By Faranak Bakhtiari

Basij at forefront of development

November 25, 2020 - 17:21

TEHRAN – About a year after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, on November 26, 1979, Imam Khomeini called for the formation of the Basij force with the aim of preparing the military and defense against threats of enemies.

On April 30, 1980, a bill to form the National Basij Organization was approved.

According to the bill, Basij is tasked with preventing and countering any foreign military aggression, political, economic, and cultural threats, as well as natural disasters.

After the Iraqi imposed war (1980-88), this revolutionary entity grew bigger and its activities expanded.

Basij is moving toward eliminating poverty and materializing the goal of a resistance economy.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on May 7, 2,000, issued a directive to establish Basij-e Sazandegi, literally meaning the Development Basij, in order to encourage the youth for participating in the development of agriculture and natural resources in villages and deprived areas.

Implementation of this plan resulted in increasing labor productivity, training a skilled workforce, creating and strengthening job opportunities and supporting businesses, enhancing vocational training, developing the agricultural sector, improving the country's executive and administrative system, increasing construction activities, sustainable agricultural development, and protection of renewable natural resources, and saving on administrative costs.

Small groups of volunteers, mainly students called Basijis, spontaneously enter the field of construction and poverty eradication or in case of emergencies. They travel to the most deprived areas of the country in their spare time in spring and summer, and with little facilities but great motivation and determination to solve the problems of these areas.

 Eradication of polio in shortest time

In the mid-1370s (1990s), polio haunted the country. Tackling and eradicating the disease required vaccinating more than 9 million children under the age of five, which has been difficult and time consuming to implement by the health care system.

Within 24 hours, 8.5 million children across the country were vaccinated against polio with the participation of Basij forces through a door-to-door vaccination campaign.

The joint action by the Ministry of Health and the Basij was so effective that the then UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy wrote a letter to the then-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1995 and praised the action, saying that the one-day effort to vaccinate 8.5 million children against polio in Iran was unique.

During the two days that this project was implemented throughout the country, about 500,000 Basij forces formed 175,000 relief teams, nearly 16,000 relief bases, 32 regional headquarters, and 500 executive headquarters under the supervision of 100,000 health experts, the National Basij operation eradicated polio.

For more than two decades now, no child in Iran has been infected with polio and the country has become immune to this disease.

12,000 Jihadi groups active 

With the formation of Basij, the field of work becomes wider, so that at the beginning, only about 100 teams were operating in the country, while it has now reached more than 12,000 groups, which is still expanding.

House building in quake-hit areas

On November 12, 2017, a destructive earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale hit Sarpol-e Zahab in the western province of Kermanshah. Some 90,000 houses were partly or completely damaged by the tremor. Sadly, the quake took over 660 lives and left more than 10,000 injured.

Some 1900 villages have been damaged by the earthquake and the work of repairing and rebuilding houses has been entrusted to the IRGC and Basij.

In the early days when people needed shelters, young Jihadi groups, in addition to collecting public donations and distributing essential items to the people, set up shelters in the area to speed up their work and reduce the cost of building shelters.

The next step was to build houses for the earthquake victims. Houses needed to be strong against possible future earthquakes not to be damaged.

This time, the young Basij students, using their science and knowledge, chose a method to build the houses, which in addition to being cheap and fast, has good resistance against quakes.

By people’s side

Heavy rainfall, beginning on March 19 led to flooding in 28 out of 31 provinces of Iran affecting 42,269,129 inhabitants in 253 cities and causing widespread damage to municipal facilities, including health centers and hospitals.

In the first hours, 2,350 Jihadi groups went to Khuzestan, 1,495 groups went to the northern provinces of the country and 2,000 forces also sent to Lorestan province.

With the Basij forces along with the armed forces, relief work started and the cleaning of houses, distribution of food and essential items began.

After the water recedes in the flooded areas, it was time to build and retrofit the houses damaged by the flood. The Jihadis tirelessly start repairing houses and building hundreds of houses for flood-affected people, of which the construction of only 140 housing units in Lorestan province is an example of these services.

COVID-19 crisis

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran was shocked, in addition to facing a shortage of masks and disinfectants, which caused the price of these items to multiply. Coronavirus restrictions also shut down many businesses and made people’s lives difficult.

The Basij, which has twice come to the aid of the country's health network, entered the field and in its first action started the production of disinfectants and masks.

Also, millions of liters of disinfectant produced by the Basijis and distributed free of charge among the people in order to meet the needs of the country.

Disinfection of streets and public places, assistance to nurses and medical staff, assistance in the burial of the dead are other manifestations of the Basijis' actions against coronavirus.

But most importantly, once a nationwide screening plan was in place, accurate statistics on the number of people with COVID-19 needed to be obtained.

So, the Ministry of Health asked for help from the Basij, and the Basijis screened 80 million Iranians within a few months, which was a unique action of its kind.

Mohammad Zahraei, head of the Basij-e Sazandegi organization, announced in his press conference on the occasion of Basij week that “Today, the capacity of mask production is more than 17 million daily. In two phases of aid, a total of more than 10 million food packages and 21 million warm foods were distributed nationwide.”

In the current Iranian calendar year (March 2020-March 2021), 10,000 projects on poverty eradication are underway, including 1,000 housing units for the underprivileged people of Chabahar in Sistan-Baluchestan province.

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