[T]here are some indications that the Basijmany of whom are drawn from the ranks of Iran’s disaffected youth and elderly pensionershold cynical or ambivalent views of this ideological training. Basij training is frequently necessary for certain social benefitsloans, university scholarships, welfare subsidies, and the like. As stated by one 24-year-old member in a 2005 interview, “The only reason I stay in the Basij is for the money . . . many of my friends in the Basij are unhappy with the government.”
Compounding this reported cynicism, there appears to be a rural-urban split in public perceptions of the Basij, noted in a previous RAND study and reinforced to us in 2006 by a longtime visitor to the Islamic Republic. In the provinces, the Basij present a more benign face through construction projects and disaster relief, while in urban areas, they are more apt to be seen quite negatively, quashing civil society activities, arresting dissidents, and confronting reformist student groups on campuses. Urban sentiments may be, moreover, affected by the Basij’s affilia-tion with the “pressure groups” or hardline vigilantes, of which Ansar-e Hezbollah is the most widely known.
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2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan