Iran Crisis Update, November 4
Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Zachary Coles, Amin Soltani and Frederick W. Kagan
November 4, 5:30 pm ET
The Iran Crisis Updates are produced by the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). To receive Iran Crisis Updates via email, please subscribe here.
Parents of Iranian youth spearheading ongoing demonstrations are increasingly describing protests as a revolutionary movement, mirroring their children’s rhetoric. The father of one killed protester told mourners that his son described Mahsa Amini’s death as an impetus for change and stated that ”there will be no revolution until blood is shed” at his 40-day commemoration ceremony on October 29. Another father of a killed protester similarly described his son as a martyr of freedom at his funeral on October 31. The mother of another killed protester described her son as someone who gave his life to the Iranian nation at his 40-day commemoration ceremony on November 4. The parent of a young Iranian protester told Reuters that she felt compelled to ”reclaim Iran” for her daughters and all Iranian girls in an article published on November 3.
Iranian youth participating in demonstrations have long described protests as revolutionary in nature and have expressed a readiness to die for their beliefs. Disillusioned youth likely no longer view reform as a viable option—by some reformists’ own admission—and young, arrested protesters allegedly told security officials that they aimed to overthrow the regime.
Protesters are reclaiming revolutionary motifs, like martyrdom, leveraged by the regime to sustain protests. Funerals and ceremonies commemorating killed protesters have become prominent occasions of unrest within the past several days. Thousands of protesters gathered in Saghez, Kurdistan Province to commemorate the 40th day since the regime killed Mahsa Amini on October 26, as CTP previously reported. Large crowds have similarly gathered to commemorate killed protesters on October 27, 28, 29, 31 and November 1, 2, and 3. CTP assessed that funerals and commemoration ceremonies sparked significant protest activity in eight of 17 documented protest locations on November 3. Social media users have similarly begun referencing killed protesters as martyrs of a new, Iranian revolution. Some protesters’ tombs bear symbols connected to the Mahsa Amini protest wave, signaling their community’s perception of their role as martyrs within the movement.
Protesters’ growing efforts to reclaim the ideas of revolution, Iranian nationalism, and secular martyrdom from the regime for their own movement is a notable inflection. The regime has accustomed Iranians to use revolutionary phrases and nationalist images and ideas and to venerate martyrs for over four decades. If protesters are successful in repurposing these habits for their own movement, then they may be able to build considerable and sustainable momentum for their efforts.
- Parents of Iranian youth spearheading ongoing demonstrations are increasingly describing protests as a revolutionary movement, mirroring their children’s rhetoric.
- At least 14 protests took place in 11 cities across six provinces.
- Violent clashes erupted between security forces and protesters in Khash, Rask, Saravan, and Zahedan in Sistan and Baluchistan Province following Friday prayer sermons.
- President Ebrahim Raisi criticized US President Joe Biden for pledging to “free Iran” during a campaign rally in California.
- Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Hossein Salami warned that Iran will retaliate against the US and its allies for their purported role in fomenting ongoing unrest at a regime-organized rally.
At least 14 protests took place in 11 cities across 6 provinces on November 4. CTP assesses with moderate to high confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:
Note: CTP is using asterisks to denote protests that included mourners commemorating killed protesters.
Karaj, Alborz Province (population: approximately 1,970,000)
- Security forces shot and killed a teenage boy while he was apparently protesting in Karaj streets. Security forces attempted to obscure the evidence by loading the dead teenage boy into a van and driving away.
*Shahin Shahr, Esfahan Province (population: approximately 173,329)
- An undetermined number of protesters marched through Shahin Shahr streets.
- Protesters gathered to commemorate 40 days since security forces killed protest martyr Mohammad Hassan Turkman for participating in anti-regime protests. Security forces fired tear gas and blocked roads to the cemetery to deter protesters from attending the ceremony.
*Esfahan City, Esfahan Province (population: approximately 1,961,000)
- Dozens of protesters gathered to commemorate 40 days since security forces killed protest martyr Shirin Alizadeh for recording footage of protests in Esfahan City. Footage from social media depicted protesters placing obstacles in the road to the cemetery apparently to prevent security forces from disrupting the ceremony. Separate footage shows security forces attempting to disrupt the ceremony. Iranian social media accounts circulated claims that security forces used live ammunition against protesters to disrupt the ceremony.
Podol, Hormozgan Province (population: approximately 1,250)
- One or two dozen protesters set fires on a Podol street.
Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province (population: approximately 1,185,000)
- An undetermined number of protesters set fires and established road barriers with debris in Ahvaz streets.
Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province (population: approximately 587,730)
- Hundreds of protesters marched through Zahedan streets and chanted “death to the dictator,” “death to the Basij,” “death to Khamenei,” and other anti-regime slogans following Friday prayers. Prominent Sunni cleric Maulvi Abdul Hamid reportedly called for an international referendum on the Islamic Republic during his sermon on November 4, likely sparking unrest in the following hours. Footage from social media depicts protesters fleeing security forces who reportedly opened fire on the crowd. Separate footage shows protesters hiding behind structures to take shelter from regime snipers firing at protesters.
Khash, Sistan and Baluchistan Province (population: approximately 56,683)
- Several dozen protesters gathered in Khash streets and marched to the provincial governor’s office. Security forces and protesters clashed in front of the building. Security forces killed at least four protesters, including a child, and injured likely dozens more. Protesters set fire to a security force vehicle.
Saravan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province (population: approximately 6,554)
- Several dozen protesters gathered in Saravan streets and chanted “death to the dictator.” Security forces reportedly fired tear gas at the protesters.
- An undetermined number of protesters gathered after Friday prayer at a Saravan mosque. Security forces fired tear gas and reportedly shot and killed protesters near the mosque.
Rask, Sistan and Baluchistan Province (population: approximately 10,115)
- Several dozen protesters marched through Rask streets. Security fired tear gas and reportedly used live ammunition against protesters near a Rask seminary. Footage from social media contains audible gunshots and shows protesters fleeing from likely security forces.
Iranshahr, Sistan and Baluchistan Province (population: approximately 113,750)
- An undetermined number of protesters chanted “Kurdistan, Zahedan, I will sacrifice my life for Iran” in Iranshahr streets.
Tehran City, Tehran Province (population: approximately 8,700,000)
- Dozens of protesters set fires and chanted anti-regime slogans in Javadiyeh streets in southern Tehran. Security forces fired tear gas and reportedly live ammunition to disperse the crowds.
- Over 100 protesters lit fires and chanted “freedom, freedom, freedom” on a city street.
Pro-regime social media accounts and state-run television programs propagated alleged footage of pro-regime rallies in at least five cities across four provinces on November 4. A large-scale, pro-regime rally likely occurred in Tehran where President Ebrahim Raisi delivered a speech commemorating the 1979 seizure of the US embassy, but CTP cannot independently verify any of the other alleged pro-regime protests. One pro-regime social media user claimed massive pro-regime rallies occurred across nine hundred cities while other social media users circulated footage showing only a dozen pro-regime protestors in Amol and Robat Karim. One state-run outlet showed a Sanandaj pro-regime rally taking place in the rain although weather reports for Sanandaj did not indicate rain. Another state-run outlet purportedly showed footage from pro-regime rallies across three cities with the footage from two of the cities appearing to be identical.
Raisi criticized US President Joe Biden for pledging to “free Iran” during a campaign rally in California on November 3. Biden was quoted telling audience members "don't worry, we're gonna free Iran (…) "they’re gonna free themselves pretty soon.” Raisi condemned Biden’s remarks and attributed them to “absent-mindedness” in a regime-organized rally commemorating the 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran. Raisi additionally claimed that the US supported terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, and was attempting to foment unrest in Iran. Raisi added that Iranian youth participating in anti-regime protests were unknowingly supporting US interests.
IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami warned that Iran will retaliate against the US and its allies for their purported role in fomenting ongoing unrest at a regime-organized rally on November 4. Salami added that Iran’s enemies were on high alert, likely referencing the Wall Street Journal’s November 1 report that American and Saudi officials warned of an imminent Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia and Erbil. American and Persian Gulf officials have since told the Wall Street Journal that the likelihood of an imminent Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries has decreased but is not gone entirely.
A Raisi administration official called for harsher protest suppression tactics. Parliamentary Affairs Vice President Mohammad Hosseini stated that appeasement was no longer an appropriate strategy to contain demonstrations and added that more security forces should be deployed to contain further unrest. Hosseini’s statements mirror senior regime officials’ calls to violently crack down on protesters in recent weeks.
Iranian media announced that Basij member Hamid Pournowrouz died in clashes with protesters in Lahijan, Gilan Province on November 3. The report described Pournowrouz as a ”defender of the shrine,” a term used by the regime to describe IRGC fighters who have deployed to Syria.
Axis of Resistance and Regional Developments
There was nothing significant to report today.
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