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Iran: How Significant Was the Regime's Rally?

IRAN FLAGEA correspondent Josh Shahryar offers these thoughts, which are also posted on his personal blog:

Today, pro-government Iranians took to streets in Tehran and possibly other cities in a show of support for the Ahmadinejad government and for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. A report by CNN spoke of hundreds of thousands of people in Tehran alone and perhaps thousands more in “Tabriz, Shiraz, Arak, Gilan and Sistan-Baluchestan province.”

Iran: The Regime’s Misfired “Big Shot” at Legitimacy
Iran: The Uncertainties of Oppression and Protest
The Latest from Iran (31 December): Is That All There Is?

According to CNN, protesters chanted slogans against Mir Hossein Mousavi, America, Britain, France, Israel and the Green Movement’s protests on Sunday (Ashura). However, the CNN report while accurate in most respects, failed to mention key facts about the protests, facts that would show their true nature.

For starters, the CNN report and some other media account do not mention that dozens of buses chartered by the Iranian government ran non-stop from villages and suburbs around Tehran and other cities, bringing in government supporters in hordes to the protest venues. The buses began their operation the day before, ensuring the protest looked large enough.

These protesters were then later dispatched to their homes outside Tehran and other cities by the same buses. So what seemed like tens of thousands of Tehranis was in reality a mix of Tehranis and non-Tehranis brought in specifically for the purpose of fooling the world into believing that Tehran and other cities fully support [Supreme Leader] Khamenei and [President] Ahmadinejad.

And while government-run media claimed millions and CNN claimed hundreds of thousands and that Tehran was ‘packed’ with protesters, independent analyses show that the protest in Tehran was composed of no more than 20,000 people. (a larger copy of image below)
Secondly, the reports fail to mention that the protesters were offered free refreshments at the expense of the government to keep them there and to boost their morale. Their banners, slogans, and even the declaration they released denouncing the opposition were written, prepared and handed over to them by the government. Protesters received all their material needs from the government from the minute they boarded the buses to the minute they got back home.

Even so, the enthusiasm that Green Movement supporters show when they are out protesting was non-existent during this protest. People had simply brought their whole families out for a day out on the streets after being prepped up by the government to counter the popular movement that is shaking the core of the Islamic Republic.

And even the government’s own media announced that there were no protests in some of the other large cities. Mashhad, the second largest city, saw almost no response. Neither did Isfahan, the third largest city. And there was no independent confirmation of protests from the cities that the government-run media reported.

Finally, there was no riot police, Basij or IRGC members out with batons, cables, pepper spray, tear ga,s and bullets to disperse the people or stop them from chanting and gathering. Compare this to the millions of people who marched onto streets in June or the hundreds of thousands that marched on Sunday in the face of brutal repression and a government ban on their protests, and you will clearly see the desperate attempts by the Iranian government to make the world believe it has significant support among the populace.

If the government lifts bans on opposition protests, does not cut off telecommunication systems to disrupt planning, does not arrests hundreds and kill dozens, then we’ll see millions out on Iran’s streets every day.

The truth is, if the government did have support among the people, the crowds on Ashura would have been split between the Green Movement and the supporters of the Islamic Republic. On that day, it was an overwhelming show of support for reform and a clear rejection of the Islamic Republic. Plain and simple. The ‘Tehranis’ the government showed the world today were huddled up in small pockets on that day or sitting at home in their villages, watching government propaganda on TV.

Protests like today’s may make the government feel a bit less insecure about its prospects of survival, but it is in no way going to change the resolve of the Iranian people or the perception of the government’s brutality and weakness in the minds of foreigners.

Reader Comments (51)

Scott, I can't thank you enough for your Iran coverage. I cannot find any other site on the internet that sees through propaganda and rumors as quickly as this.

Because of the Regime's crackdown on and expulsion of journalists many media outlets I would usually look to for information have fallen back on lazy journalism and simply regurgitating regime propaganda since that's the only "official" information that can come out of the country. Your site is an invaluable resource.

Regarding the government "protest" against real protests, what a disaster. Even Causescu in his last days could get much bigger crowds than that and he didn't have billions of dollars in oil money to distribute. Juxtaposed with the huge crowds that come out for the opposition despite risk of death, this humiliation just confirms to everyone in their home towns in Iran that the regime has no support. Very dangerous for a dictatorship, this was a big mistake.
This stunt will also backfire because it implicitly legitimizes street protests, the same mistake the government made immediately after the election by having the same. It struck me how low the morale of the "pro-regime" demonstrators was. Even in the aftermath of the election in June, the government could at least put up SOME kind of demonstration of support even if they were much smaller than the greens. This is likely to backfire very badly.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Tonight, 1.5 million people are expected to Rally in Sydney, Australia. Free public transportation will be provided by the Government Regime for anybody wishing to participate in the Rally.

Nothing to do with supporting or opposing the regime - just to watch the fireworks on the magnificent Sydney Harbour.

See you all next year!!


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Really great ! Puh! I can't tell you how important that was for me. When I heard yesterday that 'millions' of Regime-supporters were demonstrating for the death
of protesters, I really felt into a whole for the rest of the day.

Thank you very much Scott. All the best wishes for the coming year :)

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdirtynight

"Finally, there was no riot police, Basij or IRGC members out with batons, cables, pepper spray, tear ga,s and bullets to disperse the people or stop them from chanting and gathering."

Of course, since they certainly made up a significant part of the protesters!
Also, i think maybe gov't employees simply couldn't NOT be in the rally, for fear of being retaliated against; it's even possible that some of them also take part in the opposition demos in spite of being forced to show up when summoned by the gvt.

press TV's or CNN's report (I don't remember which as they are so much alike) says that the rally lasted "at least 2 hours" which is really not much for a so- called angered and indignant crowd! when you really feel enthutiastic, you don't want to leave the party after only 2 hours.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterflorence achard

Good report Scott, and so was your last one. :) Thanks, keep up the good work and Happy New Year, a better one for Iran.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheVeni1

Scott, I subscribe to Adam's comment. Thank you so much!
Peyke Iran, quick off the mark as usual, offers a wonderful checklist, comparing spontaneous and staged rallies:
My English is not sufficient, otherwise I would translate it immediately.

Meanwhile IRNA has eliminated the first name of its female speakers, recommends segregation in discussions and argues over the national issue, if women should be allowed to laugh on TV:
Poor Iran!

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArshama

Thank you so much for your analysis, Josh!

Amid the heated discussions about the numbers of government supporters out on the streets it is good to have your sober judgement.

As always since June.

Take care and keep up the good work!

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaleene

To back this up lets supply some simple math:


1) The normative amount of space one individual requires is between 2 to 3 square feet. To error on the side of caution lets round this down to one square feet--after all did we not see a group hug amongst the demonstators!??

2) The rough estimate of total square footage is 85,000. Again to err on the side of caution lets round this up 100,000 square feet.

The math:

1) Assuming 100,000 square feet and 1 square foot per person gets us to the total of a 100,000 people.

2) Assuming 85,000 square feet and 3 square feet a person gets us 28,333 people.

Well we now know the regime can't count! To get a million plus people you need at least a million square feet. It should also be noted the regime showed absolutely no shots on the periphery. This effectively allowed them to show a confined space packed with people and no way to see where it ended.


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill

Great article Josh- plus many govt workers were urgeg to attend rallys rather than come to the office. Hmmm, what would I do?
Thanks again


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterapk

@ Barry; Do you see the difference?
The Australian government uses the national assets to encourage people to come to streets and unite to have a common experience and to enjoy a fun and beautiful event.
The Iranian government uses the national assets to split the people, to encourage hooliganism and to curse and swear. To divide and to denounce.
I now wish I was Australian.

Iranian people should be realists and know that until we have educated the 30000 government supporters, until we have addressed every person educated, uneducated, rural and urban, poor and rich, then we can not beat this government. I say to all the greens, lets go to the den of the enemy. Lets spend the next week or two engaging an AN/SL supporter, and not in political argument, but in a social embrace to break the deadlock. I know they want a fist full of dollars and a good square meal now, and I know I can provide that to a good 10 or 20 people daily.

I am tired of this argument of rich against the poor and educated against the uneducated. This norht / south Tehran argument. I say lets go and embrace these uneducated, rural south Tehrani poor people. In todays Iran there is only 30000 of them left it seems. We can embrace them and make room for them in the movement. We can encourage them to join us.

Congratulations to Scot for a well written piece.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwhereismyvote

excellent analysis.. I like to see if the govt. would not send out its thugs to beat people and kill them & offer them refreshments, how many people would walk the street in protest of the current regime with out getting bused ... they think we are stupid ... MAY the people of Iran stay together and strong and keep fighting these lying thieves & May the world see them & expose them for the blood suckers they really are!

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryekirani

[...] More at Enduring America. VN:F [1.7.9_1023]please wait...Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast) [...]


"@ Barry; Do you see the difference?"

Happy new Year!

Oh yes - I see and know the difference. That is the reason why I used the exact words of my post. Basically, in the hope that even one currently freedom deprived person in Iran who is still "sitting on the fence" may also see the difference and take some action for themselves.

The fireworks on the Harbour were spectacular as usual. I however attended a local display, close to where I live - also funded and organized by a Local Council (we have 3 tiers of Govt in this country - Federal, State and Local.)


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

What a joke!

Video footage shot from a helicopter was broadcast nonstop on Jam e Jam. There were people until they eye could see and you say 20k?


It was millions - maybe 2-3 in Tehran ALONE.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAli


Can you please provide a link to that footage - it would be interesting to see.


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Iranian Ayotollah claims: "Shiite theocracy in its present form has failed "


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Iranian prisoner predicts prison massacre


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Happy new year to you Barry in 'thereunder', (we'll be seeing your fireworks in a couple of hours), and to all this great team, and Josh and Scott and all the people here and to the whole green movement, many many big wishes for the next great year, kisses to all.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpessimist


So where is the footage? Typical pro regime banter with no proof. In addition how far can the eye see? It depends in Iran because the fact remains Tehran has some the worst air pollution in the world restriciting visibility. I have seen a number of videos including one aerial shot and none pan out beyond the square. Yes the square was jammed but even with what the naked eye can see the numbers do not add up. I challenge you to prove us wrong! I will be ther first to admit I made an error but will you?


December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill


Please provide tangible evidence for any claims that you make. I have and I think it's pretty evident. If you cannot falsify my claim and cannot support yours, then I fail to see why you even take the time to comment.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Shahryar

The video footage Ali was talking about is probably this one: (please open in MEDIA PLAYER). This clip indeed does show a huge turnout and it is arial footage taken from a helicopter.

Josh analysis is solely based on what the western media has been reporting. Josh, how do u know that "buses chartered by the Iranian government ran non-stop from villages and suburbs around Tehran and other cities, bringing in government supporters in hordes to the protest venues. The buses began their operation the day before, ensuring the protest looked large enough.". I mean you were not there, so how r u making this claim?

in fact all the points you mentioned are solely taken from western media coverage. IRIB (Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting) has pointed out the western media's one-sided coverage is this link ((please open in MEDIA PLAYER)

it is not true that people of iran are doing everything they can to over through the system - that's a myth. People have grievances but most are still loyal to islam and the system. this point was explained very clearly by Baqer Moin (Khomeini's biography) with an interview with Aljazeera: someone may say well this just one person's analysis of the situation but i can confirm that what i have been reading so far from both inside and outside iran very similar to what Baqer has said. hopefully with time a more clear picture will emerge.

to do a good analysis it is important to keep a wide view of the situation and at the same time not get influenced by western TV images because run up to iraq war these same western media were screaming on top of there voices that Iraq has WMD without asking any critical questions of whether US and UK regimes accusation are true or not. they just became part of the US and UK governments propaganda.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkhurshid

The leftist media didn't report this astro-turf protest because it would expose the parallel between American socialist tactics, and those of the anti-western Islamic Regime. The ACORN rent-a-mobs that the American left deploys at will, are no different than the "pro-regime demonstrators" that Tehran bused in. We know it, and the state run western media knows that we know it, which is why they won't cover it. The same way the Islamic republic is ridiculing, arresting, torturing, and killing dissidents, is the equivalent to how the Obama administration would like to treat American dissidents who oppose his socialist regime in the U.S. They, and their useful idiots in the American press, only stop at ridicule because they don't have the stones to do what they really want to do; which is to round us up and charge us with subversion. The only difference between the Ahmadinejad regime in Tehran and the Obama regime in Washington is that the former is more open and honest in its intentions than the latter.

January 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjohn galt

You obviously got turned down by the girl down the hall for a New Years Eve date- get a life you drama queen exaggerator. Sorry your so miserable existenc and view of life. Maybe 2010 will be a better year for you. A good therapists might be able to help also.

January 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterapk

Khurshid jan,

I saw the video. I did not base my analysis on the IRIB view or the view by RaheSabz. I don't either. I trust journalists, eye-witnesses and people who either hold no sides or at least have proven to be impartial in the past.

The video you posted is a video manufactured by the IRIB. I'm sorry if I don't believe that it is showing the same events from the same day. After all, we have seen confessions. We have seen IRIB says Mousavi and Karroubi were arrested. We have seen IRIB lie about pretty much everything in the past few months. Do not expect me to take their word for granted.

The picture I posted is from CNN. This picture .. I trust. Because CNN is neither the reformists nor the Iranian government. And I read their story and that's how I built my analysis.

As for buses and refreshments, sir, that is really no secret around here. You just need to go through some BBC and Al-Jazeera to find out the truth. By the way, Al-Jazeera is pretty anti-US and anti-British.

January 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Shahryar


That looks awfully important to you...

January 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Shahryar

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