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Iran Feature: So Who Were the "Students" in the Embassy Attack?

Many reports have used the term "students" to describe those who demonstrated and occupied the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday. However, if you take a closer look at what the Iranian media and the "students" themselves are saying, you will get a much better idea of who is responsible. 

Throughout the attack, major State-run news organizations like Iranian Students News Agency and Islamic Republic News Agency were running updates of how "students" had broken into the Embassy. Fair enough ---  you would not expect these outlets to give away the identities of the attackers; there is a concept called plausible deniability, and the Iranian regime is fully aware of it. So to understand what was occurring, one has to look for the proverbial stupid friend.

Even in a tightly-controlled media environment like Iran, some news sources get a bit overzealous. And some of them just could not keep it to themselves. 

A news website closely aligned with President Ahmadinejad, calling the incident, "The Conquering of the UK Embassy".  At this point  Mehr News, another state-run service, joined the party and gave away a bit of useful information. While 200 of "students" were holed up inside the embassy, those outside were loudly calling for the police to allow them to leave after breaking windows, burning a car, and looting the command. Among the chants, Mehr reported, was "Basiji Brothers Must be Freed!".

Basiji are not students. They are a paramilitary organisation, operating under the direct command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is the force sustaining the regime in Iran. Basij were used to crush protests in Tehran and across Iran in 2009. Several times, the militia has entered Tehran University's many campuses, arresting and even killing students who were asking the regime to release protesters. So the conundrum for most of the reports yesterday: How is it possible that university students in Tehran who were brutalised by the Basij be demanding the safe release of those same Basiji? 

The answer is that many of the 200 people who made it into the embassy were Basij and the people outside knew this. These were not "students". They were members of an organised government security force, on this occasion causing a bit of insecurity for the British.

A few pictures of the "students"

1. Hossein Ghadyani, the head of the Basij Students Organisation:

2. A protester claimed by some sources to be Karim Jalali, a member of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards:

3. A "student" who appers to be in his 50s, behind the sign about the BBC --- and there is a cleric in his robes:

4. A "student" wielding a baton:

The closer you look, the more it appers that the attackers were anything but ordinary students. Even if some were enrolled at a university, they were members of a force that the government use to suppress dissent and carry out attacks.

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