Iran Project

Iran Crisis Update, December 19

Some protest coordinators and organizations are trying to reclaim religion from the regime, essentially arguing that one can be devoutly religious and still oppose the Islamic Republic. The Mashhad Neighborhood Youth published a statement from “a group of Iranian Muslim and Shia youth” that accused Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of using religion to control and manipulate. The statement argued that Khamenei does not represent true Islamic values but is rather undermining religion. The framing of the group as representing “Muslims and Shia” is noteworthy and may suggest outreach to the Sunni community in Iran. The Mashhad group separately asserted that the regime has not upheld some of the founding principles in the constitution. CTP has previously reported how protesters have tried to reclaim ideas of revolution, Iranian nationalism, and secular martyrdom from the regime for their own movement. The regime has long labored to appropriate many of these ideas for its own purposes.

Iran Crisis Update, December 12

The Iranian regime executed a protester for the second time since the Mahsa Amini protests began as part of the regime effort to deter protest turnout and instill terror among the public. The Judiciary publicly executed 23-year-old Majid Reza Rahnavard on December 12 for “waging war against God” after he killed two security officers. Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei defended the regime’s decision to execute arrested prisoners and instructed judges and judicial authorities to ignore critics on December 12. Ejei’s remarks reaffirm his commitment to conducting these brutal executions despite some political and religious figures condemning the executions in recent days. The Judiciary previously executed a protester on December 8.

Iran Crisis Update, December 11

Some Iranian political and religious figures are debating the use of the death penalty against arrested protesters. Various reformist leaders, Qom seminary officials, and prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid, among others, have separately criticized death sentences for arrested protesters in recent days. These officials were responding to the Judiciary executing a protester on December 8 for the first time since the Mahsa Amini protests began. The Judiciary has sentenced at least 10 other arrested protesters to death thus far. No senior official involved in issuing and implementing the death sentences has voiced opposition to them, however, indicating that the regime will likely continue the executions.

Iran Crisis Update, December 10

The Iranian regime is using protester executions to instill terror among the population. The Judiciary upheld a death sentence for 23-year-old Mahan Sadrat Madani on December 10. The regime charged Madani with "waging war against God” after he was arrested for brandishing a knife and protesting. The regime has set this low standard for the death penalty because of how easily protesters can identify with Madani and the nine other demonstrators currently on death row. Iranian authorities likely intend these executions to deter further protest turnout. This approach could easily backfire on the regime, however. Many protesters will likely sympathize with Madani and the others on death row, possibly inciting further popular unrest.

Iran Crisis Update, December 8

The Iranian regime executed a protester on December 8 for the first time since the Mahsa Amini protests began. The Judiciary announced the execution of 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari after convicting him of “waging war against God.” Security forces arrested Shekari for blocking a road and attacking a security officer with a machete during protests in Tehran in September 2022.

Iran Crisis Update, December 5

Protest activity and strikes in Iran increased significantly on December 5—in line with the calls from protest coordinators and organizations for countrywide demonstrations until December 7. These strikes are the most reported in a single day since CTP began publishing daily updates on September 28. This dramatic increase in public expressions of dissent will likely continue until at least December 7. The latest protest activity and strikes highlight once again the capability of the protest coordinators and organizations to generate countrywide demonstrations against the regime—even after a few days of reduced protests and strikes.

Iran Crisis Update, December 2

The Mashhad Neighborhood Youth issued further instructions for the planned protests on December 5-7. The Mashhad group called for street protests on December 5, protests moving toward and occupying government buildings on December 6, and countrywide protests and marches in solidarity with university students on December 7. These instructions partially mirror those distributed by the Tehran Neighborhood Youth, which similarly differentiated planned protest activities by day, as CTP previously reported.

Iran Crisis Update, December 1

Protesters in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province rhetorically defended prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid against the regime on December 1, underscoring the dilemma the regime faces in its protest crackdown. Protesters gathered and erected a large poster of Abdol Hamid in a city square. The poster read that Abdol Hamid is the protesters’ “red line,” implying that they will not tolerate the regime arresting him or suppressing his message. The protesters may be responding to the purported internal regime memo that the Black Reward hacker group released on November 30. The memo reported that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tried to discredit and threatened to arrest Abdol Hamid for his role in inspiring protests, although CTP cannot verify these claims. Abdol Hamid’s message is seemingly resonating with a growing number of Iranians, especially in the Iranian Sunni community. Any regime action to silence him risks inflaming protests and anti-regime frustrations further. The regime may target individuals close to Abdol Hamid as a less escalatory step to silence him. The protestors today posed an additional dilemma for the regime, however, since failure to act against Abdol Hamid after the erection of the poster could make it appear that the regime was daunted by the protester threats and thus encourage similar defiance and threats elsewhere.

Iran Crisis Update, November 29

Some Iranian protesters celebrated the US victory over Iran in the World Cup on November 29. Iranians in Alborz, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, and Tehran provinces, among other locations, cheered and gathered during and after the match in opposition to the Iranian national team. Some reportedly launched fireworks in Saghez, Kurdistan Province after the American team scored a goal. CTP cannot assess how widespread this sentiment may be among Iranian protesters, but the reported celebrations indicate how politicized the Iranian national soccer team has become among at least some protesters. Iranian citizens cheering a US victory over Iran underscores the depth of popular frustration against the regime.

Iran Crisis Update, November 28

Social media users circulated calls for protests following the US-Iran world cup match on November 29 although it is unclear to what extent these demonstrations will materialize. Some protest organization groups and other prominent social media users circulated calls for protests on November 29, possibly in an attempt to coopt or challenge pro-regime celebrations on city streets. Some social media users disagreed with the November 29 call to protests and highlighted pre-organized protests scheduled for December 5-7. Another anti-regime social media user circulated ways to support the protest movement until demonstrations resume on December 5, further suggesting that protesters remain focused on unrest planned for December 5-7. The Neighborhood Youth of Karaj protest organization similarly alluded to requiring more time to reinforce its organizational capabilities and supplies before protests resume on December 5, as CTP previously reported. Recent social media activity from groups purporting to be protest organizations suggest diverging approaches to coordinating unrest, one of which calls for large crowds and emphasizes continuous protest activity, the other of which seemingly requires more time and preparation. This rhetorical schism could indicate that protest organization groups remain primarily local and lack a coherent, nation-wide structure.