after revolution of 1979, Iranians were busy changing
names. Names of thousands of streets, buildings and
even cities that had been named after the Shah, his
family or others close to the former regime needed
to be changed and replaced by new idols and symbols
of the revolution. Perhaps the most prominent was
Tehran's major thoroughfare going from Pahlavi St.
to be named after regime's renowned adversary, Dr.
teenagers, we didn't limit the move to names related
to the former regime though. My family lived in a
new development where streets were numbered but that
didn't stop us from changing "19th Street"
to "Mehdi Rezaei Street". Mehdi
was one of the youngest victims of the former regime,
having been arrested, tried and executed all before
his 21st birthday. He was someone we could relate
process was just too easy. We would make cardboard
signs in the shape and size of actual street signs,
replace the old ones or better yet glue new ones on
top and wait until people started using the new name.
In many cases, they were eager to do it, particularly
when it was a name of a despised character they were
replacing. Other times, it never actually "took".
Shahreza Ave., named after the patriarch of Pahlavi
dynasty, was quickly changed to "Enghelab (Revolution)
St." but our old street is still called 19th,
to this day.
the chaos all of this had caused everyone, from cab
drivers and mailmen to just ordinary people who were
not sure what street their own houses were on anymore.
But chaos is just part of any revolution and this
was another ingredient of ours.
So by that faithful day in May of 1981, when the news
of Bobby Sands death was received in Iran, we had
plenty of experience and there was no way the memory
of someone we considered a great revolutionary who
had stood up to the British for his people and at
the highest cost could be forgotten.
happened more on a fluke. I was part of a small circle
of friends, all under 15 years of age that was always
attending speeches together, covering the local streets
with political graffiti, distributing flyers and occasionally
getting beat up by those we pissed off. One of us
lived on a street that backed onto the British Embassy
in the heart of Tehran and because of this central
location and his parents' more liberal approach, we'd
often gather at their flat.
original plan to honor Sands was far more risky. From
their windows, you could see the Union Jack flying
prominently in the embassy's yard. We wanted to sneak
in at night and replace it with an Irish flag! That
plan ran into a few problems. If there was a place
to buy an Irish flag in Tehran, the 13 and 14 year
olds in our gang had no luck finding it. We made one,
but it looked horrible and as colors we had used were
closer to the Iranian flag, we were worried it would
be taken as the wrong flag and maybe the wrong message.
We finally decided on a big white sheet and wrote
I.R.A. across it. Even that was problematic, as we
tried it once on the roof and it was so heavy, it
would not wave and be seen fully and we were worried
that if it just sits hanging from that pole, it'll
only be a white sheet and nothing more. There was
also a concern about guard dogs we had never seen,
but could occasionally hear on the other sides of
all that, the flag plans were abandoned late one evening
with all of us frustrated and exhausted. Then somebody
within the group brought up an old practice: let's
rename the street. I honestly wish I'd remember who
said it first to give him full credit, but I just
don't after so many years.
plan wasn't as exciting and adventurous, but we were
desperate at this point. We all agreed and had soon
bought large white construction paper and navy magic
markers to make signs. I was the most graphically
gifted of the bunch, so I'd draw the shape of the
actual signs, copying the real ones made by the city
and the rest of the gang would color and cut them.
We made about 20 of them and got out when it got dark
to cover the old signs.
evening we returned to see if any of them were left
and to our surprise there were a few new ones made
by others too and thanks to the glue we had used,
even the ones very close to the embassy compound had
remained in place, although the occasional missing
corner was proof someone had tried to remove them.
Soon the entire street had new signs and the city
officially changed the name also.
me, the first big victory came a few months later
when at another Tehran street corner, where passengers
holler their destinations to passing cabs in hope
of being picked up by someone feeling the route is
profitable enough, I heard a woman yell, "Bobby
Sands!" The name had stuck and it was now certified
and far more official than the city putting up actual
larger victory however was when we discovered the
embassy had been forced to change their mailing address
and all their printed material to reflect a side door
address to avoid using Bobby's name anywhere.
we had no idea about, was how the news of our little
"prank" that had turned much more significant
now, had reached across the great distance to get
to Ireland, its people, the activists and even some
of the remaining prisoners. Years later, I was told
of how that little gesture had showed them they are
not alone and even in far away places, people respect
and honor their struggle.
one day I'll be walking down an Irish street and be
pleasantly surprised when I get to Mossadegh Square.
The actual changed signs:
by J. Javid
Street by the British Embassy in Tehran is changed
to "Bobby Sands, Irish combatant guerilla"
following a hunger strike by Irish Republican Army
inmates in Northern Ireland during which Bobby Sands
was the first to die. Photo taken in the early 1980s.
(Republished in the Blanket with permission
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