A girl shows off her Uncle Sam effigy
The air of festivity was increased today. Rowshan was watching the news this morning and learned it was Students' Day: a holiday celebrating the taking of the US Embassy by students and the taking of the US hostages. The main street was filled with groups of school kids, girls on one side, boys on the other, in school uniforms or army fatigues. All had banners, signs, effigies, and/or plastic vests with sentiments like “Death to the USA” and “Death to Israel”. The kids sang songs and chanted as well. In a couple places kids recognized us as tourists and said, “Hello.” I found things humorous due to the irony of being an American in a country-wide anti-America fest. It was also a bit surreal. Iran values education so I believe people are well educated. Therefor, they must question what they are told. However, they are forced to participate. On the other hand, maybe some people do believe it all. I also thought it ironic that they are against the US AND against George Bush. If they are against the US then they should be for Bush since he's done more damage to the US than any foreign entity could have done.
Marchers in the streets of Mashad
Students Day marchers
We wandered through town walking by a mosque or mausoleum called, “The Green Dome Monument” as well as more marching students. We visited a mausoleum North of the center, Boq'eh-ye Khajeh Rabi. At first we were about to dismiss it as the usual stuff, but then I caught a glimpse inside.
There were pretty Qajar frescoes covering the wall. So, we went in. The men's and women's sides were divided by a metal fence. Men prayed. Women mostly were sitting and reading (though some did pray). It made me wonder if places like this really serve as a refuge or escape for women from a chaotic or troubled home.
Green Dome Monument
Boq'eh-ye Khajeh Rabi Mausoleum
Interior frescoes of Boq'eh-ye Khajeh Rabi
Back in the center we watched more groups of kids. The guys were having a blast running and yelling. As Rowshan was taking photos some young men said, “Why waste film on that? Take a picture of us instead.” We saw some “punk” looking guys walking the streets. Rowshan said they were probably break dancers.
Students having a blast yelling and running through the streets
I asked Rowshan if he had participated in the Students' day rallies when he was young. He replied that he was like the punk guys and blew it off, wandering the streets instead. Yay truancy!
We got chased off an overpass by a security guard for taking photos. Later, another guard dragged Rowshan over to an official who grilled him and checked all his photos making him delete a photo of a mollah talking on the phone. Rowshan said, “I'm learning photography so I take photos of everything. A mollah is a human being right?” The guard explained (after the photo was deleted), that he had nothing against Rowshan but since SOME people would do things like add horns to the photo and put it online he couldn't allow photos. Finally they let Rowshan go.
An unaltered photo of a mollah
As the day progressed and the rallies went on and on, I suddenly felt saddened by it all. All this energy put into expressing hate. I silently watched the students go by. Then I noticed one kid tearing up his “Death to Israel” poster. I smiled and pointed him out to Rowshan. When he saw us watching, he raised the torn pieces over his head as his friend turned and flashed us a peace sign.