Human rights advocates claim that nearly a dozen weeks into the Iranian people’s anti-government uprising, over 400 people have died, including 60 children, and thousands more are still being held in detention. A devoted group instructed by the regime to suppress dissent at all costs has imprisoned, hurt, and killed the majority of them.

The millions of Iranians who continue to risk their lives for change are further incensed by daily reports of the state’s brutal crackdowns on its own citizens, tragic deaths, pointless detentions, and a pattern of forced confessions used by the regime. In recent days, only a few protesters, mostly well-known figures, have been released on bail in an effort to support the regime’s propaganda.

The “legion of the guardians of the Islamic Revolution,” also known as “Sepah e Pasdaran e Enghelab e Eslami” in Farsi, is one of the most potent, varied, and militarized branches of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Regime. This significant organization, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the US and other nations, answers directly to the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The group is armed with its own militia, the parliamentary volunteers known as Basij, whose unrestricted presence in every facet of Iranian society continues to be a significant source of unease and hostility among Iranian citizens. The Quds also has its own naval, aerospace, intelligence, ground, and foreign forces.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, established the IRGC in 1979 with the intention of assembling a force of fervent believers whose sole duty would be to defend the “values” and “ideology” of the “Islamic revolution” from both domestic and foreign dangers. But over time, the IRGC was able to transform into a powerful political and economic force, tightening its control over the nation’s most influential businesses, including the oil and gas sector, and exerting a significant amount of political influence.

And when Iranians take to the streets—as they have in more than 130 cities across the country since the death on September 16 of 22-year-old Masah Jina Amini while in the care of the despised morality police—they are joined by opportunistic individuals (known as plainclothes forces) whose commitment does not necessarily stem from fervent ideological beliefs but instead from professional, political, and financial gains by way of assassination.

The notorious morality police, which the Iranian regime has repeatedly renamed and rebranded over the years, were “shutting down” over the weekend, according to Iran’s head of judiciary, in what is widely regarded as yet another publicity stunt by the regime. The official Islamic Republic Broadcasting reports that no other government representatives have as of yet confirmed the closure of this establishment.

Some of these defenders are ex-offenders who join the group in an effort to have their sentences lightened. Others are opportunistic embezzlers who continue to make a fortune through their loyalty to this system, which has allowed them to participate in numerous lucrative deals in both the public and private sectors as well as some of the largest commercial, industrial, and petroleum deals. Due to a bankrupt economy brought on by western sanctions, domestic corruption, and a lack of a regulatory system, much of this wealth has grown over time.

The regime brutally and quickly put an end to peaceful protests in support of “reformist candidates” after the hotly contested Iranian presidential election in 2009, which came to be known as the “green movement.” Although it has never been proven, many Iranians believe that at the time the regime used its regional clout to gather paramilitary forces from Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria to support attacks against its own people. The IRGC is still thought to use this tactic to quell domestic dissent.

General Hossein Hamedani, the IRGC commander killed in Syria in 2015, was in charge of using such forces to put down the 2009 protests at the time. In his most recent interview, he confirmed the presence of 40,000 Basij troops in Tehran as well as the tens of thousands of “hooligans and vigilantes” who were housed there until he ordered them to leave.