• 18 December 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 5 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

The Basiji Road

“Now that I look back on it, I feel those men deserve pity,” says Ebrahim Mehtari.  He is responding to an Al Jazeera English interview question, asking “If you could face your torturers again, what would you say to them?”

“It’s a difficult question, but I feel they are more tortured than me…[They] need help. Because these guys – knowingly or unknowingly – have become part of a system which has turned them into machines of torture and death.”

Ebrahim Mehtari – a pro-democracy campaigner and a participant in the protests that happened after the 2009 election in June – provides an interesting perspective on the Basijis and the crackdown that ensued as a result of Iran’s unrest. Mehtari himself physically abused and sexually assaulted at the hands of Iran’s hardline security forces, believes that the polarized narratives between the government and its basiji forces against opposed – or even non-aligned – citizenry creates an identity clash that justifies extreme violence and violations of human rights.

“The reality is that even those who claim that they do not know what is occurring in the jails are only deceiving themselves. Many illegal prisons exist inside Iran where, once the prisoner is incarcerated, his jailers believe they own him.

They tear you apart because they have lost their humanity and see you just as an animal would. For them, the end justifies the means.

For a long time they have been dividing people into two groups: Either ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’; and ‘outsiders’ have no rights. Inside Iran’s prisons, anything can easily happen.”

This viewpoint is substantiated by a former Basij member himself who tells of his experience right before and after the June election in Iran:

“Any hint of protest was to be firmly supressed. If anything occured, to attack. Attacking people meant nothing. As I told you, anyone who thought differently to Ayatollah Khamenei and outside of the Velayat Faqih [the Iranian Supreme Leader] was considered an outsider. Therefore his protest has no place, therefore his opinion and protest is meaningless.

It was simple. It was not for us to think anything of them – both voters and protesters. In our view, it was not a protest against the issue but a protest against Ayatollah Khamenei himself. And it’s just not comprehensible to us that someone should want to question him. He is our guide.”

Mehtari also opines that while Iran’s government expresses itself as following the highest moral principles found in Islam, Mehtari and the opposition are filled with disgust to such blatant “lying”:

“For a long time Iran’s rulers have spoken a great deal about morality – and to be fair, part of this ruling system was genuinely moral – but today my country is infected by a disease of lying and immorality, and this sickness is spreading throughout the state.

The people shouting in the streets whose blood is spilled, who are tortured and raped in the prisons or killed, or suffer other hardships at the hands of the system – everything they endure is the result of a disease called “the lie”, and the loss of morality.

And at the same time, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad can – blatantly – sit on that chair, stand on that platform at the UN and announce that ‘I am coming from a country where people are very hospitable’.

When those men can sit in front of cameras and stand on platforms and say: ‘We are all moralists, we are the sacred Islamic Republic system …’ perhaps they should delete the word ‘sacred’.

He and his cabinet spread nothing but superstition, lies, insults and immorality.”

This dissonance between the Iranian government and its citizenry also finds itself building rifts within the Basij and Iranian security forces as well. The immorality triggered the interviewed former Basij member into disillusionment as he observed the atrocities and abdication of Islamic morality that he swore to uphold:

“This is such a heavy burden, my head hurts. The faces, the screams are with me every moment. It’s not something you can forget or separate yourself from.

They [the captured protesters] were pleading, they were crying, they wanted help.

There were two men of the Sepah [IRGC officers] and they came forward as we approached. We asked what all the noise was about. They said ‘Nothing, this is Fath Al Moin (aid to victory).’ We said, ‘What do you mean, what are you doing? Who’s in there?’

Because they were Basij from the provinces we didn’t know them. We asked: ‘What’s happening, why are they crying?’

As we pursued the matter the confrontation got worse and they said ‘You have no right to enter.’ My relative said: ‘What do you mean? I’m one of the leaders here. You can’t tell me I have no right.’ And it really was so, but they didn’t allow us entry. We were all responsible and we clashed. After a few minutes a vehicle came into the courtyard.

Someone must have alerted the others that we were trying to prevent them from achieving what they set out to do, the Fath Al Moin.

They had come for us to prevent the scene from deteriorating. They said our superior had summoned us. They said, ‘Let’s go. Haji wants to speak to you.’ My relative was furious and very frustrated.

When we got there he said, ‘What is this? Sexual abuse is a serious crime. Who gave this order? Who authorised this? Haji calmly replied with a smile, ‘This is Fath Al Moin. It’s a worthy deed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Why are you complaining?’

When he said this Haji thought it would calm my relative down to know this. But the opposite happened, he became more upset. He raised his voice saying, “What do you mean it’s not a recognised crime? That it’s a good deed? Haji saw that he had lost control and said, ‘What’s the big deal? Nothing’s happened. What is the issue here?’

My relative said again, ‘What do you mean what’s the big deal? Is there anything more filthy than this, more ugly than this? With children, these are children, they haven’t done anything. They’re from our own home town.’

Haji saw that he couldn’t control him, that he wanted to return to the base and stop what was going on. He [Haji] said: ‘You can stay here for now. Tomorrow we’ll have a meeting about it, we can discuss it and see what the issue is.’

I insisted on staying with him. But Haji said: ‘You go and rest and we’ll get him home. You go, the driver will take you home and wait there. We’ll call you.’

The pain and the shame in front of people and before God. I’ve lost my world and my religion. I never thought that these matters could be contaminated like this. I thought that I was continuing the path of my uncles and our martyrs. All my interest and enthusiasm: to have the integrity for martyrdom.

We really saw ourselves as upstanding and separate from others. We really believed that what we did was correct, that we were serving the people, that we were serving God and that our mission was nothing but worshipping God. But now I am ashamed in front of people, even say that I was mistaken, and I am ashamed in front of my religion. I committed crimes, knowingly and unknowingly.

Now I’m left with my conscience punishing me for what I did. I hope that God and people forgive me.”

Posted By Bardia Mehrabian

    5 Responses to “The Basiji Road”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Wow, Mehtari’s testimony directly mirrors that of Iraqi citizens’ experiences of sexual abuse, torture and lack of due process at the hands of US Military policemen and women at Abu Ghraib prison. Iraqi inmates endured this for months and years. There were tens of thousands of them locked up like this. How as US taxpayers of that mass atrocity do we shed the shame of that?
    And are our consciences the equal of Mehtari’s? Or Iranian pro-establishment elements, for that matter?

    By the way, Bardia, I wouldn’t take any stock in that Channel 4 interview. That interview smacks of a compliant false confession based on reward. The story is too convenient, too encompassing. And the man is seeking a visa/asylum, so the motive is definitely there.

  2. Islam says:

    Yes Pirouz, two wrongs make a right. We will all meet our fate on the judgenment day, and those who aided and abetted this horrible acts in the name of Allah will also meet their fate.

    Get help, you people make all muslims look bad. I hope Allah helps you.

  3. Rob 1 says:

    Pirouz presents himself like a typical mindless IR stooge trying to frantically explain the governments crimes. I’ll summarize his blundering…

    Mehtari just wants a visa! He’s seeking asylum! That’s it! It’s a false confession. But….but..even if it isn’t a false confession, the rape and torture is still excusable since the US has done this as well…..The BBC staged it!!

    This is how the minds of people in control of Iran function. Trying to distort and deceive at every turn. What a disgrace to the 2500 year history of Persians.

  4. andrew says:

    How very sad to see these naive protesters playing into the hands of their enemies. How very sad to see your own people being conned/manipulated by foreign governments hiding behind the guise of freedom and equality when in fact all they want is to install their puppet government in Tehran and plunder the country’s vast oil and gas reserves for their profit. One day you will realize what you have done to your country and how you handed over your sovereignty to the US/Britain and other western nations that are all aching to get a piece of Irans pie. Mossad and CIA must be very proud of the work you are doing to destroy your nation.

  5. Someone says:

    @ andrew

    “Esteghlal! Azadi! Jomhoori-e-Irani!”

    That’s Independnce, Freedom, and Republic. The first of those means independence from foreign powers. Just because Iranians want freedom and democracy doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten their history (1953 is only one prominent example).

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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