Please read this amazing account I have put on the Daily Beast from Arash Aryan-his second in two days. It will break your hearts. He is a powerful voice coming out of there.
On Friday, through the night, primarily through intermittent internet connection, I have been able to talk with Iranian photo-journalist NS (she does not want her name used, for obvious reasons). NS has been in the middle of the protests. While the interview text below was compiled before the sermon, a later communication tells me this: Like many others, she is enraged by the "khutba" (Friday sermon) of the Ayatollah Khamenei which will now open the doors for a Tiananmen in Tehran. Saturday will likely be the bloodiest day so far, if the brave crowds decide to come out. Another friend from Tehran cried on the phone, after he had been to Tehran University to pray and hear the Ayatollah's sermon. His last words to me before the mobile phone connection was cut off were: "Tomorrow there will be blood."
These are the exact words written by NS. No editing or filtering, necessary.
Q: What has Thursday been like? What is the mood at the mourning rallies? What have you seen/experienced/photographed?
A: Thursday was a gain another silent march, very busy very crowded, I could see more middle-aged people especially female. Also a group from Society of Lecturers of Qom Seminary including some of the Molahs. The location was very important, TOUPKHANEH Square, the heart of old Tehran, 2 minutes from the entrance of Tehran's big Bazaar and also right in front of Iran's central Telecommunication center. Mousavi came and spoked with people although I couldn't hear him as I was trying to shoot and not get smashed. I photographed almost everything, people, Mousavi, some friends and families of the Monday's Martyrs were lighting candles and seating in silence and some crying. The mood was sad and happy a very strange mix and weird feeling. People were angry and proud at the same time.
Q: What do you know about attacks at Tehran University? Do you have any idea of how many people have been killed?
A:I don't know much, as I was not there, only things I've heard and photos I've seen. I was told 5 were killed in Tehran's university, but not sure.
Q: How easy is it to get on the internet? Can you please describe how you get on and which sites are blocked?
A: It's easy enough for me as we set up and OK connection here but even that sometimes goes dead, or too too slow and it takes like 20 min to open yahoo's home page and sometimes it's back to normal. But in general as they don't allow people to have super high speed Internet connection even in a normal situation the connection is slow. For blocked sites, we get programs, hacker style and then we pass trough the filters. Some work and some don't, so when one does and it's good then people tend to pass that around so everyone can use it.
The downside of those programs is that the speed is even lower when we try to open the blocked page but the upside is in the end you manage to access.
Q: How are people communicating with each other? Are text messages still blocked? What about phones and Twitter?
A: SMS [short messaging service, or text] is still cut and mobile lines also are dead everyday especially around the rally areas and times that people need to reach other to pass the info or just to check if they are ok or... Landline to landline is still ok, but when people are out in the street then is usles. I can say the most effective way of communication at the moment is "word of mouth", people keep talking in the streets, they pass the messages and the info to each other and then one person tell 10 friends and then it goes on and on. The amazing part is even if there are changes happening last minute people still manage to pass the info!! Internet also plays and important role, with all the issues involved.
Q: Here people are attaching a lot of importance to Twitter and to YouTube as primary means of communication. Is that true?
A: Yes it is, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are really helping and effective. Although they are all blocked here, but we access them as you know and as all these sites are easy to work on and anyone can upload anything they want themselves so it's great to pass the info. Also friends and supporters outside the country can continue the process and pass the information on the same sites.
Q: Are people able to see the extent of the coverage around the world and the U.S.?
A: They were not in the beginning, let's say the first 2 days or so, they were all worried that no one knows what's happening here, but then they realized that the whole world knows and the coverage is bigger than expected. They also realized that part of this coverage and they can pass on information and they can play a big role in it.
Q: Are people still shouting Allah-o-akbar from rooftops at night? What is that like?
A: Yes they are every night and it's getting stronger and longer and louder every night. They also added new slogans like "Dead to Dictator" or "Ya Hussein, Mir Hussein" and... It's very moving and powerful, the ones who were here 30 years ago during the revolution they say that it reminds them of those days
Q: It seems like the Guardian Council is trying to buy time. Are people cynical? Or is there still hope?
A: Very true, they are buying time, but people are well aware of that. But from the moment they announced that, everyone was saying " they want to buy time" "they think we are stupid" " even if they do that they can easily cheat again" "who knows where are the votes by now" "we need re election not re counts."
Q: In your opinion is Mousavi really the only hope? He was never really a reformer before -- so how is it that he became the hope for people to such a degree?
A: I don't think he is the only hope and the best option but I do think that's what these people want and need right now. They can't aim for a huge change and started marching against the Islamic Republic of Iran, but they can get to the point they like with these changes and these small changes. Plus, I think right now the issue is more how they've been treated and lied to and.. so they want there rights back more than anything and in this process Mousavi has suddenly become the face and the leader. They voted for him and now they want their vote to be realized. I also think he is a bit different now, not that his way of thinking or ideas has totally changed and his super open minded person but he has changed, and I strongly believe his wife is the power behind all that.
Q: What is planned tomorrow? (please remember this interview was done before the Friday sermon)
A: Today, Friday, June 19, 2009, all oppositions decided to cancel their rallies, next march is tomorrow 4pm same location as last Monday. Instead we have the "Friday Prayer" show, everyone is waiting to see and hear what "RAHBAR" the leader, Khamenei will say today. It seems it's very busy down there at the moment, they always make sure they go and collect people even from small towns around Tehran and some other cities, strange to believe but they do. Photographers were not allowed inside today.