While the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Basij militia under its command, and the law enforcement forces in the Islamic Republic of Iran have been facing deserters and dealing with psychological issues in the past two years because of the oppressive actions of these forces and their interference in the domestic politics of the country, the representative of the country’s leader ayatollah Khamenei in the IRGC force tagged the protestors who had questioned the 2009 election results to be “worthy of death” (mahdoor al-dam) and added that the Guards and the Basij should not have any “hesitations” in crushing them.
Speaking at a seminar titled “Basij and the Media,” ayatollah Khamenei’s representative cleric Ali Saeedi told the audience, which included senior IRGC and Basij commanders, that the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic had as much authority as the Muslim prophet Mohammad 14 centuries ago. “There is no difference in the authority that the missing Prophet and the current vali faghih (supreme religious authority) posses in running the country and therefore all the authority that the Prophet and the Imam enjoyed in the administration of the state then also exist for the current vali faghih,” he said.
Speaking about the Basij he said that the members of the militia, who were heavily involved the 2009 crackdown, had to view the orders of the supreme leader as absolute. “A Basiji views the orders of the vali faghih as final. The orders of the leader are obligatory for the educated Basij. This obedience to the supreme leader is absolute and not selective. We cannot obey the leader at will,” he explained I detail.
Describing what obedience to the supreme leader meant, Saeedi said, “Self-sacrifice for a Basiji must be absolute. It does not stop at material things but includes giving up material objects, life, children and respect.”
“When the Hypocrats (a term the Islamic Republic of Iran uses for the Mujahedin Khalq Organization) stand up against God, they are worthy of death, … just as are the seditionists (a term the Islamic Republic uses for those who opposed the results of the 2009 presidential elections and the Green Movement leaders) of 2009 against whom Basiji members must not hesitate to act,” he declared.
In another part of his talk, Saeedi explained the views of religious hardliners and extremists on the question of legitimacy and sovereignty. “Legitimacy is not something that comes through the vote of people. The role of people is to generate power. (The source of) Rule comes from God.”
The use of harsh and extreme Shiite terms, such as mahdoor al-dam or worthy of death in dealing with opponents of the Islamic Republic is not new. Earlier, ultra-conservative and extremist cleric ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi had made similar remarks. Speaking to a group of Basij and IRGC members on October 16, 2009, Yazdi, who is also known as the theoretician of Shiite violence, is reported to have told his audience, “There are always those who oppose the imposition of justice and who will not surrender unless they are punished, which is why the Quran advocates the use of steel and arms for the implementation of justice.”
In his regular classes to IRGC members too, he has sanctioned the use of “steel and arms” in crushing protestors and has advocated harsh treatment of those who he believes are against Islam, with no room for any leniency. And like Saeedi, he too has said that the legitimacy of the constitution of the Islamic Republic rests with the will and signature of the supreme leader, and not with people.
The desertion of members of the IRGC and the Basij, which picked up momentum after the violent crackdown of peaceful protesters to the 2009 presidential elections, has been confirmed on numerous occasions by officers of these forces. In July/August of 2010 General Mohammad Ali Jaafari, the commander of the IRGC, acknowledged the presence of supporters of reform and opposition personality Mir-Hossein Mousavi and the Green Movement in the IRGC and Basij by saying that the Guards had made efforts to “convince them” to give up their ways . “Many other confusions have been removed and they (i.e., the protestors) have been convinced that their path was wrong, which is better than physically confronting or eliminating them,” he said. And speaking to a group of IRGC and Basij members of Semnan province on July 22, 2010, Jaafari is reported to have said that the members of the IRGC and Basij could not be indifferent to the dangers facing the revolution, implicitly calling on them to be actively supportive against the protestors.
On November 4 last year ayatollah Khamenei himself preached on the virtues and the need of dedication among Basij members when he said, “To remain a Basiji and be resilient, is more important even as remaining a Basiji requires permanent alertness and monitoring.” These words were in fact the leader’s expression of dissatisfaction with some of the members or units of these two forces, something that Guards General Hossein Hamedani had expressed more clearly earlier. Speaking to Khabar Online on October 2, 2010, this commander of the Mohammad Rasoolallah IRGC force said, “At some moments, some of the forces engaged in security operations had had acted carelessly in battling the seditionists or had acted badly presenting a negative image of the Basij.” He continued, “For what time do we need the Basij? Do we want it for Basij or for the revolution? We do not want a Basij force which remains unharmed when the revolution is harmed.” Hamedani described a situation when he came across a group of Basijis who were engaged in prayers as protesters were marching in a part of Tehran. He questioned their dedication and decision.
The law enforcement forces of the Islamic Republic also have struggled with the issue of deserters. Its commander, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam on October 2, 2010 had said during a morning speech at a base that members of the force should not be uncertain as to where their loyalty and the “right” was when the enemy was threatening the country. On another occasion in March of 2009 he had spoken of psychological problems among the personnel of the armed forces. “We must strive not to have any staff suffering from psychological pressure, but with every step that we take forwards, we see more psychological pressure on the personnel.”