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Basij Commander Joins Tehran Chorus Lampooning U.K. Over Riots

Enter, stage right: Mohammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the Basij militia
On August 10, as Britain was reeling from a fourth night of street riots, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad advised British politicians to "hear the voice of the people and grant them freedoms." He also accused the British police of "savage" aggression against demonstrators.

Now Brigadier Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the head of the Basij, the Iranian paramilitary organization operating under the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has joined the chorus in Tehran of condemnation of the British government.

Naghdi, himself reportedly accused of playing a key role in an attack on Tehran University dormitories during the bloody crackdown of the 1999 uprising in the Iranian capital, has offered to send his Ashura battalions to London as peacekeepers.

These all-male battalions within the Basij are specially trained to "defend neighborhoods" in case of emergency. In reality, they are riot-control units of the Basij that have often indulged in suppressing protesters in Tehran and other cities, especially during the crackdown after the controversial 1999 presidential election. They are, among other units in the Basij, the regime's first line of defense against potential protesters and dissidents. Al-Zahra battalions are all-female units of the Basij who are charged with similar responsibilities.

According to Fars News agency, the general told a gathering of senior Basij officers: "Unfortunately, crimes and violence of the dictatorial royal regime of England against the deprived people of the country continues with full force. Not only the advice of piteous people about the behavior of the officials and the oppressive police of this regime, has not borne any fruit, but also we have witnessed the labeling of the deprived people as thieves and plunderers."

He added: "Should the General Assembly of the United Nations approve, the Basij is ready to send some of its Ashura and Al-Zahra battalions to London, Liverpool, and Birmingham as peacekeepers and as a buffer between the people of England and the oppressive royal regime."

The general also used the opportunity to advise the British government to spend taxpayer money on the needy, and not on the BBC.

After Ahmadinejad accused the British police of "savage aggression" against protesters, Britain told the Iranian government that it would be happy to discuss its handling of street unrest.

In a letter to Iran's Foreign Ministry, Jane Marriott, Britain's top diplomat in Tehran, said London welcomed such "openness" on the part of Iran and hoped that in that same spirit, Tehran would allow the UN special rapporteur assigned with investigating Iran's record of human rights, Ahmad Shaheed, to enter the country.

Shaheed, the former Maldivian foreign minister, has been denied entry to Iran.

-- Hossein Aryan

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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