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What Are the Iran Protests of 2019?

Major Iran protests erupted in November 2019 triggering the greatest existential crisis in the regime's 40-year history. Protesters took to the streets in at least 191 cities calling for regime change. The regime has resorted to brute repression, killing at least 1500 protesters and arresting thousands more. It also shut down Iran’s internet completely for a week, blocking images of the protests from reaching the outside world.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE IRAN PROTESTS: 

  • Number of restive cities: 191
  • Number of martyrs: At least 1500
  • Number of injured: More than 4,000
  • Number of detainees: More than 12,000

What do the protesters want?

The protests began on November 15, 2019 over a three-fold rise in gasoline prices but in less than 24 hours, the chants became entirely political. Iranians are chanting “Death to Khamenei” and “Death to Rouhani” on the streets of Iran. They want regime change.

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How big are the Iran protests?

Very. The protests have spread to at least 191 cities in all 31 of Iran’s provinces. Protesters attacked centers of suppression, including government centers, security outposts, and state-affiliated banks, gas stations and seminaries, particularly those affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Hundreds of buildings were torched or sustained serious damages.

How has the regime reacted to the Iran protests?

Khamenei ordered his security forces to violently put down the Iran protests.

View the NCRI’s factsheet on officials responsible for the Iran protests crackdown

The regime’s security forces used lethal force in arresting more than 12,000 people and killing more than 1500 protesters, including dozens of children as young as 13. 

The main opposition group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), also known as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), has announced the names of 724 of the protesters killed by Iran’s regime.  

The authorities, in many instances, refused to return victims’ bodies to their families, and security forces removed bodies from morgues and transferred them to unknown locations.

View the list of 724 names of protesters killed by Iran’s regime published by the MEK

On November 16, 2019, Iranian authorities began implementing a week-long near-total shutdown of internet services, stopping nearly all means of online communications for people inside Iran, to preclude the sharing of images and videos of deadly violence being used by security forces.

On November 18, 2019, the IRGC deployed to the city of Mahshahr and engaged in mass repression, killing at least 100 people.

View the list of cities where Iran protests have taken place

Who is organizing the Iran protests?

The MEK’s Resistance Units contributed greatly to the Iran protests. These Resistance Units were formed several years ago and have spread throughout the country since. They have a wealth of experience gained on the ground and through thousands of acts of protest, sit-ins, and strikes.

The MEK’s Resistance Units risk their lives to bravely spur rallies up and down the country. It can begin with a simple roadblock or a risky chant on a busy pavement. With each spark, the general public, which detests the regime, eagerly join in.

Iranian officials say MEK is involved in the Iran protests

Iranian officials and state media have acknowledged the MEK’s leading role in the Iran protests.

Supreme Leader Khamenei pointed to the MEK’s role in the Iran protests in a speech on state television on November 17, 2019.

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View remarks by Iranian officials about the MEK’s role in the Iran protests

How many government centers were attacked in the Iran protests?

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli told TV1 channel on November 26, 2019: 

  • Between 130,000 to 200,000 people took part in the Iran protests. 
  • Protesters destroyed at least 50 police and army centers, 140 government centers, 183 police vehicles, nine seminaries, 731 state-affiliated banks and 70 gas stations. 
  • The Iran protests took place in at least 100 areas of the capital Tehran. 

Video:

Why now?

Iran’s situation was ripe for such an uprising. The NCRI has long argued that Iran is like a powder keg, with the regime enjoying next to no popular support and unable and unwilling to resolve social crises. Iranian society resents the regime’s wasteful spending of national resources on the Revolutionary Guards’ regional wars in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen while failing to provide basic services at home. Iranians are completely against the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program, the goal of which is to prolong the regime’s life, and which has led to international sanctions.

For decades, the regime benefited from the West’s policy of appeasement. Perhaps its biggest lifeline came with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, better known as the JCPOA. With the change of policy by the current United States administration, that policy is now over. Major protests in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon are calling for the expulsion of Iran’s regime from the very countries it once hoped to incorporate into an ‘Islamic empire.’ Today, reeling under international sanctions, the regime is out of funds and out of options. Furthermore, the MEK’s Resistance Units have been successful through their activities in encouraging the public to rebel against the theocratic dictatorship.  

Will the Iran protests subside or lead to greater things?

Brutal repression by Iran’s regime is only of short-term effect. Iranians have taken to the streets because the regime has stolen their freedom, their livelihood, and their future. While Iran sits on a sea of oil, many ordinary Iranians are forced to sell kidneys and other vital organs to make ends meet. They have nothing more to lose. And they realize that the source of their suffering is the mullahs’ regime. So, they shall stay on the streets, and even if forced out, would be back soon.

Maryam Rajavi calls for UN Security Council session on the Iran protests

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has called on the United Nations Security Council to declare the leaders of the clerical regime as criminals committing crimes against humanity for their massive suppression and bloodshed. They must face justice. 

The regime is making every effort and using all means to conceal the truth about the death toll. It construes silence and inaction by the international community as a green light to continue and step up its crimes. The United Nations must immediately dispatch fact-finding missions to Iran to investigate about those killed, injured and imprisoned.

The European Union, in particular, must end its policy of appeasement towards the clerical regime in Iran and set aside all considerations and reservations about the regime. The EU should demand an immediate halt to the killings and arrests. If the regime does not comply, they must readily pull the trigger of UN Security Council sanctions.

 

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