Multiple prominent protests have taken place throughout Iran against the corruption, economy, and human rights issues plaguing the country. Iran’s protest movements, despite the regime’s violent responses, show little sign of abating. As security forces step up their crackdown, dissatisfaction runs deeper than ever and dissidents continue to stage demonstrations. For nearly two years now, renewed grassroots protests have taken place throughout Iran.
The economic protests of December 2017 and January 2018 were the largest display of public discontent in Iran since the 2009 Green Movement, when millions took to the streets to demonstrate against alleged election fraud. As Iran’s economic crisis deepened, peaceful demonstrations by factory workers and teachers were held in late 2018, which authorities dispersed by using live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons, according to Amnesty. The highest-profile social movement to gain momentum was the protest of Iran’s compulsory hijab law, when Vida Movahedi stood unveiled on a box in Tehran’s most crowded streets and silently waved a white headscarf on a stick.
This past June fourteen prominent Iranian civil society figures (among them professors, filmmakers, and human rights campaigners) marked the tenth anniversary of the Green Movement by issuing a public statement directed at the Iranian regime. In it, they laid out three demands; Khamenei’s resignation, abolition of Iran’s current constitution and the convening of a national referendum for the purposes of drafting a new, secular constitution for the country.
November 2019 has seen a return of mass protests after President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement that fuel subsidies would be slashed, resulting in up to 50% hikes in gasoline prices. These protests have since transformed into demonstrations against government corruption and abuses. Tens of thousands rallied in cities across Iran.
According to a report by Amnesty International, at least 106 people have been killed since protests began as authorities reacted by firing tear gas and live ammunition into crowds. The actual number is believed to be much higher, but because authorities blocked internet access for Iranians since November 16, the flow of information stagnated. On Thursday, some provinces in Iran reported that the internet had been restored, the semi-official ISNA news agency said.
Although more Iranians are publicly airing their social and economic grievances, the lack of organized political opposition within Iran has left analysts confident that the protest movements pose no extreme threat to the regime, owing to the severe crackdowns. The protests appear to have eased up although the country remains on edge.
Things escalated again as 2020 arrived. Protesters enraged by US airstrikes in Iraq staged a violent demonstration outside the US Embassy in Baghdad, setting fires and hurling stones as security forces and guards fired tear gas and stun grenades to repel them. The demonstrations occurred in the aftermath of the Pentagon announcing that the United States had carried out an airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was the commander of the elite Quds Force, the military and security wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that operates on foreign soil. He was responsible for much of Iran’s policy in the Middle East, and held the second most power in Iranian foreign policy after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strike was carried out due to new intelligence that pointed toward Iran escalating tensions in Iraq. Crowds took to the streets in the capital and other cities to protest Washington’s “crimes” hours after the drone strike took out Soleimani at the airport in Baghdad. The demonstration appeared to be an escalation of the proxy conflict between Washington and Tehran.