More than 20 people have been killed as protests across Iran stretched into a sixth day, marking the country’s most widespread unrest since 2009. That was the year of the so-called “Green Revolution”, protests at the re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The latest demonstrations began on December 28, with anger against rising food prices and perceived misuse of state funds. These developed over following days into expressions of broader discontent with political repression.
According to reports from state TV service IRIB, carried by Reuters and AP, the unrest grew more violent on January 1 as protestors attacked a police station in Qahdarijan, resulting in six deaths. At least 400 people were arrested as videos posted on social networks appeared to show riot police becoming more confrontational.
- Many Iranians expected a faster rate of economic recovery following the easing of international sanctions after the 2015 nuclear deal with the US, but youth unemployment is around 25 percent and inflation at 10 percent (Financial Times).
- When the demonstrations began, participants were angry about fast-rising food prices and a perception that state funds were being misappropriated. The anger developed into a broader demonstration against repressive government policies, according to the BBC.
- Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian-American policy analyst views the demonstrations as resulting from a young Iranian society seeking “a more liberal progressive nation” (CNN).
- The protests have been “curbed” and will soon end, Iran’s deputy interior minister for security stated on Tuesday (FT).
Most widespread protests since 2009
- The 2009 protests, known as the “Green Movement” began following accusations of fraud in the presidential elections. Protestors demanded a recount in unrest that lasted four months.
- According to CNN, no major reformists have spoken out in support of the current protests.
- More than a million people participated in the first few days of the 2009 protests. The current protest is now on its sixth day and has only involved a few thousand people, according to various reports.
- Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei released a statement on his official website blaming “the enemies of Iran” for the violence. He said that external players, possibly referring to regional rival Saudi Arabia and the U.S., had used “money, weapons, politics and intelligence” to stir up the unrest.
- Hassan Rouhani, who was re-elected Iranian president on a reformist platform last year, downplayed the violence but also struck a conciliatory note, saying the protests were an “opportunity, not a threat.”
- Donald Trump tweeted that “the people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime” and condemned the deal Barack Obama struck with Iran that saw some sanctions relief in exchange for guarantees over Iran’s nuclear program.