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Iran's Basij Militia comes under the spotlight

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Iran's Basij Militia comes under the spotlight


Monday June 15, Azadi square, Teheran. Amateur video footage appears to show Iran’s religious Basij force firing on demonstrators outside the militia’s barracks. Seven people were killed in the incident.

Other images posted on the internet film the same militia and police attacking dormitories at Tehran University on Sunday. Eyewitnesses claim three men and a woman were killed in the violence. The University itself has denied this. Iran’s interior ministry has ordered an investigation into the incident. That came a day after the country’s influential speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, condemned the attack. Opposition supporters of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have also accused the Islamic volunteer force of electoral fraud. Some reports claim the Basij took control of the vote counting process at Iran’s Interior Ministry and destroyed ballot boxes. The Basij, or Mobilisation of the Oppressed, was set up by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, just after the 1979 revolution. Unquestionably loyal to the regime, the force is often used to quell dissent in times of crisis. Made up of some 90,000 volunteers – both men and women – the militia has a much larger mobilisation capacity of nearly a million members.

The Basij militia is located in all of Iran’s major towns and cities and falls under the wider control of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. That was created to provide a counter-balance to Iran’s regular army and is also estimated to have around 125,000 troops. Wielding enormous economic and political influence, the Guards have close ties to the Supreme Leader and to former member, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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