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Exclusive: IRGC’s Report Says 2019 Iran Uprising Was Organized


Imam Hussain University, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), published an assessment of the November 2019 uprising, which spread to 200 cities with lightning speed in reaction to the tripling of fuel prices and shook the regime to its foundations.  

This assessment underscores the significance of the 2019 uprising as a turning point in the face-off between the Iranian people and the regime.  

This study underlines that those protests were “organized,” and that the protesters were not a spontaneous expression of outrage nor indiscriminate vandalizing of shops or public locations. 

“The Enemy’s Tactics in Creating Urban Riots,” acknowledges that people expressed their disdain toward the ruling theocracy by targeting the regime’s centers of oppression and plunder.  

The IRGC’s latest report was reviewed by “30 IRGC commanders, officials of security brigades, IRGC intelligence organization, Basij organization, and Sarollah Headquarters in Tehran [charged with maintaining Tehran’s security].”  

The report highlights that “Poor people and a part of the middle class who had become poor, mostly youth who did not foresee a clear economic, social and political future for themselves,” participated in November protests.  

The report also acknowledges that the nature of these protests differed significantly from protests in the 1990s and 2000s in that they resembled the protests in the 1980s that were organized by the principal Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).  

The report also underlines that the November 2019 uprising’s “nationwide character and anti-government nature” made it distinct from the 1999 and 2009 protests. 

While this report sheds light on the regime’s paranoia over the explosive state of Iranian society, it distorts the ruthless manner in which the security forces cracked down on the protest and deliberately ignores Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s directive to open fire on the innocent protesters.  

The following are some excerpts of this report.   

  1. Analysis of the November 2019 Riots  
  • The November 2019 riots were a series of protests to the hike in fuel price as approved by the Supreme Economic Coordination Council. These protests erupted in different parts of the country in various forms.   
  • In some metropolises, some people caused significant damage. In other cities, protests initially began by“opposing the fuel price hike” and “the policies of Hassan Rouhani’s government.” The movement first began on social media with economic demands against endemic government corruption, increasing fuel prices, and a high unemployment rate. But with more calls to protest, the people’s demands went beyond economic woes.  
  1. Characteristics of November 2019 Riots  
  • Destructive actions and slogans were the hallmarks of these riots. Protesters did not have one specific demand and marched from rural and poor neighborhoods to the centers of cities.  
  • The most important characteristics of these protests were that unlike the protests in 1999 and 2009, protests spread across the country and had anti-government overtones.  
  • It appeared that the poor and a part of the middle class that has become poorer, especially the youth who did not foresee a clear economic, social, and political future ahead, joined these protests. They were frustrated and hopeless about the current situation.  
  • Unlike the 2009 protests, protesters were mainly the poor, and those who felt the officials had ignored them. In [2019] protests, the country’s security apparatus did not face the individuals and middle-class citizens living in urban areas. These protests had much more profound and expanded social roots.  
  • To keep the core message of riots alive, the enemy repeated it with precise timing. The media repeated the news about skyrocketing prices and the country’s economic crunch, and then they constantly underlined that “the economic woes and soaring prices indicate the system’s illegitimacy.”  


  1. Some measures of psychological operations of rioters 
  • Protesters chanted slogans such as “Death to the dictator,” “Death to Rouhani,” “Death to the Hezbollah,” “Reformist, principlist, the game is now over,” and “We will fight, we will die, we will take back Iran,” “Let go of Syria, think of us,” “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, my life for Iran,” “Political prisoners must be released,” “[Supreme Leader] Seyed Ali [Khamenei] shame on you, let go of our country,” “Mullahs, shame on you, leave our country.” 
  • Protesters held banners insulting the senior government officials.  
  • People wrote graffiti on walls across cities.  
  • Protesters insulted some of the government officials, including the president, and subsequently insulted the supreme leader and the Islamic Republic 
  • They also used media, the internet, and social media to mobilize and coordinate people.  

The Rioters’ Field Tactic  

  • Women’s Role: They used women and girls in the front lines by taking advantage of their potential. Women tried to persuade the police to avoid attacking protesters. They also cheered protesters by chanting slogans against high prices.  
  • [Some other field tactics included] hand-to-hand combat with the security forces, mainly with the anti-riot police.  
  • Attacking military centers to encourage other rioters.  
  • Holding street riots, defying the Supreme Leader’s order of not holding any protests.  
  • Attacking the security forces and Basij, and setting their equipment on fire, to demoralize [the regime’s] forces.  
  • Mobilizing forces by using Telegram etc. and gathering in key areas of the city.  
  • Chanting “let go of hin/her” or “get lost” and attacking the security forces when they attempted to arrest the rioters.  

Policy Recommendation  

To manage urban crises like November 2019, we recommend:  

  • Taking measures against the identified field tactics using methods such as targeted identification and arrest, isolating the involved elements, isolating the target location, isolating the causes of unrest (quarantine), population control, war games, etc. 


The IRGC’s latest report once again highlighted that major Iran protests in 2019 were a turning point and had a significant impact on the regime’s standing both domestically and internationally. The November 2019 uprising laid bare the regime’s vulnerability and illegitimacy in Iran, explaining why Tehran had to resort to stepped-up intransigent policies regarding its nuclear and missile program.  

The IRGC’s report also acknowledges that the protests were highly organized, and protesters only targeted the regime’s centers of oppression and plunder.  

This report reconfirms that unlike what Tehran’s apologists have tried to imply for years, Iranians do not believe in reform, have rejected the regime’s factions, and see regime change as the only viable option to the current economic and social crises.  

The report lays bare the fragile and vulnerable state of the regime vis-a-vis an increasingly restive society. Against this backdrop, Western governments should refrain from providing  Iran’s moribund regime with any lifeline. Including the easing of the sanctions. On the contrary, they should stand with the Iranian people as they stand for liberty.