Iran Focus reports from Tehran, "A military garrison has been opened in Iran to recruit and train volunteers for 'martyrdom-seeking operations', according to the garrison's commander, Mohammad-Reza Jaafari.
"Jaafari, a senior officer in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told a hard-line weekly close to Iran's ultra-conservative President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the new 'Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison' (Gharargahe Asheghane Shahadat, in Persian) would recruit individuals willing to carry out suicide operations against Western targets.
"The full text of the original interview in Persian can be seen on the weekly's website at www.partosokhan.ir/283/page08.pdf." According to Iran Focus the interview is titled "Commander of Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison: Let America and Israel know, each of our suicide volunteers equals a nuclear bomb".
Jaafari told the weekly Parto-Sokhan, "The Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison has been activated and we will form a Martyrdom-seeking Division for each province in the country, organised in brigades, battalions and companies to defend Islam."
According to Iran Focus, Parto-Sokhan is published in the Shiite holy city of Qom by the Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute, whose chairman, hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, is regarded as the ideological mentor of President-elect Ahmadinejad.
Jaafari also said the martyrdom force was being implemented on the basis of instructions from the Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Armed Forces.
Iran Focus quotes Jaafari as saying, "In Tehran alone, there will be four martyrdom-seeking divisions", adding that "we are currently in the process of recruitment and organisation and soon volunteers will receive training in accordance to their assigned missions". Jaafari boasted that the 'Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison' had set up branches all over Iran and was presently working to convince youths to enlist.
Jaafari also said that the Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison would "spot martyrdom-seeking individuals in society and then recruit and organise them, so that, God willing, at the right moment when the Commander-in-Chief of the country's armed forces [Ayatollah Khamenei] gives the order, they would be able to enter the scene and carry out their missions".
This statement forces the question, what do "martyrdom-seeking individuals" look or act like? The strategy sounds reminiscent of various Palestinian terror groups, who don't just limit their recruitment to radicalised, militant Islamists who crave the glory of a martyr's death, but also seek out depressed and compromised youths and offer them the opportunity to escape their misery and redeem their honour through martyrdom for Allah. Considering the extent of Iran's social problems, with unemployment, homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution being rife amongst youth, this would not be too difficult.
Jaafari also said, "The Imam [Khomeini] said years ago that Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth, but so far practical steps have not been taken to achieve this. Our garrison must spot, recruit, organise and train martyrdom-seeking persons to be able to materialise this objective."
According to Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Al-Arabiya TV broadcast on 2 July the news that Iran had already recruited some 40,000 volunteers who were ready to martyr themselves for the liberation of Islamic lands.
As part of the recruitment drive, Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison's has a regular advertisment published in Parto Sokhan. The advertisment and application form, with English translation, can be found at http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2949 . . AHMADINEJAD - MARTYRDOM AS MOST DIVINE "ARTMANSHIP"
On Monday 25 July, President Ahmadinejad met with a group of Iranian cinematographers. (Using the relative freedom they had under former President Khatami, Iran's cinematographers gained a reputation for cinematic brilliance and have been praised by critics worldwide.)
Ahmadinejad reminded the artists that "the Islamic Revolution is by nature a cultural revolution". Ahmadinejad said that Iranian and Islamic cultures are totally inseparable from one another, praising the Islamic Republic of Iran for its rich cultural background.
Ahmadinejad's assertion that Iranian and Islamic cultures are totally inseparable is of course totally false. Iran's rich cultural heritage does not result from Islam, but from the incredible intellectual and artistic richness of Persian culture. Persian culture and civilisation brought richness to Islam. Islam needs Persians far more than Persians need Islam. Iranian culture was far richer before the Islamic Revolution, which was indeed a cultural revolution, with tragic consequences for thinkers and artists.
It is most interesting however, that in concluding his message to the cinematographers, President Ahmadinejad turned his focus to what he referred to as Iran's "Culture of Sacred Defense". The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quotes Ahmadinejad as saying that this "Culture of Sacred Defense" is not the culture of war, but the culture of "living more appropriately and dying the best possible death". IRNA reports, "He [Ahmadinejad] said that martyrdom is the 'most gracious, most divine and longest lasting kind of artmanship'."
By Sudha Ramachandran BANGALORE - Recruitment of potential suicide bombers, which has generally been shrouded in silence and secrecy, appears to be going more public. An Iranian publication recently carried an advertisement calling for applications from aspiring "martyrdom seekers".
The advertisement calls for men and women to enlist with the "Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison" and promises those who are picked that they will be given "specific and specialized training". The aim it seems is "to achieve all-round readiness against the enemies of Islam and the sacred Islamic republic and to protect the foundations of Islam". To this end, "a martyrdom-seeking division" would be set up for each province in the country.
All that aspiring candidates to the "Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison" need to submit are two photographs of themselves, a copy of their identity cards, and a filled-in application form. The advertisement even provides an address – PO Box 16535-664, Tehran – where aspiring candidates to the "Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison" should forward their application forms.
The publication in which the advertisement appeared is one that is produced by an institute run by one of Iran's most conservative and radical clerics, Ayatollah Mazbah Yazdi, believed to be a spiritual advisor of Iran's new president, Mahmud Ahmedinejad, who, like its proponents, has described suicide operations or "martyrdom operations" in glowing terms. In a speech delivered some days after his election and broadcast on Iranian television, Ahmedinejad said: "Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine and more eternal than the art of martyrdom? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity. Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security. They undermine the foundation of our eternity."
This is not the first time that recruitment of volunteers for suicide operations has been done publicly and application forms for registration of aspiring bombers distributed openly in Iran. A year ago, tens of thousands of registration forms were distributed at local Islamic universities to aspiring martyrdom seekers. This distribution of registration forms was preceded by speeches in mosques where calls were made to young men and women to register.
The application form for "Preliminary Registration for Martyrdom Operations" requires the applicant to provide name, age, address and contact details. It also requires the applicant to affirm his "preparedness for carrying out martyrdom operations" and gives a choice of three targets: "occupiers of the Islamic holy sites" (referring to the US occupation of Najaf, Karbala and other places in Iraq), "occupiers of Jerusalem" (referring to Israel), and Salman Rushdie, the author of Satanic Verses against whom Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa or legal judgment for death in 1989.
The public enlistment of "martyrdom seekers" in Iran has drawn considerable media attention. But such public enlistment of suicide bombers is not exclusive to Iran. Militant organizations in other parts of the world extol martyrdom and publicly solicit suicide bombers.
Catching Tigers This is the case with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the world-leader in suicide bombing. The martyrs' cult is very strong in the LTTE. The honoring of Tiger martyrs - martyrs are described in LTTE propaganda as gods to be worshipped - is an extremely effective recruiting tool. While fighters are recruited all year round, enlistment shoots up during Martyrs' Week ( November 21-27) when the LTTE publicly honors its dead fighters, especially those killed in suicide operations. Through songs and speeches, Tamil boys and girls are called on to sacrifice their lives for the cause of the Tamil homeland and many, moved by the propaganda, enlist.
But those who are recruited from the general public are taken on as fighters. Some might aspire to be suicide bombers, which would qualify them for the top rungs of the LTTE's martyr hierarchy, but suicide bombers are not directly recruited from the public.
The LTTE has a separate suicide squad called the Karum Puligal or Black Tigers. According to a source in the Research and Analysis Wing of India's external intelligence agency, Black Tigers are recruited from among the LTTE's fighters. These are boys and girls who have already shown extraordinary commitment to the LTTE. The LTTE is extremely selective in recruiting members for suicide operations. "Suicide operations especially against high-profile targets are planned and put into effect with utmost secrecy," the source said. "The identity of future suicide bombers cannot be revealed. This is essential for the success of an operation."
So the LTTE motivates and glorifies martyrdom, especially that which comes from suicide operations in public. It even recruits its ordinary fighters in public. But the recruitment of suicide bombers is a highly secretive process.
Similar is the case with Hamas and Islamic Jihad (IJ), which celebrate martyrdom in public to draw in more members. Funerals are occasions for these groups not only to deliver speeches on martyrdom but also to recruit. However, enlistment of suicide bombers or their registration is not done in public. What sets apart the recruiting style of Hamas and IJ from an organization like the LTTE is that in the former, functionaries approach individuals who are not always already members of these groups to carry out suicide operations.
In the case of Iran, it is unlikely that those who registered to become martyrs in response to the advertisement will actually be sent on suicide operations, especially against high-profile targets. The advertisement and application forms should be seen as a propaganda exercise to signal that ordinary Iranian men and women are willing to blow themselves up for a cause. The public registration of these aspiring suicide bombers signals that they are willing to take the risks that come with revealing their identity as potential suicide bombers.
While it is unlikely that those who responded to the advertisement and signed on as martyrdom seekers - tens of thousands are said to have signed up - will be dispatched on individual suicide missions, the possibility that some of them at least will figure in operations to defend cities should the United States attack Iran cannot be ruled out.
The value of the public recruitment of suicide bombers is not so much to enlist volunteers as it is a means to send a message to potential occupiers of what lies ahead.
Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.