Friday, June 12, 2009

Election Day in Tehran

Today temperature in Tehran rise to 90 F (32'C), warmer than all days before, and yet people were and are standing long lines in shade and under blazing sun. It is an odd image of Tehran: quiet streets, deserted shopping centers and yet crowded mosques, high schools, schools and colleges. It is election day. An unprecedented number of voters are casting their vote today.
I went to stations in Vanak and Yousef Abad, both in North of Center and North parts of Tehran, where fixed income middle class families mingle with high income households. The stations were and are packed with lines coming out of the building and going around the corner. The individuals waiting in them are from all walks of life, there are Chador wearing women, young ladies wearing the latest fashion and make up, there are old people walking with cane and there are young students with their notes and textbooks in their hands, it is a long wait. One voted told me he and his sister waited for 2 hours and half to cast their votes. There is an air of a united people present that makes one feel romantic.
I voted in Al-Zahra University station in Vanak Village, it took me 45 minutes waiting time. Most people around me were voting for Mr. Mousavi. They were chatting politics while their kids and children were playing in compound. Many were waiting in shade, since the sunshine was rather strong. Some were worried, since there was no representative of Mr. Mousavi campaign present there, the only representative present was from Mr. Ahmadinejad's campaign. This upset many, a young lady in a black chador was calling a friend to say that she would rather go to Bahaerstan, a location south of central Tehran in Old Tehran to cast her vote. But many chose to stay, the representative's presence is significant in counting the vote.
I gave my birthcertificate to the officer at the desk, wrote down the name of the candidate with his code from the ministry of interior information sheet and cast my vote. Leaving the station I noticed more people are arriving to vote. I just noticed there was no separate line for men and women, we all voted together.
The outcome is not certain yet, but it is certain that last week marches and debates have increased the participation to a new level. On Facebook, most of my friends are voting and they are on their way to vote. Some people are complaining that why more than a few are voting for Mousavi and not for Karroubi, although they approve of him. Those who did so, argue that winning in the first round is way more important than going to an uncertain second round. Although with number present today, one wonders if this is going to be a landslide. That is not unlikely.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Election Time

It does feel different. Walking through Vali-Asr square close to downtown Tehran, I had to pinch myself; "have we turned democratic and I missed it?" on the left side of the square there were dozens of Mousavi's supporters and on the right side dozens of Ahmadinejad's fans were shouting their slogans. Mousavi's supporters were waving green flags and holding posters, and so were Ahmadinejad's fans. On a corner people were arguing. A young kid was using his utmost energy to yell at someone: "how much was the price of an apartment when Khatami was the president? now it is so and so" the other guy, a bit shorter and with a beard was shaking his head and hands trying to say that Ahmadinejad was good to the economy.

Scores of young people, bikers and cars, marching and cruising through Tehran supporting this or that candidate. Green is Mousavi's color, White ribbons for Karroubi and blue for Rezaie, Ahmadinejad's fans are using national colors of green, red and white as their symbol and march to the song of Ey-Iran (Oh Iran) the unofficial national song, not very popular with the establishment. Debates are lively and sleeping is impossible, presidential candidates begin their debates 10:30 PM, after which people take to streets to dance and to blow their cars horns.

Girls are waving their hands and dance inside their cars, everything is loosened up, police officers and the elite squads standing by watching, but they do not interfere. A boy tells his worrisome girlfriend: "it is election time, they do not care if you are naked"

Well I have not seen anyone naked, but I have seen girls standing in streets to distribute leaflets, i have seen kids wearing green, white and tricolors ribbons running the streets, i have seen glimpse of hope and hope is such a rare thing, it is a good thing.

The election time is sure different and this one is very different than other ones.