Iranians protest their government in rare show of opposition
Mariah Partin, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy creativecommons.org
Iranians have been killed under suspicious circumstances during the protests.
Towards the end of 2017, protests started in Iran, sparked by anger at Iran’s economic status and corrupt government. As the situation quickly escalated, protestors began to call for the overthrow of the government, challenging the rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to CNN, this is the largest public display of discontent in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement and was triggered after severe sanctions lifted in 2015 failed to improve the lives of the Iranians, like they had expected. Many Iranians anticipated their living situations to take a positive turn, but government policies have brought about higher unemployment and inflation.
The Atlantic reports that half of all Iranians are under the age of 30, therefore more people are entering the workforce each year than there are jobs that exist or are being created. In December, the new budget proposal reduced subsidies to the poor and increased the cost of basic necessities, further fueling unrest and distrust in government, as well as increasing unemployment and inequality. Many Iranians have been negatively affected by the nation’s economy recently and are ready for change.
Another factor is the Shiite Muslim fundamentalist government. Many protestors are young and progressive, having with been ruled by, what The Washington Times refers to as “Shiite Muslim hard-liners,” led by Khamenei. The Green Movement in 2009 was in response to the victory of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was known for committing numerous human rights violations.
According to The Washington Post, protests have been especially concentrated in smaller cities, which comes as a surprise, as smaller cities tend to be generally apolitical and inhabitants participating in anti-government movements are more likely to be identified and arrested. This development also shows that the protests started in the working-class. Protests have now spread to 130 cities. CNN reports that the message is getting out primarily through social media. Iranian authorities have restricted Instagram and Telegram, but users are accessing them with virtual private networks, known as VPNs. The Iranian government does not allow freedom of speech and controls the media–several basic tenets of liberal democracy.
However, despite the mass protesting, Iranian officials do not anticipate a revolution occurring. Iranians know their government will use force to keep power. If the protests are put down, the resentment will remain and likely resurface in the future. The Washington Times states that Iran’s rulers have inflicted death by torture and gunfire on citizen protesters since the new year. More than 8,000 people have reportedly been arrested. President Trump has spoken out in support of the protesting Iranian citizens.
The European-based National Council of Resistance of Iran identified one deceased protester, Kianoush Zandi. He disappeared Jan. 4, and although his body was returned to his family by Sanandaj Intelligence who told them he was killed in the demonstrations, his body showed signs of torture. The body of another young man, Mohammed Nassiri, was returned to his family with the statement that he had committed suicide. Judiciary chief, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, is known for endorsing cruel punishments and has played a direct role in the execution of thousands of people over the years to repress his nation’s people. A Middle East analyst, Jim Phillips, said to The Washington Times that many Western leaders have turned a blind eye to the protests for the sake of maintaining the Iran nuclear deal struck by President Obama in 2015, while President Trump has vocalized his support of the protestors and criticized the 2015 deal.