October 31, 2022
Iran Crisis Updates, October 2022
This page collects 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) for October 2022. CTP and ISW began publishing daily updates in September 2022 covering key events related to supreme leader succession, the Mahsa Amini protests, and regional developments. Full list of Iran crisis updates are available here.
October 31, 2022 | 5:00 PM ET
The regime has begun indicting and sentencing arrested protesters as part of the increasingly harsh and uncompromising stance that the regime has adopted toward the ongoing protests. Tehran Provincial Chief Justice Ali al Ghasi Mehr announced the indictment of around 1,000 protesters on October 31. Shiraz Provincial Chief Justice Asadollah Jafari announced the indictment of 70 protesters, six of whom the regime has already found guilty. Mehr and Jafari both noted that the judiciary will open protester trials to the public. The regime will likely use these show trials to make an example of some arrested protesters and deter future demonstrations. If the regime shows trials, convictions, and then death sentences of teenagers, it may further fuel rather than diminish enthusiasm for demonstrations.
Regime officials have begun using increasingly harsh rhetoric toward the protests, framing the demonstrations and the Shiraz terror attack as connected and parts of the Western-led hybrid war against Iran. Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei stated that individuals who participate in multiple protests are “in the enemy’s ranks” and thus subject to more severe sentences on October 31. Ejei ordered the judiciary to work with media services to identify individuals who attend multiple protests. Ejei did not provide a legal basis for this new standard of evidence, suggesting that the judiciary will prosecute some protesters as foreign agents under the presumption of guilt. Hardline parliamentarian Brigadier General Mohammad Esmail Kowsari threatened that the regime will intensify its crackdown on October 31. Kowsari is a retired Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officer who has historically supported and overseen brutal crackdowns on protesters.
The regime is increasing its outreach to university students to placate student protesters. Parliament Speaker (and former IRGC Brigadier General) Mohammad Bagheri Ghalibaf met with university students to solicit criticisms and feedback on October 31. Ghalibaf stated his intent to hold such a meeting again. Iranian state media reported that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will meet with university students on November 2 as well. Khamenei will likely use the meeting to affirm the importance of students to the country and reiterate his harsh stance on the protests. These meetings come after Raisi administration spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi visited universities on October 24 and 25 to discuss popular grievances, as CTP previously reported. Students heckled and chanted anti-regime slogans at Jahromi on both dates.
- Regime officials have begun indicting and sentencing arrested protesters as part of the increasingly harsh and uncompromising stance that the regime has adopted toward the ongoing protests.
- Regime officials have begun using increasingly harsh rhetoric toward the protests, framing the demonstrations and the Shiraz terror attack as connected and part of the Western-led hybrid war against Iran.
- At least 30 anti-regime protests occurred in 17 cities in 14 provinces.
- Parliamentarian Mehdi Bagheri stated that the Law Enforcement Command (LEC) is not currently operating the guidance patrol (morality patrol) because of manpower shortages.
- Medical professionals in Kurdistan Province condemned the regime crackdown on October 31, according to unverified social media reports.
- Reformist-affiliated Ham Miham newspaper published an article calling on LEC officers to protect Iranian protesters from the LEC Special Units—the regime’s highly trained, anti-riot police.
October 30, 2022 | 5:00 PM ET
The regime is escalating its protest crackdown in a way that could fuel an enduring and increasingly violent uprising against the political establishment. Protests continued on October 30 despite the call from Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Hossein Salami for the immediate end of protests on October 29.[i] Protest organizations have called for more demonstrations from November 1-3.[ii] The regime will likely intensify its crackdown further in the coming days as protests continue. Such an escalation will likely cause protesters to either stop demonstrating or escalate further themselves in response.
Protesters are developing the infrastructure necessary to stage a protracted struggle against the regime. NBC News reported on October 29 that protesters have established an informal medical care network for injured demonstrators—another sign of the growing coordination and organization within the movement.[iii] Physicians are treating injured protesters in private homes so that protesters can avoid clinics and hospitals. Security forces have denied medical care to some injured protesters and used hospitals to identify and track them.[iv] The Tehran Neighborhood Youth published a statement praising medical professionals who joined the protests on October 30.[v] CTP has previously reported on protesters’ impressive ability to coordinate large-scale demonstrations on specific dates and organize militant tactics against security forces.[vi] The formation of an informal medical network could facilitate other forms of logistical cooperation among disaffected citizens.
The regime’s increasing violence against university and high school students will likely entrench anti-regime sentiments among its young population, which will likely last for decades. Security forces continued using violence against students for the second consecutive day on October 30, clashing with students and firing live ammunition in one instance.[vii] Security forces violently arrested students and injured high schoolers on October 12, 24, 29, as CTP previously reported.[viii] Amnesty International reported that Iranian security personnel killed at least 23 children in the Mahsa Amini protests on October 13, a figure that has almost certainly grown in recent days.[ix] This repression will likely alienate these youth from the regime for most if not all of their lives.
Repressing children may decrease the willingness of some security officers to continue cracking down, on the other hand. Less ideological security personnel may struggle to sustain this level of violence against children. CTP has not yet observed indications of insubordination among security personnel in recent days and will continue to update this assessment. The regime appears concerned about the morale of its security forces, however. Parliament approved a motion to increase the salary of military and security personnel by 20 percent on October 30, likely to mitigate the risk of defections and insubordination among the security forces.[x]
- The regime may inadvertently push the ongoing protests to become an enduring uprising against the political establishment.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 22 cities in 15 provinces.
- Unidentified individuals killed a Law Enforcement Command officer in Iranshahr, Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
- The IRGC Intelligence Organization arrested three individuals who were preparing Molotov cocktails in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province.
October 29, 2022 | 6:00 PM ET
IRGC Commander Hossein Salami set conditions to violently escalate the suppression of ongoing, anti-regime demonstrations on October 29. Salami described the Shah Cheragh Shrine attack in Shiraz on October 26 as an extension of Western-led anti-regime protests. Salami called protestors a deluded minority and threatened to kill people who continue to participate in demonstrations.[i] Salami claimed that protestors lacked humanity or souls later that day.[ii] IRGC-affiliated entities similarly linked anti-regime protests to the Shiraz attack. Student Basij chanted “death to rioters” at government-organized rallies for Shiraz victims, and IRGC-affiliated media commissioned graphic art which depicted the protests as a cover for ISIS on October 29.[iii]
Increased IRGC calls to crack down on protesters coincide with increased reports of security force violence at university protests on October 29. Social media users reported that Iranian security personnel violently arrested several university student protesters in Esfahan, Khuzestan, and Khorasan Razavi Provinces and shot at high school student protesters in Kurdistan Province on October 29.[iv] Other reports suggest that Iranian authorities barricaded student protesters in campus buildings in Lorestan and Tehran Provinces.[v] Iranian security personnel additionally fired live ammunition at medical students protesting in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province, causing several casualties.[vi]
Iranian protesters are reclaiming motifs historically leveraged by the regime, like martyrdom, to reinvigorate anti-regime demonstrations. Funerals and ceremonies commemorating protesters killed by Iranian security personnel have generated significant protest activity in recent 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.[vii] Large crowds have similarly gathered to commemorate killed protesters on October 27, 28, and 29.[viii] Hundreds of protesters chanted anti-regime slogans at the funeral of Mehrshad Shahidi in Markazi Province and at the 40th day commemoration ceremonies of Minou Majidi and Reza Shahparnia in Kermanshah Province on October 29.[ix] Shahparnia’s father 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.”[x] Social media users are also increasingly describing killed protesters as martyrs.[xi] Protesters’ use of ”martyr” to describe their comrades killed by the regime has increased after the regime attempted to repurpose the protest chant ”woman, life, freedom” into ”woman, life, martyrdom” at pro-regime rallies and as the regime has begun to describe those killed in the Shiraz attack as martyrs.
A leaked Iranian government report and chants observed in anti-regime demonstrations suggest that protesters are increasingly willing to risk arrest, and possibly death, to incite political change. Anti-regime outlet IranWire reported that most arrested protesters told authorities that they sought to overthrow the Islamic Republic, citing a classified Iranian government report.[xii] The report allegedly identified the average age of arrested protesters as 17 and assessed that anti-regime demonstrations would continue. The report supposedly added that most protesters told interrogators that they had nothing to lose.[xiii] That comment could reflect frustration with endemic economic problems in Iran, but could also reflect a change in the attitude of young Iranians that should worry the regime. Anti-regime slogans documented in recent weeks reflect a similar willingness to risk arrest and death in order to facilitate change. Protesters have been documented chanting slogans like ”we will fight, we will die, we will take Iran back,” and ”this is the year of blood, Khamenei will be overthrown” in recent weeks.[xiv] These chants suggest that regime may have succeeded in its efforts to make Iranians more willing to sacrifice their lives...but not for the regime.
- IRGC Commander Hossein Salami set conditions to violently escalate the suppression of ongoing, anti-regime demonstrations on October 29.
- Social media users documented increased reports of security forces violence at university protests on October 29.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 22 cities in 14 provinces on October 29.
- Anti-regime outlet IranWire reported that most arrested protesters told authorities that they sought to overthrow the Islamic Republic, citing a classified Iranian government report.
- Iranian protesters were documented chanting slogans questioning ISIS’ responsibility for the October 26 Shiraz attack.
- Iraqi proxy Telegram channels repeated regime narratives blaming Saudi Arabia for the October 26 Shah Cheragh Shrine attack.
October 28, 2022 | 6:00 PM ET
Iranian security personnel fired live ammunition and tear gas at anti-regime demonstrators in Zahedan, Sistan Baluchistan Province on October 28 as protesters commemorated the regime’s brutal crackdown there four weeks earlier. Iranian security forces may have deployed snipers to help violently suppress dissent. Iranian social media users reported that security forces killed at least two protesters-- possibly including a 12-year-old boy--although the true figure is likely higher. Cybersecurity watchdog NetBlocks confirmed severe internet disruptions in Zahedan on October 28. Protests likely commenced during Friday prayer sermons at the Makki Grand Mosque in Zahedan, where hundreds of worshippers gathered to commemorate the regime’s violent September 30 crackdown on anti-regime demonstrations. Some worshippers carried signs with slogans unique to the Mahsa Amini protest wave, including ”woman, life, freedom.” Online footage shows significant crowds participating in anti-regime protests throughout the city later that day. Anti-regime demonstrations in Zahedan may become increasingly common on Fridays as residents seek to commemorate protesters killed by regime security personnel.
Uncorroborated reports suggest that Iranian authorities may seek to arrest senior Iranian Sunni cleric Maulvi Abdol Hamid, who has become increasingly critical of the regime in recent weeks. Abdol Hamid and regime officials have rhetorically clashed in recent days over the regime’s brutal protest crackdown in Zahedan, as CTP previously reported. Large crowds purportedly gathered in the vicinity of the Makki Grand Mosque to preemptively condemn or prevent Abdol Hamid’s arrest on October 28. Abdol Hamid’s arrest would likely stoke further anti-regime sentiment and unrest among Zahedan residents and possibly the broader Iranian Sunni community.
- Demonstrations in Zahedan may become increasingly common on Fridays as residents seek to commemorate protesters killed by regime security personnel.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 23 cities in 11 provinces on October 28.
- Mahabad protesters are employing increasingly organized and militant tactics to resist regime attempts to suppress demonstrations, including creating durable barricades.
- Iranian intelligence organizations published a joint statement blaming ongoing unrest on the US and its allies.
- Unverified reports claimed that Iranian officials and their families are attempting to flee the country.
- Iranian proxy media amplified pro-regime demonstrations in a likely attempt to deflect attention from ongoing unrest.
October 27, 2022 | 8:00 pm ET
Protesters are establishing routines for when they protest and how they prepare. Protesters have established a routine of demonstrating on Wednesdays and Saturdays.[i] CTP has consistently documented increased protest activity on these days in recent weeks.[ii] Some Iranians have established routines of barricading streets ahead of protests.[iii] University students are increasingly engaging in regular and sustained acts of defiance such as boycotting gender segregation in educational facilities, especially on days when there are few other protests across Iran.[iv] These sustained protest patterns are facilitating coordination and pose an enduring threat to the regime and its security forces.
Iran may attack US, Israeli, or Saudi interests and targets in retaliation for the Shiraz attack. Senior Iranian political and security leaders blamed the Shiraz attack on Iran’s enemies, specifically the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, and vowed to retaliate on October 27. These officials include Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri, and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Hossein Salami, among others.[v] Khamenei’s senior military adviser, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, framed the attack and protests as part of the US-Israeli-Saudi effort to destabilize the Islamic Republic.[vi]
Bagheri and Raisi argued that the protests enabled the Shiraz attack, indicating that the regime may intensify its crackdown.[vii] This rhetoric matches the statements from Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf on October 26, as CTP previously reported.[viii]
IRGC-affiliated media suggested that the individual who attacked the Shiraz shrine was Afghan, building on the narrative that the attacker was an Islamic State member. IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency reported that the attacker was 23-year-old Hamid Badakhshan on October 27.[ix] The last name implies that he was from Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan, although the name could be an adopted pseudonym. It is unclear whether this reporting is accurate. The Islamic State Khorasan Province—the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan—expressed support for the protesters on October 26.[x]
Protest activity will likely increase in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province on October 28, marking four weeks since the regime’s brutal crackdown there on September 30.[xi] Large crowds are already reportedly gathering around the Makki Grand Mosque in Zahedan in anticipation of planned protests on October 28.[xii]
Senior Iranian Sunni cleric Maulvi Abdol Hamid and other local clerics may play an increasingly prominent role in leading protests in Zahedan. Abdol Hamid and regime officials have rhetorically clashed in recent days over the regime’s brutal protest crackdown in Zahedan, as CTP previously reported.[xiii] Another Iranian Sunni cleric in Zahedan, Abdol Ghaffar Naghshbandi, called on other Sunni clerics to clarify their stance on the protests on October 27.[xiv]
The regime is likely deploying security forces to Zahedan to preempt the protests and prepare to crack down. Social media accounts reported that anti-riot and military forces deployed in Zahedan on October 27.[xv] Anti-regime outlet Iran International reported that some of these security forces transferred to Zahedan from neighboring Kerman Province.[xvi] The regime shuffles its elite security forces around the country to where they are needed most during mass unrest.[xvii]
The Sistan and Baluchistan Provincial Security Council fired the Law Enforcement Command’s Zahedan commander and 16 of his subordinates on October 27.[xviii] Iranian regime-affiliated media described the dismissal as the culmination of an investigation into Iranian security forces’ brutal suppression of September 30 protests in Zahedan.[xix] One Iranian outlet acknowledged that clashes between provincial LEC officers and armed gunmen resulted in the casualties and deaths of several bystanders, including worshippers at a local mosque, citing official legal documents.[xx]
- Protesters are increasingly establishing routines for when they protest and how they prepare.
- Iran may attack US, Israeli, or Saudi interests and targets in retaliation for the Shiraz attack.
- Senior Iranian leaders argued that the protests enabled the Shiraz attack, indicating that the regime may intensify its crackdown.
- IRGC-affiliated media suggested that the individual who attacked the Shiraz shrine was Afghan, building on the narrative that the attacker was an Islamic State member.
- Protest activity will likely increase in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province on October 28, marking four weeks since the regime’s brutal crackdown there on September 30.
- The Sistan and Baluchistan Provincial Security Council fired the Law Enforcement Command’s Zahedan commander and 16 of his subordinates.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 23 cities in 12 provinces.
- At least 100 mourners and protesters gathered in Veysian, Lorestan Province to commemorate the 40th day since the regime killed Nika Shakarami.
- Thirty-six security forces members have been killed in the ongoing protests as of October 27.
- The Islamic Propaganda Coordination Council called for countrywide, pro-regime protests on October 28 to condemn the US and Israel for their alleged roles in stoking the protests.
October 26, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
The ongoing, anti-regime protests in Iran expanded significantly on October 26, occurring in at least 33 cities in 23 provinces. These protests are the most reported in a single day since CTP began publishing daily protest updates on September 28. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets to commemorate the 40th day since the regime killed Mahsa Amini. Protesters shot and killed an IRGC intelligence officer in Maleyer, Hamedan Province, raising the death toll of security forces members to at least 33 since this protest wave began on September 16.
The largest gathering occurred in Saghez, Kurdistan Province—Mahsa Amini’s hometown and resting place. Iranian state media reported that around 10,000 individuals gathered in Saghez to commemorate Mahsa Amini, although the actual number could be higher. The regime blocked roads around Saghez to prevent protests. Videos on social media depict mourners and protesters traveling on foot to the cemetery in Saghez, walking along roads and through fields. Security forces attacked and arrested protesters at the cemetery.
Protest organizations have called on disaffected citizens to sustain this large-scale turnout daily. Some protest organizations have called for demonstrators to commemorate on October 27 the 40th day since Nika Shakarami died. These protest organizations have also noted that Cyrus the Great Day is October 29—another date around which protesters could rally. The regime has long sought to incorporate historical Persian nationalism into its ideology, and protest calls such as this one are part of an effort to reclaim pride in Persian history for the anti-regime movement.
The regime will likely exploit a militant attack on a Shia shrine in Shiraz, Fars Province to deflate the protests. At least one gunman entered the Shah Cheragh Mosque in Shiraz and shot worshippers on October 26, killing around 15 and injuring around 40, according to Iranian state media. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack although it is very unlikely that the Islamic State was directly involved in it.
The regime will use this attack to redirect Iranian public attention away from the protests and channel anger toward foreign adversaries such as the Islamic State and Saudi Arabia. Outlets affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) reported that the gunman was a non-Iranian Wahhabist. An IRGC-affiliated journalist claimed that Saudi Arabia ordered the attack and called on the IRGC to retaliate. The regime may attack Islamic State positions abroad or Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the militant attack in Shiraz. The regime conducted ballistic missile attacks against Islamic State targets in eastern Syria after the group claimed responsibility for attacks in Iran in June 2017 and September 2018. The regime could do so again to draw public attention away from the protests. The regime also seeks to retaliate against Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in stoking the protests as CTP previously reported.
The regime may also use this attack to justify more violent protest suppression. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf accused protesters of enabling anti-regime militants to conduct the attack.
The Islamic State is trying to capitalize on the shrine attack and protests to stoke instability and sectarian conflict in Iran. The Islamic State likely claimed responsibility for the attack opportunistically without having ordered or directly enabled it. The attack does not match the typical Islamic State attack pattern, suggesting that the group may not have explicitly directed the attack. The attacker was not wearing a suicide vest and was captured wounded but alive--a very unusual occurrence for Islamic State terrorists. Islamic State statements claiming credit for the attack were also confused, offered no details other than those already available in the media when they were released and lacked the specificity that is common in claims of credit for attacks that the Islamic State actually directs. The Islamic State has previously claimed attacks opportunistically such as the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017. The Islamic State Khorasan Province expressed support for protesters fighting the regime on October 26 as well likely to further stoke sectarian divides. The effort to fuel sectarian violence has been a hallmark of the Islamic State and its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, distinguishing it from al Qaeda affiliates that are usually more reluctant to stoke sectarian hostilities directly.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated that Russia may be advising the Iranian regime’s protest crackdown on October 26. Moscow has extensive experience in protest crackdowns domestically and abroad. The Kremlin advised and supported the suppression of protests in Belarus in late 2020 and Kazakhstan in early 2022. Russian security personnel participated directly in both of those crackdowns, but CTP has not yet observed indications that Russians are in Iran actively helping the regime crack down at the moment.
- The ongoing, anti-regime protests in Iran expanded significantly on October 26, occurring in at least 33 cities in 23 provinces.
- The regime will likely exploit a militant attack on a Shia shrine in Shiraz, Fars Province to contain the protests.
- The Islamic State is trying to capitalize on the shrine attack and protests to stoke instability and sectarian conflict in Iran.
- US officials stated that Russia may be advising the Iranian regime’s protest crackdown.
- IRGC-affiliated media continued to spread disinformation to downplay protests and discredit frustrated citizens.
October 25, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
Protest activity will likely increase—possibly significantly—on October 26 to commemorate the 40th day since the regime killed Mahsa Amini. Protest organizations such as the neighborhood youth groups have continued to call for countrywide demonstrations on October 26. Many protest organizations continue to use revolutionary rhetoric in describing the planned demonstrations. Iranians commonly hold a commemoration on the 40th day after a death. Anti-regime protests similarly erupted 40 days after security forces killed Neda Agha Soltan—a young Iranian protester—during the Green Movement in 2009. Security forces killed Agha Soltan on June 20, 2009, and the commemoration was on July 30, 2009.
The regime has likely prepared to preempt and crush the planned protests on October 26, especially given their potential to strengthen the protest movement. The regime will likely disrupt internet services and telecommunications in the early morning throughout Iran to stymie protester coordination and organization. The regime will also likely deploy security forces ostentatiously throughout major cities to deter and intimidate demonstrators and use force if the protests gain traction.
Protesters may coordinate further demonstrations against the Islamic Republic for the 40-day commemorations of other secular martyrs, such as Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmail Zadeh, in this protest movement. Forty days after Shakarami disappeared is October 30, and 40 days after Esmail Zadeh died is November 2.
- Protest activity will likely increase—possibly significantly—on October 26 to commemorate the 40th day since the regime killed Mahsa Amini.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 13 cities in 11 provinces.
- University students heckled a senior Raisi administration official attempting to engage student protesters for the second consecutive day.
- The IRGC announced that unidentified militants killed one IRGC member and one Basij member in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
October 24 | 6:00 pm ET
Some Iranian social media users are invoking the November 2019 gasoline protests as the ongoing, anti-regime protests enter the Persian calendar month of Aban (October 23-November 21, 2022). Some Persian-language accounts have described the ongoing protests as the continuation of the gasoline protests, which are often referred to as the Aban protests since they occurred primarily from November 15-19, 2019. Estimates of civilians killed by the state security services in November 2019 range from 304 to 1,500.
Iranian security forces reportedly searched and beat several students attending the Sadr vocational high school in Tehran on October 24. The Education Ministry denied reports of violent clashes between security forces and students but acknowledged that school faculty searched and seized some students’ cellphones and that some students experienced blood pressure drops and required medical attention. The Education Ministry and the Law Enforcement Command (LEC) denied reports of student deaths. The LEC blamed reports of unrest on clashes between ”thugs” in the vicinity of the Sadr high school. Anti-regime outlet Iran International reported a heavy security presence at the Loghman hospital in Tehran, where a Sadr student is reportedly being treated after she was hospitalized for her injuries.
University students chanted anti-regime slogans at a senior Raisi administration official attempting to engage student protestors on October 24. Raisi Administration Spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi gave a speech at the Khajeh Nasir Tousi University of Technology in Tehran but left the premises after students continued to chant anti-regime slogans during his address. President Ebrahim Raisi had previously endorsed engaging with disaffected students on October 23.
- Some Iranian social media users are invoking the November 2019 gasoline protests as the ongoing, anti-regime protests enter the Persian calendar month of
- Iranian security forces reportedly searched and beat several students attending the Sadr vocational high school in Tehran
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 17 cities in 11 provinces.
- Iranian teachers continued to strike in solidarity with student protesters.
- A Tehran water official stated that Tehran Province may face water shortages within the next 100 days.
- An Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Telegram channel advertised a fake VPN service on October 24 likely to monitor and identify protesters trying to circumvent the regime’s internet restrictions.
October 23, 2022 | 4:30 PM ET
Iranian university and high school students are sustaining the momentum of the ongoing anti-regime protest movement, leading the demonstrations into their 37th consecutive day. Iranian students led 15 of 16 documented protests on October 23.[i] Some students are challenging regime regulations within academic spaces. Sharif University students reportedly repelled Iranian security forces trying to enforce gender segregation on campus on October 23, for instance.[ii] The surge in student protest activity on October 23 compared to recent days suggests that students remain capable of successfully coordinating countrywide demonstrations despite intensifying regime censorship and disruptions to telecommunications.
Some Iranian teachers are publicly supporting student protesters. Iranian teachers in at least nine cities in five provinces participated in strikes condemning the regime’s detention of and violence toward high school protesters on October 23.[iii] The Iranian Educators Trade Union Organization called for additional countrywide strikes on October 24.[iv]
Iranian officials are increasingly framing educational institutions as the nuclei of anti-regime sentiment and the ongoing unrest. An Iranian parliamentarian stated that Iran’s enemies are using Iranian schools to foment unrest on October 23, echoing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s address on October 19.[v] Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Hossein Salami similarly framed Iranian schools as an ideological battlefield on October 16.[vi]
A senior Iranian Sunni cleric—Maulvi Abdol Hamid—may emerge as a local protest leader in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province. Abdol Hamid is a historically vocal regime critic and the Sunni religious leader in Zahedan. Abdol Hamid and regime officials have rhetorically clashed in recent days over the regime’s brutal protest crackdown in Zahedan on September 30.[vii] Abdol Hamid criticized Khamenei during a Friday sermon on October 21 after which hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Zahedan.[viii] The IRGC and Interior Ministry separately accused Abdol Hamid of instigating the protests during his sermon.[ix] Abdol Hamid responded to the IRGC and Interior Ministry on October 23, reaffirming his support for the protesters and calling for the arrest of the individuals responsible for the crackdown.[x] Abdol Hamid also criticized President Ebrahim Raisi for ignoring the people’s demands and refusing to sympathize.[xi] Abdol Hamid could instigate future anti-regime demonstrations and sentiment in Zahedan as the countrywide protest wave continues.
- Iranian university and high school students are sustaining the momentum of the ongoing protest movement, leading the demonstrations into their 37th consecutive day.
- A senior Iranian Sunni cleric—Maulvi Abdol Hamid—may emerge as a local protest leader in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 16 cities in 13 provinces.
- Iranian state media and proxy Telegram channels reported that unidentified militants launched four rockets at the al Omar oilfield, which houses US forces, in eastern Syria.
October 22, 2022 | 5:00 PM ET
Anti-regime protests in Iran occurred in at least 24 cities in 18 provinces on October 22—a significant increase from the protest activity in recent days. Protest organizations called for countrywide demonstrations on October 22 as CTP previously reported. Protestors are continuing to organize demonstrations despite ongoing and severe internet and telecommunications censorship. The protest organizations have called for additional demonstrations on October 26—the 40th day since the morality patrol killed Mahsa Amini.
Some marginalized segments of the reformist faction are continuing to criticize the regime crackdown. The reformist son of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani suggested amending the constitution to address popular grievances on October 22. Reformist politician Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi called on the Iranian clerical establishment to publicly support the protesters and condemn crackdowns on October 22. Akhoundi was a senior cabinet official under both Rafsanjani and former President Hassan Rouhani. Akhoundi’s comments follow unconfirmed reports of rifts between the regime and some members of its clerical establishment as CTP previously reported. Persian-language media outlet Zeitoon published a statement allegedly from students and teachers at the Tehran, Mashhad, and Qom seminaries on September 30, condemning Khamenei and the regime crackdown on the protests. Other senior clerics such as Ayatollah Mustafa Mohaghegh Damad, Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani issued statements on criticizing state security services for the death of Mahsa Amini on September 17. One of Iran’s most senior Sunni clerics—Maulvi Abdol Hamid—similarly criticized the regime on October 21 for its brutal suppression of protests in Zahedan on September 30.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 24 cities in 18 provinces on October 22—a significant increase from the protest activity in recent days.
- Some marginalized segments of the reformist faction are continuing to criticize the regime crackdown.
- Anti-regime hacker group Black Reward published 50 gigabytes of documents related to the Iranian nuclear program.
- The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and regime media channels claimed a new separatist movement has formed in Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan region.
October 21, 2022 | 5:30 PM ET
The regime’s use of extreme violence against protesters in Sistan and Baluchistan Province is likely entrenching long-term frustration against the political establishment there. One of Iran’s most senior Sunni clerics—Maulvi Abdol Hamid—criticized the regime on October 21 for its brutal suppression of protests in Zahedan on September 30. Abdol Hamid stated that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was responsible for the crackdown, which may have killed over 90 protesters. Hamid is the Sunni Friday prayer leader in Zahedan. Large-scale protests erupted in Zahedan on October 21 in part to commemorate the three-week anniversary of the crackdown. Salafi jihadi militant group Jaish al Adl published a video on October 20, expressing support for the protesters and threatening to attack the regime, as CTP previously reported. There is no evidence to suggest that Jaish al Adl was involved in the October 21 protests.
- The regime’s use of extreme violence against protesters in Sistan and Baluchistan Province is likely entrenching long-term frustration against the political establishment there.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least three cities in three provinces.
- Unknown hackers claimed to have hacked the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
October 20, 2022 | 4:30 PM ET
Anti-regime protests continued to subside in extent and scale on October 20 but may increase on October 22 and 26. CTP noted protest activity in five cities in five provinces on October 20—a notably low level of protest activity given the calls for protests on October 20 and protesters’ previous successes in coordinating countrywide demonstrations. Protest organizations had called for demonstrations specifically in Ardabil, East Azerbaijan, and Zanjan provinces. Protest organizations have also called for protests throughout Iran on October 22 and 26—the latter being the 40th day since Mahsa Amini died.
The regime may have used the forces it previously mobilized for a military exercise to deter and/or suppress protests in northern Iran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Forces conducted an exercise around the Iran-Azerbaijan border from October 17 to 20 in part to threaten Azerbaijan and also possibly to prepare to suppress nearby protests. Iranian social media users reported severe internet disruptions in Tabriz on October 20. The IRGC military exercises that occurred in the vicinity of Tabriz may have facilitated the regime’s ability to restrict protest organizers’ internet and telecommunication access and establish a security presence in the city. The main IRGC combat elements in the area are the 2nd Imam Zaman Mechanized Brigade and the 31st Ashoura Mechanized Division, which likely participated in the exercise.
- Anti-regime protests continued to subside in extent and scale, occurring in at least five cities in five provinces on October 20.
- Protests may increase on October 22 and 26.
- Salafi Jihadi militant group Jaish al Adl published a video threatening to overthrow the regime and expressing support for Iranian protestors.
October 19, 2022 | 6:00 pm ET
Anti-regime protests have subsided in extent and scale in recent days but may increase on October 20 and 26. Many instances of recent protest activity include fewer than 20 demonstrators and therefore do not meet CTP’s threshold for reporting. The Tehran Neighborhood Youth called for protests on October 22 and October 26, the latter being the 40th day since the Iranian morality patrol killed Mahsa Amini. Iranians commonly hold a commemoration on the 40th day after a person’s death. Protest organizations may seek to use the 40th-day commemoration to reignite widespread demonstrations.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) continued to threaten Azerbaijan militarily for allegedly hosting Israeli intelligence agents on October 19. The IRGC Ground Forces constructed a bridge over the Aras River near the Iran-Azerbaijan border at the end of its three-day military exercise, which began on October 17. IRGC armored and engineering elements crossed the bridge. CTP cannot assess whether IRGC forces entered Azerbaijani territory because the exact location of the exercise is unclear. The IRGC likely sought to use the exercise to signal its capability to attack Azerbaijan and strike targets in Azerbaijani territory, however. CTP previously reported that Iranian officials and state media assert that Israel is using Azerbaijan as an intelligence base to instigate protests. Tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan have flared over Armenia in recent months, which also likely informed the regime decision to conduct the exercise.
- Anti-regime protests have subsided in size and scale in recent days but may increase on October 20 and 26.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 10 cities in 8 provinces on October 19.
- The IRGC continued to threaten Azerbaijan militarily for allegedly hosting Israeli intelligence agents on October 19.
- Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a speech praising Iranian academics in a meeting with Iranian university science students and faculty members on October 19.
- IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency reported that most arrested protestors are younger than 35.
October 18, 2022 | 3:30 PM ET
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s refusal to concede on the mandatory hijab law is likely driving fissures among the political elite. Retired Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) general Hossein Alaei expressed sympathy for some protester grievances and suggested abolishing the morality patrol on October 18.[i] Alaei’s statement follows several moderate and reformist politicians taking similarly sympathetic position in recent days. Three reformists separately proposed reforms to address public frustrations on October 17, as CTP previously reported.[ii] Former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani stated that the Law Enforcement Command (LEC) and Basij Organization should not be responsible for enforcing the mandatory hijab law on October 12.[iii] Khamenei has shown no indication that he will remove the hijab requirement or offer a similar concession to the people and has instead taken a hard line toward the protests in his recent speeches.[iv] Khamenei has thus taken a position that some members of the regime--even the most ideological--may not be willing to defend.
Alaei previously published a letter in 2012 criticizing the regime and Khamenei for repressing the 2009 Green Movement.[v] Senior IRGC commanders responded at the time, condemning Alaei and visiting his home to discuss the letter.[vi] The IRGC leadership seemingly convinced Alaei to stop criticizing the regime and Khamenei publicly, but his latest remarks indicate that he is again breaking from the political and security establishments.
The ongoing crackdown demonstrates how heavily the regime has begun using advanced and emerging technologies to impose social control. The Wall Street Journal reported on October 18 that the regime is using drones to surveil protests and public cameras and food-delivery services to track and identify protesters.[vii] Iranian leaders have built an increasingly adaptive and sophisticated police and surveillance state in recent years to secure their hold on power.[viii] They have observed how technology can secure other autocratic governments, looking to China as a model, and seek to emulate it.[ix] The regime is accordingly developing technologies such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and their national intranet to identify and monitor dissidents and assert greater control over the information space.[x] The regime’s years-long efforts to create these capabilities have shown remarkable limitations in the face of the current protest wave—something these capabilities were explicitly and clearly intended to prevent.
- Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s refusal to concede on the mandatory hijab law is likely driving fissures among the political elite.
- The ongoing crackdown demonstrates how heavily the regime has begun using advanced and emerging technologies to impose social control.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least nine cities in eight provinces.
- Worker strikes expanded to new locations and economic sectors.
- Protest organizations called for demonstrations in West Azerbaijan, Ilam, Kermanshah, and Kurdistan provinces on October 19.
- A Persian-language Telegram account posted instructions for protesters on how to use handguns.
- Iran may attack Saudi Arabia in retaliation for the perceived Saudi role in stoking the protests.
October 17,2022 | 6:30 PM ET
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) began a three-day military exercise along the Iran-Azerbaijan border on October 17 likely to threaten Azerbaijan for allegedly hosting Israeli intelligence agents.[i] The IRGC is using this exercise to demonstrate its capability to attack Azerbaijan and strike targets in Azerbaijani territory. The exercise includes artillery, helicopters, tanks, and missiles.[ii] The IRGC announced plans to practice bridging the river that divides Iran and Azerbaijan for the first time during this exercise.[iii] The IRGC is using the Fateh-360 short-range ballistic missile, which has a reported operational range of 120 kilometers, in this exercise.[iv] IRGC-affiliated media boasted that the IRGC has previously used these missiles for cross-border attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan.[v] An IRGC-affiliated journalist tweeted that the exercise signals the readiness of the IRGC to confront Azerbaijan.[vi]
- The IRGC threatened Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia for their alleged roles in stoking the ongoing, anti-regime protests.
- The IRGC could use the troops it mobilized for the military exercise to violently suppress planned protests in northwestern Iran on October 20.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 10 cities in 9 provinces.
- The New York Times reported that the regime may have deployed special forces from the IRGC Ground Forces in recent days to suppress protests in Tehran and other major cities.
- Several reformist politicians proposed reforms to end the current crisis.
- The Jerusalem Post reported that the IRGC is using members of Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi proxies to suppress protests in Iran, citing unidentified sources.
October 16, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
The IRGC may resume attacks against targets in Iraqi Kurdistan in the coming days. IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) media outlets blamed Kurdish militants’ presence in Iraqi Kurdistan for ongoing, anti-regime protests on October 16. LH-owned Al Ahed News recirculated an IRGC-owned media outlet article that claimed that Mossad agents have been working with Kurdish Komala militants to establish sabotage networks in Iran since 2021. IRGC Telegram channels also posted an October 16 statement from the chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff, Mohammad Bagheri, warning that the IRGC will resume attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan if the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) fails to “deport or disarm the local militias.”
LH and IRGC rhetoric coincide with reports that the KRG refused Iran's demands to disarm and remove anti-Iranian regime militants from Iraqi Kurdistan. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian made the demand in a meeting with KRG Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed in Tehran on October 16. Iran International claimed on October 16 that KRG envoy to Iran Nazim Dabbagh admitted that the KRG had warned anti-regime Kurdish militants prior to IRGC attacks.
Recent progress on forming an Iran-friendly government in Baghdad has lowered the risk that renewed attacks would harm Iran’s political influence over the Iraqi government. The IRGC paused attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan on October 8 likely in part to avoid undermining Iran-aligned Iraqi political factions’ efforts to form a government. Iran-backed political factions made significant progress on government formation by installing officials favored by the Iran-backed Shia Coordination Framework as the new Iraqi president and the new Iraqi Prime Minister on October 13. Newly installed Iraqi Prime Minister and Iran-backed Shia Coordination Framework official Mohammad al-Sudani announced that he expects to finish forming a cabinet weeks ahead of his November 12 deadline.
- The IRGC may resume attacks against on positions in Iraqi Kurdistan in the coming days.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 14 cities in 12 provinces on October 16.
- Iranian state-run outlets have struggled to cohere a unified narrative following reports of violence at Evin Prison in Tehran.
- Iranian security forces are increasingly targeting high schools in an attempt to quell unrest, could reinvigorate ongoing protests.
- Iranian officials are increasingly describing ongoing protests as being revolutionary in nature and acknowledge that recent demonstrations target the foundation of the regime.
October 15, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
A major fire broke out at the Evin prison in Tehran on October 15, and the regime used live rounds and tear gas against prisoners and nearby protestors. Iranian state media made the unsubstantiated claim that inmates started the fire. Regime security forces used violence against prisoners and nearby protesters during the fire. Persian-language social media accounts reported that security forces have blocked roads to the prison and fired live rounds and tear gas. Social media users and western media outlets reported explosions and gunshots around Evin Prison.
The regime uses Evin Prison to hold political prisoners and individuals detained on security-related charges, among others. Prison guards and security officials harshly abuse and mistreat inmates there. The judiciary manages the prison, but the Intelligence and Security Ministry and IRGC Intelligence Organization control some parts of the facility as well. The regime holds several dual nationals at Evin Prison, including US-Iranian citizens Siamak Namazi and Emad Shargi.
Social media users have suggested without substantiation that the regime intentionally started the fire, possibly to justify the killing of arrested protesters at the prison. Yasser Hashemi Rafsanjani—the son of late President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani—claimed that Iranian authorities advised his brother not to return to Evin Prison on October 15 when his brother was scheduled to return from a furlough. CTP cannot validate these rumors.
- A major fire broke out at the Evin prison in Tehran on October 15, and the regime used live rounds and tear gas against prisoners and nearby protestors.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 22 cities in 16 provinces, although this number is almost certainly higher.
- A Persian-language social media account tweeted a political manifesto, calling for a peaceful transition to establish a democratic, secular Iranian government.
- IRGC-affiliated Telegram channels claimed that unidentified militants fired six rockets at the al Omar oilfield, which houses US servicemembers, in eastern Syria.
October 14, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) may be mobilizing retired servicemembers and other affiliated officers to suppress protests in Tehran on October 15. Iran International reported that the IRGC has called on its retirees and other affiliates to report to the Mohammad Rasoul Ollah Corps headquarters—the IRGC unit responsible for security in Tehran Province. The regime is likely preparing for the planned countrywide protests on October 15. Trying to mobilize retirees and other affiliates would indicate that Iranian leaders are increasingly concerned by the mounting unrest.
CTP cannot verify this reporting. Iran International is UK-based and has an explicit anti-regime agenda. Individuals tied to the Saudi royal family reportedly fund it. The report that the IRGC is trying to mobilize retirees and others is consistent with CTP’s previous assessments that Iranian security forces are struggling with bandwidth constraints, exhaustion and low morale.
Demonstrators have killed more Iranian security personnel in the current protest wave than in any previous wave in the regime’s history according to regime statistics. Iranian state media reported that 26 security personnel have died. One IRGC major and one Basij Organization member were killed in Beyram, Fars Province on October 14. The regime claims that protestors killed them. Beyram is a small town in a rural area. The killing of security officers there reflects the expansion of anti-regime violence to small towns deep in Iran in addition to major cities and border regions. The second most deadly wave for regime personnel according to regime statistics was the 2009 Green Movement, during which 23 security officers died.
- The IRGC may be mobilizing retired servicemembers and other affiliated officers to suppress protests in Tehran on October 15.
- Protesters have killed more Iranian security personnel in the current protest wave than in any previous wave in the regime’s history according to regime statistics.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 11 cities in seven provinces.
- Social media accounts that are representing themselves as youth groups organizing and coordinating protests called for countrywide unrest on October 15.
October 13, 2022 | 5:30 PM ET
Expanding protests could strain Iranian state security services beyond their capabilities to respond in the coming days. Anti-regime protest organizations and social media accounts have called for protests in Khuzestan Province on October 14 and throughout the country on October 15. A group called the Youth of the Whole Country, which began tweeting on October 11, has repeated these calls and stated that it seeks to overthrow the regime. The group added that it has coordinated with local protest leaders throughout Iran. Numerous other Persian-language social media accounts with similar naming conventions are circulating on Twitter, claiming to represent Iranian protesters in cities across the country. The Youth of Tehran Neighborhoods tweeted that the October 15 demonstrations will be “the beginning of the end [for the regime].”
CTP cannot verify that the authenticity of these groups or their claims to be leading protests in Iran. The Youth of the Whole Country notably states that its members are inside and outside Iran. These calls for protests on October 14 and 15 will likely bring more Iranians onto the streets in any event.
Such a scenario would strain the regime’s capability to suppress protests in major cities and border regions at the same time. The regime relies on relatively small numbers highly ideologically committed and well-trained security units for protest crackdowns, which introduces a vulnerability in the security apparatus: Iranian leaders do not have enough of these forces to cover all of Iran. The regime has historically shuffled these elite security forces around the country to where they are needed most—typically the restive border regions. The regime has conducted brutal crackdowns on demonstrators in northwestern Kurdistan Province and southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan Province in recent weeks and is likely focused on preventing any insurgent groups from gaining traction in these regions. The regime may face the added pressure of trying to control protests in Khuzestan Province, where anti-regime violence is common, on October 14 and in major cities across Iran on October 15.
Simultaneous protests across Iran—in major cities and the border regions—could overwhelm security forces and prevent them from being able to control demonstrations in some locations. Such a scenario will not likely collapse the regime in itself, but it would certainly pressure it significantly.
- Expanding protests could strain Iranian state security services beyond their capabilities to respond in the coming days
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 17 cities in 12 provinces.
- The Iraqi parliament elected Kurdish compromise candidate Abdul Latif Rashid as president.
October 12, 2022 | 5:00 PM ET
Iranian leadership is still largely speaking to itself rather than to the Iranian people. Iranian officials continue to ignore protester grievances and are instead emphasizing their readiness to brutally crack down. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addressed the protests publicly for the second time on October 12, reiterating his accusation that foreign enemies are responsible for the unrest. He dismissed the protests as minor events. Khamenei did not mention Mahsa Amini or the citizens killed in the protests. Khamenei likely sought to reaffirm to the political and security establishment his approval of the brutal crackdown while portraying strength.
Other Iranian officials are following Khamenei’s lead, ignoring protester grievances and boasting of their tools of repression. President Ebrahim Raisi met with the Supreme Cyberspace Council on October 11 to discuss efforts to develop the national intranet. The regime uses this intranet to substitute for foreign internet services, asserting greater control over the Iranian information space. A senior Law Enforcement Command (LEC) official, Brigadier General Hassan Karami, boasted that the LEC Special Units use miniature drones to track protesters who flee into alleyways. Karami commands the Special Units, which is the LEC’s highly trained, anti-riot force. These units are heavily involved in the ongoing crackdown.
This messaging suggests that the regime will not make concessions to the protesters. This rhetoric will not assuage protester frustrations either. Regime officials may hope that the protests will lose momentum with time and brutality and slowly dissipate, but their actions and failures even to speak to their people directly are more likely to fuel continued unrest.
- Iranian leadership is still largely speaking to itself rather than to the Iranian people.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 29 cities in 18 provinces.
- Protesters continue to demonstrate their capability to coordinate large-scale demonstrations despite expanding regime censorship and increasingly violent suppression.
- Commercial and industrial groups are increasingly attempting to coordinate protests and strikes between cities.
- Iranian proxy media channels in Iraq and Lebanon emphasized anti-West messaging from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s October 12 speech.
October 11, 2022 | 6:00 PM ET
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Iranian regime is amassing military and security forces in Kurdistan Province to violently suppress protests and possibly also to conduct a ground operation into Iraqi Kurdistan. Social media rumors reported on October 10 that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Law Enforcement Command (LEC) have transferred forces from Hamedan, Yazd, and elsewhere to Sanandaj, where the regime is conducting a brutal crackdown. Anti-regime outlet IranWire and a UK-based Sky News journalist reported that the regime is concentrating forces in Kurdistan Province.
CTP cannot verify these reports and advises caution when evaluating these reports in light of the many, often-conflicting, information operations being conducted by the regime and its opponents.
October 10 | 5:00 PM ET
The ongoing, anti-regime protests could interact with and feed off of preexisting insurgencies in Iran. There are at least three active but low-level insurgencies in Iran’s northwestern, southwestern, and southeastern border regions. Iranian Arab, Baloch, and Kurdish militant groups have leveraged economic and political frustrations among marginalized minorities in Iran to fuel these groups’ anti-regime agendas for decades. These groups, which include the Kurdistan Free Life Party and Jaish al Adl, have historically conducted attacks into Iran and clashed with state security services regularly.
The greatest violence in the current protest movement has been in northwestern Kurdistan Province and southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan Province partly because insurgent groups operate in these areas. These groups are likely trying to coopt and stoke the unrest to fight the regime. State security services are using greater force in these areas as well.
Demonstrations in the Iranian heartland may already be approaching the threshold identified in US military doctrine for a “latent and incipient” insurgency. CTP has not yet observed clear indicators that the protest movement has crossed the threshold and is not prepared to forecast that it will. American counter-insurgency doctrine, using a modified version of the Maoist insurgency framework, defines the lowest level of insurgency as follows:
“The first phase is latent and incipient. During this phase, activities include the emergence of insurgent leadership, creation of initial organizational infrastructure, training, acquisition of resources, and political actions, such as organizing protests. A group that eventually becomes members of an insurgency may simply be a legitimate political group at this stage. Governmental actions and changes in society can transform political groups into insurgencies.”
Protestor organizations are understandably cautious about leaving observable traces in the open source, making it impossible to gauge their extent, capabilities, or intentions at this time. But the appearance of nascent protestor organizations like the Neighborhood Youth of Tehran suggesting that they can do more than simply generate protests—specifically preventing regime security forces from entering certain areas of Tehran and other cities—could indicate an inflection in their capabilities or intentions. The slogans and chants calling for the overthrow of the regime, particularly those saying that this is not a protest but a revolution, are another possible indicator.
Evaluating the movement of a protest movement along insurgency phases derived from Maoist theory is problematic, to be sure. Maoist theory and US counter-insurgency doctrine assumes the existence of a group intending to overthrow a government before large demonstrations begin and may not adequately cover the case of a protest movement that transforms over time into an insurgency.
The Syrian civil war, however, followed a similar path to the one Iranian protest may be on—peaceful protests were met by violent oppression that fractured the security forces. Security force defectors joining the protests helped organize them and prepare them to defend themselves against increasing regime violence. Limited indications of Iranian security force defections are emerging, although some Iranian security forces have joined protestors in previous protest waves without turning them into organized insurgencies. The risk to the Iranian regime is there, however, if the current protest wave interacts with Iran’s long-standing insurgencies and the regime’s brutal response in ways that propel it along the insurgency spectrum.
- Ongoing, anti-regime protests could interact with and feed off of preexisting insurgencies in Iran in ways that could prolong, reinvigorate, and exacerbate the unrest.
- Iranian security forces have launched a brutal crackdown on protestors in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province.
- Thousands of oil workers reportedly participated in strikes and anti-regime protests on October 10, which could pose a significant threat to the regime’s oil production if prolonged.
- Protest activity will likely increase in size and scale on October 12.
- Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei adopted a conciliatory tone toward protesters on October 10, breaking with the pattern of regime senior leader statements since Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s speech on October 3.
October 9, 2022 | 6:00 PM ET
Iran may be preparing to escalate militarily against its foreign adversaries, including the US, in response to the ongoing, anti-regime protests. Likely Iranian-backed militants conducted a rocket attack against a US military base in northeastern Syria on October 8. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior political and security officials have accused the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of coopting and stoking the protests in recent days.[i] Senior Iranian military officers released a statement vowing to retaliate on October 6.[ii] Iranian forces or proxies may conduct additional attacks against US positions in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria, in response to what they claim is Washington’s role in the protests.
Iranian proxies may also escalate against Turkey to redirect Iraqi resentment over Iranian attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan toward Ankara rather than Tehran. Likely Iranian-backed Iraqi militants conducted a rocket attack on a Turkish military base in Mosul Province on October 8.[iii] Liwa Ahrar al Iraq—a front group that Iranian-backed Iraqi militants use to claim attacks against Turkish forces —claimed responsibility. Iranian-backed Iraqi militants frequently used Liwa Ahrar al Iraq to claim attacks against Turkish positions during a period of escalatory attacks in June and July 2022.[iv] The Iraqi public and political establishment rallied against Turkey and its attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan during this period. Liwa Ahrar al Iraq resurfacing to claim attacks on Turkish forces may indicate that Iran and its proxies are preparing to escalate against Turkish forces and seek to again divert Iraqi citizens’ and officials’ anger toward Ankara rather than Tehran.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 18 cities in 15 provinces.
- Anti-regime group The Neighborhood Youth of Tehran announced their expansion to other unnamed cities in Iran.
- Some low-level military and security personnel may have defected.
- Iranian leadership may have ordered the IRGC Ground Forces to participate directly in the protest crackdown.
October 8, 2022 | 6:30 PM ET
The Iranian regime’s rhetorical responses to ongoing anti-regime protests may suggest that senior regime officials are posing for the benefit of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or other key power centers rather than trying to reach their restive populace. Regime disinformation about brutality against demonstrators is increasingly disconnected from reality and more likely to stoke protestor anger than to assuage it. President Ebrahim Raisi spoke at a women’s university in Tehran to illustrate that he retains support from young Iranian women in the face of mass protests by young women against the regime. IRGC-affiliated media outlets are similarly propagating disinformation about protestor deaths, claiming that several protestors died from an underlying illness, suicide, and other causes unrelated to police brutality. Uncorroborated reports suggest that the regime edited the Telegram account of Sarina Esmail Zadeh—whom Iranian security forces brutally killed during an anti-regime protest—to support to the regime’s narrative that she committed suicide.
These kinds of regime messages are unusually disconnected from reality and alienating to protestors and those who sympathize with them. These narratives may be directed instead at an internal audience. Khamenei appeared in stable condition during an appearance on October 3 and has seemingly recovered from reports of deteriorating health. Recent regime messaging nevertheless suggests that discussions surrounding supreme leader succession are ongoing. The regime’s tone-deaf messaging could be intended to shape the perceptions of leaders, like Khamenei, who receive information about ongoing protests indirectly and possibly via television, about how well regime officials and possible successors are doing rather than those, like the protesters and the outside world, who can see the situation for themselves more directly.
The growing gap between the fictional world described by regime messaging and the reality on the ground will likely inflame demonstrations, in any event.
- Regime messaging suggests that key regime officials could be posing to gain or retain favor as part of efforts to shape the succession to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rather than focusing on responding to protestor grievances.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 29 Iranian cities in 20 provinces.
- Iranian security forces are using increasingly violent and lethal means to suppress protests.
- Protestors have demonstrated the capacity to coordinate demonstrations despite extensive internet and telecommunication restrictions.
- Protest rhetoric has evolved to include revolutionary calls to topple the regime.
- Oil industry workers and bazaar merchants participated in strikes on October 8.
- The IRGC did not attack anti-regime Kurdish militia positions for the first time since September 26, likely in part because the Iraqi parliament met to discuss the attacks.
October 7, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
Regime disinformation about protester deaths may further stoke anti-regime sentiment and even revitalize anti-regime demonstrations. The regime released a report on October 8 alleging that Mahsa Amini died from an underlying illness, refuting evidence that she died from police brutality. Iranian authorities are trying to deflect blame for Amini’s death. Regime-affiliated media outlets and officials similarly claimed that Sarina Esmail Zadeh and Nika Shakarami—two teenage protestors brutally killed by security forces--committed suicide. Iranian social media users are increasingly commemorating Esmail Zadeh and Shakarami, who are serving as secular martyrs around whom protesters can rally.
October 6, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
Iran may attack the US, Israeli, and/or Saudi targets in retaliation for the role Iranian officials claim those countries have played in stoking the ongoing, anti-regime protests. This assessment is based on rhetoric from Iranian military leaders on October 6. Senior Iranian military officers released a statement accusing the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of coopting and stoking the protests and vowed to retaliate. The content and nature of the statement suggests that the heads of each major military and security body approved its release. The statement did not list the names of these officers but noted that they are from the following military bodies:
- The Armed Forces General Staff;
- The Khatam ol Anbia Central Headquarters (the body that commands and coordinates all Iranian operational military activity);
- The Artesh (Iran’s conventional military);
- The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC); and
- The Law Enforcement Command.
The regime could use its proxy and partner militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen to attack US forces and US regional partners. Yemen’s civil war truce expired on October 2, allowing the regime to resume using the Houthis to attack the Gulf states.
The security forces’ statement suggested that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei likely was indeed seriously ill in recent weeks but has recovered. The officers reaffirmed the armed forces’ allegiance to Khamenei and wished him good health and a long life. Western reporting indicates that Khamenei’s health declined significantly in early September. Khamenei spoke to a military officer graduation ceremony on October 3, appearing no more unhealthy than he has seemed in recent months.
The military officers reiterated their uncompromising stance toward the protests in the statement. They labeled protesters “seditionists” and vowed to defeat them. These remarks match the aggressive rhetoric that Khamenei and other senior political and security officials have used in recent days. The regime labeled the protesters in the 2009 Green Movement and other major protest waves “seditionists.”
Some university faculty called for further protests on October 8. University students have previously shown that they can coordinate widespread demonstrations in this protest wave, and the university faculty may be similarly capable of doing so.
This protest movement is unlike previous protest waves in Iran, and its trajectory is therefore difficult to forecast. Protester grievances are primarily political but resonate across many different communities and socio-economic classes in Iran. The last major political (as opposed to economic) protest movement in Iran was the Green Movement, which lasted throughout 2009. It is thus unclear whether this protest movement will last for weeks or months.
- Iran’s senior military leadership accused the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of stoking the ongoing, anti-regime protests and vowed to retaliate.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least eight cities in five provinces.
- Protests could increase in extent and size on October 8.
- The IRGC conducted an artillery strike on Sidekan in Iraqi Kurdistan for the eleventh consecutive day.
Anti-regime protests seemingly subsided in extent and size on October 5. October 5 marks the death of a prominent Shia Imam and is a national holiday in Iran, possibly explaining the decrease in protest activity in Iranian high schools. The regime’s ongoing internet and telecommunication restrictions are likely limiting the open-source information available on anti-regime demonstrations.
- Anti-regime protests may have occurred in at least four cities in four provinces—a significant decrease from the previous day’s protest activity.
- Anti-regime outlet Iran International reported that Iran is using orbit jamming to block the network’s satellite signal into Iran.
- The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) conducted an artillery strike on Sidekan in Iraqi Kurdistan for the tenth consecutive day.
October 4, 2022 | 3:00 pm ET
University and high school students have begun largely leading the ongoing protest movement in Iran—at least for the moment. Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 17 cities in 14 provinces on October 4, primarily around universities and high schools. Students expressed frustration with the regime and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The student protesters are a generation younger than the youth who played a prominent role in the Green Movement in 2009, during which Iranians took to the streets to protest the fraud-plagued reelection of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These protests will likely influence this younger generation’s formative years in a fashion similar to the way the Green Movement affected the Iranian youth at the time. It will be interesting to observe how the experiences in those earlier demonstrations of the parents of young people protesting today shape both generations.
It is unclear how long the university and high school students will sustain their protests. The regime may not use the same brutality and force that it has previously used throughout the crackdown against young people. The continuation of the student demonstrations could afford the other segments of the protest movement time to rest before returning to the streets, however.
- Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 17 cities in 14 provinces.
- Senior Iranian political and security officials overwhelmingly echoed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s hard line on the protests.
- The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) continued attacking anti-regime Kurdish militant positions in Iraqi Kurdistan for the ninth consecutive day.
- Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) promoted a conspiracy theory alleging Mahsa Amini committed suicide to trigger civil unrest in Iran.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made his first public appearance since September 21. He spoke to a military officer graduation ceremony alongside the regime’s most senior military leaders. Khamenei appeared in stable condition during his speech.
Khamenei condemned the ongoing, anti-regime protests during his speech—his first public acknowledgment of the protests. Khamenei accused the US and Israel of stoking the protests and said that the greatest victims were the state security services “and the Iranian nation.” Khamenei honored the security personnel killed in the protests.
Khamenei may have decided to meet the military leadership for his first address on the protests to signal his support for the security establishment and for a hard line on the demonstrations. Khamenei has not typically made public spectacles of meetings with senior military officers in previous major protest waves, although he has held such meetings during non-crisis periods. The following individuals joined Khamenei:
- Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri
- IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami
- Artesh Commander Major General Abdol Rahim Mousavi
- LEC Commander Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari
- Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani
- Interior Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi
Khamenei stated that some of the regime’s strongest female supporters do not wear the full hijab in public, indicating that the regime may relax its hijab enforcement to placate protesters. Khamenei’s remark does not likely signify a reversal of the mandatory hijab law but rather a message to the security establishment to enforce it less aggressively. Khamenei also expressed regret over the death of Mahsa Amini.
- Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made his first public appearance since September 21 to condemn the ongoing, anti-regime protests.
- Protests increased in number to at least 18 Iranian cities in 16 provinces.
- University students and faculty staged widespread protests in response to the regime’s brutal crackdown on Sharif University students.
- Iranian proxies pivoted their media messaging to match Khamenei’s speech.
October 2, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
The continued public absence of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei may be hindering regime officials’ efforts to develop a coherent response to the ongoing, anti-regime protests. Khamenei has not addressed the protests nor made a public appearance since September 21, possibly due to his reportedly worsening health. An unidentified Iranian official told Reuters that intra-regime disagreements over supreme leader succession and protest management are dividing the regime elite. This division suggests that Khamenei is not playing his usual role of cohering the regime during a crisis.
Khamenei’s silence may have opened a leadership vacuum that other regime authorities are having to fill. Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) leaders struck a more conciliatory tone on October 2 as university students have adopted an increasingly prominent role in the protest movement. IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami said, “we consider [the protesting youth] our friends, and we will not allow the enemy to attack you.” Salami was referring to his allegation that Iran’s international adversaries are coopting and stoking the protests to destabilize the regime. Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri met with students and celebrated their role in advancing the regime and revolution. Khamenei would ordinarily play a prominent role in such messaging during a crisis, and his silence is abnormal.
President Ebrahim Raisi has played a minor role thus far in communicating to the protesters or the Iranian population. His low profile is remarkable given his legal responsibilities for maintaining public order in Iran. He may seek to avoid becoming the face of the crackdown to preserve his chances to be accepted as the next supreme leader, but it is hard to see his relative silence as anything other than weakness.
Anti-regime outlet IranWire has published reports claiming that security leaders have disagreed over how to respond to the protests, further indicating that they may lack guidance from the supreme leader. IranWire reported on September 24 that IRGC leaders accused other security bodies suppressing protests of negligence, citing an unidentified former Iranian official. IranWire also reported on September 29 that senior IRGC officers have disagreed with the brutal treatment of protesters and instead advocated for fighting anti-regime Kurdish groups in northwestern Iran. CTP cannot verify these reports.
Khamenei’s absence may be emboldening segments of the clerical establishment, especially in Qom, to criticize and pressure the regime more openly. Two senior clerics—Ayatollah Mustafa Mohaghegh Damad and Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani—issued statements on September 17, criticizing state security services for the death of Mahsa Amini. Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani called on the regime to listen to the people’s grievances on September 25. Persian-language media outlet Zeitoon published a statement allegedly from students and teachers at the Tehran, Mashhad, and Qom seminaries on September 30, condemning Khamenei and the regime crackdown on the protests.
- Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains absent and did not make a public appearance or statement.
- Anti-regime protests decreased in number across Iran but were significantly more violent in Tehran.
- Social media rumors claimed that state security services are facing significant bandwidth constraints in West Azerbaijan and Kurdistan provinces.
- Iran’s Iraqi proxies are attempting to decouple anti-corruption Tishreen movement protests from Iraqi nationalists’ anti-Iran sentiments.
- Solidarity protests against the Iranian regime spread to Lebanon.
- The IRGC attacked anti-regime Kurdish militia positions in Iraqi Kurdistan for the seventh consecutive day.
October 1, 2022 | 2:30 pm ET
Iranian protesters successfully planned anti-regime demonstrations in at least 21 Iranian cities in 17 provinces on October 1 despite regime censorship. Protestors had announced plans over the past few days for protests on October 1 as CTP has previously reported. The successful coordination of these demonstrations despite internet restrictions suggests that protesters—specifically university students—have found ways to organize.
These protests pose a serious and increasing threat to the regime as their grievances resonate across a growing range of Iranians. These protests now include many marginalized minorities, merchants, students, and urban elite.
Protesters have found secular martyrs around whom to rally. Mahsa Amini is the most prominent symbol of this movement, especially among social media users. Protesters have chanted slogans from a viral Iranian protest song titled “Baraaye,” which lists popular grievances against the regime. State security services arrested the author of this song, Shervin Hajipour, on September 29. These individuals provide resonant symbols for the protesters similar to how protesters rallied against the regime killing of Neda Agha Soltan during the 2009 Green Movement, when Iranians took to the streets to protest the fraud-plagued reelection of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
- Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains absent and did not make a public appearance or statement.
- Ongoing, anti-regime protests expanded to at involve least 20 Iranian cities in 17 provinces.
- Demonstrations in Iraq planned for other purposes adopted an anti-Iran tone and expressed solidarity with Iranian protests.
- Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah criticized Iraqi protesters for chanting against the Iranian regime but did not make the anti-Iran protests a focal point of his address.
September 30, 2022 | 5:00 pm ET
Anti-regime protests are continuing in at least 10 major cities in eight provinces and escalated violently in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan Province on September 30. Protesters clashed with security forces in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province, attacking local police stations and killing the provincial head of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) intelligence. Social media users suggested that state security services deployed helicopters to abet their crackdown. These clashes are among the most violent in the ongoing protest wave thus far.
The security situation around Zahedan could worsen in the coming days and weeks, straining state security services more than they already are. Anti-regime militancy is common around Zahedan, where Salafi-jihadi groups such as Jaish al Adl operate. An Iranian Baluch militant group, Anonymous Tigers of Baluchistan, reportedly released a video on September 30 threatening to escalate further against the regime in response to the clashes on September 30. State security services have struggled with bandwidth constraints and exhaustion throughout Iran during the ongoing, countrywide protests, and escalations around Zahedan will impose additional pressure.
A senior Iranian military official, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, threatened to attack US forces in Iraq in retaliation for the US shootdown of an Iranian drone illegally operating in Iraqi airspace near an American military base. Bagheri also suggested that Iran would attack US bases in Iraq for supporting anti-regime Kurdish groups. The IRGC has conducted six consecutive days of attacks on anti-regime Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan. Bagheri accused the US of using its Harir airbase in Erbil Province to coordinate with and support these groups in September 2021. Iranian proxies in Iraq accused Omar Mahmoudzadeh, the American whom the IRGC killed in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 28, of training anti-regime Kurdish militants.
- Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains absent and did not make a public appearance on September 30.
- The ongoing, anti-regime protests occurred in at least 10 cities in eight provinces and were especially violent in southeastern Sistan and Baluchistan Province on September 30.
- Iran’s most senior military official threatened to attack US bases in Iraq.
Full list of Iran crisis updates are available here.