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Did You Know? Timeline of Violent Suppression of Protests in Iran

November 28, 2022
3 min read
Did You Know? Timeline of Violent Suppression of Protests in Iran

“Did you know?” is the title of a series of new IranWire reports. We will collect, analyse, calculate and compare data from reliable sources and will produce an infographic. The aim of these reports is to draw a clear picture of events in Iran. 


Did you know that the Islamic Republic has suppressed approximately one widespread anti-government protest every four years? 

The timeline of major protests over the past four decades shows that at least 10 have been violently suppressed by the government. 


Did You Know? Timeline of Violent Suppression of Protests in Iran

1 - The first protest rally against the Islamic Republic occurred less than a month after the revolution in March 1979. An estimated 50,000 women participated in a march against compulsory hijab. According to eyewitnesses government forces beat protesters and fired in the air to disperse them.

2 - In June 1981 Tehran and several other cities witnessed the biggest street clashes since the revolution. The clashes started after the “political inadequacy” of Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of Iran, was announced in parliament following his impeachment. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said 16 people were killed in Tehran alone. This protest, which was led by the People's Mojahedin Organization, lasted for two days.

3 - More than a decade after the establishment of the Islamic Republic and 10 years after the suppression of the previous protests, anti-government rallies were held in the outskirts of Mashhad in May 1991. Six members of the security forces and four protesters were killed as people came out in response to economic and social problems.

4 - After Mashhad it was Qazvin's turn to witness one of the bloodiest protests in the history of the Islamic Republic. In August 1994 the people of the city of Qazvin west of Tehran demonstrated and blocked roads in response to parliament's opposition to upgrading Qazvin to a province. The protests were violently suppressed. There is no official number of fatalities, but unofficial sources estimate that dozens of people were killed.

5 - The third-largest protests of the 1990s took place near Tehran in the city of Islamshahr. In April 1995 a group of people protested against fare increases and a minibus drivers’ strike, as well as poverty and a lack of water. This demonstration was violently suppressed. Government sources confirmed one death, and various foreign sources reported between 15 and 50 deaths.

6 - During a period of student protests that lasted nearly five days following the shutting down of the Salam newspaper, a Tehran University dormitory was attacked by plainclothes police forces in July 1999. Official sources confirmed that one person was killed on the university campus, but human rights sources said at least seven were killed.

7 - Immediately after the announcement of the initial results of the presidential election on the morning of June 13, 2009, Tehran and some other big cities saw demonstrations by people who believed the results were fraudulent. The protests reached their peak on June 15 with a massive silent march in Tehran and continued until February 2010. There is no official number of people killed, but unofficial sources documented up to 100 deaths.

8 - A few months after the victory of Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election one of the biggest protests of the 2010s started in December. People were angry at the economic situation and the protests quickly spread to 160 cities – making them the largest since the revolution. The protests were violently suppressed. Official sources did not provide a death toll, but unofficial sources reported 50 deaths in 10 days of protests. 

9 - Protests started in more than 100 cities in November 2018 after an increase in gas prices. From the very beginning the security forces tried to suppress them, but the scale of the suppression expanded after the internet was cut off on November 16. Reuters said 1,500 people were killed. Official sources of the Islamic Republic confirmed up to 225 deaths and human rights sources have documented more than 300. 

10 - Iran is now gripped by protests since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, in the custody of Tehran’s morality police. The protest movement has grown to become one of the biggest threats to the clerical regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The unrest has triggered a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces in which more than 400 people have been killed, including dozens of children. Thousands of people have also been arrested.



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