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The Basij (Farsi: بسيج) (literally "Mobilization"; also Basij-e Mostaz'aphin, literally "Mobilization of the Oppressed"; officially Nirouye Moqavemate Basij, meaning "Mobilization Resistance Force") is an Iranian volunteer militia created by the order of the Ayatollah Khomeini in November 1979, and implemented beginning in 1980.  The Basij are subordinate to, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) and are under the control of the Supreme Leader of Iran, currently Ayatollah Khamenei.

Recruits consist of boys under age 18, middle aged men over 45 years of age and women of all ages. During the Iran-Iraq war, the youths were sent on suicidal demining missions. Today the Basij are used mostly as internal political police. They supported the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, though in theory they are supposed to remain aloof from politics. In 2009, they were used to repress protestors following the probably fraudulent re-election of Ahmadinejad.

The number of Basij is not known precisely. The Ayatollah Khomeini had said 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." A CSIS study claims that there are 90,000 full-time, uniformed, active-duty Basij members, 300,000 reservists, and a total of one million men who are apparently registered and can be mobilized if need be. ref  IRNA claims there are 12.5 million Basiji, of whom 5 million are women. ref 

Basij have been cited for enforcing Islamic dress laws, repressing protest and violating human rights. ref, ref

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Baseej

Further Information:   http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/world/iran/basij.htm,  http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/world/iran/basij.htm

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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