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Snapshots from Tehran's Revolution Square

Mass demonstration against election result turns tables on government militia.


Organizers with green bandannas over their heads drowned out anti-Ahmadinejad slogans with loud cries of "Allahu Akbar," a common slogan that demonstrates unity rather than the bitter divisions that have plagued the country domestically in the past few days. They also passed around slips of paper announcing a three-day general strike and urging demonstrators to a series of demonstrations over the next few days.

"Don't shout political slogans," shouted the youths at protesters who were chanting "Liar, liar, where is the 63 percent they talk about?" in reference to the overwhelming two-thirds vote attributed to Ahmadinejad.

The organisers went to extraordinary lengths to avoid confrontation with security forces. The riot squads had been quietly ordered to return to their bases once the police saw the enormous mass of humanity streaming in.

Around a Bassiji base abutting one of Sharif University's faculties, pro-Mousavi campaigners linked hands to create a protective circle around a gate protecting hundreds of Bassijis in paramilitary uniforms from enraged protesters outside.

"They're Arab lovers," one student said of the crowd of shifty-looking ideological militiamen crowded inside and looking distinctly uncomfortable as they stood next to the parked vehicles with which they hunt protesters at night. Now the tables were turned and the Bassiji were the hunted rather than hunters.

"Give me my vote back Mr Bassij," shouted another man. A third man struggled against the railings, shouting at the feared law enforcers inside that he wanted to get back at them for the beating he had received the previous night. He was led away by a man who tried to calm him down. "They hit me too, it's OK, it's OK," he said.

The reversal in social roles was unique. A few steps away, a young girl wearing the kind of colored scarf that might have earned her a warning and harrassment on the street by the morality brigade, approached a policeman and, her voice dripping sarcasm, asked: "Sir, can I borrow your gun for tonight? Even your baton is enough. Oooooh, look how long and hard it is ... You won't even give me that? Then how about just your peaked cap?"

And with that she walked back into the crowd, smiling.

See here for an overview of GlobalPost dispatches from Iran

 (Iason Athanasiadis is reporting from Iran on a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.)