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Iran’s paramilitary Basij recruits women in Kurdish provinces

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Female members of the Iranian militia Basij take park in a training exercise
Female members of the Iranian militia Basij take park in a training exercise

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region, March 12, 2017 — The Iranian militia group known as the Basij has stepped up recruitment of women in Kurdish provinces west of the country, several sources have told Rudaw.

The new round of enlistments follow Tehran’s earlier move to recruit local people in remote Kurdish areas as “border guards” amid an escalation of tensions between the Islamic Republic and the armed Kurdish groups opposed to Tehran.

With nearly 11 million members, the Basij is believed to be a formidable disciplinary organization enforcing the principles of the state ideology, known as the Islamic Revolution, in the country often through social work and grass-root propagation for the Islamic Republic.

The volunteer paramilitary group has mainly attracted impoverished sections of the Iranian societies by offering them regular financial compositions and social security benefits including medical care.

According to official estimates around 1 million people, women and men, are already members of the Basij in the four mainly Kurdish provinces of Ilam, Kermanshah, Sanandaj and Western Azerbaijan, although the Kurdish opposition groups have consistently rejected that figure.
Last week, the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDPI) warned the Kurdish village guards of further “collaboration” with the Islamic Republic and said the recruitments would harm the “Kurdish cause.” 

The KDPI, which is based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, has said it will bring its campaign for self-rule closer to people in Kurdish areas of Iran following a series of deadly clashes with Iranian security forces last year.

Rights groups have in the past accused the Islamic Republic of influencing the parliamentary and presidential elections in the country through the Basij which is generally under the command of the supreme leader, taking a position in favor of the ruling clergy, known as the hardliners. 

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