Saturday, October 29, 2022

Iran Crisis Update, October 29

 Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Zachary Coles, Alexander Dana Gray, and Frederick W. Kagan
October 29, 6:00 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.
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.[1] Salami claimed that protestors lacked humanity or souls later that day.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] Other reports suggest that Iranian authorities barricaded student protesters in campus buildings in Lorestan and Tehran Provinces.[5] Iranian security personnel additionally fired live ammunition at medical students protesting in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province, causing several casualties.[6]

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.[7] Large crowds have similarly gathered to commemorate killed protesters on October 27, 28, and 29.[8] 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.[9] 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.”[10] Social media users are also increasingly describing killed protesters as martyrs.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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.

Key Takeaways
  • 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

Anti-Regime Protests

Anti-regime protests occurred in at least 22 cities in 14 provinces on October 29. CTP assesses with moderate to high confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:
  • Karaj, Alborz Province (Over 100 Karaj Azad University student protesters gathered on campus. An undetermined number of Kharazmi University student protesters gathered on campus and chanted anti-regime slogans.)[15]
  • Esfahan City, Esfahan Province (50-100 Esfahan University students protested on campus and chanted “you deserve this.” Plainclothed security forces and counterprotesters attacked students protesting on Esfahan University campus.)[16]
  • Ghavzin City, Ghazvin Province (One or two dozen Imam Khomeini International University students protested on campus.)[17]
  • Lasht-e Nesha, Gilan Province (An undetermined number of protesters set fires in the street. Iranian security personnel reportedly shot and killed a protester.)[18]
  • Astara, Gilan Province (50-100 protesters set fires and gathered in Astara streets. An undetermined number of protesters set fire to a Basij motorcycle.)[19]
  • Kermanshah City, Kermanshah Province (Large crowds attended a ceremony commemorating 40 days since Minou Majidi and Reza Shahparnia’s deaths and chanted anti-regime slogans, including “this is the year of blood, Khamenei will be overthrown.”)[20]
  • Mashhad, Khorasan Razavi Province (Roughly 100 Mashhad Azad University students protested on campus. Security personnel reportedly beat, tazed, and violently arrested an undetermined number of students. Over 100 Ferdowsi University student protesters gathered on campus, although this number likely includes some pro-regime counterprotesters waving the Islamic Republic’s flag.)[21]
  • Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province (Several dozen Ahvaz Medical University students clashed with security personnel on campus.)[22]
  • Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province (50-100 Sanandaj Medical University students protested on campus and chanted “it is November again, it is time for a revolution.” Security forces reportedly beat protesters on the Sanandaj Medical University campus.)[23]
  • Saghez, Kurdistan Province (Security forces arrested and used tear gas, rubber bullets, and possibly live ammunition against high school girls protesting.)[24]
  • Marivan, Kurdistan Province (Undetermined number of protesters set fires in Marivan streets.) xxv
  • Kamyaran, Kurdistan Province (Dozens of high school students chanted “Basij, IRGC, you are our ISIS.”)[25]
  • Khorramabad, Lorestan Province (Roughly 70 Lorestan University student protesters chanted anti-regime slogans. Iranian security personnel reportedly surrounded the campus and prevented students from entering or exiting.)[26]
  • Arak, Markazi Province (hundreds of people attended Mehrshad Shahidi’s funeral and chanted anti-regime slogans such as “for each person killed, a thousand remain,” and “I hate your religion, screw your religion.” Iranian security personnel killed Shahidi for participating in anti-regime protests on October 25. Iranian security personnel reportedly tear gassed and attacked crowds attending Shahidi’s funeral. Hundreds of protesters chased Iranian security personnel on the streets, likely the same crowds that attended Shahidi’s funeral.)[27]
  • Tehran City, Tehran Province (Recorded protests at several universities, including Shahid Beheshti University, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran University, Allameh Tabataba’i University, at least one Tehran Azad University campus, and Amir Kabir University. Security personnel fired tear gas at Tarbiat Modares student protesters. Security personnel reportedly barricaded some students inside the Amir Kabir university campus. Dozens of protesters were recorded dismantling a street sign in the Shahr-e Ara neighborhood of Tehran. Iranian authorities reportedly deployed snipers to rooftops in unidentified location in Tehran.)[28]
  • Boukan, West Azerbaijan Province (An undetermined number of protesters set fires in Boukan streets and likely clashed with security forces.)[29]
  • Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province (One or two dozen protesters chanted “death to the dictator” in Piranshahr streets. An undetermined number of protesters established roadblocks with debris and set fires in Piranshahr streets.)[30]
  • Ourmia, West Azerbaijan Province (Several dozen Ourmia University protesters sang what they called is Iran’s “real” national anthem on Ourmia University campus. Security forces reportedly raided an Ourmia University dormitory and beat or arrested multiple students.)[31]
  • Yazd City, Yazd Province (An undetermined number of Yazd University students protested on campus. Basij counterprotesters reportedly also held demonstrations at Yazd University. Security forces deployed a quadcopter drone to likely surveil protesters.)[32]

CTP assesses with low confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:
  • Hamedan City, Hamedan Province (An undetermined number of protesters gathered in Hamedan streets.)[33]
  • Ravansar, Kermanshah Province (Footage shows fires lit in city street and reports of crowds forming, possibly signaling beginning of protests.)[34]
  • Koudasht, Lorestan Province (An undetermined number of protesters reportedly gathered in Koudasht streets.)[35]

Iranian protesters were documented chanting slogans blaming the regime for the Shah Cheragh Shrine attack on October 29. Some of these chants include:
  • “Basij, IRGC, you are our ISIS”[36]
  • “Shah Cheragh is another Rex (1978 cinema massacre), this is another trick”[37]
  • “Who guides ISIS? Leadership and his IRGC”[38]

Uncorroborated footage circulating on social media purportedly shows Iranian security personnel arguing with each other in Yazd City, Yazd Province at an unspecified date. One officer is documented cursing others: “The way you’re spinning around, [protesters] will catch all of you like they would a chicken.”[39]

IRGC officials announced that protestors killed IRGC Lieutenant Colonel Amir Kamandi with a hand grenade at Sattar Khan Street in Tehran on October 26. Kamandi served in the Bahrestan Corps of the IRGC Seyyed ol Shahada Tehran Unit.[40]

Axis of Resistance and Regional Developments
Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah claimed the US helped facilitate the October 26 Shah Cheragh Shrine attack by transporting Islamic State militants to Afghanistan. Nasrallah alleged that the US has sent Islamic State militants from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan in order to establish the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) “as an American proxy.”[41] Nasrallah also repeated the Iranian regime’s accusation that the US is responsible for inciting protests across the country.[42] A Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates spokesperson similarly claimed that the attack exemplified how the US uses ISKP to destabilize the Iranian regime.[43]

Iraqi proxy Telegram channels repeated regime narratives blaming Saudi Arabia for the October 26 Shah Cheragh Shrine attack. A Kataib Hezbollah Telegram channel characterized the perpetrator as a “Saudi-backed ISIS” terrorist.[44] An Asaib Ahl al-Haq Telegram channel republished IRGC Commander Hossein Salami’s threat to retaliate against Saudi Arabia for the attack.[45] Iraqi proxy media networks commonly characterize Islamic State attacks as Saudi-backed, but their emphasis on Salami’s threat to retaliate suggests that Iran may direct its proxies to conduct an attack into Saudi Arabia in the coming days or weeks.

[1] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/08/07/2795440/هشدار-شدیداللحن-سرلشکر-سلامی-به-آمریکا-و-عربستان-آرامش-تان-را-می-گیریم-آرزو-هایتان-را-دفن-خواهیم-کرد
[2] https://defapress dot ir/fa/news/552765/دشمنان-همه-پس‌اندازشان-را-در-اغتشاشات-خرج-کردند-اما-شکست-خوردند
[3] https://www.irna dot ir/news/84926507/تجمع-و-عزاداری-دانشجویان-دانشگاه-های-تهران-در-محکومیت-حادثه-تروریستی ; https://defapress dot ir/fa/news/552769/واکنش-هنرمندان-حوزه-تجسمی-به-حادثه-تروریستی-حرم-شاه‌چراغ-ع-تصاویر
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[40] https://defapress dot ir/fa/news/552799/شهادت-عشق-همه-پاسداران-است
https://www.irna dot ir/news/84926665/پیکر-شهید-امنیت-پاسدار-امیر-کمندی-در-نسیم-شهر-تشییع-شد
[41] https://www dot almayadeen dot net/news/politics/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%86%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87:-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%83%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A7-%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%86;;
[42] https://www dot isna dot ir/news/1401080704625/%D9%85%D8%AD%DA%A9%D9%88%D9%85%DB%8C%D8%AA-%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%AC%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84%D9%87-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%B3%D8%AA%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B4%D8%A7%D9%87%DA%86%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%BA
[43] https://sana dot sy/en/?p=288409