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It was a relatively minor incident on the quietened streets of Teheran, but it is one that points to the depth of anti-regime antagonism felt even by some Iranians who consider themselves loyal supporters of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolution.
In a telephone interview with this reporter from the Iranian capital, a conservative mother of six first denounced the regime for "trying to silence the people" in the wake of last month's disputed presidential elections," and then accused its leaders of trying to "hide behind their false interpretation of the Imam's [Khomeini's] teachings. This is not what he would have wanted for our country if he was still alive," she said, "and I know his prayers will helps us prevail."
She directly castigated Khomeini's successor as supreme leader, asserting, "Ali Khamenei has never understood the Imam's ways. Instead he uses violence to silence us. But the people of Iran have their eyes open, they are seeing past the lies."
And then she recounted her own encounter, earlier this week, with what she called the brutality of the security forces. "The militiamen out on the streets have all been brainwashed," she said, and told this story to underline her point:
"Just yesterday, I saw four plainclothes [members of the security forces] harassing two young men. The two young men had their hands tied behind their backs and were crying. I went to up the security forces and told then to let the boys ago, even though my two daughters were trying to hold me back. The security men grabbed us by the arms and started calling for reinforcements.
"I screamed at them: 'How dare you grab my two daughters, who have never been touched by any man, and how dare you touch me? I have never been touched by any man except my husband.' They let go of our arms and I told them again: Let the boys go."
She said the security men were preparing to drag the two young men away, nonetheless, so "I took out a picture of the Imam from my purse and the Koran. At that point five more of the riot police came... I said to them, 'Do you think this is what the Imam wanted?' I waved the Koran and told them to be afraid of God's wrath in the next life, because Khamenei's jurisdiction ends there."
The woman said that the officer apparently in charge said the pair were being arrested because they had been influenced by outside forces to destroy the regime.
"So I said to him: Then I am out to destroy the regime, the mullahs at the mosque I attend are out to destroy the regime, the ayatollahs in Qom are out to destroy the regime. And if this regime is a military dictatorship, then it should be destroyed."
She said she asked the security personnel if they had read Khomeini's texts. "They of course said no." She said she promised them that if they could find teachings of his which justified what they were doing, she would "personally help beat our fellow countrymen with batons."
At this point, the officer in charge told the others to let the two young men go, she said. "Then he pulled me aside and said, very emotionally, that he has three hungry children and a wife living in a small poor town outside Teheran. He said his salary had been tripled since the protests erupted and that he feels numb to everything around him.
"Before he left, he asked me to pray for him to make better choices in the future."
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