Iran’s Green Movement, the Basij and the Question of Violence
In These Times / Danny Postel
22-Apr-2010 (one comment)

In his article “An American in Tehran” (April 2010, In These Times), Matthew Cassel would have us believe that Iran’s infamous Basij paramilitary force has gotten a bad rap.

He interviews a Basij member while in Iran and portrays him in the most sympathetic light:

I tried to picture this timid young man on the back of a motorcycle with a club in his hand, bashing the heads of other young Iranians. After he warmed up a bit and asked me for a cigarette, my friend insisted that he lift his pant leg. When he did so, I saw a freshly healed bullet wound just below his knee. “Mousavi supporters did this,” my friend said.

I looked to the young Basij member. “Mousavi?” I asked him, and pointed to the wound. “Yes. See, you don’t know anything!” my friend shouted. “It wasn’t like what you saw outside.” He smiled at the fact that the televised street battles had not been as clear-cut as I believed.

This passage is remarkable in a several ways. First, for the author’s utter credulity. Cassel doesn’t pursue the matter—he dutifully quotes the Basiji and another Iranian whom Cassel describes as his (Cassel’s) friend, and leaves it at that. Though he doesn’t say explicitly whether he believes the claim to be true or not, the thrust and implication are clear enough. Cassel pointedly gives his “friend” the final word on the matter: “He smiled at the fact that the televised street battles had not been as clear-cut ... >>>

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