Iran Project

Iran Crisis Update, January 7, 2023

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to empower hardline security figures to enforce his uncompromising position toward the protests and mandatory hijab law. Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan as law enforcement commander on January 7. Radan will thus head the Law Enforcement Command (LEC)—Iran’s national police force and first line of defense against protests. Khamenei called on Radan to provide public security, improve LEC capabilities, properly compensate LEC employees, and train specialized police units for different security missions.

Iran Crisis Update, January 5, 2023

Regime officials and entities are endorsing an expansive, collective-punishment model to implement mandatory veiling laws as anti-regime demonstrations enter their fourth consecutive month. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi stressed the importance of the hijab on January 5. Vahidi confirmed reports that the regime began issuing texts warning unveiled women drivers to adhere to hijab laws and described veiling as a “legal issue” and core component of the Islamic Republic’s religious values. The judiciary has additionally submitted for review a draft bill that would replace Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code, which outlines the consequences for failing to adhere to the state-imposed hijab law, within the past several days.

Iran Crisis Update, January 2

The Iranian state security services have intensified their protest crackdown and social oppression in recent days. Security forces have substantially increased their presence in some cities, such as Javanroud and Semirom, according to social media users, after significant protests occurred there on December 31. The Khuzestan Neighborhood Youth similarly reported that security forces disrupted electricity and telephone lines and shot at citizens in Izeh on January 1. The regime has escalated efforts to reimpose social control as well. Security forces have arrested two reformist journalists in recent days and resumed using surveillance cameras to identify women not properly adhering to the mandatory hijab law in cars.

Iran Crisis Update, December 31

Recent comments from Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) leaders reflect the ongoing divisions within the regime, and especially the IRGC, over the protests. Brigadier General Hamid Abazari stated on December 30 that some military commanders have “stood against values, the supreme leader, and the regime,” suggesting infighting over how to manage the ongoing unrest. Abazari also criticized officials who have not publicly condemned the protests. Former Basij Organization Chief Brigadier General Gholam Hossein Gheyb Parvar, who is now responsible for organizing and training elite Basij units specialized in protest suppression, echoed Abazari’s criticism on December 31. Iranian media identified Abazari as an adviser to IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami. The IRGC’s public relations wing released a statement on December 31 rejecting Abazari’s remarks and denying that he is an adviser to Salami. The statement said that Abazari was expressing his personal opinion but not using accurate information.

Iran Crisis Update, December 30

Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid is likely trying to balance his political positions to maximize his domestic support and achieve meaningful reform. The rhetoric that he used in his weekly Friday sermon in Zahedan on December 30 reflected his efforts to appeal to multiple different constituencies. Abdol Hamid regularly criticizes the regime's mistreatment of the Baloch minority but emphasized opposition to Baloch separatism in his sermon. He instead lauded unity among Iranians likely to assuage supporters’ potential concerns that he is stoking societal divisions. Abdol Hamid reiterated his support for women's rights during his sermon but added that he believes that most Iranian women support wearing the hijab, possibly to appeal to more conservative supporters. He finally rejected the notion that he is using his platform for “fame” or “power” but framed himself positively as a political leader. He discussed briefly that he would not imprison political protesters or women protesting the hijab if he had such authority. It is unclear whether Abdol Hamid was referring to a particular accusation that he has a personal agenda. His remarks highlight his efforts to appeal to a broad base of Iranians without unnecessarily alienating a specific constituency.

Iran Crisis Update, December 26

Protest coordinators and organizations are encouraging citizens to demonstrate more regularly and spontaneously rather than awaiting planned protests. The United Neighborhood Youth called for decentralized demonstrations and for protesters to “break the cycle of waiting.” The Karaj Neighborhood Youth published a graphic illustrating the protest activity that preceded the Iranian revolution in 1979 to argue that the movement must sustain itself through an extended period of spikes and lulls to gradually weaken the regime. These protest coordinators and organizations are likely trying to reverse a natural consequence of the growing cohesion within the movement. Many protesters may be increasingly awaiting calls for protests and other guidance rather than acting independently as the movement has developed more obvious leadership. But these protest coordinators and organizations have demonstrated that they cannot consistently generate significant surges in protest activity themselves, possibly due to mistrust toward them among demonstrators and/or the challenges of organizing under the tremendous pressure the regime is exerting against them. The persistence of protests has been a remarkable feature of this movement and has put great strains on the regime and its security forces. If the protesters can resume more decentralized and less predictable activities, they can add to that strain even with small numbers of demonstrators in the streets at a time.

Iran Crisis Update, December 24

The Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of 22-year-old protester Mohammad Ghobadlou on December 24 after rejecting his appeal. The Judiciary convicted Ghobadlou of “corruption on earth” and sentenced him to death in October 2022. This charge—corruption on earth—is an extremely broad charge that the Judiciary often uses to justify executions. The Iranian penal code states that this charge can be brought against an individual who “extensively commits a felony against the bodily entity of the people, offenses against internal or international security of the state, spreads lies, disrupts the economic system of the state, commits arson or destroys properties, distributes poisonous and bacterial and dangerous materials, or [establishes, aids, or abets] places of corruption and prostitution.” The Supreme Court published earlier on December 24 that it had accepted the appeals of Ghobadlou and Saman Seyyedi Yasin—two protesters on death row—but later retracted that report and stated that it had accepted the appeal of Yasin but upheld Ghobadlou’s death sentence.

Iran Crisis Update, December 22

Social media accounts reported that Iranian security forces have begun violently killing and mass arresting citizens in Izeh, Khuzestan Province since December 21. Some accounts have claimed that the regime has arrested over 350 individuals thus far and completely disrupted internet services in the area. Others have claimed that the regime has established checkpoints on the major roads leading into and out of the city.[3] CTP cannot verify these reports at this time, and the information space remains extremely muddy. We will provide more information on the situation in Izeh in future updates.

Data Analysis of the Mahsa Amini Protest Movement

The ongoing anti-regime protests in Iran reached their three-month anniversary on December 16. Countrywide demonstrations and strikes are continuing to shake the Iranian regime, presenting it with one of the most existential threats it has faced since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. The continuation of this popular uprising is particularly impressive given the immense effort the Iranian regime has made to brutally suppress the movement. Its resilience is a testament to the tremendous bravery, courage, and determination of the Iranian protesters. CTP has produced daily updates on these protests and their evolution since September 2022. We present here a series of visualizations produced from the open-source data that we have gathered over the past three months to further inform the public discourse on this important moment in Iranian history.

Iran Crisis Update, December 20

Protest activity did not surge significantly outside of the Iranian capital region on December 20, despite calls from protest coordinators and organizations for countrywide demonstrations and strikes on December 19-21. CTP has observed slowly diminishing protest turnout since the regime intensified its protest crackdown in mid-November 2022. The regime issued its first death sentence on November 13 and deployed the IRGC Ground Forces in Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces beginning on November 19. These escalations combined with the colder weather, mass arrests, and possible disorganization among protester coordinators may have led to the declining turnout over the past month. This reduced protest activity does not, however, indicate the end of the anti-regime movement. The regime may have been able to diminish protest activity through its use of intimidation, force, and expanding censorship. The fact that CTP recorded at least eight separate protests on December 20 despite these factors is remarkable in and of itself. The regime will struggle to sustain this level of oppression indefinitely, especially given the degree to which this crackdown has strained the security forces. Protest coordinators and organizations are contrastingly exploring ways to sustain regular acts of political defiance and have been forming the requisite networks and infrastructure for months.