Jaras: Head of Basij Organization says the presence of Basij on the cyber space will triple by the end of the year. In an interview with the IRGC-related Fars News Agency reporter while on a visit to Kordestan Province, Commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi added: a vast network of Basiji Forces will be trained to create, develop and improve its websites by the end of the year and this will triple the country’s power in this regard.
Since the last year’s controversial presidential elections, military and security bodies have increased their supervision over the internet and enacted heavy penalties for “cyber offenders”. The term, however, is different in concept from what is used in other countries. Iranian authorities use this term to describe any one who, for example, has written a single critic piece on his/her weblog even if it’s no even read by less than a dozen viewers.
More Than 5 Million Websites and Weblogs to Be Filtered
According to 2006 figures, more than 18 million Iranians have access to the internet although majority of them have a slow dial-up connection. Nevertheless, Iran is the world’s number four in regard to the number of bloggers. With the filtering of more than five million sites and blogs in Iran, as Abdossamad Khoram Abadi judiciary advisor to the country’s Prosecutor General has announced, Reporters without Borders named Iran as the top freedom-of-speech suppressing country in the cyber space in the Middle East. In other words, the intensity of censorship and internet crackdown is so high in Iran that other suppressing countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria rank after Iran. This figures, however, demonstrates the high degree of Iranians’ dissatisfaction with and criticism of the function of the government.
In his speech last year, the advisor to the Prosecutor General acknowledged the social damages of the internet to be more than those of satellite and said: “By misusing the internet, our enemies try to attack our religious identity”. He believes that the internet socially, politically, economically and morally the country and this is a matter of concern.
Basij Quantitative and Qualitative Improvement
In spite of the intense encounters by the security, judiciary and military officials with the media critics active on the internet, it seems that the filtering, imprisoning the internet activists, heavy penalties and the show trials such as the fourth trials of those arrested after the elections could not reduce the fear of the pro-Ahmadinejad militia and that’s why Commander Naghdi announced the plan to triple the Basij presence in the cyber space to establish a new front against their endless enemies.
Commander Naghdi, once known for misbehaving and torturing the Tehran mayors during their arrests in the early years of the reform government, pointed to the measures taken by him and his colleagues and said: valuable plans are being considered to transform the Basij Organization, which require double endeavor and work to come true. One of these plans is the Basij quantitative and qualitative improvement.
He also emphasized: With the effective efforts taken at Basij Bases, it’s our priority to attract the youth and teenagers. Achieving this, the security of Iranian families against foreign plots and deviations will be provided which is, in turn, a significant achievement.
Criticisms to the function of Basij as well as its militarization have been a matter of concern among the reformists for years. Since the last year, however, the violent and cruel conduct of the plain-clothes and Basij groups towards the protesters to the result of the presidential elections took such criticism into a new level.
Last year, at the anniversary of the formation of Basij Organization at Azar 5th, Mir Hossein Musavi issued a statement harshly criticizing its current function while recalling the intended role and status for the Basij back then. In this statement, Musavi said that the Basij power used to be a result of its pure intent and bravery that even led to the attraction of some religion minority toward the organization. Observing such values, Basij became one of the significant historical achievements of the nation. He also confirmed: “The new generation of Basij existed deep into the darkest dubieties and conspiracies. Is the new generation like those who fought along with Amir-al-Momenin in Jamal battle? Such comparisons are vain and those who make these comparisons want to use Basij as a crackdown machine to beat and hurt and even kill those whose only offence is to call for justice”.
In his statement, Musavi asked: “what is the Basij identity?” and continued: Is it an intentless system that closes its eyes when ordered and breaks the hands and feet of its brothers and sisters or is it a body equipped with deepest insights and can distinguish between the right and the wrong in the darkest nights of conspiracy?”.
Concluding that: “Basij, as it was considered by Ayatollah Khomeini, would never confront the nation”, musavi said: “Imam wouldn’t want Basij to be a tool to the authorities”.
Mehdi Karrubi, known for years as a harsh critic of the function of Basij and the IRGC, said in a statement in Khordad 14th: “The armed forces possess guns and the Basij and the IRGC have the control over the fate of the elections’. In another statement he also said: “Republicanism has been seriously weakened or even damaged in the name of Islamism”.