A week of protests have resulted in more than 20 deaths and hundreds of arrests
Leer en Español: Las raíces de Irán tiemblan
Iran has been shaken up by what seems to be the most significant anti-government protests since the disputed presidential election of 2009. The protests have taken place in different towns and have lead to the death of 22 people; hundreds have been arrested.
Riots erupted in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city, on Thursday, December 28th. Groups of Iranians took the streets, angrily protesting the current economic conditions, rising inflation, unemployment, and the allegations of widespread corruption. Officials close to the moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, have blamed the supporters of his rival, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who has his base in the city where the protest erupted, for the situation in which the country seems to be going under.
Protesters are disappointed by the partial economic improvement that the nation has experienced as a result of Iran’s historic 2015 nuclear agreement with the west. President Rouhani, who was re-elected in May, promised it would revive the economy and create millions of jobs, but those improvements have not yet occurred.
Inflation is at 12% – although significantly less that the 40% at which the economy was at the start of Rouhani’s first term back in 2013 – and unemployment is high. Youth unemployment is at about 40%, more than 3 million Iranians are jobless, and the price of some food items, such as poultry and eggs, have recently increased by almost a half.
Protesters also asked why the country has been spending a significant amount of money on conflicts around the Middle East when its own people is suffering.
Iran’s supreme leader, ultra-conservative cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the chaos on the country’s foreign rivals. “In recent days, enemies of Iran used different tools including cash, weapons, politics, and intelligence apparatus to create troubles for the Islamic Republic”, said Khamenei in a public statement.
President Rouhani, in a pre-recorded speech broadcasted on state media Sunday, December 31st, declared: “We are a free nation. And according to the constitution and citizen rights, the people are free to express their criticism and even their protests”.
The president cautioned that “criticism should not be accompanied with violence or vandalizing public property”. At least 22 people, including members of Iran’s security forces, have been assassinated during the protests; police have arrested more than 450 protesters in Tehran. Authorities have also temporarily restricted access to certain social media outlets, including Instagram and Telegram, the messaging app.
The head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court allegedly warned on Tuesday, January 2nd, that those arrested protesters could potentially face the death penalty, if they are ever put on trial due to the fact that they are breaking the law and also causing damage to public property.
The chain of events in Iran have not been distant from the eyes of the United States president Donald Trump. “Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!”, Trump tweeted.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi has urged the US president to stop tweeting and focus on his own country's problems. It is unclear what effect Trump's tweets are having on the protests.
Latin American Post | Carlos Gómez Avella
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