A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Quick Primer on Some Iranian Terms

As more and more people seem to be following Iranian bloggers, Twitterers, and YouTube posters, I've noticed many are referring to the security forces using their Persian names, and thought perhaps I should add a few notes for those who aren't familiar with them. An emerging story seems to be that the Army is clearly holding back, the Guards Corps is often doing so as well, and most of the violence is coming from the Basij, who are little more than street militia.

Basij (collective) or Basiji (individual) refers to the Mobilization, a popular militia recruited during the Iran-Iraq war. They are under the command of the Guards Corps, but without the elite training of the Corps proper. They're the enforcers, so far.

The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps is the elite force, separate from the regular armed forces and a major constituent in the support of Ahmadinejad. Although Western analysts most often refer to them as the Pasdaran (Guards), Iranians often use the word translated as "Corps" to refer to them: Sepah (collective) or Sepahi (individual).

The regular Armed Forces have remained aloof so far, although there are some reports that some officers have been arrested (similar reports relating to the Guards Corps have also circulated). Reading Iranian posters you may see the regular Army referred to as Artesh, the Persian word for Army.

Persian isn't actually one of my languages, but I've spent some time dealing with their military forces in earlier incarnations.

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