The rain poured down over the 30th protest outside of the Iranian embassy on Princes Gate, marking the day Rafsanjani delivered his somewhat critical speech on the election and the mishandling of the protests in Iran by the current leadership. However, with the many Iranians I spoke to, the general opinion was much less enthusiastic.
Saeideh, a British born Iranian and lawyer who regularly attends the protests was unsurprised, Rafsanjani was “never going to come out and say it’s the end of the regime, let’s get on with it, let’s finish it, let’s move on. He is a part of it, he is an integral part of it and he is never going to change that.”
It was now around 7pm and the damp conditions correlated with the dwindling numbers of just under 500 participants, compared to the anniversary of 18tir protests on the 9th of July which saw approximately 2500 attend. Given the gloomy weather, turnout today was still fairly impressive, but how affective do the protesters think their actions are. Arshid an Iranian living in London for the past 11 years told me that whilst these demonstrations go on, the Iranian embassy will be as illegitimate as the regime in power.
“You see the embassy wants to be acceptable in this city, in this country; [and] all around the world we can see activities against the Iranian authorities; [the] Iranian dictatorial regime. But it’s not [for] me to say [if we] have been successful or not, the only thing we can do here we can come here and protest”.
Since it began, the protest has become a far more eclectic mix of different opinions, with the politically neutral Green Coalition, sandwiched between the People’s Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI) on one side, and the royalist’s supporters of the Shah on the other.
What distinguishes the groups apart is not merely the separation barricades or the green banners against the fluttering of the old Iranian flags, but the aim of the chants. The now familiar chants like ‘margh bar dictator’ (death to the dictator) have become a Green Movement mainstay alongside other chants that side-step Khamenei or the political system itself. As Ardaban, an organiser whose bearded face has become synonymous with the Green Movement, told me, it is the 12th June fraudulent election that is his concern; the aim as he sees it is not the downfall of the regime:
“Mujahidin or those that want the return of a kingdom in Iran ... are Iranians and they have the right to shout, but the reason we keep this movement separated because we don’t want Ahmadinejad to use them as a tool to say the people shouting against me are against the whole regime, because we are not against the whole regime, we are against Ahmadinejad and this coupe d’état.”
But as I was reminded all around me, the distinction between the protesters was not merely black and white. Many attending the Green Movement section only do so as a safeguard against being prevented from flying to Iran, and even here some cover their faces as an extra measure of security. Then there was Arshid who stood within the Green Movement section, his face uncovered and the old Iranian flag which the royalists and Mujahidin sections have, draped over his back like a cape: “I am a one person opposition against the dictatorship in my country,” Arshid proclaimed.
“[Yes] there is unity here because a good country has different frictions, and different frictions bring different views. A useless community [is] going to be only one party, or the one group that is going to think for everyone like Hezbollah in Iran”, Arshid went further.
“But of course”, he added, “[people] have the same feeling about Iran; they want to go back; some of them have got more background to their protest; they been here for 20 years, 30 years; it takes time [for] everything to match.”
Yet distance was not the only issue Saeideh told me, there was a generational gap between old fundamentalist thinking and the new aspirations of the younger Iranians in Iran and elsewhere: “I think it has to change; I think it’s clear that people want change ... it seems to be that the majority of the people want something different, so they have to listen, they can’t just ignore the fact that 70% of the population are under 30”.
As we talked, in the background the initiation of the old and very popular ‘Ey Iran’ national anthem boomed out loud across to the embassy; an anthem widely considered an opposition song to the Islamic Republic. Here at this point, no matter which section the protesters were situated, everyone raised their right hand in a peace sign and sang aloud in melody, umbrellas held in hand as rain continued to pour down.
Photos are taken from the period 13th June 2009 to 17th July 2009.