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Story Publication logo December 28, 2009

The View from Outside Iran... Almost Like Being There


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After a hotly contested presidential election that resulted in street riots and a disputed claim to...


For a foreign correspondent, private life always seems to take a back seat to work. Though I have conveniently solved the problem by effectively abolishing my own private life, these Christmas holidays have been a particularly trying time as Iran's crisis — a story I have covered since its first stages in June — reaches melting point.

First came the death of Grand Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, unleashing crowds into the streets for a funeral of high drama. Then, ordinary townfolk took it into their own hands to interrupt a public hanging, pelt the police with stones and rescue the criminals who were already dangling from their nooses. Finally, there was Sunday's extraordinary scenes, as demonstrators and riot police fought each other in the streets in pitched battles in the most widespread, violent and bloody demonstrations since this crisis began last summer.

Ashura is a major religious festival. Its 40 days of mourning for the death of a grandson of the Prophet resemble Easter in their commemoration of a violent death. Mourners sacrifice sheep in memory of the foundational event in Shiism and decorate streets and mosques with bloodstained banners. This year, it overlapped with the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

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