A week ago, Sabri Nadjafi was the reservation manage of the Hyatt Omar Khayam Hotel.
Now the building where she works is known as "Khomeini Hospital," after the leader of Iran's religious opposition, and she heads a small commune of workers holding the building until a "new system" comes to power and decides how to use it.
The workers took over the hotel last weekend, she said, because "the people who ran the hotel were Americans, foreigners. We don't want to give our money to foreigners. We have plenty of Iranian specialists who can run it." Everybody in Mashad, she said, "is with Khomeini, because he's the man who can change things."
In another part of town, Brig. Gen. Ali Yazadjerdi, Mashad's military governor, keeps in his office a grisly souvenir of last weekend's events -- an album of photographs of mutilated bodies.
They are soldiers who died in battles between Yazdjerdi's troops and the people of Mashad, probably as bloody and destructive as the Sept. 8 "bloody Friday," in which about 100 died, that marked a high point in Iran's year of strife and violence.
One of he photographs, the general said, shows the body of a colonel dragged from his tank and axed to death by the mob. His throat was cut and he was disemboweled. His intestines were packed in plastic bags that were delivered back to the army labeled "executed by the people's court."
Mashad, a city of about 800,000 in northeastern Iran near the Afghan and Soviet borders, is the city of the Shrine of the Imam Reza, one of the holiest sites of the Shiite branch of Islam. It is a pleasant city of wide, clean streets lined with white birch trees. Last weekend there was an insurrection here. The strikes and protest demonsttations that have paralyzed Iran and undermined the once absolute power of the shah went a step beyond their usual intensity.
For two days, troops and demonstrators attacked each other in battles in which, by all accounts, both sides lost control. Soldiers, panicky and angry, fired indiscriminately into crowds of civilians, kiling more than a hundred.
The demonstrators sacked and burned, chosing targets associated with foreigners or the army, and provoked the troops by ghastly mutilations of soldiers who fell into their hands.
Mashad is a city whose residents have taken control, in what appears to be a loosely organized commune system that links workers doctors and religious leaders. The army, withdrawn from the streets after the two days of carnage last weekend, is bottled up in its garrison across the street from Shah Reza Hospital, which is controlled by opposition forces.
Officers admit that they dare not enter the hospital grounds.
In a press tour of the city conducted by the army today, four truckloads of troops with rifles ready rode as escort to the journalists' bus. Even so, the army refused to go into most of the city, avoiding the hospital, the houses of the religious leaders and the Moslem shrine. The army is the only organization in the country still loyal to the shah, but here in Mashad its control ends at the garrison gate.
It was impossible, on a tour under army guidance, to interview the doctors at Shas Reza Hospital or the opposition leaders grouped around the ayatollah, or Moslem clergymen. In telephone interviews, however, they have told tales of wanton killings by an army out of control, of indiscriminate, unprovoked shooting of people trying to demonstrate against the shah.
Yazdjerdi defended the army against those charges. "The army of Iran is a well disciplined army," he said. "It is a Moslem army and the soldiers are Moslem. Neither the people, nor the religious leaders nor the army wanted this confrontation."
He blamed ethnic Uzbeks and Afghans sent into Mashad by the "international communist movement" for inflaming the people to attack the army.
"A man came in and made a speech," the general said. "I don't know who he was. He told the people the color of the revolution would be the color of blood. I wonder if he got what he wanted."
He said it was "the desire of the army, from his majesty down to the lowest soldier, that there be no conflicts like this. Not even a nosebleed do we want to give the people."
Army officers seemed to share the view of people in the streets that the gulf between the residents of Mashad and the army is now nearly unbridgeable.
Opponents of the government say the army deliberately stirred up its troops last weekend by laying out the bodies of dead soldiers on the parade ground and urging the troops to look at them.
The general denied that his troops had gone on a rampage or killed for revenge, but he did say that when the troops saw the mutilated bodies of the colonel and five other soldiers they were "very motivated."
Two freshly burned corpses in the army morgue this morning were said to be those of a retired warrant officer whose only crime was his past association with the military, and of a military policeman guilty only of guarding the house of an American military adviser.
Dissidents in the town say the popular hatred of the army is merited. Previous incidents, including the reported strafing of a children's hospital, have made the army a target.
The demonstrators last weekend sacked a military commissary, the local Pepsi Cola plant and delivery trucks, the American and British Ilbraries, two police stations and the kitchen of the military hospital. Reliable reports say that three agents of the secret police, SAVAK, were lynched and burned.
The outcome is that the loose alliance of clergy, workers and intellectuals who have taken over Mashad are in control of the few functioning public services like the power station while the army keeps an uneasy vigil behind its walls. The army apparently has had no crowd control or riot training and is able to respond to provocation only by shooting. So the troops have now been withdrawn from the streets, leaving them to the people of Mashad, who are answering only to themselves.