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    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    Suffer the Children: In the West, we spend a lot of time and energy focusing on child safety. In Iran, the focus is, um, slightly different:

    "In the past," wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on, "we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again, there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone." Such scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. "Before entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves."

    ....All told, some 100,000 men and boys are said to have been killed during Basiji operations. Why did the Basiji volunteer for such duty?

    Most of them were recruited by members of the Revolutionary Guards, which commanded the Basiji. These "special educators" would visit schools and handpick their martyrs from the paramilitary exercises in which all Iranian youth were required to participate. Propaganda films--like the 1986 TV film A Contribution to the War--praised this alliance between students and the regime and undermined those parents who tried to save their children's lives. (At the time, Iranian law allowed children to serve even if their families objected.) Some parents, however, were lured by incentives. In a campaign called "Sacrifice a Child for the Imam," every family that lost a child on the battlefield was offered interest-free credit and other generous benefits. Moreover, enrollment in the Basiji gave the poorest of the poor a chance for social advancement.


    The survivors reap great glory and honor - and power - even now in Iran:

    ....The sacrifice of the Basiji was ghastly. And yet, today, it is a source not of national shame, but of growing pride. Since the end of hostilities against Iraq in 1988, the Basiji have grown both in numbers and influence. They have been deployed, above all, as a vice squad to enforce religious law in Iran, and their elite "special units" have been used as shock troops against anti-government forces. In both 1999 and 2003, for instance, the Basiji were used to suppress student unrest. And, last year, they formed the potent core of the political base that propelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--a man who reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War--to the presidency.

    Ahmadinejad revels in his alliance with the Basiji. He regularly appears in public wearing a black-and-white Basij scarf, and, in his speeches, he routinely praises "Basij culture" and "Basij power," with which he says "Iran today makes its presence felt on the international and diplomatic stage." Ahmadinejad's ascendance on the shoulders of the Basiji means that the Iranian Revolution, launched almost three decades ago, has entered a new and disturbing phase. A younger generation of Iranians, whose worldviews were forged in the atrocities of the Iran-Iraq War, have come to power, wielding a more fervently ideological approach to politics than their predecessors. The children of the Revolution are now its leaders.


    Shudder to think what they'll do with a nuclear bomb.
     

    posted by Sydney on 4/25/2006 08:06:00 AM 2 comments

    2 Comments:

    yup. Actually I was aware of this, but thanks for the link. Like a lot of history, it is usually ignored...

    By Blogger boinky, at 6:50 PM  

    IIRC those children were sent into the minefields holding/waving pictures of the Ayatollah.

    By Blogger Porta's Cat, at 12:06 PM  

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