Children say: This life has turned us into grownups
Since 1984, the Basij have run military training for middle and high school pupils, aged 11 upwards. Girls as well as boys are taught how to use Kalashnikov rifles.
Officially, the Basij recruiting drive in Iranian schools is to help build a 20-million-strong army, an idea conceived by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in the early years of the war with Iraq.
Twenty years after the end of the war, Basij and Revolutionay Guards commanders are still carrying out that order. But in reality, the Basij’s raison d’etre has shifted from external to domestic security, nurturing a generation of young people loyal to the regime, devoted to defending it, and equipped with all the skills they need to do so.
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The term “soft threat” was coined by Supreme Leader Khamenei to describe what he saw as corrosive western influences designed to undermine the politics and Islamic culture of Iran.
IRGC commander Brigadier-General Mohammad Ali Jafari has made it clear that Khamenei has entrusted the Basij with the task of combating “soft threats” and “confronting those who would strike at the strong relationship between the Supreme Leader and the people”.
As part of this virtual war, the Basij has designed its own politically correct computer games.
“Devil Den”, launched in July 2009 by the Basij’s then overall commander Hossein Taeb, is based around a scenario where Iranian students on a pilgrimage to Karbala in Iraq are captured by American soldiers. The Americans turn them over to Israel, which plans to perform experiments on them so that they will mutate into Israeli soldiers. An escape attempt results in a pitched battle with Israeli soldiers, which the Iranians win before returning home.
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The “One Way to Heaven” camp scheme is designed for underprivileged schoolchildren. Last year, 20,000 attended these camps and were taken to visit the holy city of Mashhad.
Source: Iran's teenage paramilitaries
The latest national report on population and education in Syria for 2008 showed the number of dropouts increasing and affecting girls more than boys. The proportion of children below 15 who do not attend school was around 22 per cent.
“The phenomenon of girls dropping out of school is alarming,” Sabah al-Hallak, a social worker and primary school teacher, said.
Hallak said one reason was that many poor families were marrying off their daughters at an early age to men from the Gulf.
Source: Syrian Schoolgirl Dropouts Rise
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