Thursday, December 10, 2009

CLOSE-UP - 3,600 to 4,200 protesters at the Islamic Azad University of Ghazvin - 7 December 2009

Much of the information coming out of Iran is in the form of footage uploaded to the Internet without the benefit of much description or explanation. Each installment in the Close-up series will provide an in-depth analysis of a single video.

This video is a compilation of shots which show protesters at the Islamic Azad University of Ghazvin (QIAU) on Student Day, December 7, 2009, when the regime's opponents staged rallies in universities across the country. It is estimated that between 3,600 and 4,200 people participated in the demonstration at Ghazvin's Azad University.

The video
The footage comes from OnlyMehdi's YouTube channel:

Where is the protest taking place?
The students carry a banner proclaiming 'The university is alive' as they march down a road. The following freeze frame (0:21) shows the distinctive main entrance of the Islamic Azad University of Ghazvin.

The Islamic Azad University is one of seven universities in Ghazvin, a city in northern Iran with a population of 330,000. The university, built in 1992, has a student body of just over 8,000 and is well-known for its engineering and computer science departments, particularly in the field of robotics.

The satellite image of the university on Google Maps is out of date and only shows its initial structures:

View Islamic Azad University of Ghazvin in a larger map

Are the protesters inside or outside the university?

As the camera pans left, a roundabout comes into view (0:23):

The roundabout, with a strange metallic sculpture in the middle, can be seen in the following photo. It is called Ghalam Roundabout and is situated inside the university. The building just behind it is the college of industrial and mechanical engineering. The cameraman in the first portion of this video was filming from an upstairs window on the left side of this building, close to the roundabout. The left edge of the frame shows a terra-cotta patch which corresponds to the color of the stone facade. The protesters are marching down the road to the left of the building and coming towards the roundabout.

The following is a map of the campus. The main entrance is marked with the number 1, the roundabout with a 2, and the college of industrial and mechanical engineering with a 3. The road along which the protesters are marching is marked with a thick red line. For a larger view, click on the map or right click and open in another tab to continue reading:

As the camera pans to the right, several freeze frames (0:17, 1:48, 1:51) show the procession of protesters stretching from the front of the college of mechanical and industrial engineering (the open space across the road is the future site of a library, number 6 in the map above) to the front of a building whose side has three distinctive dark rectangles against a white background. A crowd can be seen joining the main procession at the top, right-hand corner of the shots. The third freeze frame in this series, seems to indicate that the secondary group does not extend far beyond what we can see, although this is conjecture.

frame 1

frame 2

frame 3
The building in the distance is the college of electrical engineering, computer science, and information technology (number 4 in the map above). The distinctive dark rectangles on the side of the building can be seen clearly in this photo:

How many protesters were there?
It is estimated that between 3,600 and 4,200 protesters attended the rally at the Islamic Azad University of Ghazvin.

Here is the methodology behind that figure.

In order to estimate the number of people, it is necessary to measure the length of the procession, the width of the road, and the density of the crowd.

Google maps and wikimapia allow users to measure the distance between two points on a map. The problem is that the satellite image of the university campus on Google Maps is out of date. Two of the buildings which do appear on the satellite photo are used as reference points: the college of management and accounting (number 5 in the university map above) and the square gymnasium to its left.

The satellite image was rotated so it corresponded to the same angle as that of the university. Then two vertical red lines were drawn as reference points next to these buildings in the satellite image and the university map above:

After superimposing the two maps, it was possible to measure the distance between the approximate start of the procession in front of the college of industrial and mechanical engineering (Number 3 on the university map) and the approximate end of the procession in front of the college of electrical engineering, computer science, and information technology (Number 4 on the university map). This distance is shown as a thick red horizontal line in both maps. The distance, according to Google Maps and wikimapia, is 120 meters. 20 meters were taken off this result in order to obtain a conservative estimate. Therefore the length of the procession is conservatively estimated to be 100 meters.

The road appears to be between 12 and 15 people wide. People generally measure 50 cm across their shoulders, so the width of the road can be estimated at between 6 to 7 meters.

This means that it is conservatively estimated that the main procession covered a surface measuring between 600 and 700 square meters. This does not count the crowd which is joining the main procession at the top, right-hand corner of frames 1 to 3 above. Again, to obtain a conservative estimate, this smaller group is disregarded. 

To estimate the total number of people, analysts would ordinarily cut up this large group into smaller sections, each with a different density of people per square meter. This footage does not allow for that. Only an average density can be guessed.

Crowds which allow for free movement and are relatively sparse have a density of four people per square meter:

This is what just over 8 people per square meter looks like from above:

The procession seen in this footage appears to have a density closer to eight people per square meter than four. But in order to provide a conservative result, we shall assume that the average density is 6 people per square meter.

This provides us with the following estimate:

600 to 700 square meters multiplied by an average density of 6 people per square meter = 3,600 to 4,200 people.

It can be conservatively estimated that, just in the Islamic Azad University of Ghazvin, between 3,600 to 4,200 protesters attended the rally on December 7, 2009. Figures from the six other universities in Ghazvin would be needed in order to give a total for the city.  

Highlights of the video

00:00 - 1:29
The film is taken from a height. A long line of protesters stretches along a road to the distance. The people at the front of the crowd hold up a banner which reads 'The university is alive.'

The protesters chant:
'Ma migim shah nemikhaim, esmesho rahbar mizaran!' (We say we don't want a king, then they go and call him the Leader!')
'Tajavoz, jenayat. Marg bar in velayat!' (Rape, crimes. Death to this guardianship!) The velayeteh faghih, or guardianship of the jurisprudent, is the principle from which the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, derives his legitimacy and power.
Slogans directly targeting Khamenei are becoming increasingly commonplace as protesters' demands have gone beyond the disputed presidential election and now encompass a desire to change the whole system of the Islamic Republic, embodied by the velayateh faghih.

1:30 - 2:33
The angle, and possibly the cameraman, change. The people begin singing the protest anthem 'Yareh Dabestaniyeh Man' (My old schoolfriend), then call out opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's name.

In various videos from Student Day in Tehran, however, it was obvious that the capital's students were not shouting out Mousavi's name as much as before, another indication that the green movement has bypassed Mousavi. A new slogan heard in Tehran was 'Mousavi bahanast, kolleh nezam neshounast!' (Mousavi is an excuse, the whole regime is now the target!).

The crowd calls out, 'Mousavi zendeh bad, Karroubi payandeh bad!' (Long live Mousavi, may [Etemad Melli party chief Mehdi] Karroubi stand long!) and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami's name.

2:34 - 3:10
The cameraman is now among the protesters who are holding up the banner seen previously. In a corner of the banner, smaller text reads, 'The free students of Ghazvin,' a play on the word 'Azad,' which means free and is also a part of the name of the university. A sign over a building's entrance says, 'college of business management and accounting.' (Number 5 in the map above).

3:11 - 3:48
A poster shows opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi. A man tells the people holding up the banner, 'Raise it, so your faces can't be seen.'

3:49 - 4:07
We hear the end of a popular ditty:
Mahmoudeh Khaen, avareh gardi,
To in vatan ra, viraneh kardi,
Koshti javananeh vatan, Allaho akbar,
Kardi hezaran dar kafan, Allaho akbar,
Marg bar to, marg bar to,
Marg bar to, MARG BAR TO.

Mahmoud the traitor, may you become a displaced person,
You have destroyed this country,
You've killed the youth of the nation, Allaho akbar,
You've put thousands in burial shrouds, Allaho akbar,
Death to you, death to you,
Death to you, DEATH TO YOU!

4:08 - 4:26
Mir Hossein Mousavi's name is called out: 'Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein!' (O [Imam] Hossein, Mir Hossein [Mousavi]) The first Hossein refers to the 3rd Shiite Imam.

4:27 -5:21
A protester holds up a picture of Amir Javadifar, who was a student at this university. Amir, 25, was probably tortured to death. He died on July 9, 2009, as he was being transferred from Kahrizak detention center to Evin prison's infirmary. He had lost his sight as a result of blows to the head and face. A friend who saw Amir's body told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that he had been tortured: 'He had a fractured skull, one of his eyes was almost crushed, all the nails on his toes had been extracted, and all of his body was bruised.' (courtesy Radio Farda and Golnaz Esfandiari)

The crowd chants, 'Ma bachehayeh jangim, bejang ta bejangim!' (We are children of war. Fight and we'll fight back!)

5:22 - 5:36 (end)
'Death to this deceitful government!'

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