"The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War turned into the longest conventional war of the 20th century, in which trench warfare was used nearly throughout the war, and in which Iraq dropped numerous nerve-gas and chemical bombs on Iranian military and civilian populations.
Iraq attacked Iran along its southern border, in the province of Khuzestan, home to Iran’s ethnically Arab population. Saddam Hussein banked on the hope that Iran’s Arab population would rise up against the new government and side with its Arab invader. With the surprise attack and the disarray of the country following the revolution, Iraq quickly occupied the port city of Khorramshahr, 22 miles from Abadan. Iraq’s eyes were on Abadan, where the Middle East’s largest oil refinery of the time was located...
Given Iran’s size and population advantage in comparison to Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini called for the creation of “an army of 20 million” to fight off the Iraqi army. Seeking new recruits for the warfront, Khomeini formally launched the Basij in 1980 as a volunteer paramilitary group. By 1981, the Basij-e Mostaz’afin (literally the “Mobilization of the Oppressed”) became a unit of the Revolutionary Guard..., and volunteers received rudimentary arms training before being deployed. By the late 1980s, some three million volunteers had been inducted, with a full one-third of them seeing action on the military front." - Narges Bajoghli, "Towards an Archive of the Basij, Memories from Iran's Volunteer Militia," Ajam Media Collective.
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