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Army of the Guardians of
the Islamic Revolution

Supreme Leader of Iran
Senior officers
Military Branches
Aerospace Force
Ground Force
Quds Force
Intelligence agencies
Intelligence Organization
Intelligence Protection Organization
Ranks insignia
Baqiyatallah University
Iranian Revolution

The Basij (

  • Video Archive of Basij
  • Letters from Iran on YouTube – The Basij in the Universities
  • Basij Students Organization official website at the Wayback Machine (archived 3 August 2004)
  • Heavy Weapons for Baseej Volunteer Militia at the Wayback Machine (archived 23 April 2006) from Rooz Online
  • Iran Primer: The Basij Resistance Force by ALI ALFONEH, 21 Oct 2010

External links

  • Golkar, Saeid. (2012) Paramilitarization of the Economy: The Case of Iran's Basij Militia, Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 38, No. 4
  • Golkar, Saeid. (2015) Captive Society: The Basij Militia and Social Control in Iran. Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Columbia University Press.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e f John Pike. " Intelligence: Mobilisation Resistance Force". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  2. ^ AEI Outlook Series: What Do Structural Changes in the Revolutionary Guards Mean?
  3. ^ "The New York TimesBasij Militia" (2 December 2011) "". Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Molavi, Afshin, The Soul of Iran, W.W. Norton, (2005), p. 88, 316–318
  5. ^ Neil MacFarquhar (19 June 2009). "Shadowy Iranian Vigilantes Vow Bolder Action". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m iran primer the basij resistance force by ALI ALFONEH,, 21 October 2010
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Basij Militia. 19 June 2009
  8. ^ a b "Supreme Leader's Speech to Basij Members". 3 May 2008. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Molavi, Afshin, The Soul of Iran, W.W. Norton, (2005), p.88
  10. ^ a b Hosein Taeb Iran Rises. 30 August 2009. accessed 23-September-2009
  11. ^ a b "Iran’s unfinished crisis. Nazenin Ansari, 16 – 09 – 2009". openDemocracy. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  12. ^ "Amnesty urges Iran to stop using Basij militia". The Gazette. 23 June 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  13. ^ a b Khomeini: life of the Ayatollah By Baqer Moin]
  14. ^ Cited in: Erich Wiedemann, Mit dem Paradies-Schlüssel in die Schlacht, in: Der Spiegel, no. 31/1982, p. 93.
  15. ^ Hiro, Dilip, Iran under the Ataytollahs, Routledge and Kegan, 1985, p.237
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Iran's Basij Force – The Mainstay Of Domestic Security. 15 January 2009". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  17. ^ by Hojjatoleslam Rahmani in a 1985 Iranian News Agency report, quoted in Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij Mobilisation Resistance Force
  18. ^ a b c d e Iran: Paramilitary Force Prepares For Urban Unrest, September 2005
  19. ^ a b Molavi, The Soul of Iran (2005), p. 89
  20. ^ Molavi, The Soul of Iran (2005), p. 318
  21. ^ The Christian Science Monitor. "Iran's angry young adults erupt in political protest 16.6.2003". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  22. ^ Jon Lee Anderson: "Understanding The Basij". 19 June 2009
  23. ^ Will Iran's Basij stay loyal? By Jon Leyne 13 August 2009
  24. ^ Basij Commander: US Hiring Agents for Soft Overthrow of Islamic Republic
  25. ^ Police, Basij 'imposters' arrested in Iran PressTV, 29 June 2009
  26. ^ Iran opposition says 72 died in post-poll unrest Reuters. 3 September 2009
  27. ^ "Iranian Forces on the Golan?". Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  28. ^ Clarrification needed
  29. ^ "'"The Arab world fears the 'Safavid. Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  30. ^ Gordon, Michael R. (21 May 2013). "Iran and Hezbollah's Support for Syria Complicates U.S. Strategy on Peace Talks". The New York Times. 
  31. ^ Iran boosts support to Syria, 21 February 2014
  32. ^ The Use of Children as Soldiers in the Middle East and North Africa Region at the Wayback Machine (archived 13 August 2004), Jordan Institute of Diplomacy, August 2001
  33. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand, History of Modern Iran, Columbia University Press, 2008 p.175-6
  34. ^ a b c d e Iran's Basij Force – The Mainstay Of Domestic Security, By Hossein Aryan, RFERL, December 07, 2008
  35. ^ McDowall, Angus (21 Jun 2009). "Iran's Basij force: the shock troops terrorising protesters". London: Daily Telegraph. 
  36. ^ "Profile: Basij militia force". BBC. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  37. ^ Final report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, UNHCR, (E/CN.4/1994/50)
  38. ^ Report 2001, Islamic Republic of Iran, Amnesty International
  39. ^ Human Rights Watch, Overview of human rights issues in Iran, 31 December 2004
  40. ^ (Persian)
  41. ^ Iran protester slain after huge pro-reform rally (AP)
  42. ^ Protestors shot in Tehran (
  43. ^ AP Top News at 2:05 a.m. EDT (AP)
  44. ^ "'"Iran militia raids 'target homes. BBC. 27 June 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  45. ^ "Tehran Police Gunshot 20 June 2009" (in Persian). Youtube. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  46. ^ "Tehran-Iran Police Gunshot 20 June 2009" (in Persian]). Youtube. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  47. ^ "Police shoot to people in Iran – Tehran" (in Persian]). Youtube. 22 July 2009. Archived from the original on 28 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  48. ^ "IRAN: Shooting at the crowd". Youtube. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  49. ^ "Iran Police Forces Shoot into Pro-Mousavi Crowd". Youtube. 17 June 2009. Archived from the original on 28 July 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  50. ^ "Iran riots latest news about Basij shooting showing dead body of young boy". YouTube. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  51. ^ "Basij/Anti Riot Police Open Fire on Iranian Protesters". YouTube. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  52. ^ "Basij Attacking People's Condo at Night". YouTube. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2009. 
  53. ^ "Kooye daneshgah – کوی دانشگاه" (in Persian). YouTube. 18 June 2009. Archived from the original on 28 July 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009. 
  54. ^ "Tehran University Dorms, Ravaged by pro government armed militia. June 15th" (in Persian). Youtube. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009. 
  55. ^ حمله به كوي دانشگاه 24 خرداد 88 (in Persian). YouTube]. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2009. 


See also

Supreme Leader Khamenei, to whom the Basij have been described as very loyal to, described Basij as "the greatest hope of the Iranian nation" and "an immaculate tree".[8]

"openly backed Ahmadinejad's principalists (osulgarayan)". In February 2008, Major General Jafari was quoted as saying that "the principlists are in control of the executive and legislative branches and, God willing, the judiciary will soon follow suit." Hasan Taeb, then deputy commander of the Basij, similarly stressed that Basij members should have a "maximum presence" in the elections.[34]

In theory the Basij are banned from involvement in politics by the Iranian constitution, but its leadership is considered active, particularly during and after the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[6] According to American state-sponsored broadcaster RFERL, "Basij support contributed to Ahmadinejad's victory in the 2005 presidential election". In the March 2008 parliamentary elections, the Basij and IRGC commanders


  • According to allegations received by the UNHCR "tens of thousands of Basijis had been ordered to prowl about every factory, office and school to ensure that everyone adhered to the Islamic code. [...] After the summer 1999 riots Basij units were revived, rearmed and sent out into the streets to help enforce Islamic law. The Basijis are reportedly under the control of local mosques. It was further said that the Basijis set up checkpoints around the cities and stopped cars to sniff their occupant's breath for alcohol and check for women wearing make-up or travelling with a man not their close relative or husband. It was reported that the Law of Judicial Support for the Basijis, published in the Official Gazette No. 13946 of 8.10.1371 (December 1992), provided no redress against arbitrary detention by the Basijis." Iran's permanent representative to the U.N. denied these charges.[37]
  • Amnesty International claims that "investigations by Parliament and the National Security Council indicated that actions by Revolutionary Guard officials and Basij (Mobilization) forces, among others, precipitated the unrest and injuries following the July 1999 students demonstrations".[38]
  • Supreme Leader these groups set up arbitrary checkpoints around Tehran, uniformed police often refraining from directly confronting these plainclothes agents. "Illegal prisons, which are outside of the oversight of the National Prisons Office, are sites where political prisoners are abused, intimidated, and tortured with impunity."[39]
  • On 13 November 2006, Tohid Ghaffarzadeh, a student at Islamic Azad University of Sabzevar was reportedly killed by a Basij member at the University while Ghaffarzadeh was talking to his girlfriend. The killer reportedly approached Ghaffarzadeh and stabbed him with a knife explaining that what he did was according to his religious beliefs.[40]
  • On 15 June 2009, reports linked the Basij militia to murder of civilians in Azadi Square, Tehran, during the 2009 Iranian election protests.[41][42] News agencies reported 7 dead and over 50 wounded.[43]
  • On 27 June 2009, Human Rights Watch said the Basij were raiding homes at night, destroying property, beating people, and confiscating satellite dishes. They said the raids were to stop anti-government chanting and to prevent people from watching foreign news broadcasts.[44]
  • During this same period, several Basij members have been filmed breaking into houses and shooting into crowds.[45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52]
  • During the 2009 election protests, the IRG and the Basij also attacked Universities and students' dorms at night,[53] and destroyed property.[54][55]

Human rights controversies

Human rights and political activism

As the Basij is a volunteer paramilitary organisation, most Basiji are not permitted to carry a firearm except for special requirements. This means that only about 25% of Basij carry firearms, usually an AK-47. However, there is no rule saying that they cannot use any other weaponry, an issue which has brought major controversy.

In past elections militia members have voted for both hardliners and reformists. President Ahmadinejad enjoys significant support from militia members, many of whom have benefited from his policies.[36]

Benefits for members of the Basij reportedly include exemption from the 21 months of military service required for Iranian men, reserved spots in universities, and a small stipend.[7] Members of Basij are more likely than non-members to obtain government positions, especially security related positions within government controlled institutions. Many Iranians reportedly join Basij only to take advantage of the benefits membership and to get admission to university or as a tool to get promotion in government jobs.[35]

According to a 2006 report from Basij membership is thought to comprise "mainly boys, old men, and those who recently finished their military service,"[1] while in 2009 the New York Times describes them as "ranging in age from high school to about 30 years old."[7]

Benefits and profile of members

As of 2008, "government construction and economic projects can be contracted to the Basij",[34] and in 2010, "thousands" of basiji "were educated in blogging and filtering of dissident websites" on the internet.[6]

Duties may vary by province, with Basij deployed against drug traffickers in the eastern border regions, banned goods smugglers in Hormuzgan and Bushehr, and "carrying out border-guard duties" on the border with Iraq.[34]

In their capacity of maintaining law and order, Basiji act as "morality police" in towns and cities by "enforcing the wearing of the hijab; arresting women for violating the dress code; prohibiting male-female fraternization; monitoring citizens' activities; confiscating satellite dishes and 'obscene' material; intelligence gathering; and even harassing government critics and intellectuals. Basij volunteers also act as bailiffs for local courts."[34]

Duties and activities

An earlier study in 2005 by a Washington think-tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, put "the number of full-time, uniformed, and active members at 90,000, with another 300,000 reservists and some 1 million that could be mobilized when necessary."[6]

According to a former commander of the Basij, Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi, the strength of the force in 2004 was 10.3 million. By 2007, its strength stood at 12.6 million. The current commander of the Basij, Hasan Taeb, told the semi-official Fars news agency on November 25 that the force now numbers 13.6 million, which is about 20 percent of the total population of Iran. Of this number, about 5 million are women and 4.7 million are schoolchildren. ... In fact the Basij may be able to mobilize no more than 1.5 million men and women of military age.[34]

Estimates of the number of Basij vary, with its leadership giving higher figures than outside commentators. According to RFERL,


The first deputy commander General Mirahmadi was formally installed on 4 September 2005. The Tehran commander is Seyyed Mohammad Haj Aqamir. The deputy Basij commander for Tehran, General Ahmad Zolqadr, was formally installed on 5 September 2005; the new Basij commander in Tabrizi, Brigadier General Mohammad Yusef Shakeri, on 29 September 2005.[18]

The current commander of the Basij is Mohammad Reza Naqdi, who replaced Hossein Taeb in October 2009.[16] Hossein Taeb was appointed commander of the Basij on 14 July 2008.[10][11]


In addition, since 2007 the Basij have established "30,000 new combat cells, each of them 15–20 members strong, named Karbala and Zolfaqar". The cells "cooperate closely" or in emergency situations are "controlled by" the Revolutionary Guard.[16][33]

Basij form the fifth branch of the Army of the Revolutionary Guard, and the "three main armed wings" of the Basij are the Ashoura and Al-Zahra Brigades, the Imam Hossein Brigades (composed of Basij war veterans who cooperate closely with the IRGC ground forces) and the Imam Ali Brigades (which deal with security threats).[6] According to Radio Free Europe, the "backbone" of the Basij comprises 2,500 Al-Zahra battalions (all women) and Ashura battalions (male), numbering 300–350 personnel each. The IRGC aims to arm 30 percent of these battalions with semi-heavy and heavy weapons. However, all members of the battalions are trained to use light arms and rifles.[16] They are trained "in riot-control tactics and how to deal with domestic uprisings,"[16] and officially tasked with "defending the neighborhoods in case of emergencies."[6]

  • Regular members, "who are mobilized in wartime and engage in developmental activities in peacetime. Regular members are volunteers and are unpaid, unless they engage in war-time duty."
  • Active Members, "who have had extensive ideological and political indoctrination, and who also receive payment for peacetime work." and
  • Special Members, "who are paid dual members of the Basij and the IRGC and serve as the IRGC ground forces."[6]

Basij has been called "a quasi-decentralised network". Its organizational structure and training "varies from one province to another, according to the nature and severity of the potential threats identified by the IRGC and Basij commanders in different regions."[16] The Basij have "branches in almost every Iranian mosque",[32] with rooms marked Paygah-e-Basij or Basij base, "which serves as a kind of Islamic club where students study the Koran, organize sports teams and plan field trips."[7] According to the Tehran Bureau, the Basij "statute distinguishes between three types of members":

Subgroupings of the Basij include the Pupil Basij [Basij-e Danesh-Amouzi], the Student Basij [Basij-e Daneshjouyi], the University Basij, the Public Service Basij [Basij-e Edarii], and the Tribal Basij,[16] (aka Basij-e Ashayer or the former tribal levies incorporated into the Basij). In the Student Basij, middle-school-aged members are called "Seekers" (Puyandegan), and high-school members are called the "Vanguard" (Pishgaman).[18] Tehran Bureau also lists a "Basij of the Guilds" [Basij-e Asnaf], and a "Labor Basij" [Basij-e Karegaran].[6]


Organization and membership

As of December 2013, a Western analyst believed thousands of Iranian paramilitary Basij fighters were stationed in Syria.[31]

Syria's geopolitical importance to Iran and its role as one of Iran's crucial allies prompted the involvement of Basij militiamen in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. The Basij militia, similar to Hizballah fighters, has been working side by side with the Syrian army against rebel forces. Such involvement poses new foreign policy challenges for a number of countries across the region, particularly Israel and Turkey as Iran's influence becomes more than just ideological and monetary on the ground in the Syrian conflict.[27][28] The Basij involvement in the Syrian Civil War reflects previous uses of the militia as a proxy force for Iranian foreign policy in an effort to assert Iranian dominance in the region[29] and frightens Salim Idriss, head of the Free Syrian Army.[30]

Syrian Civil War, 2011–present

Following the protests, Hojjatoleslam Hossein Taeb, commander of the Basij, "cautioned" Iranians that the US was "hiring agents and mercenaries in an effort to continue its plots for a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic," according to the Iranian Fars news agency.[24] Taeb has also stated that the anti-government riots "killed eight members of the Basij and wounded 300 others."[25][26]

Mir Hussein Moussavi, opposition presidential candidate in 2009, has "decried the violence carried out by the Basij" during protests following the disputed presidential election, complaining that the basij attack the demonstrations "with hoses, clubs, iron bars, truncheons and sometimes firearms," 'just before the police show up.'[7] The tactics used by the Basij against election demonstrators have been described as involving choosing "targets at the edges of the crowds, going for the vulnerable and unwary stragglers," attacking "surreptitiously ... jumping demonstrators as they return home on darkened streets at night,"[22] and also wielding "tiny knives or razor blades to use against protestors from behind their backs."[23] There have also been reports of poor performance by basij after the 2009 election, with some basij failed to suppress demonstrations, "deserted their assignments", and being unwilling "to beat up neighbors who protested against the election result by chanting 'God is great' from their homes."[6] According to Tehran Bureau, "from June 22 onward, the Basij constituted only a minority of the forces cracking down on protesters," after having had "trouble maintaining order in major urban centers" particularly Tehran. This was thought to be a reason for the replacement of commander Hossein Taeb and the Basij's formal integration into the Revolutionary Guards ground forces in October 2009.[6]

2009 election protests

The Basij came "under the formal authority of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commander in 2007 and were incorporated into IRGC ground forces in 2008."[6]

Some believe the change in focus of the Basij from its original mission of fighting to defend Iran in the Iran-Iraq War to its current internal security concerns has led to a loss in its prestige and morale. According to an unnamed "seasoned analyst" quoted by, "You define yourself by your enemies, and those were the superpowers back then. ... But now they are fighting young people who put gel in their hair. That's the enemy. So it's demeaning, and not at all elevating for their self-image."[21]

Along with the Iranian riot police and the [7]

The Iranian Government has drawn up a number of different plans to keep the Basij alive. Among these plans is the emphasis on ideas such as Development Basij (Basij-e-Sazandegi). Fars News Agency reported. "Among the most important tasks of the Basij are boosting everlasting security, strengthening development infrastructures, equipping resistance bases, [and] increasing employment," Mohammad Hejazi added. He described the prohibition of vice and the promotion of virtue in society as the "divine policy" of the Basij.[18]

In late September 2005, the Basij staged a series of urban defense exercises across the country. Its first deputy commander announced the creation of 2,000 "Ashura battalions" within the Basij that will have "riot-control responsibilities." Some speculated the "revival" of the Basij was connected "with preparations for possible civil unrest."[1]

According to the Mahmud Ahmadinejad (elected in 2005) that the Basij appeared "to be undergoing something of a revival."[18]


The Ashura Brigades are reported to have been created in 1993 after anti-government riots erupted in various Iranian cities. These Islamic brigades were made up of both Revolutionary Guards and the Basij and by 1998 numbered 17,000.[1]

Basij also act as an emergency management service, being mobilized in case of earthquakes or other natural or human-made disasters. It may supplement law enforcement by setting up street inspection posts in urban areas to intercept drug smuggling and potential insurgency.

In 1988 college Basiji organizations were established on college campuses to fight "Westoxification" and potential student agitation against the government.[19] Basij members played "a central role" in breaking up the student riots in Tehran in 1999. They were also instrumental in quelling several outbreaks of ethnic unrest in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, which is home to the majority of Iran's ethnic-Arab population.[16]

By the end of the war, most of the Basijis left the service and were reintegrated back into their lives, often after years of being in the front. After the war, the Basij was reorganized and gradually developed into one of the Islamic regime's "primary guarantors of domestic security."[16] By 1988 the number of Basij checkpoints dramatically decreased, but the Basij were still active in monitoring the activities of citizens.[18] They enforce hijab, arresting women for violating the dress code, arrest youths for attending mixed gender parties or being in public with unrelated members of the opposite sex,[19] seized 'indecent' material and satellite dish antennae.[1]

Duties after the war

According to Dilip Hiro, by the spring of 1983 the Basij had trained 2.4 million Iranians in the use of arms and sent 450,000 to the front.[15] Tehran Bureau estimates the peak number of Basijis at the front at 100,000 by December 1986.[6] By the end of the war between 700,000–800,000 Basij volunteers were sent to the front.[16] In 1985 the IRNA put the number of Basijis at 3 million.[17]

The typical human wave tactic was for Basijis (often very lightly armed and unsupported by artillery or air power) to march forward in straight rows. While casualties were high, the tactic often worked. "They come toward our positions in huge hordes with their fists swinging," an Iraqi officer complained in the summer of 1982. "You can shoot down the first wave and then the second. But at some point the corpses are piling up in front of you, and all you want to do is scream and throw away your weapon. Those are human beings, after all."[14]

During the Iran-Iraq War hundreds of thousands volunteered for the Basij, including children as young as 12 and unemployed old men, some in their eighties. These volunteers were swept up in Shi'i love of martyrdom and the atmosphere of patriotism of the war mobilization. They were encouraged through visits to the schools and an intensive media campaign. The Basij may best be known for their employment human wave attacks which cleared minefields or draw the enemy's fire.[13] It is estimated that tens of thousands were killed in the process. Some reports have the Basiji marching into battle marking their expected entry to heaven by wearing plastic "keys to paradise" around their necks.

During the Iranian revolution, [13]




  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Duties after the war 1.2
    • Revival 1.3
    • 2009 election protests 1.4
    • Syrian Civil War, 2011–present 1.5
  • Organization and membership 2
    • Organization 2.1
      • Commanders 2.1.1
    • Size 2.2
    • Duties and activities 2.3
    • Benefits and profile of members 2.4
  • Human rights and political activism 3
    • Human rights controversies 3.1
    • Politics 3.2
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

As of October 2009 Mohammad Reza Naqdi was the commander of the Basij.[10][11] The force was often present and reacting against the widespread protests which occurred immediately after the 2009 Iranian presidential election and in the months following.[12]

The Basij are set up as[7] subordinate to, receiving their orders from, the Iran.[9]

[6] is an individual member.basiji is the name of the force; a Basij [5][4]

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