Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Iran Update, April 25, 2023


Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, Ashka Jhaveri, Zachary Coles, and Nicholas Carl

April 25, 2023, 4:30 pm ET

The Iran 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 Updates via email, please subscribe here.

Qom Provincial Governor Mohammad Taghi Shah Cheraghi stated that the provincial government should take “negative measures” against unveiled women “in accordance with the law” during a 19 Dey Headquarters meeting on April 25.[1] The 19 Dey Headquarters is an organization dedicated to preserving Qom’s status as Iran’s religious and revolutionary heartland.[2] This organization met on April 25 to discuss the actions it has taken in the field of chastity and hijab.[3] Regime officials have increasingly discussed using “positive” and “negative” measures to enforce the mandatory hijab law in recent weeks, although it is unclear what they mean exactly when using these terms.[4]

The fact that Shah Cheraghi made this statement is noteworthy for several reasons. He has a long history serving as a senior IRGC officer. Shah Cheraghi commanded the IRGC provincial corps responsible for Mazandaran, Semnan, Tehran, and Qom provinces at different points between October 2009 and November 2021.[5] President Ebrahim Raisi appointed Shah Cheraghi as Qom provincial governor in November 2021.[6] Shah Cheraghi comes from an influential family with connections to the Office of the Supreme Leader. His father—Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Shah Cheraghi—served as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative to Semnan Province between January 2003 and August 2021 and is currently a member of the Assembly of Experts—the regime body responsible for selecting the supreme leader.[7] Shah Cheraghi’s remarks about “negative” hijab enforcement are lastly noteworthy given how significant the recent wave of student poisonings has been in Qom compared to the rest of Iran. The first reported student poisoning incidents in November and December 2022 both took place in Qom.[8] The poisonings have primarily targeted schoolgirls, suggesting that the poisonings may be related to the issue of women’s rights and, in particular, the hijab. CTP previously assessed that the regime is tolerating the countrywide, coordinated campaign to poison schoolgirls.[9]

Regime security forces have renewed their efforts to combat popular celebrity figures who publicly oppose the mandatory hijab law. The Law Enforcement Command (LEC) has closed at least eight “celebrity-affiliated” restaurants and commercial complexes in Tehran City since the Law Enforcement Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan announced the implementation of his veiling enforcement plan on April 15.[10] IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency argued on April 25 that the closures are meant to demonstrate that “celebrities are not exempt from the law.”[11] The regime arrested and charged two prominent Iranian actresses on April 25 with the crime of unveiling in public and posting pictures of themselves unveiled on their social media accounts.[12] Western Persian-language outlets separately reported that the regime formed a secret ”Celebrity Task Force” on September 22, 2022, to identify and punish Iranian celebrities who supported the Mahsa Amini protests.[13] The Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry reportedly led this effort.

Human Rights Watch reported on April 25 that state security services have tortured, sexually abused, and killed children since the beginning of the Mahsa Amin protests in September 2022.[14] This reporting is consistent with CTP’s previous assessments about the regime’s brutality toward children both during and after the protest movement. CTP reported the regime’s violent arrests, clashes with, and killing of young students throughout the Mahsa Amini protests.[15] Regime security forces killed 23 children in the first ten days of the protests alone, as CTP reported.[16] This reporting comes as the regime has callously tolerated the countrywide poisoning campaign against schoolchildren over the past several months.[17]

Key Takeaways

  • Qom Provincial Governor Mohammad Taghi Shah Cheraghi stated that the provincial government should take “negative measures” against unveiled women “in accordance with the law” during a 19 Dey Headquarters meeting.
  • Regime security forces have renewed their efforts to combat popular celebrity figures who publicly oppose the mandatory hijab law.
  • Human Rights Watch reported that state security services have tortured, sexually abused, and killed children since the beginning of the Mahsa Amin protests.
  • At least three protests occurred in three cities across three provinces.
  • A senior Iranian military delegation paid an official visit to Moscow to meet with Russian, Syrian, and Turkish officials.
  • IRGC Ground Forces Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Pak Pour appointed Brigadier General Ahmad Ali Faizollahi as the Saberin Special Forces Brigade commander.

Internal Security and Protest Activity

At least three protests occurred in three cities across three provinces on April 25. CTP assesses with high confidence that one protest occurred in the following location:

Kiyan, Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari Province[18]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Individuals protesting government land grabbing
  • Notes: Individuals lit fire in the street

CTP assesses with low confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Fanouj, Sistan and Baluchistan Province[19]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Individuals protesting after LEC reportedly ran over four individuals

Tehran City, Tehran Province[20]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Tehran Metro employees

Protest coordinators and organizations circulated calls for demonstrations on the following days:

April 26[21]

  • Type: Anti-regime demonstration
  • Location: Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan Province

The Tehran City Council is investigating a physical altercation between morality patrols and an unveiled woman in the Tehran metro on April 24.[22] Council member Sodeh Najafi called the incident “unfortunate.” This altercation comes after regime loyalists engaged in a lethal physical confrontation with individuals opposed to the mandatory hijab law in Mahan, Kerman Province on April 23, which CTP previously reported.[23] These events support our previous assessment that the regime’s reinforcement of its mandatory hijab laws will likely exacerbate tensions between the Islamic Republic and the Iranian population.[24]

Social media users reported six industrial worker strikes throughout central and southern Iran between on April 25. Social media users also reported that Iranian industrial contract workers went on strike near Basra, Iraq on April 25.[25] The following map illustrates all reported strike activity and its locations on April 25.

CTP recorded student poisonings in three cities across three provinces on April 25.

Economic Affairs

Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf wrote a letter to President Ebrahim Raisi on April 25, urgently requesting that his administration present a bill to establish an “Internal Commerce and Market Regulation Ministry” to Parliament.[26] Ghalibaf may have sent this letter in response to growing frustration among various segments of the Iranian economy, including industrial workers, nurses, and teachers. Ghalibaf has called for economic reforms to address popular grievances on multiple occasions in recent months.[27]

Foreign Policy and Diplomacy

Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian traveled to Muscat, Oman on April 25 to meet with his Omani counterpart Badr bin Hamad al Busaidi.[28] Abdollahian’s trip follows several diplomatic engagements between Iranian and Omani officials in recent days. Iranian Ambassador to Oman Ali Najafi Khoshroudi met with Omani Royal House Minister Mohammad al Numani on April 17.[29] President Ebrahim Raisi separately held a phone call with Omani Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al Said on April 19, as CTP previously reported.[30] Abdollahian will additionally travel from Muscat to Beirut, Lebanon on April 26 to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Rashid Bouhabib.[31]

Senior Adviser to the Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Asghar Khaji met with UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths on April 25.[32] The two discussed the latest developments in the region, including the normalization of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. Iranian state media used the meeting to highlight Iran‘s humanitarian cooperation with the UN.[33] Griffiths served as the UN special envoy to Yemen from 2018 to 2021.

Industry, Mines, and Trade Minister Reza Fatemi Amin announced on April 25 the resumption of trade relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.[34] The two countries normalized relations on March 10, after which they began a series of diplomatic engagements to implement the normalization agreements, as CTP previously reported.[35]

Roads and Urban Development Minister Mehrdad Bazarpash paid an official visit to Damascus on April 25 to attend a meeting of the Iran-Syria Joint Commission, which he heads.[36] Bazapash reported that the meeting focused on rail links between Iran and Syria through Iraq, tariff reductions, banking exchanges, and the ”sea-oriented economy.” Iran has long sought to connect its rail line networks to Iraq and Syria and access the Mediterranean Sea. Tehran has made little progress toward this goal thus far. The warming ties between the Assad regime and regional Arab states may, however, be encouraging Tehran to push this issue again. Iran and Assad could use the potential influx of financial resources that normalization efforts would bring to develop Syria’s rail line networks.

External Security and Military Affairs

Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) technicians trained Iranian-backed militants on how to use short-range air defense equipment and drones in Ayyash, Deir ez Zor Province on April 16.[37] These technicians visited military warehouses in Ayyash that the Fatemiyoun Division—the IRGC Quds Force’s Afghan Shia proxy—operates. The technicians also traveled to Iranian-backed positions around Abu Kamal and Mayadin, which is consistent with our reporting that LH technicians traveled to these locations on April 20 to train Iranian-backed forces on the Misagh-1 air defense system..[38] This pattern of activity supports CTP’s previous assessment that Iran intends to strengthen security measures—including air defense systems—along a critical transportation route through Deir ez Zor Province.

Palestinian militias threatened on April 23 to retaliate if Israel attacks militia leadership in the West Bank. Israeli Channel 12 reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed renewing targeting operations in the West Bank following Independence Day on April 25-26 at a cabinet meeting on April 23.[39] Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) spokesmen—Hazem Qassem and Tariq Salmi, respectively—responded warning that Israeli targeting operations would lead to more violence.[40] Palestinian Legislative Council parliamentarian Hassan Khreisheh stated on April 24 that increasing cooperation between Palestinian militias and the Axis of Resistance in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria pushed Israel to threaten assassination.[41]

A senior Iranian military delegation paid an official visit to Moscow to meet with Russian, Syrian, and Turkish officials on April 25.[42] The visit was ostensibly about the possible normalization of ties between Syria and Turkey, although the Iranian delegation likely discussed other military items during the visit, such as further military cooperation with Russia. Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani headed the delegation, which is noteworthy given that he has no role in Iranian external activities and no authority over the Iranian armed forces. The defense minister is instead responsible for Iran’s defense industries and military procurement and sales. IRGC Quds Force Deputy Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Fallah Zadeh was part of the Iranian delegation as well, which is less surprising given his direct role in Iranian military activities in Syria.[43]

Fallah Zadeh was, in fact, likely discussing the possible normalization of ties between Syria and Turkey during the visit even if Ashtiani did not. But CTP has not yet observed indications that this normalization has become more likely. The upcoming Turkish general election on May 14 will emphasize border security and counterterrorism as key issues, which may deter Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from normalizing ties with Damascus.

IRGC Ground Forces Commander Brigadier General Mohammad Pak Pour appointed Brigadier General Ahmad Ali Faizollahi as the Saberin Special Forces Brigade commander on April 25.[44] The Saberin unit is an elite IRGC special operations force which has fought in Syria to defend the Assad regime. This unit is highly trained in specialized operations, including heliborne assault, hostage rescue, and raiding.[45] Faizollahi previously commanded the IRGC Ground Forces 4th Ansar ol Rasoul Operational Brigade in Javanroud, Kermanshah Province since October 31, 2019.[46]

[1] https://www dot

[2] https://www dot

[3] https://www dot


[4] https://www dot

[5] https://defapress dot ir/fa/news/313607/%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B4%D8%A7%D9%87%DA%86%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%BA%DB%8C-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%87-%D8%AC%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%B3%D9%BE%D8%A7%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%82%D9%85-%D8%B4%D8%AF ;

https://www dot ;

https://www dot

[6] https://irannewsupdate dot com/news/infightings/irans-government-continues-to-promote-suppressive-forces/

[7] https://farsi dot ;

https://irannewsupdate dot com/news/infightings/irans-government-continues-to-promote-suppressive-forces/

[8] ;

http://www dot



[10] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/02/05/2884824/اختصاصی-انتشار-اسامی-رستوران-های-سلبریتی-ها-و-مجتمع-های-تجاری-که-اخطار-پلمب-گرفتند-جزئیات ;

[11] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/02/05/2884824/اختصاصی-انتشار-اسامی-رستوران-های-سلبریتی-ها-و-مجتمع-های-تجاری-که-اخطار-پلمب-گرفتند-جزئیات


[12] ;



[15] ;;


[17] ; ; ;

[18] ;


[20] ;


[22] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/02/05/2884768/ورود-شورای-شهر-تهران-به-ضرب-و-شتم-بانوی-محجبه-در-مترو-گلایه-اعضای-شورا-از-سرویس-دهی-مترو-در-عید-فطر



[25] ; ;

[26] https://www dot


[28] https://mfa dot ir/portal/NewsView/718452

[29] https://www dot


[31] https://www dot

[32] https://mfa dot ir/portal/NewsView/718416

[33] https://www.mizanonline dot ir/fa/news/4709133/گریفیتس-ایران-درباره-فجایع-انسان-دوستانه-با-سازمان-ملل-همکاری-داشته-است-تاکید-بر-آثار-سوء-تحریم%E2%80%8Eها

[34] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85091835/%D9%88%D8%B2%DB%8C%D8%B1-%D8%B5%D9%85%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AA-%D8%A8%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%88-%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A2%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA

[35]  ; ; ;

[36] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85092186/%DA%AF%D9%81%D8%AA%DA%AF%D9%88%DB%8C-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%88-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%DA%AF%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%B4-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%B7-%D8%AF%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%84%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%86%DA%A9%DB%8C-%D9%88-%DA%A9%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B4

[37] https://nahermedia dot net/%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%84-%D9%88%D9%81%D8%AF-%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%80-%D9%8A%D8%B4%D9%8A%D8%A7-%D8%AD%D9%80-%D9%80%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B0%D9%8A-%D9%88%D8%B5/


[39] (dot) il/news-military/2023_q2/Article-e0e95c8561aa781026.htm?Partner=searchResults;

[40] https://hamas (dot) ps/ar/p/17160; https://almanar (dot)

[41] https://www.middleeastmonitor (dot) com/20230424-palestinian-resistance-warns-of-activating-assassination-policy-israel-will-pay-the-price/

[42] https://defapress dot ir/fa/news/585197/لزوم-مبارزه-با-تهدیدات-تروریستی-و-گروه%E2%80%8Cهای-افراطی-در-سوریه ; https://www.isna dot ir/news/1402020502282/%D8%A8%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C%D9%87-%D9%85%D8%B4%D8%AA%D8%B1%DA%A9-%D9%85%D8%B0%D8%A7%DA%A9%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%DA%86%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A8%D9%87-%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B9-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B3%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AA%D8%B1%DA%A9%DB%8C%D9%87 ; https://www.isna dot ir/news/1402020502309/%D9%85%D8%B0%D8%A7%DA%A9%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B9-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B3%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%AA%D8%B1%DA%A9%DB%8C%D9%87-%D9%88-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B3%DA%A9%D9%88-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%87 ; https://www.irna dot ir/news/85092470/%D8%A8%D8%B1%DA%AF%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7-%D9%88-%D9%86%D8%B4%D8%B3%D8%AA-%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%AC%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A8%D9%87-%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B9-%DA%A9%D8%B4%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B3%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%87


[44] https://www.tabnak dot ir/fa/news/1172472/فرمانده-جدید-تیپ-ویژه-صابرین-معرفی-شد