50 people each sitting. Let us say that there are are 1000 buses - that is 50,000 people - quite a large crowd to go inside Azadi Square. Regime supporters to cheer AN. Meanwhile the streets leading to Azadi Square hold hundreds of thousands/millions of people walking (from where? probably from suburbs of Tehran). Who are they?? I don't know - but IF they were Regime supporters, why would the Regime need to transport 50,000 supporters to go inside Azadi Square??

What is the truth?? Churchill once said of Russia : "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" . That applies for me to Iran


February 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

We must all remember that his is not a revolution. This is a civil movement. In other words, a cultural evolution.

Let's keep our frustrations in check and let's look at the entire events more strategically than emotionally.

This government will stay in power if people want them and will go away, one way or another, if people who wish for a better future unit.

Power is always with people - always.

If it was not, those in governments, with nothing to hide and working for the people, would not use brute force to maintain power.

The folliwng tow links may provide some insight:

February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJamal


The first link doesn't work for me - but the second link is an excellent essay.

We try to understand what is happening by considering comparisons with past history and analogies. They are not the whole answer - as history never repeats itself completely. But the comparison between the situation in Iran right now with the US civil rights situation in the 60's is useful - and gives some hope.

1. The Iranian protestors of today are analogous to the demonstrators of US 60's (mostly in Southern States?) . 2. The Regime is analogous to the US Southern States "political system" - Police, local Courts, local laws and their civilian supporters. The BIG difference of course lies in the size/power of this Regime compared to the US forces. 3. The world powers today (UN, etc) are analogous to the US Feds of the 60's. The power of the US Feds in the 60's was probably the single most significant influence on the Southern States being "forced" to change their ways. Today, hopefully it will be world powers who take this role - even though Iran's leaders are intransigent.

So - perhaps if the civil rights movement in the US can succeed , then so can a similar movement in Iran

For me the most pity quote from Victor Hugo is this - "There's nothing more powerful, than an idea whose time has come"

In the US, the time for the US Civil rights movement was the 60's and it was unstoppable. Iran's time is now here.


February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

EDIT - "U6" should read "US" and "tough" should read "though"

Scott - can we please have the EDIT function back - it always worked fine for me.


February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry


Will have Mike Dunn look into whether Edit can be restored.


February 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

I'd love to see the edit function restored too, Scott, for whatever it's worth. It also worked well for me, and some of my posts since it has been gone have been downright goofy (example: saying I'd share two points, but then actually having three LOL)

Besides that, as I'm finally beginning to catch up on the last five days worth of postings, I'm glad to see that the initial analysis I had about 22 Bahman at the end of the day:

*a defeat, but just a tactical one (and one with only short-term implications)

*a cry to improve strategy when facing massively superior security resources

*a display of the need to move beyond just "taking over the regime's holidays"

has ended up coinciding in large part with the analysis of EA and the green bloggers whose opinions I respect deeply. Its important that Greens inside and outside of Iran not give up hope, but also don't whitewash what should be learned from this day. Hopefully we can all put our collective minds together and ensure a much brighter and more hopeful future for those inside Iran.

February 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Scott

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