Report: Iran Forms Paramilitary ‘Strike Teams’ to Suppress Protests

Supporters of the Basij, a militia loyal to the Islamic republic's establishment, chant anti-US slogans during a memorial for the victims of the Ukraine plane crash in University of Tehran on January 14, 2020. - Iran announced its first arrests over the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week, …
ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the designated terrorist force controlled by the theocratic side of the Iranian regime, reportedly announced this week that it has formed paramilitary “strike teams” to suppress protests in the national capital of Tehran and the oil-rich province of Khuzestan.

The announcement caught the attention of international observers because there are no current reports of large-scale unrest in either area. It allegedly appeared in the state-run newspaper Hamshahri, according to France24.

Bloomberg News noted no reason was given for the assembly of these “strike teams” other than demonstrating that Iran’s brutal Basij, a militia controlled by the IRGC, is ready to “tackle thugs and disrupters of security,” as IRGC commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Yazdi put it.

The Basij has long been noted for savagely suppressing political dissent in Iran, attacking protesters with everything from sticks to axes. Basij attacks have been repeatedly denounced as violations of international human rights law. The notion that Iran’s rulers are putting together an even more violent network of Basij “strike teams” is profoundly troubling to human rights advocates.

Bloomberg suspected the announcement might have been intended to quell growing public anger over the regime’s execution of 27-year-old wrestling champion Navid Afkari, accused of murdering a security guard during protests in 2018, and said he was tortured into making a confession.

Another clue was that the IRGC issued another statement that said it would “activate patrols” to combat “theft and insecurity” in the city of Ahvaz, the scene of a terrorist attack on a military parade. September 22 will mark the second anniversary of the attack, which the regime blamed on “terrorists paid by a foreign regime,” namely the United States and its Gulf Arab allies.

Peaceful protests continue across Iran, including the city of Ahvaz and Khuzestan province. Most of these demonstrations are motivated by the terrible Iranian economy and controversial government policies. The most recent protests in Ahvaz criticized the Iranian ruling class for living comfortably while most of the people are mired in poverty, while the Khuzestan protesters were angry about getting fired because they participated in earlier protests against unfair work contracts.

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