Sea of Green
One of the most fascinating videos we watched yesterday was a brief moment from the Tehran streets. The marchers are deliberately quiet — no chanting — when suddenly you hear cries of “Basiji!” passing through the crowd.
And then everybody sits down.
The Basij are Iran’s “volunteer militia” — the shock troops responsible for most of the violence so far. And in the face of threat, the crowd displayed textbook nonviolent tactics — tactics few would have reason to know a week ago.
There will be more enormous crowds today, and again on Friday, when the protest’s martyrs are mourned at Iran’s mosques. With each day, the protest gains its own momentum. With each day, the next day’s protest seems more certain.
We’ve been saying that the rulers can walk it back as long as the martyrs don’t pile up too high — as long as the crowds can return home without violating the memory of the fallen. But we’re starting to wonder whether the situation has reached a point where the crowds can’t walk it back — because it’s safer to see this through rather than risk certain retribution if the protests dissipate without success.
There’s safety in numbers. Iran’s rulers can’t send in the tanks without igniting the entire country. You risk civil war, you risk revolution — because nobody’s going to see it as quelling a riot.
Whether the rulers are shrewd enough to understand that, we cannot know. Nor can we know how much longer they’re willing to wait it out. Yet as long as the streets are full each passing day, there’s still time for a peaceful resolution. But only if the rulers want it.
niacINsight [National Iranian American Council]
Tehran Bureau [Independent Iran news]
The Lede [NYT]
Nico Pitney [HuffPo]
Photo: June 17, 2009. Mousavi supporters in Tehran. [HuffPo]