As the world deals with suicide bombers and radical Islamists, Iran has, once again, upped the terror ante.
Iranian government officials have long denied media reports about a long suicide bomber recruitment program -- until now.
According to the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat, Ayatollah Muhammad Taki Misbah Yazari, a senior figure in Iran's leadership and spiritual advisor of President Muhammad Ahmadinejad, has issued a call in an Iranian newspaper for the public to join the swelling ranks of Iran’s homegrown suicide bombers.
“Suicide operations are the peak of the nation, and the height of its bravery,” wrote Yazari in a statement.
“Commander Khamani has announced that registration for the suicide bomber force is open all over the country, and encourages Iranians to join in order to safeguard Islam and fight against its enemies.
"This holy organization of the Islamic Republic is aimed at those who are interested in suicide. The volunteer will join specialist courses. Brothers and sisters who believe and are interested in defending Islam are invited to get in touch via P.O. Box Number 1653-664, Teheran, and are asked to send two photos, a copy of their birth certificate. Please enlist in the suicide squad.”
Who is in charge of the suicide organization? According to the report, the man at the top is Elias Nedran, head of the parliamentary conservative faction, and former intelligence officer in the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Around six months ago, Nedran set up “Zaytoon,” as an organization for men and women who wished to carry out suicide bombings against the enemies of Islam and the Iranian revolution -- in particular, the Americans, British, and Israelis.
Also in the crosshairs are Arab and Muslim countries who are considered friends of the United States.
The suicide organization has so far held three rallies. The first, in Teheran, was attended by 300 members, who were between the ages of 14 to 30.
The second rally was had 400 participants, while the third meet saw around 500 men and women involved.
During the meetings, senior figures from the national guard and the “Jerusalem Column” addressed the volunteers. The latter organization has been involved in terrorist attacks in Iraq and Western countries.
During the same event, Ayatollah Yazari, known for his loathing of Iranian reformers, also made an appearance, in which he emphasized the need to volunteer rapidly and to attend specialist training courses which enable members to carry out suicide bombings in Iraq and other areas, including Israel.
'They promised virgins on rivers of gold'
Muhammad Riza Siarir, a youth who volunteered for the suicide squad, before recently fleeing Iran, managed to arrive in Turkey, and told a newspaper by phone that himself and 80 other terrorist volunteers visited the office of Ayatollah Misbah Yidai.
Yizdai told them that “the gates of heaven are open for you. There are beautiful, black-eyed virgins there who are waiting for you on the banks of golden rivers.”
Siari decided to flee Iran after meeting another ayatollah, known as Muntrazi, who condemned suicide bombings and advised to have no part in such activities.
“After I heard Muntrazi attacking suicide bombings, I went to the third meeting of the suicide squad. It was after this that I chose a different path, and decided to flee. I made contact with one my relatives who smuggles people illegally, and he helped me across the border and into Turkey.”
Siari also said that volunteers were being trained in four camps run by the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the “Jerusalem Column,” and were receiving physical and ideological training, including courses in explosives, and Arabic and English classes.