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Conversation with a Basiji
"Please don't consider me Hezbollahi"

By Alireza Abouhossein
October 7, 2003
The Iranian

Sitting in a taxi heading to Tajrish Square from Shahrak Gharab, I was asked by the driver to move in to the front seat since there were two other women passengers who wanted to get in the taxi. I accepted and sat in front beside a guy who looked like he was in his early twenties. He had a poorly trimmed beard and wore plain light gray clothes with his shirt hovering on his pants -- a typical Basiji militia look.

We started a conversation because of a scene he observed first and got my attention as well. A young woman was beating a small beggar child and dragging him to the pedestrian side on the northeast corner of an intersection. Meanwhile other homeless children got involved and also threw a couple of punchs at the child. The entire scene was taking place in front of a police officer who was standing on the southwest corner of the street.

The guy beside me said, "I think the small guy deserved to be beaten!"

I was surprised he said that. I felt he was the type of person who judged a situation and established a verdict before the facts were apparent or considered.

"I don't think beating is something that someone may like to receive or give, regardless of whether that child deserved or not," I said. "Because first of all, if you look at the girl and the child, you would realize that he's a third of the girl's size!"

I went on that we have to find out what was the motivation. I said I knew that the beggar might have done something unethical or dishonorable to the girl. However, I felt the reasons behind the act must be investigated to find out what made the small guy go to such an extreme and insult the girl.

He agreed that we should refrain from any type of violence. Then he continued by explaining that our society has little tolerance for non-traditional acts. He explained that he is part of the plain clothes militia who patrol the street -- mostly to combat immoral behavior, of course.

He went on that a couple of days before he was acting as a deputy overseeing the cases of arrested individuals. A woman was brought in. He confronted the middle-age woman who claimed she wished to have sex with him or get married. She explained that she had recently separated from her husband and had a great appetite for sex.

But she was not allowed to get married again until 3 months and 10 days after her separation. So Mr. S. wrote a letter to the judiciary to allow her to get married before the legal date, and took responsibility for any sin that may arise from his action.

Then he continued about how he had released a couple of guys and girls detained by his colleagues. "Please don't consider me Hezbollahi!" he said.

After a casual farewell I started to think that how easily young people can be manipulated. If we just provide them with a good education where they can distinguish between what is being promised and what is really acted on, then we can be hopeful that our investment in the future is set on the right direction.

I kept wondering how effective was my 2-cents! It helped him change his mind from a simple thinking dude who sees only black and white, to a dude being proud of freeing people who were arrested for no particular reason than personal behavior!

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