Football fans chant anti-Basij slogans on May 12 in the Azadi Stadium in Tehran. Screenshot of this video.
In an astonishing turn of events, Iranian police forcefully evicted members of the hardline Basij militia from a Tehran stadium during a football match earlier this month. Even more surprising is the fact that the stadium’s audience booed the militiamen, at the risk of angering one of the most feared and brutal armed groups in the country.
The scene took place during an Asian Champion’s League football match opposing Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad and Tehran’s Persepolis on May 3. A group of several hundred Basiji stormed the stands to chant anti-Saudi slogans. This line is nothing new in Iran, whose official branch of Shiite Islam has long been at loggerheads with the Sunni form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia.
Unexpectedly, however, police in the stadium intervened to stop the Basij demonstration and evict the protesters. When the militiamen resisted, a struggle broke out
, and several Basiji were badly beaten by police.
A week later, some two hundred Basiji again went on the offensive during a match between Riyadh's Al Nassr FC team and Tehran's Esteghlal. Although the police did not intervene, this time the whole stadium erupted in chants of "Basij, shame on you, get out of this stadium."