What is it about scenes of protests in our home countries which tickles our tear glands so viciously? A Turk exclaimed last night, “I didn’t cry when I was watching the protests in Iran in 2009, or even Istanbul, but when I saw Ankara, oh my god, I was just sobbing like crazy.” “I know”, I responded. “I remember this interview with Shohreh Aghdashlou back then- she could barely speak she was crying so much in the mike. She just said ‘our youth’ and then broke down.”
I was visting Istanbul in 2007. There was a protest going on across the street from some station where I supposed to meet a friend. I can’t remember about what. I remember just moving away as soon as I could- in those days, I considered protests dangerous, nasty, pointless affairs, and I needed as much space between them and myself as possible.
In 1997, there were the forgotten protests in Tehran. I was living in downtown Tehran then, barely 10 minutes away from the core. I remember walking home from my office to my apartment, the third or fourth day, as things were quieting down. The normally busy streets were ominously deserted. I was carrying a sitar. I was scared out of my mind. I wanted order and normalcy. Freedom was not so important as safety and security.
I don’t mind going to political protests in Halifax (not in Toronto). Even though I would prefer to go somewhere else.
Close up, protests are frightening. With the distance of the ocean between us, we can afford to cry.