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A female member of the Basij paramilitary militia receives bullets during a training session in Tehran in August 2013. Authorities created the Basij, which means mobilization in Persian, just after the country'­s 1979 Islamic Revolution. It is part of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

A Basij trainer shows women how to use an AK-47 rifle during a session in Tehran.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

Women in the Basij paramilitary attend a training session in Tehran. The Basij has its roots as a volunteer fighting group during the 1980-88 war with Iraq. It then developed as a grass-roots defender of the system, working as Islamic morality police or busting up pro-reform gatherings or publications.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

A member of the Basij paramilitary militia aims her rifle as an instructor helps her during a summer training session in Tehran. With a presence in nearly every city and town across Iran, the paramilitary Basij volunteer corps has an ever-increasing influence on life in the Islamic Republic.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

A trainer walks past female members of the Basij during a training session in Tehran. Estimates of membership in the Basij range as high as a million.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

Members of the Basij volunteer militia fire their weapons during a training session.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

Members of the Basij attend a training session in Tehran in September 2013. The Basij is part of Iran'­s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

Basij members load their rifles during a training session. Basij branches can be found in all governmental bodies, universities and schools. Volunteers often enjoy favorable treatment from the government, particularly in securing jobs in the public sector.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

Members of the Basij march during a training session in Tehran.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press

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Photo essay | Iran's paramilitary Basij volunteer corps

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Photo essay | Iran’s paramilitary Basij volunteer corps

TEHRAN, Iran — With a presence in nearly every city and town across Iran, the paramilitary Basij volunteer corps has an ever-increasing influence on life in the Islamic Republic.

Authorities created the Basij, which means mobilization in Persian, just after the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. It is part of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard.

The Basij has its roots as a volunteer fighting group in the 1980-88 war with Iraq. It then developed as a grass-roots defender of the system — taking on roles such as Islamic morality police at checkpoints and parks or as shock troops busting up pro-reform gatherings or publications. Precise numbers on Basij membership are not published, but some estimates range as high as 1 million or more.

The Basij responds to emergencies like earthquakes and other natural disasters. It also has influence online: The Basij has a group of hackers made up of university teachers, students and clerics that launch attacks on websites of “enemies,” a state-backed newspaper reported in 2011. It also monitors social media and plans to begin teaching “drone-hunting” to students.

Basij branches can be found in all governmental bodies, universities and schools. Volunteers often enjoy favorable treatment from the government, particularly in securing jobs in the public sector.

– Associated Press

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