For the past two weeks, a series of protests across Iran has led to the deaths of at least 21 demonstrators and the arrests of 450 more. The wave of anti-government demonstrations is the most serious and populous challenge to the regime since those that followed the re-election of the then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the so-called “Green Revolution”. Despite efforts by President Hassan Rouhani to try and placate the protesters, and the staging of a series of counter-demonstrations by those who support the regime, the anti-government sentiment and protests have not been quelled. Those taking to the streets remain angry of high unemployment, increased prices of food and other basic commodities, and a general feeling that the regime is unwilling to address their growing frustrations.
Given the history of repression of and intolerance towards any form of political protests, the current wave of popular nationwide demonstrations represents a clear and significant challenge to the regime’s authority. The regime does not treat dissent lightly and the protesters now on the streets are taking a huge risk by simply venting their feelings. And those feelings are legitimate. Despite the easing of sanctions against the regime over its nuclear programme, there has only been trickledown benefits for most Iranians. Their economy is moribund and corruption is rampant. As a result, protesters feel there is little option left but to vent their anger at the regime’s inertia through street protests.
The reality is that the sectarian leadership in Tehran is preoccupied with matters beyond its borders and is sowing discontent and sedition from the Arabian to the Mediterranean seas, to the point where it has lost focus on the obvious domestic discontent of its people. And that’s a pity.
Iran has both the resources and energy commodities at its disposal to ensure that every Iranian should enjoy a good quality of life. That’s not the case though, with only those closely tied to the regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard benefiting from the establishment. And for too long, authorities there have turned a blind eye to the common man’s misery and have actively engaged themselves in lining their pockets at the expense of others. In the past, Iran’s economy has thrived.
But not any more.
Iran’s leadership is too busy supporting its Al Houthi proxies in Yemen, its militias in Iraq, Hezbollah in Syria and in Lebanon and cosying up to Ankara to worry about the price of bread back home.