FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military personnel stand in front of a portrait of former commander of the Basij Paramilitary Force, Mohammad Hossein-Zadeh Hejazi, after a ceremony in the Iranian Interior Ministry building in downtown Tehran, on April 14, 2022. REUTERS./

By Firouzeh Nordstrom


Ali is from a family intimately involved in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). A few years back, he and several family members began opposing the Islamic Republic.

“Many families who are part of the IRGC oppose this regime,” Ali told Kayhan Life on conditions of anonymity. “What has concerned us in recent days is that some on social media urge people to ‘go out and kill families of IRGC members.’ However, we have opposed the regime for many years. We, like you, are against this regime.”

Why did you join the IRGC?

My father was 18 years old when he joined the IRGC. One of my maternal uncles is a cleric, teaching at the Qom Seminary. My brother, an IRGC member, and I share the same views. I have not seen my father in the past five years. He threw my brother and me out of the house because we insulted [Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and the IRGC.

My father loves Khamenei and repeatedly told us he ‘would sacrifice us to the system if he had to.’ My parents live in [the western province of] Kermanshah, but we live in Tehran. Our mother used to visit us secretly until my father went to Ukraine.

I was not in touch with my father, but I discovered from my mother that he had gone to Ukraine two months ago. He is a colonel in the IRGC [Saberin] unit deployed to Ukraine. He had served in Syria and was familiar with this type of warfare.

What is the approximate size of the IRGC forces deployed to Ukraine?

The IRGC has 180,000 members, some of whom are in Russia now. Russia has not asked [Lebanese] Hezbollah and the Population Mobilization Forces (PMF) to send troops because both the Chinese and Ramzan Kadyrov [the head of the Chechen Republic] have a problem with these forces.

[The PMF — also known as the People’s Mobilization Committee (PMC) and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU)-is an Iraqi state — sponsored umbrella organization comprising some 40 militias that are mostly Shia Muslim groups, but also including Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Yazidi groups.]

The IRGC troops in Russia will not return to Iran until there is a resolution to the Ukrainian situation. Some of them have died in Ukraine. Iran may send more IRGC troops to Russia. Initially, the IRGC gave missiles and drones to Russia. Later, it sent a group of advisors.

Afterward, they gathered IRGC members from across the country and deployed them to Ukraine. My father had told my mother that he was deployed to the western front, adding that several of them were in territories occupied by the Russian troops.

Do you know how much those deployed to Ukraine are paid?

Depending on their military ranks, they get between $1,500 and $3,000.

You said you and your brother oppose the Islamic Republic, so why have you not left the IRGC?

It is not as easy as you think. My brother and I joined the IRGC at an early age. It may be easy to leave after two years of service, but resigning after being part of the IRGC for 10 to 12 years is difficult and dangerous.

Why?

I oversee a plainclothes [unit]. I have instructed them not to harm protesters and release them a few blocks from where they were arrested. If I am at the head of a unit, I detain protesters and let them go free later.

My brother has also explained to the plainclothes units under his command that ‘children younger than 18 have been manipulated, and they will hate us if we arrest them.’ He releases them, using this excuse; otherwise, they would suspect him.

Although some members of security forces have openly refused to fire on people, no one in the IRGC dares do that yet. Therefore, if the Islamic Republic is not toppled, all members of the security forces who have refused to shoot people will be assassinated and eliminated.

There are reports that some forces cracking down on the recent nationwide protests in Iran had come from Lebanon.

Yes. There are some Hezbollah and PMF forces in Iran right now. The rest are kept in Iraq and Lebanon, which is why Hezbollah has been less confrontational with Israel because it has fewer fighters on the ground. Iranian, Iraqi, and Lebanese troops in Syria operate cautiously around the Karish gas field [on the Israel-Lebanon maritime border], which is Hassan Nasrallah’s [secretary-general of Hezbollah] redline. He has warned about this.

Some claimed that dangerous criminals were among the forces brutalizing protesters.

Yes. Several inmates from Ghazel Hesar Prison [in Karaj, northwest of Tehran], serving life sentences for murder, have received training. Their convictions have been quashed because [security] forces are spread thin. They cannot flee [from protesters] and must attack them. They have shaved under their hair [undercut], which makes them easily recognizable.

What do you know about the IRGC team houses?

Besides those houses they have occupied since the revolution’s early days, the IRGC has taken over several schools since the start of the latest protests, saying they were willed to them and sent the students to other schools. They have also taken over some of the city’s homeless shelters and derelict schools, converting them into jails. They keep young people in these places. People can rescue their children from these sites with little difficulty.

How closely do you follow protests in Kurdistan?

You have highlighted a significant issue. The IRGC has put its troops in the Kurdish Komalah [Organization] clothes, enabling them to wage a brutal war in the [western] Kurdistan Province. These are IRGC and not Komala troops. Pretending to be separatist forces, they aim to butcher the Kurdish people and silence the protests. This is essential information that must be disseminated.

[The Komala Kurdistan’s Organization of the Communist Party of Iran is an Iranian Kurdish communist party active throughout the Iran–Iraq border.]

How much do you know about the deterioration of the IRGC forces?

Yes. The force has deteriorated. Their resources have been depleted so much that they have resorted to recruiting children. My brother tells me several of his colleagues are unhappy about the current situation. I am one of them. My wife and I broke off from them several years ago. However, like my paternal uncle, many in the IRGC are slaves to money. There are fewer stupid people like my father [in the IRGC.]

What remains of the force will further deteriorate if the Islamic Republic does not pay the salaries. There are many people like us in the IRGC and the state itself. People must try to deliver the last blow. If people want to overthrow [the regime], this is their chance. Iran’s principal ally, Russia, is bogged down in Ukraine, which presents the best opportunity. It is now or never. The Islamic Republic is the weakest it has ever been.

What do you know about the series of suspicious deaths of several IRGC members?

They have either been identified by others and killed or died in protests. Also, the state eliminates anyone who plans to leave the IRGC.

Do you know any details about the Evin Prison fire and the number of deaths?

At least 70 or 80 people died in that fire, which exceeds the [official] number of 40. Most of the people killed in Evin have not been named. They [authorities] shoot and kill some new or long-serving political prisoners and later say they disappeared. They also put other prisoners in the library who died from smoke inhalation.

They are using the 1980s method to eliminate political prisoners. They plan to use the same method in other prisons because they neither have the space nor resources to look after prisoners. Therefore, it is crucial to stop these crimes by widely reporting them.

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