Who is the new commander of Iran’s paramilitary Basij forces?
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Gholamhossein Gheibparvar as the new commander
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Gholamhossein Gheibparvar as the new commander of the paramilitary Basij, a voluntary militia force operating under the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and tasked mainly with maintaining control and quelling any possible domestic dissent. This appointment was reportedly made based on the suggestion of IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari.
Former Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi has been appointed as the head of the IRGC unit for cultural and social affairs.
Gheibparvar was the commander of the Imam Hossein Headquarters in Tehran from 2015 onward. Prior to him, this post was held by Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani who was killed in October while commanding Iran’s forces in Syria.
Gheibparvar was also appointed as deputy IRGC commander in Tehran’s Imam Hossein Headquarters. This base is missioned to prepare various Basij divisions and brigades, parallel to launching so-called the Imam Hossein Battalions tasked with defensive and military missions, according to Jafari.
Prior to this Gheibparvar commanded the IRGC Fajr Corps in Fars Province, central Iran, for around 11 years and was in charge of the IRGC Ground Forces Training & Education Department. Brigadier General Hashem Ghiathi is now commander of the Fajr Corps.
Born in the city of Shiraz, Gheibparvar is also known for his role during the Iran-Iraq War back in the 1980s, during which he served in the 19th Fajr Division of Shiraz.
After his role in the IRGC Ground Forces Training & Education, he was appointed as commander of the 25th Karbala Division in Mazandaran Province, northern Iran.
After 2006, for two years, he was appointed as commander of the 19th Fajr Division and served in this post for a decade as the Basij and IRGC Ground Forces came under the command of the IRGC Fars Province.
Following the 2009 uprisings across Iran, Gheibparvar was known to adopt strong positions in support of the Iranian regime establishment and completely against any dissent.
“The ‘seditioners’ in 2009 waged war against the martyrs, [Khomeini], the leader and all values of the revolution, and we the children of the revolution must recall their crimes each year and not allow the sedition be forgotten. In 2009 the ‘seditioners’ provided the country’s intelligence to the enemy, endangered national interests, led the country to the cliff and betrayed us,” he said.
He believes the Basij must be ready to take part in cyberwarfare and actual battlefronts wherever needed, adding [Khomeini’s] vision of establishing the Basij in all Islamic countries is materializing.
Being the main agency tasked with enforcing Iran’s so-called Islamic code of public conduct, the Basij role in domestic affairs is known to raise serious concerns. This includes the radical Basij-affiliated group Ansar-e-Hezbollah distributing leaflets around Tehran, calling for people to take action to ensure female fans were completely banned from entering stadiums, as stated in a recent National Interest report. The distributed leaflets even went on to warn about a “bloody uprising.” Ansar e-Hezbollah has also reaffirmed a pledge to carry out motorbike patrols in Tehran to enforce so-called Islamic norms and to “promote virtue and prevent vice.”
On April 18, 2016, the Basij-supported Guidance Patrols, known by the Iranian acronym of “Gasht-e Ershad,” launched a renewed campaign to force observance of Islamic norms of behavior in public and private areas. Enforcing the hijab is as always high on their agenda. The Guidance Patrols enjoy the authority of admonishing suspects, imposing fines and making arrests. The Basij has also been seen confiscating and destroying satellite dishes and receivers as part of a widespread crackdown campaign against devices they claim “deviate morality and culture.”
The Basij is probably most well known in the international community for its horrendous and medieval-like human-wave tactics of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War.
The Basij is also reported to be active in Syria, with reports showing their forces dying fighting in the Levant. There has also been recent evidence of 50 Basij members being killed in Syria, according to the entity’s college branch.
Considering the vital role the Basij plays for the Iranian regime inside the country and abroad, the recent changing of ranks can be evaluated as a new initiative by Tehran to escalate domestic oppression and foreign intervention. Imagining anything else from the Iranian regime would be very costly for the region and the world.
Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program.
He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi & blogs at IranCommentary
Disclaimer - This author is writing under a pseudonym to protect his identity.