MEK Iran: A Look Back at the November 2019 Uprising
This month marks the one year anniversary of the November 2019 Uprising, which began on November 15 after the Iranian regime announced a sudden hike in fuel prices and quickly spread to more than 190 cities in all 31 provinces. Although the uprising was triggered by the gas price hike, the protests quickly shifted to calls for regime change. When the Iranian government finally managed to suppress the uprising almost a week later, more than 1,500 protesters were dead, 12,000 more had been arrested, and the stability of the clerical dictatorship was severely weakened.
Reuters confirmed in a special report on December 23, 2019, about the deadly crackdown on November nationwide protests in Iran the death toll of 1500 that was announced by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) on December 15, 2019.
Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook: “The @Reuters report on the massacre ordered by @khamenei_ir underscores the urgency for the international community to punish the perpetrators and isolate the regime for the murder of 1,500 Iranian citizens.” https://t.co/TpUncLjDcv
— Department of State (@StateDept) December 23, 2019
The scale of the Uprising
The November 2019 Uprising started in Khuzestan Province and spread across the country within hours. Widespread resentment over the regime’s corruption, incompetence, mismanagement of the country’s resources, plundering of the people’s wealth, warmongering, and oppression boiled over after officials announced an immediate and dramatic increase in fuel prices. People poured into the streets chanting, “Death to the dictator!”
“Death to Rouhani!”
“Death to Khamenei!”
Protesters across the country set fire to regime institutions in a massive display of rebellion against the ruling government. Banks affiliated with the regime were burned, as were government buildings and military bases. On November 21, 2019, Basij commander Brig. Gen. Salar Abnoush told the semi-official ISNA, “As someone who was on the ground, I believe that only God saved us.”
Regime officials estimated that the uprisings caused $5 billion in damages to government institutions. An additional 1.5 billion was lost due to the regime’s decision to shut off the country’s access to the internet during the protests.
Demonstrators targeted regime institutions and symbols, but homes and neighborhoods were left untouched. The clear goal of the uprising was the overthrow of the regime. Although the protests broke out spontaneously, MEK Resistance Units trained extensively in preparation for such an event and had previously gained the support of a large number of Iranians. When protests broke out in November, MEK Resistance Units quickly mobilized and organized the demonstrations for maximum impact.
The regime responded to the uprising by engaging in the same behaviors that led to the protests. On the second day of protests, the government cut off Iran’s access to the internet in a failed attempt to prevent the world from seeing the scale of the protests and the regime’s response. This backfired spectacularly when MEK sources managed to bypass the restrictions and post a video of the uprising, triggering international outrage at both the regime’s violent suppression of protests and its attempt to shut down the internet.
Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK Iran/PMOI) said yesterday that there have been at least 1500 killed in #IranProtests in #Iran which began on 15 November 2019. #MEK Iran also released the names of 504 slain protesters.https://t.co/m9jsCDZTWC@USAdarFarsi #StopIranBloodshed pic.twitter.com/GwEFjWgYB6
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) December 16, 2019
On the third day of protests, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) forces to fire on protesters at will. The New York Times reported, “In the southwest city of Mahshahr alone, witnesses and medical personnel said, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members surrounded, shot and killed 40 to 100 demonstrators — mostly unarmed young men — in a marsh where they had sought refuge.”
Security forces also used batons, tear gas, and water cannons to subdue protesters. When shooting to kill, they were armed with handguns, automatic weapons, and machine guns. Some protesters were even killed by snipers or shot from helicopters, according to a December 6 report from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. The report read: “Verified video footage indicates severe violence was used against protesters, including armed members of security forces shooting from the roof of a justice department building in one city, and from helicopters in another… We have also received footage that appears to show security forces shooting unarmed demonstrators from behind while they were running away, and shooting others directly in the face and vital organs – in other words shooting to kill. These are clear violations of international norms and standards on the use of force, and serious violations of human rights.”
The MEK’s Role
The regime’s leaders acknowledged the role of the MEK in the uprising even while it was still taking place. Khamenei, who insisted from 1979 to 2018 that the MEK had no influence in Iran, was quick to give credit to the group, saying, “The wicked and criminal collective of the Monafeghin (a slur used by the regime to refer to the MEK) are constantly encouraging and inviting people on social networks and elsewhere to conduct these evil acts.”
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke to the young men about the PMOI #MEK #Iran and his concerns about the opposition group. He warned that the regime needs to be “careful about the enemy recruiting members of our young society”.https://t.co/Ez238fMSxZ#Iranian @USAdarFarsi pic.twitter.com/gUpnkHwzAZ
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) May 20, 2020
Hossein Ashtari, the Commander of State Security Forces (SSF), told the Fars news agency two days after the uprising began that the SSF’s “investigations show that behind the scenes, anti-revolutionary organizations and the MEK led these movements.”
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s (NCRI): We saw during the November 2019 uprising that the protests suddenly erupted in 900 locations across the country. This created a brilliant model for the great uprising that will overthrow the regime.
The November 2019 Uprising came close to successfully overthrowing the regime, and it is clear the mullahs are worried that another rebellion is brewing.