Saturday, June 14, 2003

Last night, the fourth night of the protests, I met a Reuters journalist, Jon. Jon has been in Iraq for a while, but has returned recently. I asked Jon how he estimated crowd sizes and he said it was just experience, and to think of a football stadium for example. A Manchester United match could be 50000 people. Before Jon left to go cover the protests (with his gas mask!), someone said to him to be careful because a Japanese reporter and his interpreter had been arrested. Any foreigners in the area would probably be treated with great suspicion. People were saying everywhere was crowded, the IR was going to end soon. Many soosools were protesting (can someone translate that term?).

I stayed behind and watched "Dr Strangelove". I hadn't seen it before, the video quality was bad and Dr S was difficult to understand. It was rather eerie. Of course I thought of what would happen if the mullahs got nukes. What would a regime whose ideology is centered around death and martyrdom understand of the notion of a nuclear deterrent?

This morning I read Jon's report and I was glad I wasn't with him! The New York Times report wasn't so good, because they equated basij and ansar-e-hezbollah. Ansar are more extremist and there are many more basiji than ansars. Basij are morality police who set up checkpoints to see if unrelated men and women are together and look for Western music or alcohol. I haven't seen checkpoints for a while now. Ansar don't do anything except beat people up, as they go around on their 1000cc motorcycles (more than 250cc is illegal here, unless you have connections, as they obviously do). But they are both mindlessly obedient to the Leader.

I had a discussion recently about the Iranian price of a Nissan Maxima (~$US50-60000) whereas the actual cost is about half that. The same is true for Kia Prides; the Economist reported that in Syria better quality Kia Prides are sold for less than half of the $US8000 they cost in Iran. The difference goes to the government here, who are thieves. I also talked to a professor about the car accident death rate Hooman commented on below. We agreed that I was wrong because it should be deaths per passenger mile, which means that the Iranian death rate is more than 10 times as bad, because passenger miles are much higher in the US than in Iran. Certainly, there are severe social as well as political problems here.

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