Basij, Green Movement, Social Justice and Freedom


by jigsawnovich

by Julie Ashcraft 

An Iranian friend said Basij don't just beat people, they also help poor people. He told me the Green Movement should help poor people in Iran--but he thinks they won't. The friend, who I'll call "Sean Yahounson," said the following in response to an article I wrote proposing constructive things the Iranian Green Movement could do, including gathering shoes to give to school-age children from lower income families.

Sean: It's really nice to give a poor child shoes--and he is going to remember it for all of his lifetime. But I don't know if people will really do it. I tried to collect blankets for Afghani refugees, but we could only collect four. 

There are rich people in Iran who could give shoes and blankets. They don't care?

Sean: No, they don't care. That's why Iran has so many poor people. The waste food of some of those families could feed like eight poor families, but they throw it into the garbage.

I heard that President Ahmadinejad gave food to poor people before the election, to encourage them to vote for him. And I've heard that poor people tend to join the Basij.  Do Basij and Sepah pay good money?

Sean: No, they don't pay good money. They pay like $10 per month. And they pay it only to those with higher level, not to everyone. I had many friends there. They were never paid a penny. 

You had friends in Basij?

Sean: Yep, I can say, like 50.

Why did they join Basij?

Sean: Because they believe in it. And when you are in Basij you get helped, not financially, but you have better work opportunities. But none of them joined because of the benefits. They joined because they wanted to.

Did you see this video? (A former Basij confesses to election fraud, and he reports the rape of detained children.) //

Sean: Yes, I did.

What happened to your friends? Are they still in Basij?

Sean: Yes, they are sent to different areas of the country to help the poor people, like in transportation, piping systems, or health care. Most of them are still there. I know them because they were my classmates. 

So if Green Movement people helped poor people, this would be an alternative to Basij.

Sean: Green Movement people won't help poor people.

Why not?

Sean: 1- They are selfish and don't spend money on poor people. 2- Helping poor people needs to go to where they live, and because Green people are mostly "classy", they hesitate to go to such places. 3- Poor people are mostly supporters of the government, and Green people won't help government supporters. 

But maybe poor people support the regime because the regime helps them.

Sean: Well, that's a fact. You help someone when that someone helps you. I've lived around, worked with and talked to both Green people and Basijies--and I know poor people and lived amongst them. And poor people don't support the government because of the ideology. They support because they get supported. Ahmadi spends 10 times more in vilages than he spends in big cities.

So, if people want more freedom and more democracy, they have to help poor people, right? 

Sean: I agree, because poor people don't care about freedom and democracy, they care about money and support. What kind of freedom does a poor person need? It's stupid.

Well, people need freedom from hunger. You are not free when you are starving. You can not think about much if you are desperate. 

Sean: Well, poor people don't even think about freedom. They care more about their life. They don't read newspapers, they pack their stuff in newspapers. 

One of my friends in Tehran came from a poor background, but he loves poetry and he writes poetry. Rap music originated from poor neighborhoods in the U.S., but they love poetry and stories. And they love freedom to say what they want. A lot of black people in the U.S. were poor, but they fought hard for freedom.

Sean: Well, I both have black friends and I had many poor friends in Iran. I don't say they didn't, but they care mostly about money--because they can't eat poetry and survive. They need food. They need healthcare. They need transportation.

So if the Green Movement wants the political support of poor people, they will have to help poor people with food, healthcare and transportation, right? Otherwise the Green Movement will never win. But if the Green Movement helps poor people, and 90% support the Green Movement, could they still defeat Sepah?  Sepah controls the vote counting after elections.  And in addition to political power, Sepah has economic power because they control most businesses in Iran. 

Sean: True. That's again why the Green Movement doesn't help poor people. Anyway, they can't get over Sepah. That's why Green Movement is getting weak. Because, what can they do? And don't forget rich people are those who have businesses--and having a business in Iran requires working with Sepah or the government.

Iran now reminds me of the US in 1890's, when Capitalism had no laws regulating it, but Iran is also a little bit like Soviet Union plus Islam.

Sean: I think it's different from both. It has a unique environment.

Well, Iran has a really long business history going back thousands of years, and long family histories.  What would your Basij friends think of increasing women's rights? There are some women Basij

Sean: Yes, sure. There are. I knew some. 

What were they like?

Sean: All of them were wise and smart. They are like normal people.

Were they extra religious? 

Sean: They just wear hejab. They are religious, but not more than others.

Do you think the Iran government wants to go to war? Some people here in the U.S. are so scared of them getting nuclear bombs. 

Sean: I dont know. I think they are observing how the world is treating them.

In some ways, Basij and Southern U.S. Christian military people sound similar. Christians also worry about poor people, and a lot of U.S. soldiers come from religious families. In some ways Iran and US seem completely different, but some things remind me of each other. 

Sean: I think they are completely different, because Basij is not only those in street--they are military basijis. We also have Basiji doctors, Basiji nurses, Basiji engeeners, Basiji teachers, Basiji students, Basiji farmers--Basiji whatever you think.

Why didn't you join Basij? 

Sean: Because I didn't believe in it.

Is Basij belief basically Islam plus nationalism--or something else too?

Sean: I can say their first goal is to bring justice and help poor people, and then Islam and nationalism. 

Then, when Basij were told to beat everyone in the street, young and old, Green or not, after the election on some days--if they really believed in justice, it must have been hard for them. Maybe there are a lot of basij who feel bad now? 

Sean: Well, as I told you they were military Basijs. They don't call doctor Basijies to do street jobs. And also the government says these are the rich people, and labels Green people as "rich people who are abondoning justice". 

Basijs invaded hospitals and took out protesters who were being treated. I wonder if Basij doctors were treating protesters. 

Sean: I think a doctor treats everyone because they promise to do so even to enemies.

Are you religious? 

Sean: I am extremely religious.

Well, you seem to care about justice and poor people, and you are religious. But are you Shia?

Sean: No. I have my own religion.

What do you believe in?

Sean: Pyramids of material level, living level, souls, "gods of souls", "gods of gods of souls"--and this pyramid has unknown levels. And on top where all gods collide, there is a point which I say is The Power of the Universe. This is the ideology, basically.

If your religion has a pyramid in it, is it influenced at all by Egyptian religion or by Freemasons? 

Sean: No, it's my own religion. Freemasons are thinking like me, but not totally.

How are they different?

Sean: They just recognize seven levels of the pyramids, and they recognize the soul level as the "god".

What do you believe happens after people's bodies die?

Sean: It dissapears in the pyramid, the body goes to a lower level of material level, and the mind, which is the lower contactor of the upper level soul, goes up to one level, to the soul level. 

How do you practice your religion?

Sean: It's super hard, but it depends how religious you want to be. It's super hard for me because I am super religious. Like, I don't eat meat for ten days. I don't eat anything but fruits for four days.

That is hard to do in Iran! (They eat a lot of meat.)

Sean: I am not in Iran anymore, I am in California…and to help anyone you can, wisely! And when I don't eat meat, I buy food for someone else who deserves it. 

Are you still friends with people in Basij?

Sean: I don't see them because I am not in Iran, they were my classmates.

I wonder what they think about you going to the U.S.?

Sean: I don't know.

Was it a culture shock coming to the U.S., or was it easy to get used to?

Sean: It was worse than what I had imagined. Way worse. But no cultural shock.

Worse in what way?

Sean: In their life, in their structure, in their beliefs, in their society. They are going to collapse so soon. 

The U.S. is going to collapse? 

Sean: I mean in 50 years! Sure.

What will cause the collapse?

Sean: The fake feeling of happiness the materialism is injecting into the people.

I think Iran has a culture of sadness and beauty. In America everyone is supposed to be happy all the time. 

Sean: You are happy when you have money in the U.S. And when the economy collapse, you no longer recieve happiness and respect, and you become aware of the fake situation that exists. And half of the country is poor and receives no respect and this half is extending. 

I think there is more social mobility here than in some countries. Poor people come here from other countries and make money. 

Sean: But they are considered poor here, I am talking domestically. Poor people are increasing. I truly see a collapse, I guarantee it. 

Poor people are increasing partly because U.S. tax laws currently favor super rich people. 

Sean: It's one reason. 

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