Iranwire – How does the Iranian government explain the wave of protests that have exploded on the streets of towns and cities across the country in recent weeks? What do they think is happening, and why? Their public pronouncements may give us an insight.
The Islamic Republic has its own vocabulary for describing every protest. They talk of pre-revolutionary security forces, foreign enemies, excitement, emotions, video games and the internet. Sometimes new terms are added in response to new developments.
Here are some of those currently accused of blame.
“The Savaki family”
The longest-running narrative is that intelligence forces linked to the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi are to blame, even though it is 43 years since he was ousted in the Islamic Revolution and his intelligence agency SAVAK was replaced by 16 new security agencies.
These “Savaki families” are supported by foreign forces, it is often claimed.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: “The protesters are the Savaki families and those provoked by America, Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
Yadullah Javani, political deputy of the Revolutionary Guards: “Our enemies will use their media empires, networks of thugs and mobs, hypocrites, royalists, families of Savakis and the dead, which they have organized in advance, to disrupt the law and order of the country.”
Javan newspaper affiliated with the IRGC: “92 people affiliated with the infamous Pahlavi regime and prominent royalists were identified and arrested in the scenes of unrest and behind the scenes.”
“Emotions and excitement”
The mullahs are not the first elders in power to blame youthful protest on hot-headedness. They say “emotions and excitement” have led teenagers to desert their classrooms, go onto the streets and protest loudly against the government.
Their protests have, of course, been met with abrupt and violent force. Many have been arrested and detained; more than two dozen minors have so far been killed.
Khamenei: “Some people are either agents of the enemy, or if they are not agents, they are aligned with the enemy, and some are just excited people.”
Hossein Ashtari, the Commander of the Islamic Republic Police Command: “The rioters are young people with an average age of 25 years.”
Mohammad Rashidi, a member of the parliament: “Many young people have joined the rioters devoid of information.”
Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, the head of the judiciary: “You must not escape the understanding that our youths have been lost due to the mischief of the enemy, the influence of cyberspace and the inaction of some of our officials.”
Majid Mirahmadi, Deputy Minister of Interior: “The average age of those who are detained now is 17 years old and above.”
Hossein Salami, Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC: “A few young people have been influenced by the enemy. We tell them to know the enemy and not become a political chess piece against the country.”
A number of officials of the Islamic Republic have considered the death of Mahsa Amini as a minor issue which the protesters have used as an excuse for their protests.
Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces: “The protesters rioted over a small thing.”
Mehdi Faraji, the deputy commander of the Hamedan army: “If there was no Mahsa Amini, they would definitely create another Mahsa.”
Ali Fadavi, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: “We hear some common themes in the confessions of many of these arrested teenagers and young men, such as simulating street riots with computer games, as well as addiction and strong dependence on the internet.”
One of the new accusations is that the protesters are outsiders. Although this has been suggested in trade union protests such as in the cut-off of supply in Hamedan, there has been no history of attributing the protests to non-native people in the past.
Mohammed Abdullahpour, commander of Gilan Quds Corps; “95% of the leaders of the recent riots came from other provinces.”
Azizullah Maleki, Gilan police commander: “A vandalism team entered the province from the south, and before any action, they were identified and two people were arrested.”
Mazaher Majidi, commander of the army, Hamadan province: “At the very beginning, we arrested trained people who were not from Hamadan province and who were organized by the enemy.”
Intelligence Organization of Zanjan Province: “One of the main agents was a non-native woman from one of the south-eastern provinces of the country who came to Zanjan in the early days of the riots.”
Attributing the protests to the Baha’i minority dates to protests in 2009. The Ministry of Information and the authorities of the Islamic Republic have returned to this theme.
The Ministry of Information: “The Baha’i spy organization, following orders from their headquarters in occupied Haifa, mounted a large-scale entry into the scenes of chaos and disorder and encouraged vandalism and destruction of public places. Based on this, in recent days, the central core of Baha’i, including three Baha’i leaders and two members of their media team, were arrested.
Another new group has been identified talking about bombing protests or airplanes.
Ministry of Information: “Sabotage in two passenger planes has been neutralized.”
Ministry of Information: “5 members of takfiri-terrorist groups were arrested along with 36 kilograms of explosives, who were trying to bomb public gatherings as well as rioters.”
Intelligence Organization of the Ashura Corps: “In order to target the people and seek the maximum use of these gatherings, the agents of the monarchists tried to detonate homemade bombs in some areas of Tabriz, and they were arrested.”
Public servants as victims
The Islamic Republic has long presented public facilities and public servants as victims of protests. They’ve recently added street sweepers and ambulance staff to the list. The use of ambulances to transport forces and detainees is one of the new features of the 2022 protests. Some authorities have reported attacks by protesters on ambulances without mentioning this use.
Alireza Zakani, the mayor of Tehran: “In the recent riots, sweepers, cleaners and firemen, who are the servants of the people, were beaten.”
Reza Nouri, representative of the supreme leader in North Khorasan: “Enemies of the regime targeted the country’s relief and rescue organizations in the recent riots and sought to create pessimism among the people towards these organizations.”
Continuation of Me-Too Movement
One of the differences between current protests and others is the widespread support for the protests from celebrities, athletes and artists. This has put them in the line of fire.
Keyhan newspaper: “If mothers were housewives instead of idle workers and raised their children, deceived teenagers would not have participated in the riots.”