Iran: Civilians fight back against gov't

Teheran protesters describe rescuing detainees from security forces; two reportedly killed Thursday.

Riot police used tear gas on Thursday against hundreds of Iranians who defied government warnings and swarmed the streets, and there were reports of two fatalities. Witnesses told this reporter over the weekend that there were also incidents where the protesters fought back. "The crowds were too large to contain - it seemed like everyone was out on the streets. I saw people parking their cars in the middle of the streets and joining the rest of us," one witness said, in a phone interview from Teheran. The demonstrations quickly turned grim. "The basiji [militiamen] were pulling people out of their cars and violently beating them, just because they were honking their horns in support of the protesters. But what really amazed me is that we stood by each other. Many of us selflessly helped our brothers and sisters out on the streets," one protester said. The source elaborated: "At one point, I could not see anything in front of me because the streets were filled with tear gas and smoke from burning garbage cans. Then I heard a loud scream coming from near where I was standing. The voice called out to us, 'Don't let them take our brothers and sisters.' "As I ran over with my brother, we saw five or six plainclothes security men pushing four young men and women into an unmarked van. The four had their hands tied behind their backs with wire, and one of the girls was hunched over and seemed to be unconscious. "We went after those bastards and ended up beating them with their own batons. When the cowards ran off, we carried the girl to her cousin's car. The cousin had also been detained and rescued. One of the other protesters who helped us said his uncle was a doctor and would help her. The young girl's cousin broke down in tears and tried to kiss our hands." "Before we left, we saw a group of people trying to set the unmarked van on fire." According to another witness at Thursday's rally, demonstrators were taking refuge in mosques. "Mullahs helped many frightened people who were running away from the security forces and tried to protect the people as best they could. When the basiji militiamen began to attack the people trying to get into one of the mosques, I saw a mullah pounding his fists into his chest in anger and screaming at the top of his lungs, 'Leave the children of God alone; be afraid of God.'" The angry dissident went on, "Ali Khameini [the Iranian supreme leader] and his followers are not Muslims. They have created their own religion that condones the shedding of innocent blood and worships murder." Another source said, "It was like a battle zone. The policemen would lower their tear gas guns and fire at the people. Everyone would scream and retreat behind a line of parked cars in the middle of the street." He also spoke of protesters helping one another amid the turmoil. "I saw an elderly woman and her son helping a complete stranger whose face was badly swollen and bruised. They told him that their house was nearby and they would take care of his injuries. It is hard for the people injured to get help elsewhere because now the embassies are not opening their doors for us and the hospitals are full of basijis. So the wounded are relying on the kindness and charity of others."