A feared Iranian militia is leading the crackdown on demonstrators. What is Basij?

A feared Iranian militia is leading the crackdown on demonstrators. What is Basij?

A black-clad group of singing high school girls in the Iranian city of Shiraz seemed determined to make their voices heard. I called out to a man in a gray suit who was standing in the street.

NBC News confirmed a video of the incident, posted on Twitter earlier this month, shows a man on the podium of feared Basij militiamen leading a crackdown on nationwide anti-government protests last month. You cannot determine whether you are a member of Death of Masa Amini.

His 22-year-old Amini, from the Kurdistan region of Iran, was arrested by police in Tehran last month and accused of failing to fully cover his hair and violating the country's strict dress code. He died in hospital days later.

Several videos posted on social media after her death show protesters voicing their anger against Bajiji.

But who is Basij? And what role does this organization play in the unrest in Iran that has been going on for almost six weeks?

Volunteer militia

Founded in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, the Basij-e Mostaz'afin, or Organization of the Mobilization of the Oppressed, is a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was declared the U.S. in April 2019.

The militia, commonly called Basij, which means "mobilization" in Persian, is "an armed youth organization that, for all practical purposes, also functions as the ground forces of the Islamic Republic," said Ali Alfoneh. . A senior Das official shared the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C. by phone on Thursday.

The group came to prominence in the 1980s during the war between Iran and neighboring Iraq. At this time, waves of young, often lightly armed men with only basic military training and no artillery or air support charged across the open minefield.

Still made up of volunteers today, they are used by the Iranian government to quell dissidents and protests, control the population, and indoctrinate Iranian citizens. It exists at the agency, Alfoneh said.

Many of the militia members come from poor conservative backgrounds in rural Iran or from disadvantaged sections of the country's cities, many of them not necessarily for ideological reasons, but for the privileges and material resources that enlistment entails.

Basij gave them access to higher education, subsidized consumer goods, free health care and job security, he added.

Today, the Basij enforce the country's strict religious norms, act as moral police in public places such as parks and at checkpoints, and closely monitor residents, he said.

There are three main methods the Basij use to quell anti-government protests, Golkar said.

First, they patrol the streets and make their presence known to the public, "by taking to the streets and confronting demonstrators, creating the illusion that the regime has strong social support." he said.

Second, members will wear plain clothes and infiltrate protests to "identify political activists and people who are actively advocating or mocking the regime or recording videos," he said.

When these methods fail, the Basij resort to violence, beating protesters with batons and whips, and sometimes pointing deadly weapons such as shotguns at them.

Basij has previously been accused of using violence against individuals and groups who dared to criticize or protest the clergy-led government.

In 2009, human rights groups, including Amnesty International, said they used excessive force during peaceful anti-government protests sparked by the contested presidential election. Amnesty International said at the time it documented reports that the Basij had beaten and shot protesters with live ammunition.

Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a Basij deputy commander, accusing him and the militia of "many times" killing unarmed protesters.

This followed sanctions against members of the group by the UK Treasury in January, which accused them of human rights abuses including killings, torture and mass beatings of peaceful protesters.

Despite their fearsome reputation, some members of the Basij are criticized by anti-government protesters, especially young women and girls who lead demonstrations, burn headscarves, and furiously demand reform from the country's leaders.

"The problem is that members are taught to have certain Islamic values, you know, the Islamic values ​​of honor." , and now they are taught to go and hit the girls.Of course it goes against the spirit of that."

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