What is the Basij?

The Basij, also known as the Organization for the Mobilization of the Oppressed, is a volunteer paramilitary force in Iran that has been deployed by the government to respond to the recent protests sparked by the death of a woman following her arrest by the morality police for “improperly” wearing her headscarf. In this article, we will take a closer look at the history, structure, and role of the Basij in Iran.


The Basij was established by the former Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution. During the early days of the Iran-Iraq War, the Basij led the infamous “human wave” attacks against Saddam Hussein’s army. Many of the members of the Basij at the time were teenagers and were poorly armed, leading to high casualties.

Structure and Role

The Basij comes under the aegis of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and is highly loyal to the Supreme Leader. It consists of numerous branches operating across Iran, as well as student organizations, trade guilds, and medical facilities. The security arm of the Basij has armed brigades, anti-riot forces, and a vast network of informers who are involved in spying on individuals and local communities. Currently, there are an estimated 1 million individuals in the Basij, who are recognized by the Iranian government as pro-regime supporters. Many join the Basij because of the economic opportunities provided by the Iranian government, such as increased chances for university admissions and public sector employment.

Domestic Role

The Basij took on a domestic role to respond to the student revolts of the late 1990s. Nearly all government institutions in Iran have a member of the Basij involved in spying on Iranian citizens. The Basij also has a cyber-division that is involved in the hacking of suspected dissidents.

Response to Protests When protests erupt in Iran, members of the Basij ride motorcycles that sometimes charge directly into the demonstrators to disperse them. They are known to forcefully take protestors to detention centers. They also take part in the protests to find the identity of the instigators.


The Basij is a powerful and influential force in Iran, with a complex history and role in the country. It is closely tied to the government and the Supreme Leader, and plays an important role in maintaining control and stability within the country. Despite the economic opportunities provided by the Basij for its members, their actions during the protests have raised concern over their tactics and the restriction of civil liberties.




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