Connect to share and comment

'Don't the Basij have parents?'

A family that supported the government shares its opinion on the turn of events since the election.

Members of Iran's Basij militia participate in a military parade to commemorate the anniversary of army day in Tehran, April 18, 2009. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said a strong Iranian military would help preserve stability in the Middle East but the Basij have been accused of heavy handed tactics during post-election protests. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

[Editor's note: This is the latest on-the-ground dispatch from our Tehran-based correspondent, who cannot be named because of the increased danger of arrest as the government cracks down on journalists.]

TEHRAN — As Tehran burned and Iranians bled for the second consecutive night Tuesday, the Hosseini family tried its best to celebrate Iran's Mother’s Day. The three members of the family had voted for Ahmadinejad in Friday's presidential election, but they didn’t want to join the tens of thousands who had gathered in the center of the city to hear the president-elect give his acceptance speech.

"No, we want to be at home," Shahnaz, an assistant in a pharmacy said, while preparing supper. “We’ve voted, we’ve done our part and the rest of this has nothing to do with us.”

It is the first Mother’s Day holiday on which Shahnaz has not received any gifts — Ali, her son, and Mansour, her husband, came home from work at sunset empty-handed because anxious shop owners in Tehran shuttered their shops. She says she’s simply glad that they are both safe, given the chants and screams coming from Tehran's streets.

“Poor mothers; poor children,” she lamented. “Don’t the Basij have parents, don’t they have children?” She was referring to the feared Iranian paramilitary force which originated as a student collective fostered by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and which was key to the success of the 1979 revolution.

The mothers and children of Narmak — the lower-middle class district where Ahmadinejad famously has his residence — have so far been spared violence, but they’ve also not seen the victory celebrations that pro-Ahmadinejad newspapers and state broadcasters have claimed are taking place.

The Hosseinis, like many in their area, voted for Ahmadinejad after days of discussing their thoughts about the country and the candidates. They belong neither to the segment of the president’s voting bloc that was instructed to cast their votes for him, nor the underclass portion of the populace overjoyed by the president’s coarsest displays of populism.

However many ballots were coerced or falsified, there are a significant number of Iranians who cast their ballots for Ahmadinejad voluntarily and with a clear conscience. And they are now beginning to question their own judgment.

“I saw Ahmadinejad as someone who would defend the revolution,” Mansour said.

The lives of the Hosseini family changed dramatically after the events of 1979. Mansour benefited considerably from the forced post-revolutionary redistribution of money and privilege: As the son of factory workers, his rise, through war-time connections made during military service, to a civil service desk job at the Tehran company amounted to a significant achievement. But, his rise stopped there: He could not afford a down payment on a nicer apartment; his son works around the clock at a real estate agent’s office, but still cannot afford his own place to live.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/middle-east/090617/dont-the-basij-have-parents