Bøllene i Basji-militsen har hittil jaget, mishandlet og drept opposisjonen om natten. Fredag oppfordret de alle «vigilante» til å møte frem på dagtid for å sette bråkmakerne på plass. Det tolkes som et tegn på at hanskene tas av, nå skal folk få merke hvem som har makten.

The vigilantes plan to take their fight into the daylight on Friday, with the public relations department of Ansar Hezbollah, the most public face of the Basij, announcing that they planned a public demonstration to expose the «seditious conspiracy» being carried out by «agitating hooligans.»

«We invite the vigilant people who are always in the arena to make their loud objections heard in response to the babbling of this tribe,» said the announcement, carried on the Web site Parsine.

The announcement could be the first indication that the government was taking its gloves off, Iranian analysts noted, because up to this point the Basijis, usually deployed as the shock troops to end any public protests, have been working in stealth.

Mir Hussein Mousavi skrev to brev torsdag, i protest mot volden. Ett av dem var til Det nasjonale sikkerhetsråd. Mousavi sier rett ut at Basji-bøllene opptrer som provaktører, for å utløse mer vold, slik at politi kan gripe inn.

In the second letter, to the National Security Council, he went further in depicting the vigilantes’ role as agents provocateurs.

Saying that the Basijis lack uniforms, proper identification or anything that denotes them as public employees, he said they appeared with hoses, clubs, iron bars, truncheons and sometimes firearms.

«Just before the police show up they attack the demonstrations,» he wrote. «They try to provoke the demonstrators and they destroy people’s property and vehicles.» Mr. Moussavi said the security forces did nothing to stop them.

Basji – privilegier

De fleste Basji kommer fra lavere sosiale klasser. De får visse privilegier hvis de slutter seg til militsen. Følelsen av makt, av å kunne bruke vold mot andre, er forlokkende for noen, og utøvelse av denne makten har en tendens til å øke apetitten.

The Basij was reinvented in the late 1990s, Iran experts said, after the government felt that it had lost control of the streets during spontaneous celebrations when Iran won a spot in the World Cup soccer championship in 1998 and again during student protests in 1999. «They decided to invest in a force that could take over the streets that didn’t look like a military deployment,» said an Iran analyst who did not want to be identified because of his involvement in the events.

The Basij was nominally part of the Revolutionary Guards, but it is a loosely allied group of organizations that range from the more official units like the Ansar Hezbollah, which undergo formal training, to many groups controlled by local clerics. Nearly every mosque in Iran has a room marked Paygah-e-Basij or Basij base, which serves as a kind of Islamic club where students study the Koran, organize sports teams and plan field trips.

Some members are religious zealots, and some are not. Most members are lower-middle-class youths who enjoy certain benefits by joining. They can skip the required military service, can obtain reserved spots in the universities and also receive a small stipend. No one seems to know how many people belong to the Basij, but estimates run from a few hundred thousand to more than a million. The age range is from high school to about 30 years old.

During a short-lived student protest at Tehran University in 2003, the Basijis roared around on motorcycles and were trucked in on military vehicles. They hit students with chains, lobbed bricks at their heads and beat them with long wooden truncheons. One Basiji swung at a reporter with such force that the blow shattered a portable satellite telephone in the reporter’s pocket.

Shadowy Iranian Vigilantes Vow Bolder Action