Iran Focus: Tehran, May 29 - Iran is spending millions of dollars and reorganising the paramilitary Bassij Force to attract new volunteers following low morale and widespread defections during last year’s anti-government nationwide uprising.
Tehran, May 29 - Iran is spending millions of dollars and reorganising the paramilitary Bassij Force to attract new volunteers following low morale and widespread defections during last year’s anti-government nationwide uprising.
The Bassij militia, an off-shoot of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is currently headed by IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad-Reza Naqdi.
With unemployment high and poverty gripping the Iranian population, the Revolutionary Guards, or Pasdaran, are offering lucrative financial incentives and benefits to attract new Bassij recruits, who would then be available to help suppress mounting popular protests.
“This year, over $485 million has been dedicated to the Bassij Force,” Gen. Naqdi announced during a recent confidential meeting in the central town of Shahr-e Kord.
To strengthen links between the security and military organisation of the IRGC and the Ahmadinejad government, residential lands are being handed over to the IRGC cadres, which in contrast to other government agencies enjoy significant benefits such as low-interest loans, high salaries, bonuses, housing and other incentives. In recent weeks, there have been discussions in state-run media about the IRGC's involvement in managing construction projects for the Mehr Housing Plan, which provides housing to IRGC and Bassij personnel.
Naqdi noted that the plans are meant to ensure that Bassij personnel will appear on the scene during important occasions.
“In view of the orders of the Supreme Leader (Ali Khamenei), this year the expansion of Bassij activities, including the activities of youths, at mosques and in the context of cultural programs, will be a priority for us,” Naqdi said.
“Implementation of educational programs to recruit two million people in the public branch, education of a million people in the Bassij activist branch and organising them into various cells are among the most important implementation plans of the Bassij.”
He said the Bassij has transferred most of its military activities to the IRGC’s Ground Forces and has dedicated itself to cultural and scientific activities as a means to recruit more forces.
Mansour Meymaneh, deputy director of Imam Sajad IRGC Corps in the southern province of Hormuzgan, told a recent meeting in the port-city of Bandar Abbas that a line of credit worth $6 million has been set aside to support loans for Bassij personnel in the province.
“In light of the enemy’s soft warfare against the values of the revolution and Islam, the Bassijis have the most important role in propagating religious and ideological values,” Meymaneh said.
The head of Students’ Bassij Organisation, Hossein Qodyani, said Parliament’s Cultural and Research Committee has passed a resolution to allocate a budget of $4 million for the organisation’s research branch. Qodyani expressed hope that the money will be used by student Bassij research centres, with more expected next year.
Naqdi has announced that he wants to create ‘jihad’ groups, who would provide social services in order to recruit more agents. The Bassij spends large sums of money for various projects under such programs in the summer as a means to attract more forces.
The Pasdaran commander in the western city of Hamedan, Brig. Gen. Abdolreza Azadi, said that budgets of up to $1 million are set aside for programs dedicated to ‘jihad’ camps.