The crucible

Fox News reports that Basij are breaking up crowds with knives and axes. “They’re the most feared men on the streets of Iran. The pro-government Basij militia has held back its full fury during this week’s street demonstrations. But witnesses say the force has unleashed its violence in shadowy nighttime raids, attacking suspected opposition sympathizers with axes, daggers, sticks and other crude weapons.”


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But Basij aren’t ‘t having it all their own way. Fox continues:

Basij members used axes, sticks and daggers to ransack student rooms and smash computers and furniture, wounding many students, according to witnesses. A day later, students attacked a compound used by the Basij and tried to set it on fire. Gunmen on the roof fired on the crowd and killed seven people, according to state media. Amateur videos that appear to be from that clash showed men carrying away the wounded on streets spattered with blood as fires burned in the distance and gunfire crackled.

I’m not sure Basij can win this with melee weapons. So their masters face a choice between raising the ante or watching the “most feared men in Iran” knife it out with students. From McClatchy reports one would guess that the atmospherics in Iran are right out of the movies. For a lot of young men the question is no longer whether to attend class, but where to get a gallon of gasoline, soap powder, bottles, a rag and matches. Meetings are probably being held in a hothouse atmosphere. Leaders and personalities are emerging in this cauldron in ways that will change their lives and witnesses will remember even when they are old. I think the next 48 hours will be crucial.


There were conflicting reports as to whether foreign embassies had opened their doors to shelter the wounded, and also reports that the government militia known as the basiji had raided hospitals to take the names of the wounded.

Iran’s Islamic regime has tried to impose a tight noose on news from the country, arresting Iranian journalists, confining foreign reporters, and attempting to block text messaging, cellphone service and the use of social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter.

But news has seeped out nonetheless.

A dramatic video aired on BBC’s Persian television broadcast showed Iran’s security services apparently firing into the air near crowds as large fires burned in the street. Another video posted on the Internet showed riot police retreating in the face of demonstrators.

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