July 15, 2009 VOLUME 62
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
Since last month, the world community has witnessed, first hand, the bravery and courage of Iranian women defying Islamic fundamentalism. Media reported images of women organizing and joining others in the frontlines to push back the suppressive forces of the Iranian regime are countless. Of course, the price for liberation and freedom is high. Just like Neda Agaha-Soltan Salehi, other women like Parisa Koli and Fahimeh Salahshoor have been killed by regime's sharpshooters in the streets of Tehran and elsewhere. The misogynous regime in Tehran has given the sharpshooters specific directions to aim to kill women in the streets. Faced with the undying aspiration of an indigenous liberation movement, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad realize that their days are numbered.
The recent uprising in Iran marks a significant milestone in the forthcoming change of regime in Iran. Many, rightfully so, compare these days with the leading months to the 1979 revolution. A page has turned in Iran and some call it the "beginning of the end" of the system of vali-e-faqih (Supreme Leadership). There is no doubt that women will continue to play an active and leading role in coming months. They have the most to gain from a positive change in Iran.
To support them, the world community must speak in one voice to:
- Denounce the Iranian regime and its crimes against the Iranian people.
- Declare the criminal gang of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad illegitimate and illegal.
- Cut all diplomatic ties with the regime in Tehran
When the people of Iran are paying with their blood to rid the world community from such a dangerous regime, this is the minimum others can do in their support. Let us hope the leaders of the free world will listen and take the side of the Iranian people and not the criminal regime in Tehran.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
Christian Science Monitor - June 15, 2009
What is striking about the Iranians protesting fraud
in the June 10 "election" is the number of women on the front lines. Among all
those cheated at the polls, they may feel the most denied. For the first time in
one of the Islamic Republic's controlled presidential campaigns, the women's
movement was able to raise its demands clearly and independently – even though
the unelected, 12-member, all-male Guardian Council did not allow any female
candidates to run. The movement's courage to confront the patriarchal theocracy
(in which "morality police" still roam the streets looking for women with
make-up) may have been a big reason why the regime rigged the vote count...Yet
the ballot fraud was done with such audacity and clumsiness that the "landslide
winner," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will likely find it difficult to rule.
And the West should hesitate before cozying up to a regime with fading
legitimacy and which so openly suppresses half its population and sees women as
a security threat. What country would have faith in signing a deal with a regime
that cheats its own people, especially women, at the ballot box?...Mr.
Ahmadinejad has a strong record against women. He changed the name of the
government's "Center for Women's Participation" to the "Center for Women and
Family Affairs." He limited women's access to higher education and proposed laws
that would allow men to divorce their wives without informing them and not to
pay alimony. Most of all, the regime has jailed dozens of women involved in the
One Million Signatures Campaign, a grass-roots movement that began in 2006 to
reform the legal system and to end gender discrimination. The group has been
harassed in their homes and branded as illegal. It is of little surprise, then,
to see images of women, only slightly veiled, confronting the regime in
post-election protests. While Ahmadinejad's false victory may have toughened the
clerics' foreign posture with the West, they've only exposed their weakness at
The Associated Press - June 17, 2009
It's not just young, liberal rich kids anymore: Whole families, taxi drivers, even conservative women in black chadors are joining Iran's opposition street protests.The last time Iran was engulfed in similar anti-government action was a decade ago when a deadly raid on a Tehran University dorm sparked six days of nationwide protests. At the time, they were considered the worst since the 1979 revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought hard-line clerics to power.A mother and her daughter, making their way through the crowd of thousands, said they had come because they could not sit at home anymore and watch what was happening. "This is completely different to 1999. That was between the students and the government. This is between the people and the government. This time it is all of Iran. This is a historic movement," Boorghani said."The government may try to strangle us, but we won't sit back and let them," Boorghani said. "There's no way back. We won't give up."
CNN - June 19, 2009
Like thousands of other Iranian women, Parisa took to Tehran's streets this week, her heart brimming with hope. "Change," said the placards around her. The young Iranian woman eyed the crowd and pondered the possibility that the rest of her life might be different from her mother's. She could see glimmers of a future free from discrimination -- and all the symbols of it, including the head-covering the government requires her to wear every day. Women, regarded as second-class citizens under Iranian law, have been noticeably front and center of the massive demonstrations that have unfolded since the presidential election a week ago. Iranians are protesting what they consider a fraudulent vote count favoring hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but for many women like Parisa, the demonstrations are just as much about taking Iran one step closer to democracy. "This regime is against all humanity, more specifically against all women," said Parisa, whom CNN is not fully identifying for security reasons. "I see lots of girls and women in these demonstrations," she said. "They are all angry, ready to explode, scream out and let the world hear their voice. I want the world to know that as a woman in this country, I have no freedom." "Today, we were wearing black," Parisa said, referring to the day of mourning to remember those who have died in post-election violence."We were holding signs. We said, 'We are not sheep. We are human beings,'" she said. Parisa was thankful for all the images being transmitted out of Iran despite the government's crackdown on international journalists. She was thankful, too, that the world cared. "Today," she said, "I had this feeling of hope that things will finally change."
The New York Times - June 20, 2009
I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard.
For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get
beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a
couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!”
Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her
face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back
into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of “Death to the
dictator!” and “We want liberty!” accompanied her. There were people of all
ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of
teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.
“Can’t the United Nations help us?” one woman asked me. I said I doubted that
very much. “So,” she said, “we are on our own.” Later, as night fell over the
tumultuous capital, gunfire could be heard in the distance. And from rooftops
across the city, the defiant sound of “Allah-u-Akbar” — “God is Great” — went up
yet again, as it has every night since the fraudulent election. But on Saturday
it seemed stronger. The same cry was heard in 1979, only for one form of
absolutism to yield to another. Iran has waited long enough to be free.
The Associated Press - June 25, 2009
For years, women's defiance in Iran came in
carefully planned flashes of hair under their head scarves, in brightly painted
fingernails, and in trendy clothing that could be glimpsed under bulky coats and
cloaks. But these small acts of rebellion against the theocratic government have
been quickly eclipsed in the wake of the disputed June 12 presidential
elections. In their place came images of Iranian women marching alongside men,
of their scuffles with burly militiamen, of the sobering footage of a young
woman named Neda, blood pouring from her mouth and nose minutes after she was
fatally shot. In a part of the Muslim world where women are often repressed,
these images have catapulted female demonstrators to the forefront of Iran's
opposition movement. It is a role, say Iranian women and experts, that few seem
willing to give up, and one that is likely to present even greater challenges to
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hard-line government in the wake of the recent
violence and protests. "Iranian women are very powerful, and they want their
freedom," said one woman in Tehran who said she had been taking part in the
protests. Like all women in Iran interviewed for this story, she did not want to
be named, fearing government retribution. But, she said, "they're really, really
repressed, and they need to talk about it." The election seemed to open the
floodgates for airing that sense of frustration. While Iranian women have been
politically active in the past, coming out in large numbers in support of the
1979 Islamic Revolution, the latest demonstrations showed them standing
shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts, enduring the same blows and
threats. "We were all together, and we helped each other despite our sexuality,
and we will be together," said a Tehran woman, 34, who is active in the
Statesman Journal - July 1, 2009
Every revolution needs a unifying symbol, and members of Iran's opposition movement now have theirs...The thought is inescapable that the beautiful Neda Agha Soltan might have been selected from the crowd not to scare away protesters, but to unite them. It is not impossible to imagine that someone had a greater purpose in mind for the young philosophy student...What follows next is by no means predictable, but history provides hints. Neda's anointment as a martyr could become crucial in the next month. Followers of the Shiite branch of Islam participate in cycles of mourning — on the third, seventh and 40th days after death. These cycles served as rallying points during the 1979 revolution and conceivably could serve the same purpose now. In the meantime, it is reasonable to ask why Neda so captured the imagination when many others have died since the June 12 election. On the same day that Neda died, at least nine other protesters were killed...But as the days unfold, it will be interesting to watch how Neda, whose name means "The Voice" or "The Calling," is incorporated into the developing narrative of Iran and especially of Iranian women...That message may have been the sniper's target. With his bullet, he delivered another: Women either will behave and follow the rules, or they will die. Whatever the shooter's true aim, the body he left in the street has become immortal in the story of Iran. Neda — the voice of freedom — can never be silenced now.
NCRI Website - July 9, 2009
According to reports from inside Iran by the
People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) Social Headquarters, in the
course of the July 9 uprising in Tehran, a large number of young women were
arrested. They were taken to undisclosed locations and their fate remains
unknown. Plain-clothes agents beat young women with batons and used pepper
sprays, which could cause serious harm to their eyes, during the arrests. The
agents then transferred the detainees in vans with license plates. Separately,
underscoring the intensity of July 9 protests, at 23:00 local time, people in
Aryashahr chanted, “We are men and women of war, Fight and we will fight back.”
People also went to their rooftops immediately after the protests to chant “God
is great” and “Death to dictator.”
Time Magazine - July 9, 2009
Nearly two weeks of silence on the streets of Tehran
were broken in the evening of July 9 when thousands marched through the central
districts of the Iranian capital to protest the June 12 presidential election.
Another anniversary helped precipitate the show of apparent defiance: the 10th
anniversary of a bloody student uprising that was brutally put down by the
government. Despite threats earlier in the day of a "crushing" response, men,
women and even some children went onto the streets with chants of "Death to the
dictator"...But the response was indeed crushing. Members of the élite
Revolutionary Guard and the dreaded paramilitary group the Basij rushed the
initial crowd gathered at Enqelab (Revolution) Square with batons at around 5
p.m. One woman who was fleeing the scene had bloodstains on her white skirt
splattered from demonstrators nearby. But pockets of protesters numbering in the
hundreds soon resurfaced along many of the main streets north and east of
Enqelab Square and in the city's main squares. For a few hours, the energy of
the crowds seemed infinite, undiminished by the baton-wielding Basij zipping by
on motorbikes. One student stood resolutely on the sidewalk of Fatemi Street and
said, "We will not give up. First, Ahmadinejad. Then Khamenei. Then freedom."For
the most part, the crowd remained nonviolent, though at one point young men
began to throw rocks from an alley at passing soldiers. When the small group of
soldiers retreated, the man in front of the protesters threw up his hands in
victory to the cheers of the crowd. As a procession of men carrying flower
arrangements commemorating the 1999 student uprising went by, a bystander
explained that these men were the first to be attacked.
NCRI Website - July 15, 2009
Nearly one month after suppressive forces arrested
Ms. Taraneh Mousavi, 28, there is still no information about her fate and
whereabouts. She was arrested by suppressive forces on June 17 in Shari’ati
Street in Tehran during the Iranian people’s nationwide uprising. Her mother was
informed recently that Taraneh was undergoing treatment in Khomeini Hospital in
Karaj, but when her mother went to the hospital, officials told her that they
had no record of her there. According to eye-witness reports, Taraneh and a
group of other people were arrested and taken by plainclothes agents to a secret
torture site known as a “safe-house”. All those arrested with her were later
transferred to Evin Prison, but no one has been able to confirm if she had been
transferred from that center or removed from the custody of the plainclothes
agents. Detainees of the uprising, in particular women and girls, are facing
physical and psychological torture and even rape by plainclothes agents who are
under the direct command of the office of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei. In addition to Taraneh, there is no word on the fate of many other
detained women and girls. At least 14 women and girls were among those arrested
during protests on July 9, and their relatives have no information about them.
(There is a list available with their names) Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz, Chair of the
Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, urged Ms.
Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Dr. Yakin
Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, to look into the
cases of the detained women and girls, in particular Taraneh Mousavi. She calls
on the UN Security Council to take urgent action against the brutal suppression
of the detainees, especially the women.
E-Zan Featured Reports
Regimes that repress the civil and human rights of half their population are inherently unstable.
By Anne Applebaum
Slate and Washington Post
Women in sunglasses and head scarves speaking through megaphones, brandishing cameras, carrying signs. When they first appeared, the photographs of the 2005 Tehran University women's rights protests were a powerful reminder of the true potential of Iranian women. They were uplifting, they featured women of many ages, and they went on circulating long after the protests themselves died down. Now they have been replaced by a far more brutal and already infamous set of images: the photographs and video taken last weekend of a young Iranian woman, allegedly shot by a government sniper, dying on the streets of Tehran.
I don't know whether the girl in the photographs is destined to become this revolution's symbolic martyr, as some are already predicting. I do know, however, that there is a connection between the violence in Iran over the last week and the women's rights movement that has slowly gained strength over the last several years in Iran.
In the United States, the most Americo-centric commentators have somberly attributed the strength of recent demonstrations to the election of Barack Obama. Others want to give credit to the democracy rhetoric of the Bush administration. Still others want to call this a "Twitter revolution" or a "Facebook revolution," as if zippy new technology alone had inspired the protests. But the truth is that the high turnout was the result of many years of organizational work carried out by small groups of civil rights activists and, above all, women's groups, working largely unnoticed and without much outside help.
Since 2006, the "One Million Signatures Campaign" has been circulating a petition, both online and in print, calling for an end to laws that discriminate against women: for equal rights for women in marriage, equal rights to divorce, equal inheritance rights, equal testimony rights for men and women in court. Though based outside the country, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, founded by a pair of sisters, translates and publishes fundamental human rights documents online; it also maintains an online database containing names of thousands of victims of the Islamic republic. In the last decade, Iranian women have participated in student strikes as well as teacher strikes and in organizations of Bahai, Christian, and other religious groups deemed "heretics" by the regime.
Not Obama, not Bush, and not Twitter, in other words, but years of work and effort lie behind the public display of defiance—and in particular the numbers of women on the streets. And their presence matters. For at the heart of the ideology of the Islamic republic is its claim to divine inspiration: The leadership is legitimate, and in particular its harsh repression of women is legitimate, because God has decreed that it is so. The outright rejection of this creed by tens of thousands of women, not just over the last weekend but over the last decade, has to weaken the Islamic republic's claim to invincibility in Iran and across the Middle East. The regime's political elite knows this well. It is no accident that the two main challengers to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian election campaign promised to repeal some of the laws that discriminate against women—and no accident that the leading challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, used his wife, political scientist and former university chancellor Zahra Rahnavard, in his campaign appearances and posters.
The Iranian clerics know that women pose a profound threat to their authority: As activist Ladan Boroumand has written, the regime would not bother to use brutal forms of repression against dissidents unless it feared them deeply. Nobody would have murdered a young woman in blue jeans—a peaceful, unarmed demonstrator—unless her mere presence on the street presented a dire threat.
They may succeed. Violence usually succeeds, at least in the short term, in intimidating people. In the long term, however, the links, structures, organizations, and groups set up by Iranian women, not to mention the photographs of the last week, will continue to gnaw away at the Iranian regime's legitimacy—and we should take note. I cannot count how many times I've been told in recent years that "women's issues" are a secondary subject in the Islamic world. Whether it's the Afghan Constitution under discussion or the Saudi government, the standard line among the standard commentators has always been that other things—stability, security, oil—matter more. But regimes that repress the civil and human rights of half their population are inherently unstable. Sooner or later, there has to be a backlash. In Iran, we're watching one unfold.
30 Years of Iranian Women´s Resistance
By Jila Kazerounian, WFAFI Executive Director
June 27, 2009
The American Chronicle
The images are very powerful. Iranian women, young and old, stand up to the fundamentalist, misogynist dictators of Tehran. No wonder that Neda Agha Soltan, the brave young woman who was brutally murdered by the Basij militia forces, has become the face and the symbol of this uprising. Iranian women identify with Neda, now a mystified figure, a martyr and an icon. They now have a face and a symbol for their struggle against misogyny. Today, Neda is a daughter and a sister to all Iranians from every walk of life inside and outside Iran.
Though the world is just hearing and seeing bits and pieces of it, the story of the struggle of Iranian women against dictatorship is not new. In the 1979 revolution against monarchy, women were present in masses at all demonstrations that eventually brought down the dictatorship of the Shah. They took part in the revolution with the hope of establishing democracy and freedom in their country. Their revolution was hijacked by Khomeini and his cronies whose viciousness and brutality has been unmatched in Iran´s history. A few months after the revolution, by Khomeini´s order, women were required to wear hejab (the "Islamic" dress code). Scores of them were forced out of work. The laws of the land morphed into Sharia law that basically considered women as second class citizens with minimal legal rights. Iranian women felt betrayed and found themselves under enormous suppression but they did not give up.
On June 20th, 1981 tens of thousands of women poured into the streets of Tehran alongside their brothers and male comrades to peacefully protest the clerical regime´s conduct in limiting their freedom, closing the media outlets, attacking the opposition and crushing the slightest whispers of dissent. Their peaceful demonstration was attacked the exact same way as we see on the streets toda, by bullets and batons. Thousands were arrested, among them teenage boys and girls. In the next two weeks, scores of them were executed without even revealing their names to the authorities. Their pictures were published in the state owned media the next day asking parents with missing children to go to the morgue and identify the bodies, and pay the cost of the bullets that killed their loved ones. On June 20th, 2009 the world witnessed in horror the violence and brutality of the ruling mullahs as a result of the internet, cell phones and social networking sites. 28 years prior to this day, the outside world hardly realized the cruelty and viciousness
against the generation of Neda´s parents.
Following that infamous day in 1981, the clerics and their cronies (Rafsanjani, Khatami and Mousavi among them) began a horrific campaign of terror against Iranian dissidents. Tens of thousand were imprisoned and executed. The mere distribution of an opposition pamphlet or newspaper could potentially result to one´s execution. Young virgin girls were routinely raped in the prisons before their execution so they would not end up in the heaven (according to the Sharia law, if one dies virgin she will go to heaven!) Pregnant women were shot in the abdomen and grandmothers were hanged in the prisons. The Iranian women´s heroic resistance was hardly heard or seen then. Those who stood up to the violence of the mullahs then were labeled terrorists by the Iranian regime and their western supporters. Their political activities limited and their hands tied as a show of goodwill to the mullahs.
Throughout the years, the brave women of Iranian resistance have stood up to the most brutal and vicious religious dictatorship of the 20th century. They have led the most organized opposition to the mullahs. Their resolve and resilience has shocked their enemies and heartened their friends. These women never gave up their quest for freedom. There was never a vacuum in the continuity of the struggle. While the western media chose to look for the woods behind a tree, organized resistance led by a woman, Maryam Rajavi empowered thousands of Iranian women to take leading roles in their strive for democracy and justice.
28 years after the mass peaceful demonstration of 1981, history repeats itself. Neda and her friends are an extension of those brave women who have throughout the years stood up to the mullahs and who have never given up. Neda´s struggle is the extension of the struggle of all those women who have defied the rule of tyranny and misogyny.
Let´s bow to Neda´s soul and to all who gave up their lives for freedom of their people. May they all rest in peace.
Inside the Iranian Crackdown
When the Unrest Flared, the Ayatollah's Enforcers Took to the Streets of Tehran With Batons and Zeal
By Farnaz Fassihi
July 11, 2009
The Wall Street Journal
When the protests broke out here last month, Mehdi
Moradani answered the call to crush them.
On the first day of the unrest, the 24-year-old volunteer member of Iran's paramilitary Basij force mounted his motorcycle and chased reformist protesters through the streets, shouting out the names of Shiite saints as he revved his engine.
On the fourth day, he picked up a thick wooden stick issued by his Basij neighborhood task force and beat demonstrators who refused to disperse.
Members of Iran's Basij paramilitary force, on motorcycle, police a demonstration in Tehran on Thursday. By the eighth day, demonstrators alleging that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had rigged his re-election were out by the hundreds of thousands. Mr. Moradani says he mobilized in a 12-man motorcycle crew, scouting out restive neighborhoods across Tehran. He battled protesters with a baton and tear gas. The demonstrators fought back with rocks, bricks and bottles. Mr. Moradani says he handcuffed scores of demonstrators and dragged them away as they kicked and screamed.
"It wasn't about elections anymore," says Mr. Moradani, a short, skinny man with pitch-black hair and a beard. "I was defending my country and our revolution and Islam. Everything was at risk."
The mass uprising against the results of the June 12 election by supporters of Mr. Ahmadinejad's challengers has largely died down. Demonstrations this Thursday, though heated, drew thousands rather than hundreds of thousands. Iranian officials have said between 17 and 20 people have died in the monthlong protests. Independent organizations tracking human-rights violations in Iran put the death toll closer to several dozen.
If Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei succeeds in stamping out the unrest, it will be in large part because of Mr. Moradani and his colleagues in the Basij militia, the Islamic Republic's most loyal foot soldiers.
The story of Mr. Moradani, a midranking Basij member, offers a rare glimpse into one of the most mysterious and feared arms of Iran's regime -- and into the group's most significant mobilization since the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. This portrait of Mr. Moradani is based on interviews with him conducted in person and by phone, both before the uprising and after the crackdown began.
The Basij fanned out across Tehran, beating protesters with sticks, lining streets and squares, and roaring through neighborhoods on their motorcycles in a show of force. Regime officials praised the shock troops.
"Our efforts to unveil the faces of our enemy saved Iran from a grave danger," Yadollah Javani, the political chief of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which commands the Basij, said last week.
Tehran shopkeeper Mehdi Moradani, a 24-year-old Basij member, helped suppress street demonstrations.But the Basij also became the most visible target of the opposition's fury. In some neighborhoods, protesters covered streets with oil to thwart Basij motorbikes, surrounding and beating fallen Basij riders.
The Basij was created in 1979 by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It was devised as a volunteer force, to back up the Iranian army in the Iran-Iraq war. Many of its young members were deployed to the battlefield to walk ahead of soldiers and detonate Iraqi mines.
After the war ended in 1988, the Basij evolved into a type of neighborhood task force. Members serve as law enforcers, morality police, social-service providers and organizers of religious ceremonies. In times of crisis, the Basij are tasked with restoring order and ferreting out dissidents.
Iran's government says the Basij count some five million members. Independent analysts put the number closer to one million, out of an Iranian population of about 75 million.
Those numbers make the group the regime's largest and most wide-reaching network of security volunteers. Members, both men and women, slip easily between roles, from social worker to community spy.
The Basij don't wear uniforms. Men typically sport beards, and often wear loose-fitting shirts that fall untucked over their pants. Women members are usually covered in head-to-toe black chadors.
Rank-and-file members don't draw salaries, though there are perks to the job. They enjoy special consideration when competing for university admission or government jobs.
A Basij chapter operates out of every officially sanctioned institution, private or government owned. Ministries, universities, factories, schools, mosques and hospitals all house Basij units. Joining the Basij can be as easy as signing up. But members are carefully vetted. Indoctrination includes theology and ideology seminars, then military training.
During the administration of reformist President Mohamad Khatami, from 1997 to 2005, the Basij were only called out during times of street protests. After Mr. Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005, the Basij enjoyed something of a revival.
Under Mr. Ahmadinejad, authorities reinstituted street checkpoints, manned by Basij and separate morality police, who monitored everything from men's haircuts to how women wear their mandatory headscarves.
In 2005, Basij forces were placed under the command of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran's most elite security force. The Guard, with responsibility for internal security, runs a sort of parallel military, with its own air force and naval branches, its own ministry and extensive business activities.
Mr. Moradani is the son of a former commander of the Guard, who fought against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and helped train the armed militia of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group.
The eldest of three children, Mr. Moradani was enrolled by his parents in the Basij's youth club when he was nine years old. The youth club is a mix between the Boy Scouts and Bible school. The clubs organize soccer games, swimming lessons and picnics in the woods.
Children are taught how to pray, and they recite Quranic verses. Religious teachings at the clubs emphasize the call to defend Islam, even at the expense of death, or martyrdom. Future Basij members to told to strive to create a pure society in line with conservative Islamic values.
Mr. Moradani remembers field trips to war monuments, Shiite shrines and so-called martyrs' cemeteries, where those who died in the Iran-Iraq war are buried. He received his first military training before he turned 14, learning how to handle a gun and fight from trenches, he says.
When he was 14, the Basij forces piled Mr. Moradani and 100 other youths into buses and took them around the dormitories of Tehran University. At the time -- 10 years ago this week -- students had been orchestrating large, antigovernment protests. The demonstrations were among the most significant since the 1979 founding of the Islamic Republic.
Basij commanders ordered the teenagers to beat up student organizers, Mr. Moradani says. They did. In 2003, when student uprisings erupted again, he rushed to help quash them.
"The revolution and Islam need me. I will give my life in a heartbeat if the regime asks me," Mr. Moradani said in an interview earlier this year at a shop in central Tehran, where he sells Islamic and revolutionary paraphernalia, including key chains, T-shirts and CDs. "Our society is now at the verge of sin and filled with antirevolutionary people."
In his small store, Mr. Moradani works with his shoes off, because he also prays there. The shop's walls are adorned with framed posters of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Mr. Ahmadinejad.
"My heroes," he says.
Mr. Moradani, who lives in Shahr-eh Rey, a city adjacent to southern Tehran, didn't attend university. He focused instead on his religious studies. He says he hopes one day to follow in his father's footsteps and join the Revolutionary Guard.
He has taken the Guard's rigorous entrance exam twice, passing the ideology and the written portions both times. But he failed the final hurdle: an intense interview that lasts six to eight hours. Applicants must discuss why they are loyal to the regime and the Supreme Leader. He intends to try again.
Mr. Moradani takes religious-singing lessons and aspires to master "madahi," the art of chanting Shiite religious odes at holy ceremonies. His cellphone is programmed to ring with a famous religious song about Imam Hussein, a Shiite saint.
Before the election, Mr. Moradani campaigned for Mr. Ahmadinejad. He printed campaign posters and pasted them on walls. The day after the vote, with his candidate declared the winner, Mr. Moradani bought a box of chocolate cupcakes and drove his motorcycle to one of Mr. Ahmadinejad's campaign offices to celebrate.
A few hours later, he recalls, he was shocked to see demonstrators filling the streets. They set plastic trash bins afire along Tehran's long Vali Asr Avenue. Men and women, gathered in clusters across town, shouted "Death to the Dictator."
Riot police chased them away. The demonstrators regrouped and began chanting again -- a cat-and-mouse game that played out for days.
"I never expected the protests to be so intense and last so long," said Mr. Moradani in a phone interview from Tehran this week. "I thought it would be over in a few days."
Basij members organized to support riot police and other security officials across Tehran. Some Basij members infiltrated the opposition demonstrations, according to eyewitnesses.
Protesters, most of them young, fought back. "You saw young people on both sides mobilizing with vengeance and willing to kill," said Issa Saharkheez, a political analyst in Tehran, in an interview shortly after the election. Mr. Saharkheez was subsequently arrested in detentions that followed the unrest.
At the height of the street battles, in Sadaat Abad, a middle-class neighborhood in east Tehran, young men and women organized themselves into an unofficial militia to fight the Basij, with a "commander" taking responsibility for each street. Every afternoon, they would meet to prepare for the evening's expected battle, according to a 25-year-old student who was involved with the group.
They collected rocks, tiles and bricks from construction sites and spilled oil on the roads, an attempt to sideline the Basij's motorcycles. When a Basij rider would go down, the young men would beat him, according to the student. Women stood back, screaming "Death to the Dictator" and stoking bonfires in the street. Older supporters remained indoors, throwing ashtrays, vases and other household items from their balconies and windows onto the Basij motorcycle riders below.
"There was a war going on here every night," the student says. "We are not going to stand and let them beat us."
At the end of the first week of protests, Mr. Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, led Friday prayers and endorsed Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory. He ordered all demonstrators off the streets.
A few hours after Mr. Khamenei's sermon, Mr. Moradani got a call at home. The local Basij headquarters was holding an emergency meeting. About four hundred members showed up.
A top Basij commander briefed them on the riots and their responsibilities going forward. He called protesters "havoc makers" and accused them of having ties to Western countries aiming to sow chaos in Iran. The commander said the protests were no longer a matter of election unrest, but had become a serious, national-security threat.
"It is now everyone's Islamic and revolutionary duty to crush these antirevolutionary forces," Hossam Gholami, the 27-year-old chief of Shahr Rey Basij, told members, he recalled in a telephone interview this week. "You are not dealing with ordinary people. They are our enemy," he said he told them.
Mr. Moradani lined up with his comrades to receive an official letter of deployment, signed and bearing the seal of the Revolutionary Guard. He was given new equipment: a camouflage vest to wear over his clothes, a plastic baton, handcuffs and a hand-held radio.
Depending on rank, some members received shields and hard hats, and others were given chains and tear gas, according to Messrs. Gholami and Moradani. Mr. Moradani says no one in his division carried knives or guns.
On the streets the next day, a Saturday, the Basij and other security services cracked down, resulting in some of the bloodiest clashes with protesters. Mr. Moradani says he and his brigade roamed the streets, attacking what he says were violent protesters. Alerted about a burnt-out mosque, he rushed to the scene to secure the area.
One day, Mr. Moradani says, a mob chased him. He fell off his motorcycle and the crowd beat him with sticks and rocks, he says.
His leg was bandaged for a few days, and he still walks with a limp, he says. Dozens of Basij militia have been killed and injured, he says. Protesters have attacked his friends by throwing acid on their faces, he says.
A surgeon at Pars Hospital in central Tehran, where many of the fallen were taken, confirmed casualties on both sides. He said the hospital had operated on three young people from the opposition who were shot in the head and abdomen by security forces. He also treated scores who were badly beaten or stabbed, he said.
Among them were Basij and government supporters, he said -- including Basij members who had acid thrown on their faces.
Mr. Moradani says a young man in his group was killed when a protester in a black sports car ran over him, he says. The driver, he says, was arrested and confessed to driving over 11 Basij members. Mr. Moradani's account was impossible to independently verify.
For Mr. Moradani, the biggest shock during the election turmoil came in his personal life. He had recently gotten engaged to a young woman from a devout, conservative family. A week into the protests, he says, his fiancée called him with an ultimatum. If he didn't leave the Basij and stop supporting Mr. Ahmadinejad, he recalls her saying, she wouldn't marry him.
He told her that was impossible. "I suffered a real emotional blow," he says. "She said to me, 'Go beat other people's children then,' and 'I don't want to have anything to do with you,' and hung up on me."
She returned the ring he gave her, and hasn't returned his phone calls. "The opposition has even fooled my fiancée," he says.