Followers of the Party of God !
Ansar-i hizbullah, the followers of the party of God, (also known as Ansar-i Hezbollah or Ansar-e Hezbollah), is a semi-official, paramilitary organization in Iran which carries out attacks on those whom it perceives to be violating the precepts of Islam, such as women wearing makeup, reformist protestors, and unmarried couples.
This clandestine organization took its formal name in 1992. However, its origins date back to the street gangs of the urban poor, called "Hezbollah" (Party of God), organized by various forces in the Islamic Republic regime during the revolution of 1979. Most of the members of Ansar-i Hizbullah either belong to the Basij militia or are veterans of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) who believed that they must continue fighting for the integrity of Islam. They realize their vision through physical intimidation of those whom they view as the enemies of Ayatollah Khameini and Islam. They are known to break up demonstrations against the government, assault people in western dress, and raid shops that sell forbidden items. They have also been accused by some of politically-based assassinations.
Ansar-i Hizbullah became more prominent after it attacked student dormitories at Tehran University in July of 1999. This attack was in response to a peaceful student protest on July 8th concerning further restrictions on the press. In concert with police, members of Ansar-i Hizbullah chased and beat the students back to their dorms. At the end of the morning, two students were dead and twenty were hospitalized. When the newspapers reported these attacks, protests lasting five days spread to 13-18 other cities in Iran.
The Iranian government has chosen to tacitly support groups like Ansar-i Hizbullah because they both aim to maintain the conservative status quo in Iran. Senior conservative clerics use gangs like Ansar-i Hizbullah as a way to consolidate their power and harass and/or eliminate their enemies. Therefore, Ansar-i Hizbullah enjoys a semi-official status; while they are not officially a part of the government, they complement the Iranian government's existing intelligence and security apparatus. Many senior clerics have been associated with Ansar-i Hizbullah and are thought to finance it. Additional evidence of its favorable status lies in the fact that during its 1999 attack on Tehran University, its members used 1000cc-engine motorcycles, which only security service members are allowed to possess.
Thus, the Iranian government is behaving in a manner similar to Maoist China when it channeled youthful nationalists into Red Guard gangs which would assault the government's purported enemies. Like these Red Guards, Ansar-i Hizbullah wishes to make the revolution permanent by assaulting those who advance an agenda of change.
The Iranian government, confronted with internal calls for reform, enacted a compromise by not performing a massive military crackdown on the dissidents, but rather letting militant groups like Ansar-i Hizbullah prevent the movement from spreading further. While paramilitary groups like Ansar-i Hizbullah are currently useful in extending the government's control over its citizens, they also pose a threat to the government. First, the Iranian government must keep these groups on a tight leash or they may become powerful enough to challenge the government for political power. Second, if the government ever decides to institute any reforms, groups like Ansar-i Hizbullah may violently oppose any such actions and create instability and unrest. Ansar-i Hizbullah has succeeded in quieting many of its political opponents through its intimidating tactics. Nonetheless, its recent violent acts may be a portent that they, along with their conservative backers, are losing power in Iran - Ansar-i Hizbullah would not be committing these acts of violence if there were no signs of modernization to confront. Discuss this article in our forum.