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Iran: Information on the activities of the Basij in Iranian Kurdistan from 1979 to 1988, and on whether it committed human rights violations against the Kurdish civilian population

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 September 1996
Citation / Document Symbol IRN24479.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Iran: Information on the activities of the Basij in Iranian Kurdistan from 1979 to 1988, and on whether it committed human rights violations against the Kurdish civilian population, 1 September 1996, IRN24479.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ad9514.html [accessed 17 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

 

For general information on the Basij, please consult Response to Information Request IRN24478.E of 20 September 1996 and its attachments. According to a 13 January 1995 report entitled Iranian Security Forces that was prepared by the Federal Department of Justice and Police of the Federal Refugee Office (FDJPFRO) in Switzerland, the Pasdaran were responsible for maintaining domestic security against armed opposition groups, including Kurdish rebels, before 1989 (6). The report does not mention the Basij being used against Kurdish rebels or any other internal opposition groups during the period 1979 to 1988. The report does state, however, that the Basij were involved in military operations in the Iran-Iraq war (ibid.).

The following information was provided during a 23 July 1996 telephone interview with a researcher specializing on Iran at the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

The source stated that the Basij were militarily active around 1983, but were not active against the Kurdish guerrillas. The Iranian security forces active in Iranian Kurdistan were the army, the intelligence units and the Pasdaran, all of whom committed human rights violations against Kurdish civilians. The Basij were mainly used as human waves on the Iraqi front between 1983 and 1988.

The following information was provided during a 7 August 1996 telephone interview with a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, who is a specialist on the Kurds.

The source stated that the Basij were active in 1983 and during the period 1979-1988 were mainly used as human waves on the Iraqi front (including Kurdistan). The source was unaware of any Basij operations against the Kurdish guerrillas of Iran, although the Pasdaran were actively involved in military operations against the Kurdish guerrillas and committed human rights violations against Kurdish civilians. During the 1979-1988 period Basij members were not properly trained for combat. They originated from the lower class in Iranian society and generally were young.

The following information was provided during a 10 September 1996 telephone interview with a specialist on Iran at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

The source stated that the Basij was established in 1979, at approximately the same time as the Pasdaran. However, the Basij became actively used only around 1983, primarily on the Iraqi front as human waves against the Iraqi mine fields. The source was not aware of the Basij being involved in military operations against the Kurdish guerrillas of Iran. The source added that the Pasdaran and the army were actively involved in military operations against the Kurdish guerrillas.

The following information was provided during an 11 September 1996 telephone interview with a specialist on Iran in England.

The source stated that the Basij were mainly deployed on the Iraqi front, of which the Kurdish region is part. The source added the the Basij were unlikely to be involved in military operations against the Kurds because they were not well trained and would not have fought efficiently against professional fighters such as the Kurdish Permeshga. The Pasdaran were involved in counter-guerrilla operations against the Kurdish Permeshga and committed human rights violations against Kurdish civilians.

The following information was provided during a 16 September 1996 telephone interview with a French journalist who has been posted to Tehran for the last 4 years.

The source stated that Iranian Kurdistan is located on the border with Iraq. The Basij were mainly involved in the fight against the Iraqi army. Although they were present in the Kurdish areas, the source was not aware of the Basijis being involved in military operations against the Kurds. The Basij were young men who volunteered for combat on the front line with Iraq. Between 1980 and 1988 the Basijis had no real combat training and were used mainly as cannon fodder. The operations against the Kurds were conducted by the Pasdaran and the army.

The following information was provided during a 24 September 1996 telephone interview with the director of the Kurdish Studies Program at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

The source stated that the Pasdaran, not the Basij, were in charge of the military activities against the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI). The source added that the Pasdaran and the army committed human rights violations against the Kurdish civilian population.

The following information was provided during an 18 September 1996 telephone interview with a specialist on Iran at St. Catherine's College in California.

The source stated that both the Pasdaran and the Basij were involved in military operations against the KDPI. The KDPI was considered a secessionist group so the Iranian regime saw its own activities as protecting the territorial integrity of Iran. The source added that not all Kurds were opposed to the regime in Tehran. Only those engaged in secessionist activities were attacked by government forces.

The following information was provided during an 18 September 1996 telephone interview with a representative of the steering committee of the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR), which is based in New York. CHAIR is committed to empowering Iranian immigrants to promote and protect their rights, and also helps facilitate the asylum determination processes. The following information was provided to CHAIR by political refugees in the United States and Canada.

 The source stated that the Pasdaran and the Basij were active in fighting Kurdish political opposition groups. The activities of the Basij in Kurdistan included recapturing villages under the control of the Kurdish opposition, pushing back Kurdish guerrillas, and punishing the villagers who assisted them. In larger Kurdish cities the Pasdaran and the Basij were responsible for controlling the activities of the population and seeking out underground pockets of political dissent. The source stated that there is extensive evidence of shelling of Kurdish villages and mass executions.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References

Federal Department of Justice and Police, Federal Refugee Office (FDJPFRO). 13 January 1995. Theme Paper: Iranian Security Forces. Givisiez, Switzerland: Federal Department of Justice and Police, Federal Refugee Office.

French Journalist, Paris, France. 16 September 1996. Telephone interview.

Kurdish Studies Program, Florida State University, Talahasse, USA. 24 September 1996. Telephone interview with the Director.

Professor specializing on Iran, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia. 10 September 1996. Telephone interview.

Specialist on Iran, England. 11 September 1996. Telephone interview.

Specialist on the Kurds, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. 7 August 1996. Telephone interview.

Specialist of Iranian Military, St. Mary's College, California. 18 September 1996. Telephone interview.

Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR), New York. 18 September 1996. Telephone interview a representative.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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