The N.Y. Times reports that up to seven Iranians died overnight after a largely peaceful, massive opposition rally in Teheran by supporters of Hossein Moussavi:
…Violence erupted after dark when protesters surrounded and attempted to set fire to the headquarters of the Basij volunteer militia, which is associated with the Revolutionary Guards, according to news agency reports. The first death and several injuries were reported as a result of that confrontation.
Here are grahpic images of many of the dead and most seriously wounded. This is what happens when a dreaded security apparatus runs amok. ElectronicMaji reports in even greater detail and directly from the source:
Throughout the land many are dead. At least 5 perished in the attack on the Tehran University by supporters of Ahmadinejad. At least 4 following the Tehran protest, as guards fired into the crowd. Another 7 in Shiraz, in the South of Iran.
Further, Persian Kiwi twitters (Tabriz in in Iran’s north and is the birthplace of Moussavi and known to detest Ahmadinjad):
confirmed – Tabriz – Baseej headqurters set fire – ‘many’ dead
I mentioned in an earlier post that Iranians are playing political chicken. It seems the stakes have just been raised. Whoever decided to take on the Basij militia by attempting to burn down their headquarters was both foolhardy and reckless, though understandably so. This militia is at the heart of the regime’s repressive apparatus. It’s cohort was out in force assaulting demonstrators over the past few days. It is a powerful and feared institution in Iran and a symbol of all that is wrong with the current system.
So the hatred with which Iranians view Basij is understandable. The problem is that Moussavi spent yesterday telling Iran and the regime that he didn’t want to topple it. He only wanted to reform it. When you go to the heart of power and attempt to destroy its symbols that is another matter entirely. Such bloodletting is liable to provoke the Ayatollah and his supporters into an all-out crackdown.
Both sides just now are dancing an awkward, but elaborate minuet. If one side disdains the dance and tries to blow up the dance hall, then all bets are off. This could turn very bloody, very fast. The opposition needs discipline and adventures like this are the worst things that can happen.
On the other hand, this brazen assault is quite breathtaking. In such a repressive regime, no one could contemplate taking on the most hated and feared of its members. The Channel 4 report above quotes demonstrators shouting: “We will murder those who murder their brothers.” This is crying havoc and letting loose the dogs of war.
Perhaps responding to Republican pressure, Pres. Obama released a measured statement decrying the bloodshed and affirming U.S. support for an investigation of the election results so that all may be heard in a spirit of democracy.
Some of the information above originates at the NIAC blog.