Jailed Iranian-American Esha Momeni Returns Home to California

"Even my parents wouldn't stop me, because they felt all of us should go," she said. "It felt like our national duty."

Momeni fought her fear of riot police and the crackdown that had turned deadly violent. As the police broke up the rallies, Momeni and her friends would run and hide in shops, or in the homes of people who had opened their doors to let them in. An acquaintance in the crowd was beaten on the head with a baton, and died hours later of the injury, she said.

"It was scary; very scary,' she said. "Because going out to a protest, you don't know if you're going to come home or not.

"Then you feel ashamed of feeling scared. You saw 80-year-old people, people in wheelchairs, and you feel ashamed. If they go, why should you feel scared?"

Where the Protests Stand

When she left Tehran last week, Momeni said, small protests were still happening, but security forces had blocked major rallies. Hours before an event, riot police would deploy in large force at the announced location, keeping people from stopping or gathering.

The mood in Tehran had shifted with the ongoing court cases against dozens of opposition figures, accused of planning the post-election unrest with the help of foreign powers and plotting a soft overthrow of the regime. Prominent voices of the women's movement, like Zhila Bani Yaqoub and Shiva Nazarahari, are among those jailed, though it's unclear whether their cases have gone to court.

"Three million people marched in the streets, now they're taking a hundred people and saying they were the leaders of a velvet revolution," Momeni said of the general indignation.

"We know we were in the streets and we know we just wanted to be there, nobody pushed us. I believe they are making this show for their own supporters, just to convince them. It's not for the majority."

Momeni said that Iran's various human rights groups are now all investing in the green movement, using decades of know-how in civil disobedience and evading state security. Opposition supporters had begun protesting by going "green shopping" -- packing Tehran's Grand Bazaar as passersby, dressed in green.

As state forces lined the streets and shops shuttered to avoid potential clashes, the market would be paralyzed. During her final nights in Tehran, chants of "Allahu Akbar" (Arabic for "God is great") were still wailing from the rooftops.

"What I saw, it'll never stop," she said. "People just find a new way to fight."

Back in California, Momeni is finishing her graduate thesis, using photographs as a substitute for the lost video interviews seized by Iranian authorities. She is back to her fiancée, Hassan Hussein, and back to the life she left behind a year ago.

"The best part is, finally, I feel safe," Momeni said. "But at the same time, I miss Iran."

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