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Iran’s Security Apparatus Is Designed to Quash Protests. So How Did the Uprising Persist? 


The Iranian people’s nationwide uprising has entered its sixth month. The world has heard the voice of an oppressed nation calling for freedom and democracy. These demonstrations continue in a country where the entire security apparatus is designed to confront popular protests and where crackdown meets precedent 

Following the anti-monarchy revolution in 1979, Iran experienced the first massive anti-regime protest on June 20, 1981. The protest, organized by Iran’s principal opposition Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), was attended by nearly half a million citizens.  

Sensing a danger to his newly established theocracy, then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to open fire on unarmed protesters. Thousands were killed and arrested, and an unofficial martial law was announced across Iran. MEK supporters were arrested, prosecuted, tortured, and executed. The news of heinous and vicious tortures against the arrestees sent shivers to the people outside. The regime managed to spread fear of torture and execution in society.  

The first major but economically-driven protests and rebellions happened in the early 1990s in several cities in Iran, including Mashhad, Qazvin, Eslamshahr, and Lamerd. These uprisings were mercilessly oppressed, but the ruling theocracy sensed the danger, as the operating troops were deployed from other cities, and the regime was surprised.  

Deducing that Iran’s restive society bears more uprisings, the clerical regime adopted its oppressive security apparatus. In all countries, streets belong to people for demanding their rights. Totalitarian regimes try to take away this right, and the Iranian regime is no exception.  

So, Tehran started rearranging its oppressive forces that were mostly focused on confronting the MEK’s units or fighting in the Iran-Iraq war.  The IRGC’s Ashura and Al-Zahra battalions, consisting of paramilitary Basij veterans, were established in the early 1990s. This later evolved into dozens of security organizations.  

In this article, we publish information on some of these security and intelligence organizations.  

Basij base burning in Tehran | October 28, 2022


IRGC Provincial Garrisons  

IRGC’s former commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, once categorized threats against the regime into two categories:  

1- Semi-hard: popular protests by unarmed civilians and social and economic threats.  

2- Hard: Armed rebellions, civil war, and war. The IRGC and Basij militia are tasked with dealing with these threats.   

To counter this threat, IRGC created or reinforced provincial garrisons and headquarters, with the primary task of oppressing large or organized anti-regime protests.  

The IRGC possesses 11 headquarters across Iran to control the society. This is in addition to some 32 IRGC provincial garrisons across the country.  

The 11 IRGC headquarters and their subsidiary garrisons and headquarters are as follows:  

South West Karbala HQ – Vali Asr Khuzestan, Abolfazl Lorestan, Fatah Kohgilouye and Boyer Ahmad 

Medina HQ  – Imam Sajjad Hormozgan, Fajr Fars, and Imam Sadegh Bushehr 

South East Quds HQ  – Tharullah Kerman and Salman in Sistan and Baluchistan 

Seyyed al-Shohda HQ  – Sahib al-Zaman in Isfahan, Qamar Bani Hashem Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, and Al-Ghadir in Yazd 

West Najaf Ashraf HQ  – Nabi Akram Kermanshah, Ansar al-Hussein Hamadan, and Amirul Momineen Ilam 

North-western HQ  of Hamza Seyyed al-Shohada – Hodaya of West Azerbaijan and Jerusalem of Kurdistan 

Ashura HQ  – East Azerbaijan Ashura, Ansar Al-Mahdi Zanjan, and Hazrat Abbas Ardabil 

The North East HQ  of Thaman Al-Aima – Imam Rezai Khorasan Razavi, Javadalaima North Khorasan and Ansar Al Rezai South Khorasan 

Ghadir HQ  in the north – Karbala, Mazandaran, Quds, Gilan, and Nineveh, Golestan 

Sahib al-Zaman HQ  – Ruhollah in Central Province, Ali Ibn Abitaleb of Qom, Sahib al-Amar of Qazvin, and Qaim al-Mohammed Semnan 

Tharllah HQ  in Tehran – Mohammad Rasulullah Tehran, Seyyed al-Shohada of Tehran cities, Imam Hassan Corps of Albar Province 

Iranian security forces shoot at unarmed civilians during nationwide protests


Thar-Allah Headquarters-Tehran  

This is the IRGC’s largest and most important strategic and operational headquarters, tasked with preserving security in the capital and providing security to important governmental places.  

As the military governor authority in Tehran, Thar-Allah Headquarters has major bases in Tehran, and the provincial commands have established security units with Basij and IRGC personnel.  

The leadership of Thar-Allah Headquarters consists of the Commander, whose post is held by the IRGC Commander-in-Chief, and the Deputy Commander, who oversees daily operations. The Supreme Leader’s Representative and the Deputy Coordinator of the Headquarters form part of the leadership of the headquarters. 

The Thar-Allah Headquarters has a Deputy Operations Commander, usually a Second Brigadier General.  

The following three provincial commands are directly under the control of Thar-Allah Headquarters 

  • Alborz province: Sepah-e Imam Hassan Mojtaba 
  • Tehran province: Sepah-e Sayyed al-Shohada 
  • Tehran city: Sepah-e Muhammad Rasoul Allah 

As the Iranian Resistance revealed, the Thar-Allah Headquarters directly controls four subordinate bases in charge of different regions of Tehran. These bases are: 

  • Qods: Northwest Tehran 
  • Nasr: Northeast Tehran 
  • Qadr: Southeast Tehran 
  • Fath: Southwest Tehran
Security forces dispatched to quell protests in Zahedan | January 27, 2023

Operational units 

Thar-Allah Headquarters coordinates the activities of both operational and territorial units. As such, Thar-Allah Headquarters can be compared to a corps-level command. 

The Headquarter’s most important operational units are the 10th Operational Division Seyyed ol Shohada of Karaj, Alborz province, and the 27th Operational Division Mohammad Rasoul Allah in Tehran. Besides the Operational Divisions, there are three brigades: 

  • Al Mohammad Security Brigade (Tehran city, Tehran province); 
  • 1st Hazrat-e Zahra Brigade (Tehran city, Tehran province); 
  • 20th Ramezan Independent Armored Brigade (Hassanabad, Tehran province). 



In May 2022, the Islamic Republic’s Law Enforcement Forces (NAJA) became the  Law Enforcement Command (FARAJA in Farsi).  Mehdi Hajian, Faraja’s then-spokesperson, announced that the entire structure of the organization had changed. 

Previously, Mohammad Ali Nourinejad, NAJA’s deputy coordinator, announced that in the new structure, FARAJA divided into two sections intelligence organization and public security police. 

FARAJA is a branch of the regime’s Armed Forces and operates under the direct control of the Supreme Leader of Iran. The force is responsible for a wide range of duties, including public security, border control, anti-narcotics operations, and counter-terrorism activities. FARAJA also works closely with the Basij. 

Over the years, there have been numerous reports of human rights abuses and political repression by FARAJA, including the use of excessive force against protesters, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and torture of detainees. The organization was behind the crackdown on civil society groups, journalists, and political dissidents. 


The U.S. Treasury Department designated NAJA under Executive Order 13553 in September 2010 for its role in human rights abuses in Iran, including its involvement in the violent suppression of protests and the mistreatment of detainees. The sanctions prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with NAJA or providing any support to the organization. 

Similarly, the European Union imposed sanctions on NAJA in 2011 due to its involvement in human rights abuses in Iran. The EU’s sanctions targeted individuals and entities responsible for or associated with the repression of peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders, and journalists in Iran. 

In other words, FARAJA came under Khamenei and IRGC’s direct command, and the supreme leader tried to consolidate his machine of repression as he sensed another uprising on the horizon. 

Security forces attack students in Mashhad's Ferdowsi University | Iran protests | December 7, 2022

Basij Paramilitary Force 

The Basij is a paramilitary force in Iran that operates as plainclothes and is affiliated with the IRGC. The force was established during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and has since become a significant part of the Iranian regime’s security apparatus. 

The Basij is primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, and its members are trained to suppress dissent during protests and other forms of civil unrest. They also have a significant presence in the country’s judicial system and are involved in implementing the regime’s misogynous law.  

The Basij plays a key role in human rights abuses in Iran. The force has been implicated in the arrest and detention of political dissidents, activists, and journalists, often using violence and intimidation. Basij members have been known to carry out extrajudicial killings, torture, and other forms of mistreatment of detainees. 

The force has also been involved in violently suppressing protests, including the nationwide protests that erupted in Iran in 2019 and 2022. Basij members were responsible for using live ammunition to disperse protesters, resulting in the deaths of many people. 

International human rights organizations have widely criticized the Basij for its role in these abuses. Despite this, the Iranian regime has continued to support and fund the force, which has become an integral part of the regime’s security apparatus. 

In 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Basij as a “proliferator of weapons of mass destruction” and imposed sanctions on the organization. In 2017, the Trump administration imposed additional sanctions on the Basij under Executive Order 13224, which targets individuals and organizations that support terrorism. 

The U.S. government has imposed these sanctions due to the Basij’s role in suppressing dissent in Iran and its involvement in human rights abuses. The U.S. government has expressed concern over the Basij’s use of violence and intimidation to suppress protests and the organization’s involvement in the arrest and detention of political dissidents and human rights activists. 

IRGC and Basij caught in crossfire in Tehran | Iran protests | November 3, 2022


Historical reminder 

While the clerical regime’s security apparatus is built to quash protests and stifle any voice of dissent, it is worth noting that the Shah, Iran’s ousted dictator, first institutionalized systematic oppression in Iran by founding his notorious secret police, the SAVAK.  

While SAVAK was disbanded after the anti-monarchial Revolution in 1979, some former SAVAK officials and intelligence agents joined the new regime and helped to establish its security apparatus, including the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). 

Many of the founding members of the IRGC were former members of the military or security forces under Shah’s regime, and some had received training and support from foreign intelligence agencies, including the United States and Israel. 

Nowadays, Reza Pahlavi, Shah’s offspring, tries to market the return to the deposed monarchy by explicitly saying that he “counts on the IRGC” forces to build Iran and that he has been in “bilateral contact” with the terrorist entity. Naturally, Shah’s offspring could not inspire and organize risen Iranians to continue their uprising under severe oppression.  

So, what force has been acting as the trailblazer and organizer of the nationwide uprising?  

MEK Resistance Units in Iran: No to Shah no to mullahs

The MEK Resistance Units 

Since the beginning of the Iranian people’s nationwide uprising, the clerical regime’s officials have complained about the organized network of Iran’s principal opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The Resistance Units are a network of activists associated with MEK, the one organization that has been the absolute red line of the mullahs’ regime in the past four decades. The regime has executed more than 120,000 members and supporters of the MEK since the 1980s, including a mass killing of 30,000 political prisoners during the summer of 1988, which marks its 34th anniversary these days. 

In his remarks on five occasions following the uprising, Khamenei reiterated the fact that his torturers should “differently and harshly deal” with the MEK supporters arrested during the protests.  

On March 3, Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, former Intelligence Minister and Friday prayer leader of Arak, expressed his appreciation for intelligence agencies and urged them to increase their attentiveness to 100%. He advised them to be vigilant against “terrorist networks, sedition networks, infiltration networks, and networks to obtain intelligence from inside the country, whether non-explosive or explosive, assassination, whatever.” Dorri-Najafabadi emphasized that “Increase your IQ to 100%; this is mandatory.” 

The IRGCs’ notorious Intelligence Organization issued a “significant” statement in November 2022 directed at the “Iranian people,” cautioning them against cooperating with the MEK.  

“If suspicious communications are established with you, requesting actions such as carrying out sabotage actions, setting fire to places, signs, and symbols or writing graffiti, taking photos and filming specific military and religious places, or holding gatherings and demonstrations and so, (be aware that) the MEK has established these communications. Therefore, inform the nearest IRGC intelligence unit or the News Headquarters of the IRGC Intelligence Organization,” the statement reads. 

The Iranian Resistance revealed a series of classified documents from inside the IRGC. Document number 8, dated October 20, was a directive by the IRGC’s commander-in-chief, Hossein Salami, ordering his troops to increase efforts facing the MEK Resistance Units.  

Salami ordered IRGC commanders to “use targeted intelligence patrols and setting up ambushes around potential targeted centers, to confront and neutralize these elements, it is necessary to identify all classified locations including military, government, and judicial locations, which are prone to diversionary actions. Launching coherent, targeted, and planned intelligence patrols, both covert and overt, as well as setting up ambushes in the security and protection perimeter of these locations, must be undertaken.”  



Completely run out of legitimacy, the clerical dictatorship and those it feeds across the upper echelons of society have drawn a distinct line between the state and the people. Dozens of military, security, intelligence and paramilitary organizations are funded by the meagering state budget to preserve the security of the state by cracking down on those who have been deprived of political, social, and even economic rights for more than four decades.