Are Protests in Iran about Economic Sanctions or Regime Change?

Published June 27th, 2018 - 02:04 GMT
Iranians have been going on protests for three consecutive days without any local media coverage on the topic. (Twitter)
Iranians have been going on protests for three consecutive days without any local media coverage on the topic. (Twitter)

A troubled economy, a rise in the prices and a fall in the value of the Iranian rial are all factors putting Iran in a difficult spot, leaving Iranians with few options for a better life.

It is all believed to stem from the US President Donald Trump announcement that his country would withdraw from the nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on Iran. This has led many international firms to pull away from the country in addition to the fall in the Iranian rial to to half its worth, from 90,000 to one dollar on the country’s black market.

There is no accurate information on what is going on inside the Islamic Republic, as all local media is controlled by the government and several social media platforms are blocked inside the country. However, videos shared by western media outlets and social media activists show tens of thousands of Iranians going on massive protests and confrontations with police in the Iranian capital Tehran, for the third consecutive day.

Meanwhile, many Iranian activists living overseas shared the content across social media.

First footage emerged on Monday, June 25 when thousands of protesters had reportedly filled main streets of Majlis in the capital, Tehran few hours following a sharp plunge in dollar rates.

London-based BBC News shared a video for a massive protests at Tehran's historic Grand Bazaar on Monday which resulted in closing all shops and markets. The video was posted on Instagram with a caption: “Tehran mass market protest” in Persian.

The Grand Bazaar has always been a center of conservatism in Iran as it provides a link between clergy and the middle class traders in Iran. That link appears to be breaking.

Despite constructing massive malls around the city, the Bazaar remains an economic force for the country as it contains banks, mosques, and guesthouses in addition to its access to rapid transit system of Tehran Metro.

Other footage were shared for what was reported as protests at the historic Grand Bazaar.

Hours later, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, was quoted by the Tasnim agency as saying the situation at the bazaar is calm. “Their demands are delivered through the chamber to the government, and these are being pursued by us.”

It did not stop there, news of confrontations between protesters and the police also took place in other Iranian cities.

While the reasons behind the protests were all attributed to the current economic troubles faced by Iran, some Iranians had another opinion about it, saying they clearly demand the change of the Iranian regime that has been putting Iran in trouble.

Videos shared on social media showed protesters addressing the government by saying “Leave Syria alone and start thinking about us”, “Death to Palestine”, “Help us, not Gaza” and "Leave Syria alone and start thinking about us”.

Protesters demanded their government invest its own money developing their own country, not interfering in the Arab countries, against Israel or the US at the expense of Iranians.

While parties who are leading the protests remain unclear, there protests were reported the largest protests in the country since 2012. Earlier last year, large-scale anti-government protests fuelled by economic troubles took place in late December and early January, but they were not focused in the capital Tehran, rather they were all in provincial cities and towns.

As a result, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met on Tuesday with the head of Iran's judiciary and parliament and appeared on live television to appeal for national unity and accuse the US of waging an “economic war” against his country.

Meanwhile, protests in Iran were carefully being watched by the country’s biggest allies and enemies, including US and Israel who seized the chance to go to media and “praise” the Iranians’ courage in demanding their freedoms.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Wednesday, third day of protests to praise the courage of Iranians against their government and its economic policies.

On his turn, Mike Pompeo the US Secretary of State in Trump’s administration also took the chance seized the opportunity and tweeted criticizing the Iranian “corrupt regime” who is “wasting the country’s resources on Assad, Hezbollah, Hamas & Houthis, while Iranians struggle.”

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