skip to content

Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


On the 15th of November 2019, Iran erupted in protest. Rises in fuel costs – a direct consequence of the withdrawal of state subsidies for petrol and an indirect consequence of the Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy – ignited the Iranian people’s smouldering discontent into a blaze of nationwide demonstrations. 

Marching bravely in the streets, day after day, protesters were met with a fierce state crackdown. On the 16th of November, internet access was restricted across much of the country. In the ensuing media blackout, water cannons, pellet guns, tear gas and live munitions were used freely against demonstrators. Over 300 were killed. 

On the 20th of November, a contingent of DVC researchers began independently gathering material on the protests. After presenting it to Amnesty, the Cambridge DVC as a whole was tasked with investigating the demonstrations by gathering, recording and verifying evidence of human rights abuses committed by the Iranian state. 

The DVC gathered content using two strategies: conducting manual searches of Twitter, Telegram, Facebook and more and consulting a document compiled by an Iranian NGO, Human Rights Activists in Iran.  This content was then rigorously assessed and geolocated using a range of OSINT tools, from Yandex to Google Earth Pro. 

By the end of the project, the DVC had examined over 2,000 pieces of content to produce a clean sheet with nearly 80 videos of human rights abuses either verified or under analysis. This was promptly relayed to Amnesty’s Evidence Lab and Crisis Response Team. 

This research by our DVC has already been included in Amnesty’s seminal publication on the misuse of tear gas.  It also contributed to a further report released on the anniversary of the protests, linking the systematic withdrawal of internet access by the theocratic regime to its brutal crackdown on the protests. Whether raising questions regarding the right to internet access or serving as a stark record of state repression, the DVC’s work on the November crackdown in Iran has broad repercussions. 

Dylan Rogers