The day after the 2009 presidential elections in Iran we went to the streets. Before the elections although we were wearing green, we didn’t think we were about to build a movement. That day we went to the streets because for a short time we were given a hope and now it was taken away from us. I was with my parents, cousin, and a few friends…We went towards the national ministry. No one had told us where to go … We just did… On the first couple of days, we went to the streets to take something “back”, perhaps our votes… but soon it became clear to me that there was nothing to be given to us… we had to build everything from scratch…We had to define anew who we were and what we wanted…The day after the election I faced the naked truth of our government for the first time…The truth that I had heard about..Perhaps I should say that I had seen parts of that truth for 24 years of my life but never wanted to accept it… I, like many others, had always thought that “things are not that bad” and a government, which 30 years ago has been brought to power with a people’s revolution would not shoot at the very same people that easily…
I faced tear gas for the first time on the same day… we went to Valiasr Square…we were all shocked…first by the result of the elections and then because of the presence of dozens of Special Guards and Basijs (government sponsored para-military) fully armed riding on their motorcycles on the sidewalks… the guards were attacking us even though we were so shocked that we were just wondering around on the sidewalks… I remember my mother and I were standing in front of a hospital when we saw 3-4 police guards riding right towards us while beating people up with their batons… we ran into the hospital to escape, but they followed us and entered the hospital with their motorcycles… my mom had a big bruise on her back for a few weeks.
Then we went to Valiasr Street … Where there were a lot of people… Here some people were shouting slogans, and some were throwing rocks at the police…But most people, like us, had not yet believed that in less than a day we were being treated like enemies… I was standing alone on the sidewalk when I saw tens of people just start running…they were shouting “run, run!”… My instincts told me I should run too but more than that I wanted to see what was going on, so I just stood still… Many people were covering their faces. I thought they just didn’t want their faces to be seen…then I felt there was something in the air…I saw a big group of guards riding in our direction in the street and on the sidewalk…It all happened in a few seconds… I think it was my father who grabbed my hand and forced me to run… we ran into an alley, I was running so fast I felt my heart would stop at any moment…I could feel the motorcycles and batons behind me…the sidewalk was very narrow and we were many people… the woman who was running next to me got hit in the head… all I could do was to run faster…a guy fell in front of me and I caught a glimpse of a baton going after him… But I had to run so I almost jumped over him and I don’t know what happened to him… Next thing I knew someone opened up the door to their house and took some of us in… I have never been as scared in my life as I was in that alley.
After that day I was tear gassed many times… even though on that first day, unlike the other days, it did not burn that much… my eyes and throat didn’t burn, and I didn’t feel suffocated. I did realize though, how tear gas works as a mean of oppression… In Iran, the police usually use tear gas before an attack in order to disperse and arrest people… usually they throw 6-7 gas canisters into a crowd and since people cannot see and function normally, arresting them becomes much easier… However, after a while we started fighting back… Soon we learned how to be prepared for tear gas attacks… we would build fire and a lot of smoke…the smoke would quickly heal the burn…we would burn garbage cans and make fire in the streets… My friends and I always had cigarettes and lighters with ourselves…If you blew smoke into someone’s face who’s been tear gassed, it had an immediate affect …some people would throw the canisters back at the police… I tried to do it once but I couldn’t…I’ve seen many people get head injuries by canisters… the gas had the worst effect people with asthma and children… I heard that a woman with asthma died because of being gassed, I am not sure if it’s true or not… I think many people, including myself got used to the gas after a while…or at least we were not scared of its physical effects…but what made it terrifying was that we knew it was a signal that they were about to attack…It also meant that you are going to lose your friends…once I lost my cousin after they threw tear gas at the crowd… She had just had eye surgery and that’s why I was very worried about her… after a while I finally found her next to a burning garbage can… it meant the world to me when I was saw that she was not arrested.
Besides tear gas, police and the militias in Iran use pepper spray as well… I was sprayed by it once and I thought the burn was a little worst than tear gas and the effect stayed longer… the Iranian police also uses regular batons, electric batons, and guns… I would say that tear gas has played an important role in oppressing the green movement protesters in Iran… It made it easy for the police to arrest and disperse the protesters. It may have not killed anyone directly, but I’m sure that it led many to get arrested, injured, or perhaps even killed. - Sohalia (translated from Farsi)