The Basij paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards plans to increase its presence in every “neighborhood”, in the wake of widespread protests in November when hundreds of protesters were killed and thousands arrested.
The Basij plays a major role in suppressing demonstrations and its larger presence in urban areas will help it gather intelligence and deter would-be protesters.
Fars news agency quoted head of Basij Organization, Gholamreza Soleimani December 17, who said there are also plans to expand women’s Basij, establish a “Basij University” and other new projects.
In recent days there have been clear signs of a stronger Basij presence in urban areas. This follows an order by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last month for the Basij to adopt the model of Revolutionary Committees, of the years immediately following the establishment of the Islamic Republic in the 1980s. These committees were loyal followers of the regime, paid by the state, who intimidated and arrested citizens suspected of disloyalty to the new political system.
Meanwhile, Tehran’s deputy Governor announced that the government has designated nine venues for groups and individuals to hold protests, “after they obtain a permit”.
In the Islamic Republic laws in principle permit individuals and groups can obtain permission to hold protests, but such permissions are never issued to independent groups or those who are critical of a government decision or actions by a government entity.
This is the reason protests are often spontaneous and increasingly take the shape of urban unrest, which then the government labels as “riots” and uses overwhelming force to suppress.