Oil-Rich City of Khorramshahr in the Recent Uprising in Iran

Khorramshahr lies in the oil-rich southern province of Khuzestan, near the Persian Gulf and Iraq. Khorramshahr is a strategic, economic, and politically important city, due to its extensive oil reserves and access to transport through the Persian Gulf.

Resistance and the courage of the Khorramshahr people have a special place in Iranian history. Just as they did centuries ago, when the people of Khorramshahr fought against the Ottoman Empire, they now rebel against the mullah’s regime. This evil regime has cost them many human lives and financial losses.

Today’s story is about a witness to a series of events in the city’s recent uprising.

gathering in city square. Cropped image: mojahedin.org
Gathering in Khormshahr city square. Cropped image: mojahedin.org, ncr-iran.org

The uprising in Khoramshahr began as it did in many other cities, with the sharp rise in gas prices on November 5t, 2019. At 2 pm, local people gathered in a large city square and at the Motaharri Crossroad, both of which are located in the heart of the city. As evening arrived and darkness began to cover the city, the crowd in the street grew. The regime was already expecting a response after the hike in gas prices. The security forces were stationed close to the city’s gas stations and important buildings and offices.

As the gatherings grew, spilling out into the roads, traffic came to a halt. The Security forces were armed with shields and weapons. They tried to intimidate and block the people from taking part in the demonstrations. As a crowd moved toward a gas station, they began throwing rocks at the gas station, smashing windows and equipment. The witness reported that nothing was spared.

In response, the security guards began shooting directly at people and they fired tear gas into the crowd. Next, the crowd changed direction and set fire to many banks and trash bins.

The crowd discovered that the security forces were hiding in the tall buildings, and they were shooting at the crowd from above. But the people were in high spirits, and they ignored the shootings and encouraged each other to stay together. At one point, the crowd caught a security guard who had been shooting at them, and they beat him.

khorramshahr uprising annotated map
Annotated map of the Khorramshahr uprising.

Soon after, ambulance sirens could be heard. They did not come to pick up the injured people, they only recovered injured security guards. Ordinary people who needed medical assistance were left in the street.

Shortly after, three youths were shot at close range. They died at the scene. The crowd tried to hide the youths so they would not be recognized by the security people. People in the crowd noticed that most of the security guards were in plain-clothes, making it difficult to identify them.

The clashes between the people and security forces continued until midnight. The next day, the witness said there was tension in the city, like it was a war zone. The main entrances to the city were all blocked by concrete barricades, about half a meter high. The guards were all fully armed, but around 3pm, a crowd began to form in the center of the city. The guards appeared to be quite alarmed and frightened. Every suspicious move from the crowd was responded to with tear gas and the use of war weapons.

People were complaining about the road closures and began going towards the main city bazar. The security guards started going to the bazar too. Some protesters were shot and killed and the crowd started fires in a few places. Around 6pm, they arrived at the city center. Witnesses reported seeing cameras had installed, but most of the crowd were wearing masks, making it difficult to identify them.

Some people in the crowd began cutting camera wires, while others bought masks and looking for other ways to protect themselves from the effects of tear gas. Again, security forces shot at a few people, outraging the crowd. Protesters set fire to banks, government offices and other buildings being protected by security guards. Those buildings were targeted for the throwing of rocks, and many windows were smashed.

After some time, riot police arrived armed with machine guns and the crowd dispersed. On the other side of the city, in the Kut Sheikh area, at the new Khorramshahr bridge, people continued to clash with security forces between 4-5 pm.

In a savage and lethal attack, the security forces took the bridge from the protesters.

At first, the bridge was seized by protesters. The security commander of the city of Ahvaz, alongside other military and security commanders of neighboring cities came to the aid of the security forces of Khorramshahr. They had one goal in mind, to end the riot before dawn. They had to do so because first, they were outnumbered by the protesters and had not enough guards, second, they could not agree on how to deal with the situation in Khorramshahr.

The witness said “We were gathered opposite to them, and we could hear gunshots and arguments. It was obvious that there were disagreements between them. Overall, the security was heightened and much ammunition had been brought from other places. In a savage and lethal attack, the security forces were able to take back the bridge from the protesters. Many of the protesters were shot at and lost their lives.”

The road was closed for several days. Ministry of Intelligence forces started raiding people’s homes, looking for any protesters they identified and arresting them.

The families of those who died were fined 50 million tomans to release the body to them. They were not allowed to have any burial ceremonies and had to announce that they died of natural causes.

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.