Last night I had the privilege and honour of turning up for the nightly, running protest rally outside the Iranian Embassy, on Prince's Gate, opposite Hyde Park, in London. I stood for an hour and a bit, carried a poster of Neda Agha-Sultan, witnessed the memoria to the fallen and disappeared dissidents of Iran, mouthed anti-fascists chants in Farsi and even waved an Iranian flag. (New bit of humility: I suck at flag waving.)
This Was The First Bit I Came To Guys Putting Together Candles And Fliers and Memorial Stuff For Neda And The Other Fallen
Here's The Walk Of Grief, Followed By Things Just Getting Started Up
That's The Embassy Itself Under Siege Once Again, I Suppose
There Were Even A Few Other Non-Persian Types
These Candles Kept Blowing Out
This woman, on the bass drum, was also pretty tireless. When she finally took a break, I told her,
Her: [serious, but also smiling] No rest. We can't rest until there is change.
Me: I'm embarrassed that I have no Farsi. Can you tell me what we've been chanting?
Her: Down with the dictator, up with the people, blood that is shed is not shed in vain . . . those are the major themes.
They led some chanting in English as well, which I thought was very sweet, but it was a bit of a bust. I grabbed one of the flags on the barricade to try and make myself slightly more useful (more useful than just being a body there, which was all I'd intended at the outset).
I Suck At Flag Waving Though I Finally Realised A Figure-Eight Pattern Seemed To Be Best For Avoiding Pwnage
This Is Down Toward The Young Hipster End, Where A Joaquin Phoenix-Looking Guy Was Getting The Crowd Worked Up, And Where They Had More Rousing Music
I decided to check out the other half of the demo, which I had to abandon the flag to do so. (The UK has some strange rules about not allowing you to carry flags in certain situations like, in Trafalgar Square.) I confess, I was keen to get a better look at some of these absurdly beautiful Persian women (and men, as well) that I'd been led to expect, and whom I sensed were down this end. This interest in Persian pulchritude got me into trouble, more on which in a minute.
A number of people had their faces covered. I understand now this was due to fear for their safety. I expect the Iranian regime has a long reach, and of course the UK lets anybody in. So you don't want to show up on the front page and then later find yourself cornered by Basij militia in a dark alley in Mile End. (*) It was also my stupid inability to understand this that contributed to my solecism.
Basically, I started doing a lot of photographic portraiture. The faces in the crowd were so lovely and compelling, I wanted to turn them into art and share them. But, because I'm also an idiot, I was trying to be as inconspicuous about it as possible. I already felt like a real bozo with my camera out like some tourist or spectator, rather than a political supporter. But I justified it by thinking: I'm one person, but thousands will see the blog.
Anyway, so here I am this dark-complected guy in absurdly dark sunglasses taking photos, like, from the hip. About an hour in, one of the organisers/ushers called me over and asked if I had a press pass. When I did not, he told me some people were concerned that I was taking photos of individuals' faces, and asked me if I could please delete them. I apologised gushingly, deleted the last few on the spot, and put the camera away. On my way out, a distinguished-looking older gentleman in a suit questioned me in the nicest possible way about why I was taking these pictures. I explained they were for my blog, and he asked which one, and I gave him a card, and I told him how weepingly sorry I was to have caused worry for people, and that I had really only come to show my support.
So, that's why the faces in the pictures above are fuzzed out and why you don't get to see my portraits of absurdly beautiful Persian women (and a couple of men), but believe me there were some who would put your jaw on the pavement. (A few videos also didn't make the cut, due to too many make-out-able faces.)
Later, my feeling about it extended from embarrassment to admiration I realised it's actually extremely cool that they were vigilantly looking out for one another. God knows they need it. And pray someone is looking out for their 70-million countrypeople back home. Mo’afagh bashed to them all.