April 10, 2019
Since the autumn of 2008, the Basij has had considerable presence in cyberspace. The first step was the launch of 10,000 blogs from 10,000 Basij bases to provide the Internet with “virtuous” content. This initiative prioritized computer education and internet basics, as well as guidance on how to design and publish blogs.
The second phase took place in 2009, with the establishment of the Cyber Council of the Basij (Shora-yeh Cyberi). The council began training “warriors for cyber warfare,” and the mission was to teach them how to hack websites and email accounts. These warriors were an indication that the Basij was entering into a more aggressive phase in cyberspace.
Since 2009, the Basij’s cyber activities have been organized under various entities. Currently, there are various Basij institutions active in cyberspace. Some of these are the Basij Cyberspace center, Seraj Organization and the Owj Artistic Media Organization.
According to the deputy of Iran’s chief prosecutor, ‘Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, in 2017, there were 18,000 people in the task force that monitored and reported on news stories and recent online activity – especially any activities by the opposition to the Iranian government.
The Basij Cyberspace Center (Markaz-eh Fazay-eh Majazi-eh Basij) is a vast network of online users who are tasked with content production for social media, production of video games and animations, and conducting seminars and training camps. The organization is expanding its activities in order to establish “the Basij Cyber Army.” The subsidiary of the Basij Cyberspace center is MATNA, which is the Persian acronym for the Center for Digital Production and Distribution of the Islamic Revolution. MATNA is involved in producing animations, games and multimedia software.
The Seraj Organization is the main organizer of Basij’s cyber activities. Its subunits include the Service and Software Support Center, the Game and Entertainment Center, the Multimedia and Cellular Center, the Data Center, the Visual Media Center, the Online Media Center, the Training Center, the Cyber Literacy Center, the Center for Research of Future, the Online Campaigning Center, the Social Media Center, and the Internet Addiction Disorder Clinic. The stated mission of the Seraj Organization is to coordinate and unite the operations of individual revolutionary groups and activists engaged in cultural warfare and transform these into a political movement. The website of this organization was launched in August 2015 by the Deputy of IRGC Social and Cultural Affairs, General Hussein Nejat, cyberspace expert, Komeil Khojasteh and the Director of the Seraj Cyberspace Organization, Mansoor Amini. The Seraj organization has its own centers, including service and software support, games and entertainment, multimedia and smartphones, data and visual media. These centers are active in developing software, holding seminars and training camps, and producing video games. The organization also has various subunits. These include: Seraj Educational Complex, Seraj Game, Education Centre, Digital Learning System, Web Host, Baran Gym, Publication and Islamic Revolution Media Exhibition. The details of the Seraj Organization’s centers are as follows:
The Internet Addiction Disorder Clinic was created to promote healthy minds and provides treatment for addiction to the internet and social media.
The Training and Learning Center was established in 2014 with the goal of laying out a roadmap and comprehensive educational system for revolutionary activists who are engaged in social media and cyberspace. The center offers various training courses in subjects related to phone software, including Shahid Zid al-din training courses, formation of the Baran Club, and training classes for training journalists, and other e-learning classes.
The Center for Research of Future was established in 2014. Its main areas of research are to examine the ongoing developments of the popular revolutionary front in the cyberspace arena. This center has working groups in: philosophy and cognitive science of cyberspace, cybersecurity and economics, cultural and social studies of cyberspace, women and family studies and cyberspace, politics and international studies of cyberspace, security and defense studies and cyberspace, psychological studies of cyberspace, technical studies of cyberspace, network and infrastructure of cyberspace and an observation and future research group.
The Game and Entertainment Center is active in the field of virtual games and their technical and artistic contents. The mission of the center is to “produce and support games in accordance with the Islamic Revolutionary approach.” According to its website, the center seeks to strengthen the Islamic Revolutionary Front and helps independent and mostly small groups to produce wholesome games based on the Islamic Revolution’s goals.
The Multimedia and Cellular Center. Established with the goal of identifying individuals and groups active in the field of mobile and multimedia software and also software produced by the Revolutionary Cultural Front. The center organizes training courses in cooperation with the organization’s training center in order to offer its products and outputs to consumers.
The Service and Software Support Center began its work with the formation of the Information Technology Council composed of experts in this field. This center is active in the field of software infrastructure and information technology.
The Data Center, is active in the area of “creating secure hosting services and providing services related to hosting.” To this end, its mission is to be a trusted host for the websites of the Islamic revolutionary activists.
The Social Media Center is active in organizing social media.
The Cyber Literacy Center. This center is involved in special educational, advisory, research and therapeutic activities with the aim of increasing cyberspace literacy and achieving soft power. The center is also active in the field of offering advisory and psychological counselling for prevention and treatment of vulnerabilities and damages relating to cyberspace.
The Teamwork Center was established in 2014 with the task of dispatching activists from the cyberspace front to the operational districts of the Iran-Iraq War. This center organizes various group plans in order to enhance networking among the activists. The activities of the center include: launching digital media (of the Islamic Revolution) exhibitions, provision of specialized service in the field of digital media for the Arba‘een pilgrims, launching of a national conference, entitled “Fasl va vasl” in the holy city of Mashhad with participation of the elite and activists specialized in cyberspace.
The Visual Media Center. The center is active in producing specialized documentaries, providing advice and expertise to the video media activists. It also organizes their activities.
The Owj Artistic Media Organization. Established in 2011, the organization focuses on film and TV productions, and has a number of subunits including the Feature Films and TV Show Center, the International Media Productions Center, the Islamic Revolution Graphic Designers House, the Islamic Revolution Visual Arts Center, the Islamic Revolution Documentaries House, the Islamic Revolution Drama House, the Islamic Revolution Animation House, MAVA (Music) Center, and the Islamic Revolution Anthems and Songs House. Owj is one of the most prolific media organizations and promotes the IRGC’s militarist and hardline views that at times contrast with the official opinions of the Iranian government. For example it designed and installed anti-US billboards during the nuclear negotiations, comparing President Barack Obama with infidels who fought against Shia Imams. It has also produced propaganda music clips with the popular rap artist Amir Tatalu and movies such as Bodyguard, Standing in the Dust, Damascus Times and Midday Adventures, as well as the Paitakht (Capital) TV show. All movies and TV series celebrate IRGC military commanders and operations. In addition to its own productions, Owj is also a major investor in Iran’s film and TV industries. The Ofoq channel, which is owned by Iran’s state TV and broadcasts internationally in Persian, regularly airs Owj’s productions. Owj also owns the Ammar Art Festival, which is considered a rival to The National Fajr Film Festival, which is organized by the government of Iran. The Ammar Art Festival focuses solely on promoting artistic works related to the Revolution. According to the organizers, there are 80 organizations in their network and 2,600 artists work for them.
The Physical Training Organization of the Basij
The Physical Training Organization of the Basij or the Sports Organization of the Basij is one of the oldest organizations in the force. It has increased its reach and activities extensively since 2011. The organization plans to recruit three million athletes, and in order to do so, has established 3,000 training facilities and 320 centers to identify talents in fourteen different sports.
The Physical Training Organization also has the support of 28 sports clubs across different leagues. These teams all fall under the umbrella of Iran’s Resistance Club (Bashgah-eh Moghavemat-eh Iran). The organization provides training in self-defense, swimming, shooting and fitness for the Basiji soldiers of the Imam Hussein, Imam Ali and Kowsar Brigades. It also holds two sports competitions for women and men, which is attended by Basij commanders as well as talent spotters of the Resistance Club.
Shahid Motahari School
The Shahid Motahari School was established in 1991 and focuses on science and technology. Its mission is to “train, educate, and enable Basij managers and commanders.” The school trains more than 10,000 Basij members every year.
Hazrat Zeinab School
The Hazrat Zeinab School is based in Tehran and is run by the Women’s Basij Organization. Its mission is, “producing Islamic and humanities literature for women and families,” “educating women and raising their awareness,” and “training girls in accordance with the values of the Islamic Revolution.”
School of Media
The School of Media was established in 2017 and is a Fars News Agency affiliate. The school offers five majors in its two-year programs and four majors for undergraduates. The students join Fars News Agency after graduation.
The Basij Research and Studies Institute
The institute was established in 1990 as the “Twenty Million Basij Army Studies Center.” In 1993, it changed name to the “Research and Self-Sufficiency Organization of NAMSA,” and finally in 2002 its name was changed to The Basij Research and Studies Institute. Its mission includes, “research and analysis of Basij activities” and “carrying out scientific studies.”