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Sunday, June 21, 2009

"We are scared of the Basijis too"

The New York Times reports:

Iran’s divisions played out on the streets. Regular security forces stood back and urged protesters to go home to avoid bloodshed, while the feared pro-government militia, the Basij, beat protesters with clubs and, witnesses said, electric prods.

In some places, the protesters pushed back, rushing the militia in teams of hundreds: At least three Basijis were pitched from their motorcycles, which were then set on fire.

The protesters included many women, some of whom berated as “cowards” men who fled the Basijis. There appeared to be tens of thousands of protesters in Tehran, far fewer than the mass demonstrations early last week, most likely because of intimidation.

The street violence appeared to grow more intense as night fell, and there were unconfirmed reports of multiple deaths. A BBC journalist at Enghelab (Revolution) Square reported seeing one person shot by the security forces.

“If they open fire on people and if there is bloodshed, people will get angrier,” said a protester, Ali, 40. “They are out of their minds if they think with bloodshed they can crush the movement. . . ."

The Basij militia completely blocked off Enghelab Square, one major gathering ground for the protesters. They are less accountable than regular security forces and, many witnesses said, were far more violent on Saturday.

“Please go home,” one regular officer told protesters. “We are scared of the Basijis, too.”

One woman who lives off Vali Asr Square, near where the protests took place, said Basijis beat and kicked anyone outside, shouting at them to return to their houses.

“The streets near our house were full of Basijis wearing helmets and holding batons,” she said.

link: Iran Tense After Day of Violent Clashes -


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