Iranian riot policemen stood guard outside the British embassy in Tehran as hardline students demonstrated on June 23. (Maryam Hasanzadeh/AFP/Getty Images)
The Globe's Washington Bureau has been receiving periodic updates from an Iranian journalist participating in the anti-government protests that began June 12. He filed this first person account of today's developments. His name has been withheld to avoid retribution from the Iranian authorities.
TEHRAN _ We were to meet a friend at the side of the highway leading to Hafte Tir Square. He called and told us he had gone ahead after a policeman threatened to give him a ticket for stopping by the highway. He told the policeman "come on, let me go, I’m going to demonstrations." The policeman put away his ticket book and told him, "ok, then go, just don’t hold back, and kill them all."
The Square looked like a military camp. The forces were different from the Basij and riot police that we had sent screaming their mothers names time after time. Brandishing the symbol of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps, their faces were serious and determined. Line after line after line of them. The state had brought in its finest to deal with us. I should’ve been flattered, but I wasn’t.
There were about two troops for every five people. Walking with their head down, the people were pushed along by the Basij militia who accompanied the IRGC forces. Whenever a voice was raised above the crowd, five or ten people were thrown to the ground, beat with sticks, handcuffed and put in the back of one of the vans lining the street. Some of the braver girls and women objected to the violence, but were pushed along by the Basij with the tip of their batons. The IRGC troops, accompanied by tough looking commanders, stood back and only intervened when necessary.
We walked around the circle passing line after line of troops. Having a vinegar-soaked green cloth in my pocket to counter tear gas, I stank to high heaven and was terrified of being noticed. Deciding that this was pointless, we finally returned to our car and decided to drive to other parts of town to see what was happening.
Mile after mile, the streets were lined with more IRGC troops. On their shields was written "Maintaining Social Security – Comrades of the Leader." It had been decided the day before that everyone turn should on their headlights in the day to show support for the movement. I had also done so. An IRGC commander noticed and yelled at our car "move over, move over." I swiftly turned off my lights. He approached the car and saw that a woman was sitting in it, knocked on the window with his baton and told me to move on. Apparently the killing of the young woman named Neda captured on video has given them reason for caution when dealing with the women. On the side of the street, another car had been pulled over and a large and fat commander had his foot on the bumper and was pulling off its front license plate.
The lines of troops snaked on. Passing through several main intersections, as we turned towards home, we realized that the these forces had been applied throughout the city. The ugly reality at last sank in: We are under martial law.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.