2017–18 Iranian protests

2017–18 Iranian protests
Protests against corruption and government in Tehran, 2017-12-30.png
Protests in City Theater of Tehran, 30 December 2017
Date 28 December 2017 (2017-12-28) – 13 January 2018 (2018-01-13) (2 weeks and 6 days)
Location Iran
Caused by
Goals
Methods Demonstrations, riots, civil disobedience
Status Ongoing
Parties to the civil conflict
Protesters

Government of Iran

Pro-government demonstrators
Lead figures
No known leaders
Number
Tens of thousands inside Iran. [12]
Thousands of Iranian expatriates outside Iran. [13] [7]
Tens of thousands of Basij forces, police, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Intelligence Ministry. [14]
Casualties
Death(s) 23 protesters [15] [16]
1 police [17] [18]
Arrested At least 3,700, [19] [20] up to 6 detainees reported to have died in custody [21] [22] [23]

A series of public protests occurred in various cities throughout Iran beginning on 28 December 2017 and continuing into January 2018. The first protest took place in Mashhad, Iran's second-largest city by population, initially focused on the economic policies of the country's government; however, as protests spread throughout the country, their scope expanded to include political opposition to the theocratic regime of Iran and its longtime Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. [24] According to The Washington Post, [25] protesters' chants and attacks on government buildings upended a system that had little tolerance for dissent, with some demonstrators even shouting “Death to the dictator!” — referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and asking security forces to join them.

The protests mark the most intense domestic challenge to the Iranian government since the 2009 presidential election protests. [26] However, these protests differ from the Green movement in participants, causes, goals, and chants. [27] [28] While some analysts suggest the protests are a result of unfavorable economic policies adopted by the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, others say that dissatisfaction with the theocratic regime and the Supreme Leader are the actual causes of the unrest. [2] [29] [30] Rouhani acknowledged on 8 January 2018 that "people had economic, political and social demands". [9] [31] [32]

According to Iranian authorities, protests turned violent in some parts of the country, and Iranian state television reported that the protesters attacked police stations and military personnel and installations, and started fires. [33] [34] As of 2 January 2018, at least twenty-one protesters and two security force members had been killed. Additionally, 3,700 demonstrators were arrested according to Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist lawmaker from Tehran, though official figures were much lower. [19] [20] [35] [17] On 5 January 2018, four special rapporteurs of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Iranian government to acknowledge and respect rights of protesters and end its blocking of the Internet. [36]

In a backlash against the protests, thousands of government supporters staged pro-government rallies in more than a dozen cities across Iran. [37]

Background

The current regime of Iran came into power following the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the Pahlavi dynasty overthrown in favor of a theocratic Islamic Republic led by Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. [38] [39]

Since 1989, Ali Khamenei has ruled Iran as Supreme Leader, making him the second-longest serving head of state in the Middle East (after Oman's Sultan Qaboos), as well as the second-longest serving Iranian leader of the last century, after Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. [40] The Iranian president, elected in 2017, has little power compared to Khamenei. [9]

In 2006, following international concerns regarding the government's nuclear program, a comprehensive, international sanctions regime was imposed on Iran. In 2015, Iran negotiated a deal with the great powers of the world in exchange for economic relief. Many Iranians hoped relief from sanctions would result in economic prosperity; however, benefits have not reached the average Iranian. [41] Instead, the benefit from sanctions relief mostly went to state firms and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's own "private financial empire" Setad, [42] [43] estimated at $95 billion in 2013. [44] [45] In 2017, according to the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, 33% of Iranians lived below the poverty line. As well, the gap between the rich and poor has deepened. [46] CNN's Hamid Panah argued that these distributional developments in the economy helped stoke the protests. [42] Recent economic hardships have appeared to incite economic protests and shine light on government corruption. [47]

The initial spark for the protests was a sudden jump in food prices. It is believed that hard-line opponents of Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in eastern Iran, trying to direct public anger at the president. But as protests spread from town to town, the backlash turned against the entire ruling class.

—  Associated Press, 6 January [48]

In order to deflect criticism about the economy, Rouhani had been complaining for several weeks about government money going to religious institutions, which are seen as the power-base of the hard-liners; according to international media reports, analysts believe that hard-liners started the protests as a means to embarrass Rouhani. [49]

Protesters registered their opposition to cuts to fuel and cash subsidies, contained in the 2018 budget proposal unveiled in mid-December, which caused widespread anger, with the hashtag #pashimanam ("we regret" [i.e. we regret our vote for Rouhani]) going viral across the country. [50] The generous government funding of the Revolutionary Guards remained unaffected, [51] and there were large increases for religious foundations, which are not required to declare how they spend their funds, and are "tied closely to powerful clerics and often serve as machines for patronage and propaganda to build support for their authority." [48]

The 2017-18 events are the largest protest in Iran since the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests. [26]

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