Young solders marching (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)
Young members of the Iranian Basij forces attend training at a Guard base in northeastern Tehran. (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)

The U.S. has announced sanctions against a network of businesses in Iran that supports a group recruiting and training children to be soldiers.

The network, called Bonyad Taavon Basij, comprises at least 20 corporations and financial institutions that have significant international dealings across the Middle East and Europe. The businesses designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury, which enforces economic sanctions, are involved in mining, manufacturing and steelmaking.

Iran’s bonyads are set up as charitable trusts but can be used to mask companies’ ownership and control. Bonyad Taavon Basij provides essential financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, which is under the control of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC.

Boys in classroom singing or chanting together (© Seamus Murphy/Panos Pictures/Redux)
Young members of the Basij are trained at a mosque in southern Tehran. (© Seamus Murphy/Panos Pictures/Redux)

The Basij Resistance Force has a branch in every province and city in Iran. It recruits children as young as 12 to deploy to Syria to support the brutal Assad regime. It is also responsible for violent crackdowns on citizens within Iran.

“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences and help fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Three young soldiers in battle gear (© Vahid Naderi/Fars News AgencyAP Images)
Members of the Basij in central Iran. (© Vahid Naderi/Fars News AgencyAP Images)

The Treasury Department notes that companies from Asia to Europe that partner with Iranian companies associated with the Bonyad Taavon Basij could be contributing to the human rights abuses and terrorism of the Basij Resistance Force. Therefore, such companies will be added to the new sanctions designation. The complete list is available through the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

These new sanctions are added to extensive sanctions on Iran that are being re-imposed since the U.S. withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. The waivers for the returning sanctions expire at 11:59 p.m. EST on November 4, and the sanctions will be reimposed at 12:01 a.m. EST on November 5.

Graphic explaining effects of Bonyad Taavon Basij (State Dept.) (State Dept./L. Rawls)