It’s a quiet Thursday in Tehran. Campaigning and electioneering isforbidden on election eve, and the crowds are gone, but the tension ispalpable. Here and there are still visible people wearing the ubiquitousgreen armbands that signal support for former Prime Minister Mousavi.Everyone, but everyone, has only one thing on their minds, and rumorsare flying, gossip is exchanged, and the latest news–true or not–ispassed from mouth to mouth and via cell phone and text messages. Outsidethe gigantic, concrete edifice of the Interior Ministry, which hasresponsibility for counting the votes, a pair of young women wearinggreen smiled as we passed each other. It’s inside that building,overlooked by a huge portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini, where many Iraniansworry that the vote will be stolen.
Though quiet now, over the past several days Iran has seen an outburstof political activity that far surpasses anythinge the gathering stormof the 1978-79 toppling of the Pahlavi dynasty. Last evening, I strolledacross the campus of Tehran University, Iran’s largest and mostprestigious school. In the streets outside, thousands of green-cladstudents were laughing, cheering and carrying banners, and from therooftops across the street people were throwing confetti that raineddown on the streets below. Cars and vans, flying green flags, cruisedthe streets. A small group of supporters of President Ahmadinejadmarched past, drawing jeers and mocking chants. A guard at the gate, anolder man who lost a leg in the 1980s war with Iraq, smiled approvinglyand said, of the Mousavi crowd, “It’s a revolution.”
A revolution. That’s a phrase I’ve heard over and over again in the lastfew days, from students, office workers, taxi drivers, and passersby.
In fact, it may be something less than that, since all three challengersto Ahmadinejad, including Mousavi, are establishment figures. Yetthere’s no denying the political and social movement that is buildingagainst the president, mostly around Mousavi’s brilliant campaign. Andthe contempt for Ahmadinejad is everywhere, from well-connectedobservers and analysts, government officials, and ordinary Iranians I’veencountered. A few days ago, as I headed over to Ahmadinejad’s campaignheadquarters, I stopped a man to ask directions. “Ahmadinejad! Why doyou want to go see him? He destroyed the country!” A few blocks later, awell-dressed man comes up to me, just outside the president’s governmentoffice and down an alley from the campaign headquarters. He introduceshimself as an employee in the office of the president. He says thatAhmadinejad is a fool. And he adds: “The mullahs [the Iranian clergy]are like idols. They must be broken!” He pulls down his shirt to show mea bullet wound from the war.