January 09, 2023

Iran Crisis Update, January 9, 2023

January 9, 2023, 5:00 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.

Protest coordinators and organizations may have successfully deterred the judiciary from executing two arrested protesters in Iran on January 9. Social media accounts reported that the judiciary transferred these two protesters to solitary confinement at the Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj with imminent plans to execute them.[i] Citizens gathered outside the prison in the early morning hours of January 9 after protest organizers called for snap demonstrations there.[ii] The regime later denied that it planned to execute the protesters on January 9 but defended the death sentences.[iii] Persian-language social media accounts asserted that the snap demonstrations prevented the regime from conducting the executions.[iv] CTP cannot confirm whether the snap demonstrations actually delayed the executions, but their perceived success may encourage protest groups to organize additional gatherings outside prisons where arrested protesters are held.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to use rhetoric that suggests he is not amenable to any meaningful political or social reform in Iran. Khamenei denied that the regime was responsible for the protests and instead blamed the West exclusively in a speech in Qom on January 9.[v] He repeated his accusation that the US and European countries use information operations and propaganda to incite unrest. Khamenei acknowledged that the regime faces economic challenges but alleged that protesters used economic and political grievances as excuses to try to “destroy the strength of the country.” His rhetoric in this speech was particularly harsh compared to other recent speeches. Khamenei has previously drawn a rhetorical line between peaceful protesters and “rioters.”[vi] Khamenei did not repeat this rhetorical dichotomy in his most recent speech and only stated that all rioters are “treasonous.” CTP has previously argued that Khamenei and his inner circle continue to misdiagnose the core problems driving the protests.[vii] They have defined the unrest as a sociocultural and religious issue and seem to believe that the solution is trying to further ideologize the population. Khamenei reiterated his endorsement for this approach in his speech on January 9.

The regime is having tone-deaf conversations on women’s rights with itself, highlighting that many officials have not internalized core protester grievances. Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei and Saeid Jalili—a senior adviser to Khamenei—separately argued on January 9 that the regime is a strong proponent of gender equality and women’s rights.[viii] Ejei asserted that the mandatory hijab law empowers women. Jalili stated that the regime should promote its version of these values in its foreign policy. Another senior judicial official claimed at a ceremony honoring women’s achievements on January 9 that the West has conspired to raise marriage ages and thus reduce how many children women have as part of an effort to depress population growth in Iran.[ix] Kayhan—a hardline media outlet—finally argued on January 8 that women refusing to wear hijabs would lead to infidelity from their partners and thus damage families.[x] These statements underscore how many regime officials largely view the role of women in Iranian society through the lens of marriage and motherhood rather than as individuals with an inherent right to the personal freedoms and liberties for which the protesters have been calling.

Khamenei likely dismissed Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari as law enforcement commander due to Khamenei’s dissatisfaction with the performance of the Law Enforcement Command in responding to the protests. Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan to replace Ashtari as law enforcement commander on January 7.[xi] Ashtari stated on January 9 that he “apologize[s] to the people and supreme leader for all shortcomings.”[xii] Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri stated on January 9 that Ashtari will now serve as his personal adviser for security and law enforcement affairs.[xiii]

Key Takeaways

  • Protest coordinators and organizations may have successfully deterred the judiciary from executing two arrested protesters in Iran.
  • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to use rhetoric that suggests he is not amenable to any meaningful political or social reform in Iran.
  • The regime is having tone-deaf conversations on women’s rights with itself, highlighting that many officials have not internalized core protester grievances.
  • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei likely dismissed Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari as law enforcement commander due to Khamenei’s dissatisfaction with the performance of the Law Enforcement Command in responding to the protests.
  • At least two protests occurred in two cities across two provinces in Iran.
  • Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid tweeted criticizing how the judiciary has handled the legal cases of arrested protesters.
  • The judiciary sentenced three protesters to death.

Anti-Regime Protests

At least two protests occurred in two cities across two provinces in Iran on January 9. CTP assesses with moderate to high confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Karaj, Alborz Province[xiv]

  • Size: Small to medium
  • Regime Repression: Internet outages
  • Notes: Protesters demonstrated in the early morning hours against the reportedly imminent execution of two arrested protesters outside of the Rajaei Shahr prison

Boukan, West Azerbaijan Province[xv]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Mourners
  • Protester Activity: 40-day ceremony for a killed protester

NOTE: CTP defines small protests as fewer than 100 individuals, medium protests as between 100 and 1,000, and large protests as over 1,000.

Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid tweeted on January 9 criticizing how the judiciary has handled the legal cases of arrested protesters.[xvi] Abdol Hamid stated that the snap demonstrations outside the Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj indicate that many citizens believe that the regime has unjustly imprisoned these individuals.

The judiciary sentenced three protesters to death on January 9.[xvii] The judiciary convicted each of “waging war against God.” Iranian state media reported that the protesters shot and killed security officers in Esfahan. The Iranian Supreme Court can appeal these death sentences.

Expediency Discernment Council member Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam criticized the Raisi administration for lacking the necessary competency and strategy for solving economic issues on January 9.[xviii] The Expediency Discernment Council is a quasi-legislative regime body responsible for arbitrating disagreements between Parliament and the Guardian Council. Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei have indicated in recent days possible doubts that President Ebrahim Raisi can improve the economic situation as well.[xix]

Axis of Resistance and Regional Developments

There was nothing significant to report today.


[i] https://twitter.com/javanane_t/status/1612214881402372097?s=20&t=b1f4aHt5poabEywTFm6sRg; https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-january-8

[ii] https://twitter.com/javanane_k/status/1612199261143461888?s=20&t=GqMa6gJ4AgWrDqqjLb_LCA

[iii] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/10/19/2834499

[iv] https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1612368804427841537?s=20&t=GqMa6gJ4AgWrDqqjLb_LCA; https://twitter.com/HosseinQashqaei/status/1612384808688050176?s=20&t=GqMa6gJ4AgWrDqqjLb_LCA; https://twitter.com/HumanSelection/status/1612461566800310272

[v] https://www.leader dot ir/fa/content/26237/دیدار-مردم-قم-به-مناسبت-سالروز-قیام-۱۹-دی-۱۳۵۶

[vi] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-november-19#_ednbf09d11b6d0e7f4306adab0a3c40ddc6f24709ba2957fcf3dc48c3f220e9fef015

[vii] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-december-18

[viii] https://isna dot ir/xdN6xH; https://www.eghtesadnews dot com/%D8%A8%D8%AE%D8%B4-%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%DB%8C-57/547442-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%B3%D8%B9%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%AC%D9%84%DB%8C%D9%84%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B4%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B2%D9%86-%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%AF%DA%AF%DB%8C-%D8%A2%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%AF%DB%8C

[ix] https://www.ilna dot ir/fa/tiny/news-1318089

[x] www.kayhan dot ir/fa/news/257533

[xi] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-january-7-2023

[xii] www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/710051

[xiii] https://defapress dot ir/566393

[xiv] https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1612267110071164929?s=20&t=5x6rvAyZWv0Z3rUF7fzjBQ; https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1612255125183123461?s=20&t=5x6rvAyZWv0Z3rUF7fzjBQ; https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1612253805256507393?s=20&t=5x6rvAyZWv0Z3rUF7fzjBQ; https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1612252020374736897?s=20&t=5x6rvAyZWv0Z3rUF7fzjBQ; https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1612249988293169154?s=20&t=5x6rvAyZWv0Z3rUF7fzjBQ ; https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1612288298759725059?s=20&t=eu4Fo_HXHy66tCELprZb7g

[xv] https://twitter.com/RadioFarda_/status/1612440228265869312?s=20&t=8rvXMgLzvoX5c2cUiMexPw; https://twitter.com/iranworkers/status/1612450995283312642?s=20&t=5x6rvAyZWv0Z3rUF7fzjBQ ; https://twitter.com/KurdistanHRN/status/1612449824330362882?s=20&t=SNp8hGWeic9C7XRxz0mnOg ; https://twitter.com/iranwire/status/1612542347924873256?s=20&t=SNp8hGWeic9C7XRxz0mnOg

[xvi] https://twitter.com/AbdolhamidNet/status/1612454245164544001?s=20&t=5x6rvAyZWv0Z3rUF7fzjBQ

[xvii] https://www.ilna dot ir/fa/tiny/news-1317756

[xviii] www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/710043

[xix] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-january-3-2023

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