Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini issued a decree founding the Basij as “a large people’s militia”, in November 1979. He is reported to have stated that “a country with 20 million youths must have 20 million riflemen or a military with 20 million soldiers; such a country will never be destroyed.” At least originally the Basij was open to those below the age of 18 and above the age of 45, and all women.
During the Iran-Iraq War tens of thousands of young Basij were killed on the battlefield. Believing that they were holy martyrs and chanting songs about the Battle of Karaba, in which the Imam Hussein, died a heroic death, the basij cleared minefields as “human waves” so that more experienced soldiers could advance against the enemy. The Basij reportedly marched into battle marking their expected entry to heaven by wearing plastic “keys to paradise” around their necks similar to soldier’s dog tags. 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.
The Basij also Basij-e Mostaz’afin, literally “Mobilization of the Oppressed”; officially Nirou-ye Moqavemat-e Basij, literally “Mobilisation Resistance Force”) is a paramilitary volunteer militia founded by the order of the Ayatollah Khomeini in November 1979. The Basij are subordinate to, and receive their orders from, the Iranian RevolutionaryIranian Revolutionary Guards and current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. However they have also been described as “a loosely allied group of organizations” including “many groups controlled by local clerics.”
Consisting of young Iranians who volunteer to join this force, often in exchange for official benefits, the Basij are most notable for their loyalty to the supreme leader Khamenei. Currently Basij serve as an auxiliary force engaged in activities such as internal security as well as law enforcement auxiliary, the providing of social service, organizing of public religious ceremonies, and more famously morals policing and the suppression of didissident gatherings. They have a local organization in almost every city in Iran. They have a record of involvement in many cases of human rights abuses.
As of October 2009 Mohammad Reza Naqdi is the commander of the Basij, replacing Hossein Taeb. The force has often been present and reacting against the widespread protests which occurred following the 2009 Iranian presidential and in the months following.