Roger Cohen has a stunning piece about the fighting in Iran, and the bravery or ordinary Iranians fighting their brutal regime.
The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”
A man at my side threw a rock at him. The commander, unflinching, continued to plead. There were chants of “Join us! Join us!” The unit retreated toward Revolution Street, where vast crowds eddied back and forth confronted by baton-wielding Basij militia and black-clad riot police officers on motorbikes.
Dark smoke billowed over this vast city in the late afternoon. Motorbikes were set on fire, sending bursts of bright flame skyward. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had used his Friday sermon to declare high noon in Tehran, warning of “bloodshed and chaos” if protests over a disputed election persisted.
He got both on Saturday — and saw the hitherto sacrosanct authority of his office challenged as never before since the 1979 revolution birthed the Islamic Republic and conceived for it a leadership post standing at the very flank of the Prophet. A multitude of Iranians took their fight through a holy breach on Saturday from which there appears to be scant turning back.
Cohen believes that the momentum is with the protesters.
The war for the future of Iran has begun, and the Iranian dictatorship and the Basiji thugs have tried to stop the protesters. The Iranian people are fighting back, and many are chanting, “Death to the Dictator!”
Here’s Barack Obama’s statement about today’s violent attacks on the Iranian people:
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.
Martin Luther King once said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.
The thought of this brings a smile to my face. The Basiji are the thugs who have been attacking defenseless protesters, including women and children. Their actions have help to rally even conservative Iranians to the cause of the protesters.
The Basij (literally “Mobilization”) — also Bassij or Baseej, or Persian: بسيج; also Baseej-e Mostaz’afin, (literally “Mobilization of the Oppressed);” and officially Nirouye Moqavemate Basij (“Basij Resistance Force”) Persian: نیروی مقاومت بسیج — is a volunteer-based Iranian paramilitary force founded by the order of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on November 1979. The Basij are subordinate to, and receive their orders from, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Originally consisting of those males “either too young or old for regular military service,” the Basij are perhaps most famous for providing the volunteers that made up the human wave attacks against the Iraqis during the Iran–Iraq War, particularly around Basra. Currently Basij serve as an auxiliary force engaged in activities such as law enforcement, emergency management, the providing of social service, organizing of public religious ceremonies, and more controversially morals policing and the suppression of dissident gatherings. They have a local organization in almost every city in Iran.
I commend the protesters and the opposition leaders for stressing nonviolence in the demonstrations. That strategy is critical. But, at some point, fire must be met with fire, and many young Iranians are now going after the Basij thugs, in what is now being referred to as Basiji hunting.
By the way, two nights ago I went out to see a few things … as the general crowds spread into their homes militia style Mousavi supporters were out on the streets ‘Basiji hunting’.
Their resolve is no less than these thugs — they after hunting them down. They use their phones, their childhood friends, their intimate knowledge of their districts and neighbours to plan their attacks — they’re organised and they’re supported by their community so they have little fear. They create the havoc they’re after, ambush the thugs, use their Cocktail Molotovs, disperse and re-assemble elsewhere and then start again – and the door of every house is open to them as safe harbour — they’re community-connected.
The Basiji’s are not.
These are not the students in the dorms, they’re the street young — they know the ways better than most thugs – and these young, a surprising number of them girls, are becoming more agile in their ways as each night passes on.
Also, with $10K every local police station lock can be broken and guns taken out…the police too are crowd friendly…for sure put a gun in their hands and these young become a serious counter-balance to the Basij…call them 10% of 18-22 year olds – that makes circa 10 million around the country versus max 4 million Basijis.
I think Khamenei has miscalculated, and that any attempt to end this through the use of force may very well topple this despicable regime.
Rumours are still swirling about the shooting in Azadi Square. Some claim four demonstrators were killed with “many more” wounded; others claim that the assailant, a Basiji (unofficial “religious” police), was then beaten to death by the crowd. There is also an unconfirmed report of gunfire in three districts in north Tehran. French media put the number at the rally at up to 2 million.
Reports are sketchy as the Iranian dictators have tried to block Twitter and email, but it seems clear that the protesters are becoming bolder and more determined. The leadership is panicking as the chief Mullah has ordered an “investigation” in an effort to appease the Iranian people, but that doesn’t seem to be working.