Thousands of Islamic militiamen loyal to Iran’s rulers have staged exercises for deployment against protesters in the event of any anti-regime demonstrations, a reformist daily reported on Saturday.
Around 3,000 members of the Basij militia on Friday held mock “street battles using the experience of events” that followed Iran’s contested 2009 presidential election, Arman newspaper said, quoting a Revolutionary Guards commander.
Some of them were “injured” during the exercises which pitted militiamen “playing the role of seditionists (reformist opposition protesters)” against special units.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, told the units taking part in the exercises that the Islamic republic remained “vulnerable” to domestic “sedition.”
The term “sedition” is used by the regime to refer to an opposition movement, led by Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, that was shaped after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.
Mousavi and Karroubi, once among the ranking elites of the regime, lost to Ahmadinejad in the poll, which they said was rigged heavily to assure him a second term.
Their opposition to Ahmadinejad sparked a large wave of unrest in the Islamic republic, plunging the regime into one of its worst political crises, and dividing the nation’s elite Shiite clergy.
The protests left dozens dead while thousands, including many close to the opposition as well as journalists, were arrested and sometimes sentenced to heavy prison terms.
“They are still conspiring (this year) and the sedition will continue,” General Hamedani warned.
“The danger remains, and we must be careful about the Satan inside. On the front of domestic sedition, we are vulnerable,” he said, according to Arman.
The Basij forces, dependent on the Revolutionary Guards, is estimated to have several million members, although the number of its active members are unknown.
Western experts believe nearly 100,000 of Basij forces, in cooperation with Revolutionary Guards, are trained to intervene on anti-regime riots.