The Commander of the Basij
Mohammad Reza Naqdi: The Tyrant of the Campus
Despite all the doubts provoked about him and although it was said that he was sent by the Intelligence Service of the Iraqi Army to spy on the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Reza Naqdi was appointed by the Guardian Jurist Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the commander of the Basij (the Iranian Mobilization Resistance Force). Naqdi succeeded Hojjatoleslam Hussain Taeb, the former commander of the Basij, and Naqdi’s appointment was a recognition of his vital role in the crackdown against protesters after the recent presidential elections. Naqdi is described by reformists as the “Tyrant of the Campus”.
Mohammad Reza Naqdi who is Iraqi national with Iranian origins, managed to occupy very critical positions in the system of the Guardian jurist. He carried out many duties, the most recent of which was observing the activities of the candidate reformists during the recent presidential elections, Mer Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Naqdi was then appointed as the commander of the Basij, amidst the embarrassment of the reformists who had been optimistic and expected positive changes in the leadership of the Basij forces when news spread about the deposition of the Basij former commander, Hussain Taeb. Reformists were shocked when the Guardian Jurist did not do more than exchanging positions and replaced Taeb with Naqdi and thus Taeb again commanded the Intelligence service of the Revolutionary Guards which gained renewed influence.
Reformists viewed the appointment of Naqdi as the commander of the Basij as another evidence that Khamenei was neither going to review his stance nor withdraw his unlimited support to Mahmoud Ahmadinijad. Instead, it is a striking indication that the regime would continue its strategy aimed to eradicate the reformist movement. Naqdi was granted complete power and authority about doing whatever he considers suitable for the protection of the Guardian Jurist’s regime.
Reformists accuse Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi of committing heinous crimes against students and other prominent reformers, while he was the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence. In recent protests, he played a key role in extracting confessions from the supporters of the two leaders Mousavi and Karroubi.
Naqdi, the chandler
Naqdi is the son of Ali Akbar Thamahniy Shams. He is also known as the ‘Chandler’ because he used to sell candles in his youth before becoming an Iranian religious man. He has been looked at with much suspicion, to the extent of questioning his loyalty. He has been accused of cooperating with the Iraqi military intelligence during his time as one of the leading officers in the intelligence unit of the Badr Corps, which belongs to the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Mohammad Reza has been expelled from Iraq a year after the eruption of the Islamic revolution in Iran. He joined the convoys of displaced Iraqis of Iranian origin. The Office of Immigrant Affairs at the Ministry of Interior placed him and his family in the Kurdish city of Nakda, which is located northwest of Iran. Mohammad Reza volunteered to join the ranks of the Badr Corps of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. He was accepted despite intelligence from Orumieh—capital of West Azerbaijan province—warning the Supreme Council of entrusting Naqdi with carrying out security and intelligence missions. A Peshmerga man belonging to a Kurdish Iranian opposition party made a confession in which he revealed the names of some displaced Iraqis who were cooperating with the Iraqi Military Intelligence.
Naqdi managed to become the leader of the Supreme Council Intelligence. However, he was arrested about a year later by the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence, after being subjected to continuous surveillance for several weeks. The reason behind the arrest was Naghdi’s daily trips to a place outside the city of Orumieh to practice self-torture. At times he burned his fingers, and at other times he burned his feet. Naqdi admitted, after being questioned, that he practiced such sport of self-torture so that he might be able to bear any kind of torture he might receive in the prisons of Saddam Hussein, in case he was captured. He was released three months later, following orders issued by the Revolutionary Guards Command. He returned to the Badr Corps, but this time as a logistics officer, and not as an intelligence one.
After the Iran-Iraq war had ended, Naqdi was transferred to the ‘Jerusalem Corps’, as the officer responsible for covert operations outside the country. When war broke out in Bosnia, he went there with one of the commandos units of the Jerusalem Corps, where he trained young Muslims on the arts of intelligence and interrogation of detainees. He also visited Lebanon as a member of the pressure group known in Iran as “The Iran supporters of Hezbollah”, which was led by Brigadier General Hussein Allah Karam.
Naqdi returned to Tehran. He was given a task in order to test his loyalty. He was ordered to assassinate his cousin, Mohammed Hussein Naqdi, the Iranian revolution acting officer in Rome, because he joined the opposition. Naqdi carried out the task successfully. Mohammed Hussein Naqdi was assassinated with several bullets in the head fired by an aide of his cousin.
After the success of the mission, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard recommended that he be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He was responsible for the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence. He showed competence and loyalty in his new position, during the questioning of Gholam Hossein Cirbeschi, the mayor of the capital and the known reformist, in the era of President Mohammad Khatami, along with 163 managers and assistant directors in the municipality of Tehran.
At the ‘Wissal’ detention camp Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi practiced the worst and most cruel kinds of torture against Cirbeschi and his aides. The statements made by some of the detainees during their trials about the torture practices of Naqdi raised a lot of debate throughout the country. This led some reformists in the parliament to make a decision to summon Naqdi to the parliament for questioning. But Khamenei saved him by transferring him to the Directorate responsible of fighting the smuggling of money and drugs, and from there to the armed forces.
Naqdi’s name was included among the list of officials responsible for Iran’s nuclear program, in the context of the sanctions imposed on Iran by resolution 1803 of the UN Security Council, which was issued in March of 2008. The resolution described Mohammad Reza Naqdi as the former Deputy of the Chief of Staff of the Iranian military for logistics and industrial research. It said that Naqdi, through his responsibility for the management of the Counter – Smuggling Department, was responsible for Iran’s efforts to circumvent the previous two packages of sanctions.
In 1993, Naqdi became the deputy director of intelligence of the ‘Jerusalem Corps’ of the Revolutionary Guards, which is responsible for foreign operations. However, his most important role was the step which he took in the wake of the accusations made against the deputy of the Minister of Intelligence for security affairs, “Saeed Emami”, for the killing of two secular intellectuals. Naqdi with the aid of his crew set up a “parallel intelligence force” in order to avoid such scrutiny. This allowed Naqdi to work outside the control of the President of Iran at the time, Mohammad Khatami, who vowed to clean up the ministry. But despite the attempts at reform, which Khatami sought to achieve, they continued to commit their practices of atrocities.
Naqdi also played an important role in the torture of a group of prominent members of the opposition party of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In addition he played a key role in organizing and funding “The Iran supporters of Hezbollah”, which masterminded the attack against the student’s district at Tehran University in 1999.
Following the launch of the green movement protests, Naqdi was assigned to lead the interrogation of important detainees in coordination with Javad Azadeh, the assistant of the former Minister of Intelligence, who is known for his cruelty in torturing detainees, and forcing anyone, unfortunate enough to spent two days in one of his cells, to confess to treason and working for the US. There is no doubt that the success of Naqdi and Azadeh in forcing reformist leaders, such as Dr. Saeed Hajjarian, the adviser of Khatami, and Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the former assistant to the President, to read prepared confessions in front of the cameras of Iranian television, was one of the most important reasons for his appointment as commander of the Basij forces.