Home > Politics, Video > Iran’s paramilitary, the Basij: from inception, to war, and public unrest

Iran’s paramilitary, the Basij: from inception, to war, and public unrest

The Basij is Iran’s volunteer paramilitary under the command of the country’s parallel military force, the Revolutionary Guard (aka Sepah). They were founded in 1979, under Ayatollah Khomeini, and gained increased prominence during the long Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, during which they defended the country against an Iraqi invasion of the southwest (where lie the bulk of the oil and gas fields). More recently, the Basij has become associated as one of the key coercive forces used by the government to put down opposition following the contested presidential election of June 12 which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retain his post as president.

The paramilitary’s unpopularity among opposition demonstrators is evident in the following video showing people bringing down a billboard.

Here you can view an archival film from the Iran-Iraq war, which saw the Revolutionary Guard/Sepah and the Basij rise to prominence due to their success in defending the country against attack.

A small group of Basiji present what it is they believe is the role of their group, which they claim serves against tyranny and support religion.

In the early period of unrest against the contested June 12, 2009 presidential election, hundreds of thousands of people came to the streets to protest against the election result. On June 15, 2009, the Basij gained further notoriety among the popular opposition following the shooting and death of at least on protester at Azadi Square.

[Vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/8604701%5D

The late Ayatollah Montazeri, who died in December, was seen to be one of the most vocal supporters of the popular opposition and is widely quoted because of this. He was among the most senior Ayatollahs and a source of emulation for many people, he was also one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with a heavy hand in the 1979 revolution. In the following video, he speaks of the Basij, stating that they must serve good, not evil, and that beating people is who might not agree with you is no way to behave. This video is in Farsi.

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