December 23, 2022 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1674

Antiregime Protests By Women, Ethnic Minorities, And Students In Iran – Part I: The Protestors' 'Woman, Life, Freedom' Chant vs Islamic Regime Claims That The Protests Are Organized By Foreign Countries

December 23, 2022 | By A. Savyon and M. Manzour*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1674


The antiregime protests in Iran have now been underway for three months, and many of those protesting the regime's tyranny are students and other young adults, and also members of Iran's ethnic minorities.

The protestors' motto, "Woman, Life, Freedom," indicates that the protests are against the regime that suppresses human and women's rights. The protests focus on the nature of Iranian society; while Iran's Islamist regime promotes an Islamic society that imposes religious revolutionary principles on the public, the protestors are demanding a society that while religious is also moderate.[1]

It is notable that the young people's political protests are targeting symbols of the regime – for example, setting on fire the ancestral home of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran's Islamic Revolution, in the city of Khomein, and knocking turbans off the heads of clerics on city streets. Police stations and public buildings are also targets of arson, and protestors are defacing posters and statues of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the late leader of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani, who was in charge of expanding the regime's forces in the region.[2] Video footage shows demonstrators shouting slogans against Khamenei and his son Mojtaba, and against the IRGC and the Basij paramilitary force that is in charge of suppressing the unrest in the cities. 

View video footage of protests on MEMRI TV below:

Regime officials, in contrast, are promoting a narrative according to which the protests are masterminded and fomented by Western countries and their collaborators within Iran, who are enemies of the country. The regime has dubbed the protest movement "the joint war and global media war on Iran,"[3] claiming that these elements are seeking to harm the regime by sowing chaos and unrest with the aim of pressuring it, inter alia to agree to concessions with the U.S. and the West in the nuclear talks. Regime officials are also claiming that the West fears Iran's might and scientific power, particularly its achievements in the nuclear field as well as in the areas of missiles and drones, as well as its ideological strength that challenges the Western order and offers the world an alternative – that is, the Islamic Iranian order as embodied by the Islamic Revolution. Thus, they claim, the West is trying to rile up the Iranian public, especially the younger generation. Therefore, regime officials are promising that the unrest will be harshly suppressed and that the revolution's "values of truth and justice" will continue to be imposed.

Domestically, Supreme Leader Khamenei, who has explained that demons and Satans are behind the unrest, demanded publicly, on December 10, 2022, that Iranian authorities suppress the protests. Indeed, regime enforcement institutions had already announced, a month into the protests, that they would deal harshly with demonstrators. In late October, IRGC commander Hossein Salami publicly warned Iran's young people not to return to the streets to protest. At the same time, the Iranian judiciary announced that it would be holding public trials for thousands of young people arrested during demonstrations.

In an attempt to stop the protests, the regime began executing protestors; in early December it hanged two young men for the crime of moharbele – "war against God" – and announced that it intended to execute 60 more for harming members of regime security forces.[4] It was also reported that security forces personnel are firing at demonstrators, aiming at their faces and at the genitals of women protestors[5] so that they will have to go to hospitals where they can be arrested and severely punished, and making the bodies of those killed disappear so that there can be no funerals that will turn into protest movement strongholds. To date, the official number of those killed is several hundred, including dozens of children.

Iranian Army Ground Forces commander Kioumars Heydari expressed his frustration with the regime apparatuses over the security forces' inability to put down the protests. He said on November 9, 2022, at a women's conference: "If [the authorities] aren't dealing with these flies [i.e. the protestors] today, as the revolutionary society expects, [it is because] this is the will of the Leader [Khamenei]. But the day he issues an order to deal with them, they will have absolutely no place in the country."[6]

Outside Iran, the IRGC is leveraging the protest movement at home to attack Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, claiming that the Iranian Kurdish opposition is driving the protests inside Iran. Iran is attacking bases belonging to the  Kurdish opposition with missiles and kamikaze drones.[7] It was reported that Iran has even deployed armored forces near the Iran-Iraq border.[8]

To view MEMRI TV clip of IRGC missile and drone attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan and statements of IRGC Ground Forces commander Mohammad Pakpour on the continuation of attacks until the separatist groups are disarmed, click here or below:

Assessment: Describing The Protests

Blaming foreign elements for the protests against regime tyranny allows the Iranian leadership to continue to cling to the Islamic Revolution narrative of foreign forces striving to undermine the revolutionary regime, setting up an external enemy ostensibly working against Iran. This justifies military activity against protests in Iran, in the form of violent suppression.

The more the protests refuse to die down, the more political and antiregime they are becoming. While at first demonstrators took to the streets against women being forced to wear the hijab – a cultural and ideological symbol – as time goes on, and as the regime kills and tortures more young people, the more clearly political, antiregime, and anti-Khamenei the protests are becoming.

Furthermore, the regime fears ethnic separatism promoting secession from the Iranian state, and is using particularly harsh tactics in the periphery in the Kurdish and Baluchi regions to suppress the young people, with live fire on demonstrations and executions of protestors.

The previous protest movements in Iran in the modern era, from the late 19th century, included the Tobacco Protest (1891-2), the Persian Constitutional Revolution (1905-1906), Mohammad Mossadegh's movement to nationalize the country's oil industry (1953), and the Islamic Revolution (1978-9). These were all led by coalitions of forces, including prominent Shi'ite clerics acting out of their commitment to the public good as well as intellectuals, bazaar merchants, and others.

In contrast to previous movements, today's young people's movement has no clear leadership. In its absence, public figures such as film and theater directors, producers, and actors, basketball players and other athletes, and online influencers, whom the regime refers to as "celebrities," are the ones expressing the rage of the young protestors. The regime has arrested public figures and online influencers, and has even threatened to execute them (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10379, Iranian Regime Escalates Its Suppression Of Unrest In The Country: IRGC-Affiliated 'Javan' Daily Warns That 60 Or More Protestors Will Be Executed).

This first report in this series will review regime officials' explanations for the protests as a plot concocted outside Iran and promoted by anti-Iranian regime media outlets outside the country.  The second report in this series, to be published soon, will review public criticism of the regime's violent enforcement of hijab wear, the regime requirements for separation of men and women, and the absence in Iran of institutional channels for dissent, such as political parties, that led to this wave of sociopolitical protest.

View MEMRI TV clips of young people holding antiregime demonstrations on university campuses and in the streets of Iran below:

Iranian Regime Officials Attribute Protests To Western Involvement

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei To Expediency Council: "Our Facing The Plots Of The Demons And The Troubles [They Bring] Will Not Stop Us, And Will Create A Foundation For Us To Move Forward"

In an October 12, 2022 speech to Iran's Expediency Council, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for taking action to educate the "fired-up" protesters, and for security and judiciary authorities to take action against them. This, he said, was because they are "agents of the enemy, or on [the enemy's] side" and in order to suppress the protests. As long as Iran adheres to the values of the Revolutionary regime and Islam, the enemy's actions against it will continue, as will "troubles from Satan" and "the demon plots."

Khamenei said: "As long as the [Iranian] nation continues on the path of the Islamic regime and its religious values, hostility against [the regime] will also continue. The only way to handle this is by standing against the enemy... These events [protests] are not spontaneous. It is possible that certain aspects [in Iran that could be improved] were exploited, but the current involvement of the enemy in this matter, especially in its propaganda, in efforts at intellectual influence, and in fomenting [unrest] and encouraging the use of and even providing guidance in making incendiary materials is absolutely clear and apparent to all.

"Within a short period of time, the Iranian nation has managed to reap great successes that were the polar opposite of the policies of the global arrogance [the U.S.], forcing it to respond. In doing so [responding], they [the Americans] brought to the scene a number of people, including some politicians from the U.S. and Europe, through careful planning and a great deal of outlay. These massive movements have shown that the Iranian nation, in addition to being happy, religious, and adhering to its religious values, is continuing its swift movement forward...

"Some of these people [protesters] are enemy agents, or if they are not, they are on the enemy's side; others are merely fired up. As for the latter category of people, this issue must be addressed through cultural means [i.e. education]. But for the former category, the judiciary and law enforcement authorities must do as they are mandated.

"As long as the Iranian nation waves the banner of Islam, and walks alongside the Islamic regime, hostility against it will continue, in various ways. The only path to healing is by standing against the enemy. Satan has created many troubles for us, but those who do not walk the path of Islam experience troubles from Satan in a different way.

"Our facing the plots of the demons and the troubles [they bring] will not stop us, and will create a foundation for us to move forward..."[9]

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (Source: Khamenei's website, October 19, 2022)

IRGC Commander Salami: "[Women's] Removal Of The Hijab Is The Beginning Of The End Of The Destruction Of Humanity [sic]"; Our Students Must Not Lose Themselves To Western Culture, They Must Live Healthy And Pure Lives"; "The Americans Are Starting With Removing The Hijab, And Are Seeking To Make Our Relationships And Lifestyle Exactly Like The West's"

At the National Jihad Conference on October 16, IRGC commander Hossein Salami explained that the unrest is a new phase of the U.S. war on Iran aimed at bringing Iran back into the U.S. sphere of influence. He said: "The victory of the Islamic Revolution dealt a mortal defeat to the U.S. in the region... Since the enemy has tried and failed at all angles of attack, including war, embargo, sanctions, and political isolation, it has now launched a new battle to occupy Iran's culture, politics, and security, where it has a serious and significant presence.

"What is happening today is the product of America's successive failures, since the fall of the imperialist system has brought about a decline in the main support for implementing American policy in the region. By launching a war [against Iran], America sought to show the world that no regime or country can leave its circle. Thus, it launched its hostility against the Islamic Revolution with the goal of seizing control of the revolution. The power of the Islamic Revolution has influenced a significant part of the world, causing the power of the U.S. in the world to diminish. During the era of [President] Clinton, they [the Americans] tried to curtail Iran by means of cultural invasion, economic sanctions, terrorism, and sabotage, but the Islamic Revolution turned every threat into an opportunity. The revolution would not have progressed without a powerful enemy.

"America's failures have caused change in the global considerations regarding the perceptions of America's capabilities – and this is thanks to the Islamic Revolution, which showed everyone America's true power. Thus, all the countries realized that they could be independent and not rely on America, and this made all American plans in the region collapse. The Americans see that all [their] failures in the region are tied to the Islamic Revolution.

"The Americans failed with their oil embargo on Iran because Iran showed that if anyone blocks its economic arteries, it will block their activity in return. This is why they did not meet their goals when it came to the embargo... We are one of the top five countries in producing turbines, and our ballistic missiles can target naval vessels moving eight times faster than the speed of sound – technology only a few countries in the world possess. For this reason, American ships have no presence in the Persian Gulf region. We have the capability to target American armored personnel carriers.

"As of now, only a fraction of the Americans' presence in the region remains, making them sad and depressed. From the American viewpoint, sanctions were a means of subjugating countries, whereas today, the country that wanted to control the Islamic world is now weak and frustrated. That's why the [young people's] riots [in Iran] emerged from the strategic think tanks of America and England, spreading through our ranks.

"The American effort is now to move the battlefield to the schools, because [from a moral standpoint,] it is not possible to confront students. The enemy wishes to make our youth identity-less. The greater the cultural distance between societies and American culture becomes, the more powerful the wave of the [American] invasion will grow, and the greater the distance between our values and the Americans' values, the more powerful the wave of the [American] invasion will grow.

"American teens are identity-less, and this is why the second most common cause of death in the U.S. is teen suicide. This is a sign of the weakness of the American educational system. They want to do the same with our students and teens. Therefore, we must teach this [i.e. that this is what is happening] to our students...

"The educational environment [of the school] is the primary educational environment, and should include more than professional sciences and experiential knowledge. Our teachers must serve as examples for the students. In the school environments, every student should have a moral compass, so they do not stray from the correct path. We can completely dispel the anxiety of the student with a simple act [i.e. providing them with an Islamic education], because if the values at school differ from the ones at home, the teen will rebel.

"Teachers, principals, and parents are the three pillars of education, and [women's] removal of the hijab is the beginning of the end of the destruction of humanity [sic]. This black storm is moving eastward, so we must create protective barriers, and therefore we are providing all our resources to [the areas of] education and training. Our students must not lose themselves to Western culture; they must live healthy and pure lives.

"The Americans start with removing the hijab, and are continuing to act to make our relationships and values exactly like the West's. This bitter struggle of the West has shown us that we must think about our teens and young people more than we have before."[10]

IRGC Commander Salami: "Do Not Be Pawns In The Enemy's Political Chess Game; No One Is Going To Allow You To [Create] Insecurity And Torch [State Property]"; Do Not Exploit  The Regime's Restraint [In Dealing With The Demonstrators]"; "Did The Revolution Not Save Us From Captivity [By The U.S.] And Deliver Us To Freedom? Does Freedom Mean Nudity And The Wanton Trampling Of Divine Values?"

On October 29, 2022, at the funerals of the victims of the October 26 terrorist attack at the shrine in Shiraz, IRGC commander Salami warned young people not to protest in the streets. He said that the U.S. is the cause of the chaos, and that its aim is the killing of Iran's young people, whether they support or oppose the regime. Addressing the student protestors – since students in Iran had, in the early days of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, been the standard-bearers of the anti-U.S. demonstrations – he said: "What happened that some of you have begun to echo foreign voices?... The way back is open to you... This plot that is unfolding in our country, day and night, is the product of joining America, England, Saudi Arabia, and the Zionist regime, because they all experienced great defeats at the hands of the Iranian people over the course of four decades...

"America's dream is only of our young people being killed, and they do not care who is killed – [pro-regime] revolutionary youth or young people who create chaos. They want to see our young people dead. They want to shut down universities and schools. Know that they do not have your best interests at heart. America's perception of Iran is one of rioters torching citizens' and government property, and [its vision of Iran] is of a backward, dependent, and needy country. They [the Americans] yearn to control the fate of this nation. But we will take [their] world from them."

Addressing young antiregime protestors, Salami said: "[To] the young people who are misled – and they are few in number – this revolution is deeply planted in this country and in the sentiment of this country. Do not be pawns in the enemy's political chess game. No one is going to allow you to [create] insecurity and torch [state property] – do not exploit the regime's restraint [in dealing with the demonstrators]."

He continued: "The students have always been the standard-bearers of the struggle against the global arrogance [the U.S.]. What happened to make some of you echo foreign voices? Return to the bosom of the nation, and do not turn the universities into America's battlefields. The way back is open to you.

"Our people are religious, and they trust the [Islamic] regime... Did the revolution not save us from captivity [by the U.S.] and deliver us to freedom? Does freedom mean nudity and the wanton trampling of divine values? Our enemies want the freedom to gamble and drink [alcohol], and to destroy morality; our youth must be aware and alert."

Salami appealed to "the few women who are led astray [by the enemy] not to become cultural warriors in the enemy's front and to promote not wearing the hijab in the country. We say again to our young people: Forsake evil. Today is the day the riots end. Do not go to the streets again."[11]

To view Salami's statements on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Salami: "America's Evil Dreams" To "See Our Young People Being Killed In The Streets" And "To Divide Iran... Will Never Come True"

In a November 17, 2022 speech, IRGC commander Salami said: "The Iranian nation is standing strong. America wants to see our young people being killed in the streets, to see the faces of our people wither, to divide our nation, divide Iran. These evil dreams will never come true... Today, the enemies have come to fight martyrs. Today, we are witnessing a political arrangement on a global scale. America, England, Germany, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia and others have come to fight God, the Prophet [Mohammad], and the martyrs, in a tightly knit and serious political arrangement – a continuation of their past political coalitions. Their standing in the queue of the enemies is evidence of the depth of the massive conspiracy against the [Iranian] nation, and some people within [Iran] have become the enemy's pawns in its goal of destroying the Iranian nation...

"The enemy sought to institute a monarchy in Iran, to exile it, and after that to seize control of it by installing 40,000 advisors in Iran. They want our streets to be full of bars and gambling establishments, and they want our women to have no identity and to make them look like Western women... They want our young people not to bow to God, [and] they want to take the hijab, the key stronghold in the defense of honor, sanctity, and the highest values of Islam, away from our women. The enemy thinks it can harm this glorious revolution by giving a few misguided people a platform...

"The U.S. loves seeing our streets on fire; it loves [the idea] of us not launching a spaceship into the sky; it loves seeing us impoverished and crippled. It loves when our sick have no way to get medicine... Anyone hearing my voice [now] must know that the cries of the enemy are the cries of Satan, and that they came to God's war to take away the innocence of our sons and daughters, to connect Satanic symbols to our teens, and to distance our teens from their homeland and people. Know, everyone, that this is an enemy plot..."[12]

IRGC commander Hossein Salami (Source: Tasnim, November 17, 2022)

IRGC Commander Salami: Iran "Stands Before A Huge World War; All The Infidel Forces From Across The World, Together With Their Mercenaries, Have Come To Wage War Against The Revolution [And Iran's] Security And National Unity"; "We Will Turn This Scene Of Great Fitna [Civil Strife]... Into The Graveyard Of The Americans, The Israelis, And Their Allies"

In a November 27, 2022, speech in the Sistan and Balochistan province in eastern Iran, Salami said: "Today, the enemy, that is, America, England, the Zionist regime, and Saudi Arabia, have come to the arena with all their might, but we will turn this scene of great fitna [civil strife] and this world war into the graveyard of the Americans, the Israelis, and their allies.

"The Shi'ites, the Sunnis, the Sistanis, and Balochis, are part of a single [Iranian] nation... If we want to describe the honor, freedom, and liberty that are seen in the faces of humanity, the symbol of this is the residents of Sistan and Balochistan. The Shi'ites and Sunnis in Sistan and Balochistan have a close relationship, and the enemies always try to harm this relationship... These people are model fighters, inhuman, brave, loyal, diligent, and defenders of borders... Rest assured that the Zionist regime will collapse, but that this revolution will be unharmed.

"The anti-Iran delusions that arise in the enemy's mind will not come true. The holy regime of the Islamic republic is mighty. America, the Zionist regime, France, Germany, England, and Saudi Arabia try to raise tensions in Iran by means of their partisan media. But the Iranian nation is aware of this. The enemy has many disturbed dreams. It lives in delusion. The enemy does not know this land, and the revolution is strong. Shi'ites and Sunnis gather here today, and I say to you, as a lowly soldier of this land, in this place, and on this sacred day, that the giant roots of this revolution are strong and the enemy will not be able to sever even one branch of the tree of the revolution. 

"Today, the infidels stand as one at the front with all their might, and against them stands Islam. It is not possible to stand at the center of this scene, because one side is led by America and Israel, and the other side is led by the Leader [Khamenei] and the loyalists and the revolutionaries [i.e. Iranian citizens]... Our Basij forces, led by Khamenei, have dealt great defeats to the enemy. Today, the country stands before a huge world war. All the infidel forces from across the world, together with their mercenaries, have come to wage war against the revolution [and Iran's] security and national unity... The enemy thinks that the regime will fall, and lives in the delusion of its pointless dreams. [But] the citizens of this land, and particularly of the zealous Sistan and Balochistan, are patriots who know that security is a gift from God..."[13]

IRGC Commander Salami: "In The Resistance To Iran, The Zionists, America, England, France, And Saudi Arabia Can Be Seen, But Of Course They Are Not United"

In a December 15 speech, Salami said: "Thanks to the great presence of the students of religion in defending Islam, no force can allow itself to harm this divine religion. The enemy's aim today is to destroy Iran's Islamic Revolution, and we must realize that today it is not an ordinary situation but a serious situation that will determine [the future]. All the enemies in the world have gathered together against the Iranian nation and this enemy presence is clear...

"In the resistance to Iran, the Zionists, America, England, France, and Saudi Arabia can be seen, but of course they are not united. The enemies believe the lies they tell, and they are the first victims of their own lies, and of course we must know that the enemies have little strength in comparison to what they appear [to have]... The Islamic Revolution has expanded and the power of Islam has expanded, and the rule of Islam has built might on earth after thousands of years – and this issue disturbs the enemies... The recent rebellion will also become an opportunity to strengthen the foundations of the revolution, and we have today realized how we must stand and defend [our] society against the destruction of the enemy and its dissemination of lies in cyberspace..."[14]

IRGC commander Salami (Source: Mashregh News, Iran, December 15, 2022)

Iranian President Raisi: "The Americans Are Angry At Any Good, Innovative, And Creative Move By The Iranian Nation, And At The Same Time Happy At [Its] Problems And Insecurity"; "This Enemy Conspiracy Must Be Dealt With Effectively"

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said at a October 16, 2022 government session: "The declarations of the American president [Biden], in which he allowed himself to fuel the chaos, terror, and destruction in Iran, is reminiscent of the eternal statements of the founder of the Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini], who called America 'the Great Satan'...

Iranian President Raisi (Source: Tasnim, Iran, October 16, 2022)

"The Americans are angry over any good, innovative, and creative move of the Iranian nation, and at the same time happy at [its] problems and insecurity. The wise Iranian nation knows the enemy and its stratagems well, and this time too it will fail to accomplish its goal, and the nation will continue to grow and advance with strength and honor. With the recent events [in Iran], the enemy seeks to arouse despair and hopelessness. This enemy conspiracy must be dealt with effectively, in order to advance matters and resolve the problems of the [Iranian] citizens."[15]

Hossein Taeb, Advisor To The IRGC Commander: "The Actualization Of The Americans' Strategic Goal Regarding Iran's Domestic Situation At This Stage Is Being Done With A Joint War; This Hybrid War Comprises Strategic Defense Mixed With Virtual, Political, Classic, And Irregular War, [With The Addition Of] Fake News"

Hossein Taeb, advisor to IRGC commander Salami and, until June 2021, head of the IRGC intelligence organization, said at the National Jihad Conference on October 22, 2022: "Today, we are at a very sensitive moment in history. One party to this moment is the global arrogance, led by America and the Zionist regime, and the other party is Iran's Islamic Revolution. At this critical point in time, the determination of fate is very limited, and for this reason the issue is being accelerated. The enemy believes that the Islamic Revolution must be brought down, and the regime structure in Iran must be changed. They have tried this, and when they saw that they could not change the regime structure in Iran, they began to change the behavior [within] Islamic Iran.

"One of the important goals of the global arrogance led by America is the instability in the region and the lighting of fires within Iran. In order to create insecurity in the country, the enemy decided to foment unrest in Iran in order to stop its progress. The enemy acknowledges that despite all the efforts and the trillions of dollars spent in the region, it has not managed to obtain results because of Iran's presence... The policy of the Democrats [in the U.S.] is to restrain Iran's might by increasing instability in the region of the resistance, and by giving certain concessions to Iran in negotiations about returning to the JCPOA nuclear deal. The actualization of the Americans' strategic goal regarding Iran's domestic situation at this stage is being done with a joint war. This hybrid war comprises strategic defense mixed with virtual, political, classic, and irregular war, [with the addition of] fake news, diplomacy, lawfare, interference in the country's elections, disruption of the demographic structure, migration, cultural attack, and creating religious disputes."[16]

Hossein Taeb, advisor to IRGC commander Salami (Source: Mashregh, Iran, November 22, 2022)

Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian: "One Of The Goals That The Foreign Sides Sought To Achieve [With The Protests] Was Fomenting Unrest"

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on December 6 at a meeting in Bosnia with Iranian citizens residing there: "One of the goals that the foreign parties sought to achieve [with the protests] was fomenting unrest. In fact, we have successfully gotten through it, with God's help, with the insight of the people, and with the guidance of the Supreme Leader [Khamenei]. What remains are the falsified, invented, and exaggerated pictures in some antiregime Persian-language media outlets [a reference to the Saudi Iran International outlet], the media that incited and encouraged violence and vengeance during the period of unrest. But the country passed through this stage successfully. At the same time, they [the enemies] are continuing their efforts to ramp up the Iranophobia and to harm the security of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But do not doubt that they will fail in this matter as well, and Iran and the Iranians are always proud."[17]

Passive Defense Organization Head Jalali: "Those Who Rolled Out The Red Carpet For Telegram, Instagram, And WhatsApp Are To Blame For Today's Insecurity"

Gholam Reza Jalali, the head of Iran's Passive Defense Organization, said at an October 25, 2022 press conference marking Passive Defense Week: "Today, we are witnessing a front and a joint war in the [regime of the] Islamic Revolution that seeks an opportunity to create chaos and unrest using technology, pictures, and videos. This is in the framework of a joint war of popular protests in order to create division among Iran's various ethnic groups. But our nation, which comprises various ethnic groups, has stood united against the enemy for hundreds of years.

"The enemy tried to meld a description of the social protests as a coup in the joint war, and to create many divisions, including [among] ethnic groups. Foreign platforms tried to hand cyberspace over to foreigners, and the ones who rolled out the red carpet for Telegram, Instagram and WhatsApp [i.e. those in the previous government of President Hassan Rohani] are to blame for today's economic insecurity and social issues in the country. Foreign platforms are working against our security, and we saw that while they convey pictures of [the late Qods Force commander Qassem] Soleimani, they also allow the sharing in this space of an instructional video for making firebombs...

"The enemies tried to turn Iran into Syria and Libya, and these aims of the Zionist regime and America are clearly [seen] in recent events. We have experienced the worst cognitive operations against the country in recent months, and the quantity of propaganda against our people has been unprecedented.

"According to comparative statistics, our women in the country are in a better situation than before the [1979] revolution. Happily, we have succeeded in dealing seriously with the recent incident [i.e. the protests], and our people responded harshly to all those who sought chaos in the country... This is even though when the voice of the breaking of the economic sanctions was heard [a reference to Iran's success in selling its oil despite the U.S. sanctions], the enemy had no choice but to act [against us]... The enemy's strategy is that no correct picture of a strong and progressing Iran can be conveyed – not only to the world but even to the [Iranian] people..."[18]

Gholam Reza Jalali (Source: ISNA, Iran, October 25, 2022)

Regime Mouthpiece Kayhan: "The Hijab In Iran Cannot Form The Basis For A Successful Rebellion Against The Regime And Its Values"

In its October 26 editorial, the regime mouthpiece Kayhan downplayed the protests, stating: "The hijab in Iran cannot form the basis for a successful rebellion against the regime and its values... In the recent rioting, three things happened at the same time: One was that even though several girls aged 15-20 removed their hijabs, unconnected to the rioting, the hijab has not become a slogan in the streets. Eighty-three percent of women surveyed said that they believe in the hijab, and more than 70% said that they wear it even at family events.

"The second issue was the scope of the rioting on which the enemy relied. But what actually happened was much less than the enemy had planned and expected. Therefore, it became clear that the issue of the hijab is not provocative in Iranian society. In fact, over the past 43 years [since the Islamic Revolution], there has been no real challenge [to it] in Iranian society, such that not wearing the hijab cannot constitute a source of incitement.

"The third issue was the very small presence of women in the rioting..."

"A look at and assessment of this issue shows that the enemy was defeated in these riots, and looked more idiotic than ever, because the hijab in Iran is a value and an age-old social symbol, and a sign of the modesty and greatness of Iranian women... The enemies marked the recent fitna [the unrest] with the false assumption that the slogan about women would cause this society to make a mistake and act against its national interests. Although the girls and young women in the country never experienced the era of the previous regime [of the Westernized Shah], they had heard the story of that era from their mothers. Thus, Iranian women are not motivated, materially or spiritually, to return to the time when they were captives...

"Iranian society is ultimately a 'religious' society, and this is characteristic of all parts of Iranian society. Iranian society, even if it suffers from complications, is ultimately a religious society... Therefore, it is clear that the dancers, spies, wounded, antireligious, and, in a word, antirevolutionaries cannot harm this revolutionary movement and the Islamic regime..."[19]

On October 2, 2022, Kayhan complained that its building had been attacked in the unrest. It wrote, under the headline "Terrorists and Hired Bullies Attack Kayhan, Breaking Windows And Fleeing": "Yesterday [October 1] several terrorists and hired bullies attacked the offices of the Kayhan daily, armed with cold weapons... and damaged parts of this institution's building. It should be noted that one of the windows shows bullet holes. The wise Iranian people's demand is: 'Don't give criminals an opportunity [to carry out their plots in the country]."[20]

Photos of the attack on Kayhan, published by the local newspaper Hamshahari, October 2, 2022.

*Ayelet Savyon is director of MEMRI's Iran Media Project; M. Manzour is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1654, Iran's Hijab War – An Expression Of The Struggle For Political Freedom: Part I, October 3, 2022.

[2] Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.

[3] According to the Iranian regime mouthpiece, the Kayhan daily, November 24, 2022.

[4] MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10379, Iranian Regime Escalates Its Suppression Of Unrest In The Country: IRGC-Affiliated 'Javan' Daily Warns That 60 Or More Protestors Will Be Executed, December 14, 2022. On November 16, 2022, the judiciary announced the death sentences of three people arrested during the unrest in Tehran. The first was charged with carrying out terrorist acts and hitting police with his car, killing one and wounding more. The second was charged with assault with a cold weapon, wounding a security forces member, and causing fear and insecurity among the people, and the third was charged with attempting to close off a street, preventing vehicular traffic, damaging public property, and causing terrorism. ISNA, Iran, November 16, 2022.

[5], December 8, 2022.

[6], November 9, 2022.

[7], November 21, 2022.

[8], November 25, 2022.

[9], October 12, 2022.

[10], October 16, 2022.

[11], October 29, 2022.

[12], November 17, 2022.

[13], November 27, 2022.

[14], December 15, 2022.

[15], October 16, 2022.

[16], November 22, 2022.

[17], December 6, 2022.

[18], October 25, 2022.

[19] Kayhan (Iran), October 26, 2022.

[20] Kayhan (Iran), October 2, 2022.

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