Iran says it detained 3,700 people during protests

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The Iranian government arrested 3,700 protestors as it suppressed a wave of unrest that lasted over a week, according to figures that emerged as rights groups voiced concerns over reports (The Guardian) that three detainees have been killed.

At least 21 people were killed in protests across the country that began on December 28. Initially driven by high food prices and perceived corruption, they developed into 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.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said in a January 7 statement that the dissent had been suppressed. It blamed the U.S., Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia for stirring up unrest.

Iran’s parliamentary news portal, quoted the number of detainees from member of parliament Mahmoud Sadhegi on January 8. The Guardian reported on January 9 that at least three detainees have died in detention.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that many detainees would be released, but the alleged instigators of the protests will be “dealt with seriously” (AP).

According to reports from state TV service IRIB, carried by Reuters and AP, the unrest grew violent on January 1 as protestors attacked a police station in Qahdarijan, resulting in six deaths.

Fiscal spark

  • Many Iranians expected a faster rate of economic recovery following the easing of international sanctions after the 2015 nuclear deal with the U.S., 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, said the demonstrations result 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 recent unrest involved about 42,000 people according to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.


  • 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 in 2017, 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.

Read more:

“Iranians around world call for international support”

“Q&A: Iran’s protests a reminder of Egyptian and Libyan revolutions”

“The ‘revolution’ will not be Telegrammed”

“Views on Iran’s protests”

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