November 2019 Protests in Iran: Unveiling the Mahshahr Massacre

Zamaneh Media
2 min readNov 30, 2023

by Farzad Seifikaran — 19November2023

In the southern port city of Mahshahr, Iran, during the nationwide protests of 2019, government forces deployed artillery weapons to target protesters who had sought refuge inside a canebrake. This Zamaneh Media investigative report was published in 2020 and it is about a five-minute video that sheds light on previously undisclosed details of the Mahshahr canebrake massacre.

Arial view of Abolfazl gas station in Chamran Town, Mahshahr, where the protests originated and subsequently, the massacre of protesters unfolded in the following days.

In November 2019, nationwide protests erupted in Iran over a government-imposed gasoline price hike. In response, the government completely shut down the internet. Amidst a blackout of news and total isolation from the rest of the world, the Islamic Republic of Iran and its security forces orchestrated the most violent suppression of street protests in Iran’s contemporary history. In just four days, government forces killed hundreds of innocent civilians participating in peaceful protests.

The nationwide protests spanned over 200 cities across Iran, from small towns to large urban centers. Khuzestan province bore the brunt of widespread protests, resulting in one of the highest counts of protesters arrested, wounded, and killed. Among the cities in Khuzestan, Mahshahr (Mashoor), the province’s second-largest city and home to one of the country’s major sea ports, witnessed an unprecedented level of bloodshed during the government crackdown. The majority of those killed in this city belonged to the Arab minority ethnic group.

As the government gradually lifted the internet blackout after a week, photos and videos circulated online, revealing the extent of the violence in various cities. Khuzestan was the last region to regain internet access, taking 14 days for the province to reconnect. A short, low-quality, and shaky video surfaced on the internet from Mahshahr, leaving viewers shocked. This particular video captured protesters seeking refuge in the prominently Arab suburban town of Shahrak Jarrahi (Chamran) about 20 km north of Mahshahr Port. In Shahrak Jarrahi, in an area that was covered in cane growth, a canebrake a deadly attack against protesters took place. Protesters fleeing government forces took refuge inside the canebrake, and government forces fired at them with artillery weapons, leading to one of the deadliest killings, now known as the Canebrake Massacre or the Mahshahr Massacre.

The initial video showing artillery firing against protesters was only 1 minute and 35 seconds long. Radio Zamaneh, received the full-length version of this video, a 5-minute and 10-second account of the canebrake massacre in 2020. In this report, we will analyze this specific video and other videos from the November 2019 protests in Iran to understand the harrowing events of the bloody Canebrake Massacre.

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