Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more


« At the End of 16 Azar: A Musical Thought | Main | Today at EA »

Iran's 16 Azar: A Review of the Day's Events Throughout the Country

16 AZAR TEHRAN5Josh Shahryar reviews the protests of 16 Azar:

7 December 2009, 16 Azar in the Persian calendar, brought fresh waves of protests across Iran. While slightly smaller than those of 4 November, the protests showed yet again that the government in Iran is facing a serious challenge from the opposition. The 7th of December, National Student Day, is traditionally a day when students gather to celebrate. The appearance today of students and opposition supporters without their leaders is a troubling sign for a regime that has already tried everything from intimidation of peaceful protesters to torture and imprisonment of reformist activists.

Because of the government ban on foreign media and severe restrictions on reformist news outlets, the flow of information was very slow compared to previous protests. However, opposition demonstrators were able to get the news out through online social media, and it gives us a fairly complete picture of what happened in Iran.

Latest Iran Video: The Marches of 16 Azar – 2nd Set (7 December)
Iran’s 16 Azar Protests: An Interim Analysis & Questions for the Green Movement
Latest Iran Video: The Marches of 16 Azar (7 December)
The Latest from Iran (7 December): The Marches of 16 Azar

Protests can be confirmed to have taken place in the cities of Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Kerman, Hamedan, Arak, and Najafabad. There is also partial confirmation of protests taking place in the cities of Sanandaj and Yasuj. There was, however, no confirmation for the protests that were reported to have taken place in Tabriz, Ahvaz, and Shahre Kurd. There were also rumors of protests in other cities which included Rasht, Zahedan, Sari, Karaj, and Oromieh. No part of Iran seemed to have escaped the anger and hopes of the opposition.

Here’s an account of what happened in Tehran and some information about other cities where protests could be fully confirmed:


In preparation for the protests, the government had already restricted Internet access across the city. Cell phone connections were jammed in the central part of the city where most previous protests had taken place. Even though protests were to start at 1500 hours Iran time, all major universities were surrounded by security forces in the early hours of morning and only students with valid identity cards were being allowed to enter the premises. There was an army of security forces in Central Tehran today. In some parts of the city, there were more security forces than protesters.

Despite this, protests started around noon in the area around Tehran University when students started to chant anti-government slogans. Chants also started in Tehran’s Sharif Industrial University, Elm o San’at University and Amir Kabir University. They were soon joined by hundreds of other Tehranis who started gathering and chanting in Enghelab Square and Vali Asr Square.

Clashes broke out when other protesters started attempting to enter Tehran University. Demonstrators chanted "Death to the Dictator", "Death to Khamenei", and "You traitor destroyed our homeland." Despite the clashes in Vali Asr and Enghelab Squares, Tehran University was the major scene of confrontation.

Riot police beat people with batons and fired tear gas indiscriminately at Enghelab and in Tehran University. People were attacked in other parts of the city as well. Reports confirm dozens injured; however, no one was reported to have been killed. By the end of the day, reports emerged that at least three dozen people and possibly many more were arrested by the security forces. There were reports of guns being fired in some parts of the city, but all shots were confirmed to have been fired in the air to scare the protesters.

The only major opposition figure that took part in the protests was former president Hashemi Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. She joined protesters in Tehran and videos of her emerged being accompanied by other protesters. The video shows protesters accompanying Hashemi and chanting, "Thank you, thank you." There were also rumors of Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard joining the protests, but this could not be confirmed by reliable sources. [Editor's note: see our updates reporting that Rahnavard was at the Tehran University campus, where she was assauted by a group of women.]

It is fairly difficult to estimate how many people joined the protests. However, by looking at pictures and videos from different parts of the city and universities, it can be safely said that somewhere between five to ten thousand people took part in protests throughout the day. It is worth noting that there was a government-sanctioned protest in Tehran University as well and more than a thousand government supporters took part in that.


Several hundred students gathered in Mashhad University and chanted anti-government slogans and sang the patriotic song Yaare Dabestani. There were confirmed reports of clashes or protests outside the university.


Hundreds of students and ordinary Shirazis protested in Shiraz’s main university and the central part of the city as well. People were again stopped from entering the institution’s main grounds if they weren’t students. Reports of clashes from the city have been confirmed. There were also reports of arrests, but none could be verified.


More than a thousand students gathered in Razi University, which is the largest institution of higher education in the city. At least 200 security forces were present around the university and prevented people from entering the premises unless they had valid student ID cards.


Bu-Ali Sina University was the main site of protest. Clashes here were perhaps the most violent. Reports of bloodied students being carried away from the scene of clashes were reported by multiple sources. Numbers here were also in the hundreds.

Arak, Kerman, and Najafabad

Protesters chanted in the three cities’ main universities. The protests remained largely peaceful. Not much further could be confirmed. Numbers in these cities were also comparable to Shiraz and Mashhad.

This report was compiled using information from eye-witnesses, Iranian opposition websites and media contacts outside Iran. Government-run media in Iran reported almost nothing about the protests so their view of the events is anyone’s guess.

Reader Comments (15)

Thank you for such a thorough report!

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam Hays

Your numbers are wayyy to conservative for the greens and way too generous for the "pro government" demonstration (if there even was any, I have seen no visual evidence despite the government having a monopoly on organized media).

I have seen the videos from Mashad,Shiraz, Isfahan... if you think that was merely "hundreds" you need to get your eyes checked.

When making numbers estimates you have to keep in mind that the government actually photo-shops pro government demonstrations or distorts footage of opposition protests and says they were pro-government (see 13 aban and Qods day).

Most importantly though, you have to keep in mind that nobody is allowed to film or distribute footage of the opposition protests, so what you are getting is a very incomplete picture. You need to take the regime's suppression of information into account in these estimates, don't give them the benefit of their own repression.

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Thanks Josh, really good through report.

To Adam I'm not sure if you're aware of Josh Shahryar's previous publications on the anonymous website and EA. But I have to say he is one of the people that I trust most when it comes to reports about the SoG, the reason for this is because in my experience he only reports what he can confirm.

Yes, his numbers might be conservative in your opinion, but at least they are based on sound journalistic principals. If there was more reliable data out there I'm sure the estimate would be different, however as reliable data is hard to come by, number discrepancies (if they can be shown) should be seen as unavoidable and understandable. It's just the climate we find ourselves in at present.

Believe me Josh is more aware than most commentators around to what the people of Iran are going through and the role state media is playing in all of that. I can't imagine what a headache it was updating that green brief.

December 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Re: only hundreds in Mashad... This video alone shows over 1,000. There is also footage of night protests in Mashad on EA, take a look

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Well, the int'l media has called this "the largest demos since the summer." That's multiple outlets that say it was bigger than 13 Aban. Of course, that ignores Qods Day, but if I had to judge, I actually think, based only on YouTube vids and pics, that today was just as large as 13 Aban, if not larger.

Given the surprisingly robust intervention of the Rafsanjani clan, the overt challenge to the system (anti-Khamenei acts, the plain "tricolor" flag), etc., they might prove more significant.

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkevina


I saw that video as well. Hundreds is a very flexible number. It could means 999 and it could mean 99. The real answer is probably, closer 7-8 hundred. But one video is not enough to ascertain that. The video you posted does not show a thousand people in my opinion.

As for it being larger than Qods Day or 13 Aban or similar to them in scope, I have no idea. And neither does anyone else. There were simply not enough witnesses to the events and not enough professionally-trained eyes to judge the numbers accurately and independently.

Re; criticism of inflating government protesters' numbers; well, check Reuters. They're saying 2,000. I'm actually going conservative on that.

Finally, in my opinion, numbers don't really matter. No one really knows the numbers involved on Qods Day, 13 Aban or today. It's anyone's guess. All you can really see and still be honest to yourself is that, "Thousands of Iranian protested across the country."

So no, I'm not gonna have my eyes checked. I'll hope I at least presented you with a good defense.

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Shahryar

We are arguing here about hundreds - or perhaps were they thousands. But one thing is sure - they were not hundreds of thousands, or millions.

So, we know where the students are - but where are "the people" ? I am wondering what they are thinking? - they must be aware of the turmoil, but they do not involve themselves. I understand that fear is a very big force - it is so in all militaristic societies. Perhaps their own personal circumstances are still not sufficient for them to get involved ? So the question remains - where are the people.?


December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Josh: Point taken, I understand what you're saying. You are right to be somewhat conservative in your estimates, your credibility is the important thing. If people thought you were exaggerating your numbers it would decrease the value of your reporting.

Re: the 2,000 pro-government protesters according to Reuters... I can not even express how frustrated I am by western news outlets taking the regime's word for it on things like this. If thousands of students were protesting in support of the government even at Tehran University then why was Reuters cameramen not allowed to film it? or anywhere else for that matter? Again, since the government has a total monopoly on organized media, shouldn't we be seeing video proof of such a pro-government demonstration today?
For every Green protest reuters "cannot confirm", but for something that they were simply told second hand by government handlers they report the number without demanding to see proof or be allowed to go to the site, it's disgraceful

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

[...] blog here and here). Over at Scott Lucas’ blog Enduring America, Josh Shahryar has an overview of the days events. A few things are striking here. First of all, the protests continue, as does [...]


Agreed re; Reusters reporting and MSM in general. And THANK YOU for being sensible. Really. I was just attacked rather viciously rel; the numbers. And you are right. I have to worry about my credibility. Not because I will lose my job. I don't work for anyone - that's not an issue. The issue for me is that a lot of non-MSM blogs use the information I provide. Andrew Sullivan just used Scott Lucas and then my reports.

And I must clarify that I whole-heartedly support the Green Movement. I have a tough choice. I can either be a link between the protesters and the outside world or I could go with my emotions. I can't do that as you pointed out.

Yes, the numbers are fairly conservative. But that's just what I saw. Can I be wrong; MOST DEFINITELY! But do I think I tried to be honest and truthful? Yes.

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Shahryar

Come on folks let's talk ourselves into it. There were tens of millions of Iranian greenies out today. The only ones on the streets supporting the govt. today were Mojtaba Khamenei and Ahmadinejad's wife.

Several high ranking Guard officers were arrested because they were about to join the protests. The police chased and beat many Basij members. Ahmadinejad is definitely Jewish. All the pictures and videos of the Supreme Leader in the last two months are fake as he has been dead for two months. (Mojtaba has been impersonating him) Naghdi shot at Jafari's foot but hit his own foot instead with a 9mm bullet.

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel


Your contribution here is invaluable. I didn't know any of these things.


December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

But anyway - right now, it's not about the numbers.

It's the economy, stupid

Interesting article here

""What this class of dissidents has done is not just discomfort the government locally," he said. "It's given them a kind of political auto-immune disease in which they have to attack their own infrastructure to shut the dissent down.

"But that class of attack can't be sustained for weeks, much less months. No advanced economy can survive the wholesale shutdown of its communications function and survive over the long haul."

This will be what eventually brings out "the Good Germans"


December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

The attack on Zahra Rahnavard will probably yield some response. Perhaps even more importantly, if it is true that Rafsanjani's daughter was arrested, the cracks within the regime may be about to widen substantially. More likely however Khamenei will back down again and let the current stalemate go on as long as he can.

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

[...] Shahryar summarizes yesterday’s protests: Reports confirm dozens injured; however, no one was reported to have [...]

December 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWhere’s FOX news when yo

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>