After decades of violent repression and economic grievances at the hands of the barbaric Islamic regime, Iranians have once again taken to the streets, risking their lives in protests. Here’s what you need to know.
What sparked the protests in Iran?
On November 15th, Iran’s government announced a hike in gas prices that would increase the price of gas from between 50 and 300%. These hikes would allegedly go towards funding a new subsidy for low-income Iranians, but Iranians, who have been at the brunt end of decades of such fool-hearty promises by the autocratic Islamic Republic, were quick to oppose the decision. Almost immediately, crowds of frustrated Iranians rushed to public spaces to protest against the regime and Islamic rule that has oppressed Iranians since the 1979 Revolution.
Although several news outlets were quick to inaccurately portray the protests as being merely signs of discontent over the fuel prices, the full extent of Iranian dissatisfaction with the regime soon became evident.
Hundreds of protestors quickly turned to thousands. Small cities turned into metropolitan centers, including the capital, Tehran. Iranians took to social media, namely Twitter and Telegram, to voice their anger and rally support among other Iranians. Videos emerging of the protests shared the most common mantras being shouted by Iranians: “Death to the dictator”, “Mullahs have to get lost” – a reference to the corrupt clergy of Iran closely tied with the ruling elite of the Islamic Republic, as well as “Reza Shah, God Bless your soul” – a conciliatory praise of Iran’s exiled Shah (king) who was ousted in the 1979 Revolution.
What slogans have featured most in the ongoing #IranProtests?
I took a sample of 30 randomly selected videos from ongoing protests in #Iran & recorded the frequency of slogans. Obvious methodological caveats, but nonetheless gives a flavour of the mood on the Iranian streets pic.twitter.com/HXqLE5PZFe
— Kasra Aarabi (@KasraAarabi) November 18, 2019
What do the protestors want?
Although Iranian-regime lobbyists in North America, namely the notorious National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), have claimed that Iranians are protesting the U.S. sanctions harshened most recently by President Trump, the videos and testimonies of the protestors themselves is more than clear – they want a revolution.
By adding more sanctions, the US government isolated the Iranian people. They forced them to move their servers to Iran and this significantly decreased the collateral damage of shutting down the internet and switching to an intranet. #IranProtests #????????_??????
— Nima Fatemi #IranProtests (@mrphs) November 18, 2019
Photos and monuments of Iran’s Supreme Leader – Ayatollah Khamenei, have been burned in several videos from various cities across Iran. These have been accompanied by more commonly by chants of “Marg bar Khamenei”, which translates to “Death to Khamenei”.
Passionate pleas by Iranians, frustrated and at ends with the barbaric rule of the regime have taken the Internet by storm. In one particularly emotional video, a woman stands on a bridge and shouts to the dozens of cars parked in protest below: “Because of the dishonorable Khomeini we have lost everything…We have suffered forty years. Death to Khamenei”, she says, while taking off her hijab, a compulsory law by the Islamic Republic among the myriad of other discriminatory laws that impede on the rights and freedoms of women.
How has the Islamic Republic responded?
The short answer – with indiscriminately brutal force. The death toll as it stands is an estimated 200 protestors killed, although the full extent remains unknown due to the Internet ban that has left most of the country disconnected from their most basic means of communication.
Within the first few hours of the protests, there were reports of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated as a terrorist association by the United States earlier this year, brutally attacking protestors, who were merely peacefully gathering and sharing demands of reform. Videos soon emerged of bloodied bodies, sons weeping over lost mothers, people screaming and running from gunshots in the streets.
This was accompanied by an Internet ban that has left most of the country in the dark. NetBlocks, an organization that monitors Internet freedoms across the world, marked that Iran has now been offline for 52 hours, hovering around a 5% connectivity rate, as the regime rushes to repress the protests and diminish international attention.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader has taken to the Internet to blame “sabotage and arson is done by hooligans, not our people”, arguing that foreign conspirators were responsible for the protests. Of course, there is great irony in an entire country being blocked from Internet communications, all while the perpetrators of the ban are allowed to freely share their propaganda as they wish. Calls have amassed via social media for Twitter to block Khamenei and President Rouhani’s accounts until they lift the Internet ban and stop the inexcusable killings of innocent protestors.
How has the rest of the world and the U.S. responded?
The U.S. has strongly condemned the regime’s response to the protestors, and in support of the protestors. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The Islamic Republic must cease violence against its own people and should immediately restore the ability of all Iranians to access a free and open Internet. The world is watching.” Statements of condemnation this strong have not been echoed across nations, most notably with Canada and the U.K. remaining silent on a federal level.
The Iranian diaspora has been largely taking to social media in support of the protestors, magnifying their videos, comments, and demands. The Iranian lobby in North America has taken to the other end, in attempting to divert the blame towards the West, and justifying the regime’s actions. While there is disagreement among the Iranian diaspora of what the best course of action is for Iran and the Iranian protestors, the answer is simple – rather than telling Iranians what they should be fighting for from afar, listen to them. Listen to the people risking their lives to protest rather than telling them what they should feel. The most important role Iranians abroad can play right now is of support and solidarity. Speak up, share posts on social media, attend protests, do not let the deaths of protestors be in vain.
Iranians have fought for freedom before and have been met with bullets. They know the grave dangers they face by putting their lives on the line and demanding a free and democratic Iran. The Iranian spirit is aflame and burning the Islamic regime at its stake, and it will not be extinguished until Iran is free again.