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The Basij (Persian: بسيج, lit. "The Mobilization"), Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij ("Mobilisation Resistance Force"), full name Sāzmān-e Basij-e Mostaz'afin (Persian: سازمان بسیج مستضعفین, "The Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed"),[1][2] is a paramilitary volunteer militia established in Iran in 1979 by order of Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian Revolution. The organization originally consisted of civilian volunteers who were urged by Khomeini to fight in the Iran–Iraq War.[3] Today the force consists of young Iranians who volunteer, often in exchange for official benefits. Basij serve as an auxiliary force engaged in activities such as internal security, law enforcement auxiliary, providing social services, organizing public religious ceremonies, policing morals, and suppression of dissident gatherings.[4][5] The force is named Basij; an individual member is called basiji.[6]

The Basij are subordinate to and receive their orders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Khomeini, to whom they are known for their loyalty.[7][8] They have a local organization in almost every city in Iran.[9]

As of October 2009 Mohammad Reza Naqdi was the commander of the Basij.[10][11] The force was often present and reacting to the widespread 2009 Iranian election protests.[12]


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for the foundation of a youth militia in November 1979, during the Iranian Revolution.[1] The was Basij established on 30 April 1980.[6] It was open to those above the age of 18 and below the age of 45, including all women in that age category.

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.

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.[14]

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] In 1985 the IRNA put the number of Basijis at 3 million, quoting from Hojjatoleslam Rahmani.[1] Tehran Bureau estimates the peak number of Basijis at the front at 100,000 by December 1986.[6]


According to the New York Times, after the spontaneous celebrations following Iran winning a spot in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and the student protests in July 1999, the Islamic government felt that it had lost control of the streets, and reactivated the Basij.[7] Giving a slightly different timeline, reports that it was revived around 2005.[16]

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).[16] Along with the Iranian riot police and the Ansar-e-Hezbollah, the Basij have been active in suppressing student demonstrations in Iran. The Basij are sometimes differentiated from the Ansar in being more "disciplined" and not beating, or at least not being as quick to beat demonstrators.[17] Other sources describe the Ansar-e-Hezbollah as part of the Basij.[7]

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.[18]

2009 election protests

Mir Hussein Moussavi, opposition presidential candidate in 2009, decried violent attacks by the Basij during the 2009 Iranian election protests.[7] There have also been reports of poor performance by Basij after the 2009 election.[6] 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] Following the protests, Hojjatoleslam Hossein Taeb, commander of the Basij, stated that eight people were killed and 300 wounded in the violence.[19][20]

Syrian Civil War, 2011–present

A Western analyst believed thousands of Iranian paramilitary Basij fighters were stationed in Syria as of December 2013.[21] 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, work 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.[22][23] 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[24] and frightens Salim Idriss, head of the Free Syrian Army.[25]

Organization and membership

Basij form the fifth branch of the Army of the Revolutionary Guard. It is organized into the Imam Hossein Brigades and the Imam Ali Brigades (which deal with security threats).[6] 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.[26] Tehran Bureau also lists a "Basij of the Guilds" (Basij-e Asnaf), and a "Labor Basij" (Basij-e Karegaran).[6] Estimates of the number of Basij vary, with its leadership giving higher figures than outside commentators. Official estimates are as high as 23.8 million.[27]


The Basij is currently commanded by Mohammad Reza Naqdi, who replaced Hossein Taeb in October 2009.[26] Hossein Taeb was appointed commander of the Basij on 14 July 2008.[10][11]

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.[16]

Duties and activities

According to Radio Liberty, 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.[26] By 1988 the number of Basij checkpoints dramatically decreased,[16] but the Basij were still enforcing the hijab, arresting women for violating the dress code, and arresting youths for attending mixed gender parties or being in public with unrelated members of the opposite sex.[28]

Duties vary by province. Basij are deployed against drug traffickers in the eastern border regions and smugglers in Hormuzgan and Bushehr, and on the border with Iraq.[29]

In 1988 college Basiji organizations were established on college campuses to fight "Westoxification" and potential student agitation against the government.[28]

The Ashura Brigades were created in 1993. These Islamic brigades were made up of both Revolutionary Guards and the Basij and by 1998 numbered 17,000.[1]

Benefits and profile of members

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.[30]

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 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] Supreme Leader Khomeini described Basij as "the greatest hope of the Iranian nation" and "an immaculate tree".[8]

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.[31] Basij is of main aim which is struggle with satanic culture and cultural impurities. These impurities considered as eminent danger for the Islamic republic culture. [32]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 John Pike. " Intelligence: Mobilisation Resistance Force". Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  2. AEI Outlook Series: What Do Structural Changes in the Revolutionary Guards Mean? Archived 27 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ""Basij Militia" (2 December 2011) The New York Times". 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. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 iran primer the basij resistance force by ALI ALFONEH,, 21 October 2010
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Basij Militia. 19 June 2009
  8. 1 2 "Supreme Leader's Speech to Basij Members". 3 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  9. Molavi, Afshin, The Soul of Iran, W.W. Norton, (2005), p.88
  10. 1 2 Hosein Taeb Iran Rises. 30 August 2009. accessed 23-September-2009
  11. 1 2 "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. 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 Ayatollahs, Routledge and Kegan, 1985, p.237
  16. 1 2 3 4 Iran: Paramilitary Force Prepares For Urban Unrest, September 2005
  17. Molavi, The Soul of Iran (2005), p. 318
  18. The Christian Science Monitor. "Iran's angry young adults erupt in political protest 16.6.2003". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  19. Police, Basij 'imposters' arrested in Iran PressTV, 29 June 2009
  20. Iran opposition says 72 died in post-poll unrest Reuters. 3 September 2009
  21. Iran boosts support to Syria, 21 February 2014
  22. "Iranian Forces on the Golan?". Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  23. Clarrification needed
  24. "The Arab world fears the 'Safavid'". Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  25. Gordon, Michael R. (21 May 2013). "Iran and Hezbollah's Support for Syria Complicates U.S. Strategy on Peace Talks". The New York Times.
  26. 1 2 3 "Iran's Basij Force – The Mainstay Of Domestic Security. 15 January 2009". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  27. سردار نقدی در برنامه تلویزیونی «متن – حاشیه»:23 میلیون و 800 هزار نفر عضو بسیج هستند/ از کسی تا کنون شکایت نکرده ایم/ رابطه بسیج با این دولت مانند دولت قبل است, Fars news agency, November 23, 2015
  28. 1 2 Molavi, The Soul of Iran (2005), p. 89
  29. Iran's Basij Force – The Mainstay Of Domestic Security, By Hossein Aryan, RFERL, December 07, 2008
  30. McDowall, Angus (21 Jun 2009). "Iran's Basij force: the shock troops terrorising protesters". London: Daily Telegraph.
  31. "Profile: Basij militia force". BBC. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  32. Anoushiravan Enteshami & Mahjoob Zweiri (2007). Iran and the rise of Neoconsevatives,the politics of Tehran's silent Revolution. I.B.Tauris. p. 18.

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