August 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Arrests 12 Human Rights Activists Ahead of Nationwide Protests Anniversary 

August 18, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Arrests 12 Human Rights Activists Ahead of Nationwide Protests Anniversary 

Latest Developments 

The regime in Iran arrested 12 human rights activists on August 16, about a month before the first anniversary of nationwide protests. The activists, 11 women and one man, were in Iran’s northern Gilan Province. The regime accused those arrested, without evidence, of planning to incite “chaos and vandalism” and of being funded by Western security services and Israel. In recent months, Iranian leaders have intensified restrictions despite international calls for reform, including increasing patrols by the morality police, deploying surveillance cameras to catch hijab law violators, and pushing to pass more restrictive hijab laws. 

Expert Analysis 

“The Islamic Republic’s arrest of a dozen women’s rights activists and continued harassment and detention of protestors is proof positive that Tehran fears any actualization of the slogan Iranians have been chanting in the streets for almost a year now: ‘Women, life, freedom.’” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow 

“Iran’s protesters have not given up. Nearly a year after nationwide demonstrations began, the Iranian people are making clear that they remain determined to replace the clerical regime. Rather than pursue a deal with Tehran that showers the regime with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, the Biden administration needs to reimpose a maximum pressure campaign and express unyielding solidarity with the Iranian people.” — Tzvi Kahn, FDD Research Fellow and Senior Editor 

Nationwide Protests Continue 

Demonstrators began protesting on September 16, 2022, after 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian Mahsa Amini’s death at the hands of Iran’s morality police, which accused her of wearing the hijab improperly. The protests, which focus on women’s rights, Iran’s poor economy, and other regime failures, have continued during the past year, especially in the fall of 2022 and winter of 2023. Tehran has responded by brutally cracking down on protestors, journalists, lawyers, and human rights activists. Female prisoners have accused the country’s prison staff of inhumane and illegal treatment, including sexual harassment and rape. 

According to FDD tracking data, at least 4,130 protests have occurred in Iran since September 2022, including some 153 in August 2023 thus far. During these demonstrations, Iranian security forces killed at least 635 protesters and arrested at least 21,702. 

Iran’s Sham Trials and Executions 

On May 19, the regime executed three Iranian men arrested at anti-government protests last year after a brief, closed-door trial devoid of due process. According to The Washington Post, Tehran has so far executed at least seven men with protest-related convictions. Iran is one of the world’s top executioners. Executions in Iran soared from 333 in 2021 to at least 582 in 2022. Tehran has formally executed at least 460 people so far this year, including 11 women, according to the Oslo-based non-profit Iran Human Rights. 

Why Iran’s regime fears women’s hair,” by Tzvi Kahn 

Mapping Protests in Iran,” by Mark Dubowitz 

Iran Intensifies Crackdown on Dissent,” FDD Flash Brief 

Protests Across Iran Persist, Now Nine Months On,” FDD Flash Brief 

Iran Begins Trials of Two Female Journalists,” FDD Flash Brief 


Iran Iran Human Rights