Every day we are witnessing the kindled spirit of the youth across the world. Political autonomy, corruption, powerlessness, poor economies, climate change and social media seem to be the chief contributors to the mass protest rage that has taken over. The large anti-government demonstrations have not been peaceful, with the number of human losses increasing as every day goes by. From Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan and more, the story seems to be the same: voices that were never heard are gathering together for a scream to bring about a much-needed change! Does it mean the people’s voice will finally be heard?
In this particular article, Editor Deepthi Suresh helps us to understand recent developments in Iran.
The Begining of a Long Road
Economic hardships ignited the dimming spark that led to violent clashes between protesters and security forces. The days following November 15, 2019, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with an abrupt political decision. A 50 percent increase in fuel prices, came without warning. This apparently, came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the country faced a deficit which amounted to two-thirds of the yearly $45 billion budget.
Although the protests started off as peaceful demonstrations, soon it took a violent turn leaving about 180 people dead. Security forces open fire on unarmed protests who were largely either unemployed or low-income young men aged between 19-26.
These protests revealed the frustration among the citizens against their leaders. Although petrol remains cheaper in Iran – home to the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves – average incomes are too low to comfortably absorb the steep hike. The serious economic challenges faced by Iran are partially due to Trump administration’s sanctions on the country. The sanctions were levied to pressure Iran into renegotiating the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers which President Trump abandoned. According to Bourse & Bazaar, More than 1.6 million Iranians have fallen into poverty since the American sanctions were imposed.
In relation to the protests, Trump tweeted, “The United States of America supports the brave people of Iran who are protesting for their FREEDOM. We have under the Trump Administration, and always will!” The encouragement of the protests and expressions of satisfaction by the American administration only show that they may be campaigning for the fall of the Iranian regime in the guise of the claims that the aim of the administration was to “change the behaviour of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” as quoted by Mike Pompeo.
The most unsettling differences from past demonstrations to the 2019 protests were the blanket of silence that fell over the country with an internet shutdown. Although, Iran was able to keep vital infrastructures running like hospitals and banks, they completely denied access to the only two global internet portals in Iran owned by the government. The regime has a stark choice between funding its proxies abroad and its nuclear program or addressing its people’s dire economic needs. If the regime chooses poorly then it will continue to provoke the kind of rage that was witnessed in the 2019 protests.
The US Intervenes
The protests in Iran have now taken an interesting turn with protesters protesting against the US intervention as well as continuing their demands for the fall of the Iranian regime. On January 3 of this year, US President Trump said that he ordered a precision strike to “terminate” a top Iranian commander who was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans, adding that this decision was one of deterrence and not aggression. A US drone strike on a Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani on Trump’s order. Iran, in a letter to the United Nations, called the attack state terrorism and an unlawful criminal act. Iran’s ambassador to the UN told CNN that the attack was an opening to a war. He said Washington has escalated a war it began by pulling out of the nuclear deal with Tehran. Thousands of demonstrators were seen marching in Tehran and other cities to protest the strike after Friday prayers. Men, women and children carried images of the slain commander, many crying and others shaking their fists, shouting “Death to America” and “Revenge, revenge, revenge.”
Ukranian Passenger Plane Crash
For a third reason in a matter of weeks, Iran witnessed a further series of protests after the government admitted it had mistakenly downed a Ukranian passenger jet that killed 176 passengers. Some of the video posted on social media showed some chanting “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here” as other footage captures riot police clashing with the protesters and responding with tear gas. After a U-turn by the Iranian government that had initially rejected reports of the downed plane, a judicial spokesperson, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said at a news conference that an undisclosed number of people had been arrested in connection with the crash.
January 11, 2020, witnessed large crowds of students who demonstrated outside Amir Kabir University for a candlelight vigil. Demonstrating outrage at the shooting down of the aircraft, they chanted “death to the dictator” and “resignation is not enough, a trial is needed!”
However, the students summed up the general feeling surrounding recent protests in the country when they also stated that “today, we are surrounded by evil on all sides.”
Tehran has announced that it would stop abiding by limits on uranium enrichment which had initially been agreed upon in return for the relaxation of the sanctions. The US, as a result, has pressed ahead with further sanctions against Iran.
Photo by Mojnews
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