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Tehelka in Tehran

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As the most animated (and violent) protests in Tehran in a decade and in the thirtieth year after the Revolution unfold, my mailbox is inundated with emails from friends, many also reporting with anger and fear on gmail chat. Text messages were abandoned a few days ago when the blackout happened and since then a few friends have been primarily talking through email chat.

"Tehelka" is the Hindustani word for chaos and/or mayhem and sensation, and the mayhem on the streets of Tehran as the Islamic Republic's controlled democracy stands exposed with all of its fissures- is a state of chaos, not seen in a long time. Even though Mousavi has come up for air (seen very recently speaking atop a car) after the Ayatollah's promise of an "investigation", the outcome of these protests and this "election" will impact the region and the world for a long time to come.

I will update this space with more reports as millions (and amongst them some dear friends) rally on the streets of Tehran.

Facebook and Twitter remain on fire with live updates. One that sticks out to me is this:
"I just got word from a reliable source that Baseej teams are now active on the Internet. They will try to infiltrate amongst Iranians abroad and take note on who is against them. For those of us who go back and forth to Iran, don't add friends you don't, be careful what you post and don't join groups that look suspicious!"

I have also just gotten off the phone with another friend in Tehran who says this-"This has to be bigger than the revolution! There are more than three million people on the streets. And I have just heard that there are mass arrests in Shiraz and Tabriz. My friends in Tehran university are surrounded".

James Longley, the filmmaker of Iraq in Fragments and Gaza Strip has sent the following report to another Iranian filmmaker friend who has requested I reproduce it here. What follows below is his (Longley's) account from 3:51 pm on June 14th. Longley has been living in Tehran for a while and now equipped with his camera finds himself in the middle of the election-Iranian style.

The photograph that Longley includes- is one taken a few seconds before Longley and his translator were detained, making it obvious that it was not a riot situation as claimed by the security guards. (I am trying to include the photograph in the post).

"About three hours ago I was interviewing people on the street in downtown Tehran with my translator, not far from the Ministry of Interior building.

There were some riot police about 100 meters away at the other end of the street.

A couple people spoke to the camera -- one young woman was saying that "The riot police are beating people like animals. The situation here is very bad; we need the UN to come and help with a recount of the votes!"

At about that time a plain-clothes security guy started grabbing my arm, and together with several uniformed police they dragged me and my translator off to the Ministry of Interior building.

I fared much better than my translator, whom they punched and kicked in the groin. They ripped off his ID and snatched away both our cameras. A passing police officer sprayed my translator in the face with pepper spray, although he was already being marched along the pavement by three policemen.

Unfortunately my camera was still recording and the battery was dislodged in the hubbub, destroying the video file of the interview.

As we reached the Ministry of Interior building they separated us and dragged my translator by his arms across the floor and down a flight of stairs; he eventually regained his footing on the second two flights of stairs leading downward to the holding cell, where about twenty people who had already been grabbed off the streets were kneeling on the floor in the darkened room with their hands tied behind their backs.

All during this process my translator was being kicked and sworn at. The police told him how they "would put their dicks in his ass" and how "your mother/sister is a whore" and so on. At one point he was beaten with a belt buckle. At another moment, they beat him with a police truncheon across his back, leaving a nasty welt.

My translator kept on insisting that he was an officially authorized translator working with an American journalist -- which is perfectly true.

At this time I was above ground, in the entrance to the ministry, yelling over and over at the police to "Bring me my translator!" It was clear that they didn't intend to beat me -- although they may have wanted to -- because I was a foreigner.

After a few minutes they relented and sent someone off to retrieve my translator from their holding cell, three floors down in the Ministry of Interior building.

They came into the holding cell and shouted "Where is the translator?!" and then, when he identified himself, they beat him again for "not telling them he was a translator."

An English-speaking riot policeman tried to sweet-talk me, saying that in a riot situation anything can happen. I might have taken him more seriously had a riot actually been taking place when we were arrested. He also asked my translator to convince me not to report what had happened.

Eyewitnesses are reporting that fully-credentialed foreign journalists are similarly being detained all over Tehran today. The deputy head of the Ministry of Guidance just told me on the phone that other journalists have also been beaten, and that the official permissions no longer work. Also, foreign journalist visas are not being extended, so all of those people who were allowed in to cover the elections are now being forced out in the messy aftermath.

All in all, it made me really question what I am doing in this country. It has become impossible to work as a journalist without the risk of physical violence from the government."