The street of the Tehran students in Sicily

Does anyone remember the Iranian presidential elections in June 2009 – about which at the time we first reported on the Hungarian net – when the followers of the reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, on hearing the news that the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scored an incredible majority through electoral fraud, took to the streets, and for seven months protested in the cities of Iran? Dozens were killed in the clashes with the police, the Basiji conservative militia and the Revolutionary Guard, and thousands of demonstrators and sympathizers of the Green Movement were arrested, most of whom were tortured, raped or killed in the prison. The conservative regime, which, since 1980, had been trained in the suppression of many revolts, obviously could not permit its power being questioned. However, they realized that they had to loosen the safety valves, and in the 2013 elections they gave the green light to the election of the reformist Hassan Rouhani. Thanks to the new president, Iran’s external relations have improved tremendously, and the domestic political atmosphere also became noticeably freer. The Iranians nowadays pay attention to this fortunate change. They hardly speak about the Green Movement of 2009.

In the Sicilian town of Salemi, however, they still remember the Tehran students who started the protests. The clashes and arrests still were going on in the cities of Iran, when the mayor of the town, Vittorio Sgarbi in October 2009 suggested to name a street of the town after the Tehran students. In the town of ancient Greek origins, which was then re-established by the Arabs under its present name, the street leading to the Norman fortress and to the Spanish cathedral half-destroyed by the 1968 earthquake, got a new street sign on 27 November, during the Italian Jewish Cultural Festival, demonstrating that Salemi really is the town of peace.

And in January 2010 – when the protests in Iran were still going on – the town organized a three-day Persian cultural conference with the collaboration of Iranian filmmakers, artists, writers, journalists and bloggers. The three-day seminary on Iranian film was led by the renowned film director and actor Babak Karimi, who in the 2001 film The secret ballot represented a political situation very similar to that of 2009. Salemi, which on 14 May 1860, at the Sicilian landing of Garibaldi was solemnly declared capital of Italy for one day, was now elected capital of Persia for three days by the participants. The sign of the tiny medieval Arabic street winding up to the castle reminds of this the locals who know the story and the traveler who reads the street name in surprise.

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