The U.S. Department of State has added the name of IRGC Brigadier General Hassan Shahvarpour to the list of Iranian officials sanctioned by the United States. Shahvarpour is the commander of the IRGC unit that massacred dozens of Iranian protesters in the southern city of Mahshahr in November.
The United States announced in an official statement that the IRGC units under Shahvarpour’s command have killed at least 148 protesters in Mahshahr during a violent crackdown on protesters that marked a gross violation of human rights.
Shahvarpour is the commander of IRGC’s Valiasr headquarters in Khuzestan province, one of the 32 provincial headquarters in Iran that were organized in 2018 with combining IRGC personnel and Basij militia.
Iran has 31 provinces but the reason there are 32 headquarters is that Greater Tehran has its own IRGC unit in addition to the headquarters commissioned to keep the Tehran Province secure for the regime.
The provincial headquarters are organized in a way to have more authority to decide how to tackle crises independently when local units are cut off from the IRGC’s nationwide command.
The IRGC has defined two types of critical situations: When there is a threat from abroad presumably by the U.S. or Israeli forces, and when the province is facing a threat from within in case of riots and widespread protests against the regime.
IRGC commanders’ general assumption during the past decade was that an attack by foreign forces or an anti-government upheaval might affect the entire country, and this may cut off local units from the central command in Tehran. This justifies the extensive authority vested in local headquarters.
In Khuzestan Province, the local headquarters, Valiasr, is in charge of suppressing protests and there is also a Karbala headquarters that is supposed to deal with foreign threats.
Karbala Headquarters is of the 10 Combat headquarters assigned to confront foreign threats. The IRGC has divided the country into 10 areas, each one of them may cover more than one or two provinces. Karbala headquarters operates under the IRGC ground force and covers Khuzestan, Lorestan and Kohkiloyeh and Boyerahmad provinces.
Its commander is Brigadier General Ahmad Khadem Daneshpajouh who is the most senior IRGC commander in southern Iran. Both Shahvarpour and Daneshpajouh were promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in March 2018. Shahvarpour was decorated by no one other than the commander in chief of Iranian armed forces, i.e., Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He is one of the IRGC’s most experienced commanders in Khuzestan. He can be considered a local as he was born in Safi Abad, south of Dezful. He has served with the IRGC during the war with Iraq in the 1980s and has lost his brother in the course of that war.
Both Shahvarpour and Daneshpajouh served with the 7th armoured division during the war. The division took part in 16 major operations during the Iran-Iraq war.
However, such a division that once fought to expel Iraqi forces from Khuzestan, now suppresses protesters in the streets of the same province, violently confronting people who are fed up with poverty, discrimination, corruption and inefficiency of the government and IRGC.
The local people see that commanders who once fought Saddam Hussain are protecting an oppressive and corrupt government and are killing protesters and their children in the streets. Shahvarpour is one of those commanders. He has served with many units after the war, but he will be always remembered for the bloodiest massacre during the suppression of November protests.
Mahshahr was the venue of one the bloodiest suppression operations following the protests that broke out after a major gas price hike in Iran in November. Local Governor Gholamreza Shariati has said that serious protests took place in at least 15 cities in Khuzestan but the protest in the strategic industrial city of Mahshahr were the most widespread. Shahvarpour was the only Iranian commander tat brought armoured vehicles to the streets to suppress the protesters.
Meanwhile, Mahshar was the only city where the IRGC under Shahvarpour’s command used heavy machine-gun fire against the demonstrators between November 17 and November 19 last year, also using a backup from the IRGC naval force.
Several IRGC units contributed to the suppression of protests by the people of Mahshahr under Shahvarpour’s command: These units include Karbala headquarters, the Provincial Valiasr HQ, the 7th division, as well as the IRGC naval force and the local police units.
The IRGC Commanders taking part in the bloody crackdown included:
- General Hassan Shahvarpour, IRGC Valiasr HQ commander
- Brig. Gen. Ahmad Khadem Sayyid al-Shohada, IRGC Karbala HQ commander
- Colonel Hassan Hossein Nejad IRGC 7th Armoured Division commander
- IRGC Rear Admiral Amrollah Nozari IRGC 3rd Naval HQ commander
- Brig-Gen. Heidar Abbaszadeh, Khouzestan Police Chief.
- Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Ashrafi former Khouzstan Special Unit commander (Now serving as commander of 2nd Brigade of Tehran Special Unit.