As 2017 drew to a close, the discontent of the #Iranian people boiled over in mass protests throughout the country. Over 130 cities had protests, with many Iranians from rural areas demonstrating their displeasure with the #regime.
According to opposition reports, more than 50 demonstrators have been killed, hundreds were wounded, and over 3,500 have been arrested. Some accounts indicated that 35% of those arrested were students and 90% of them were under 25. There has also been a report of one detainee dying in Evin prison, leading to concerns that the regime is resorting to torture and killings.
Over the past two weeks, as the protests continued to grow, senior officials from the regime threw the blame onto foreign powers and various factions within the regime. Others blamed the MEK for inciting and organizing the protests. These include a senior advisor to Khamenei, President Rouhani, the #Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and members of the #regime’s parliament.
#President Rouhani even went so far as to ask the French president to block the activities of the MEK and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) President-elect Maryam Rajavi. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has tread lightly since the protests began last week, weighed in on Tuesday, claiming the protests were being spurred on by “enemies of Iran.” His remarks came in the wake of harsh comments from President Trump on Twitter amid reports of hundreds of arrests and multiple deaths. The #mullahs’ actions are clearly showing that the regime is feeling the heat as Iranians begin to stand up for change.
Throughout the protests, there were also calls for regime change. However, these are just the most recent protests in Iran. The last year has seen a steady increase in various groups standing up to be heard as the #economy continues to struggle. The average young Iranian is faced with high unemployment and limited ability to care for themselves and their families.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted that the number of cities, even ones that normally support the regime. “This is spreading through the urban poor in cities other than Tehran, people that should be the staunchest supporters of the regime,” said Taleblu. “The fact that the regime can’t count on that support now is really embarrassing for hard-liners running the government.”
However, the clerics and their organizations continue to see large amounts of money flowing from the regime’s budget, along with the military efforts of the regime throughout the region. The IRGC continues to control large portions of the economy and they have benefited from the recent lifting of sanctions, even though the effects are limited for most Iranians.
A rally in Washington D.C., organized by a group of Iranian-Americans, included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Those members of the Iranian opposition at the rally in front of the White House called for regime change.
Speaking about the recent activities of President Rouhani, Gingrich said, “You just saw the president of France reject the Iranian dictatorship when it asked him to restrict the activities of Maryam Rajavi…I think it was a real black eye to the dictatorship and tells you how frightened they are that they would appeal to the president of France.”
The Iranian regime has seen the international community turn it eye toward the regime regarding its human right abuses and its repressive attempts of free speech and freedom of the press. Although the 2015 nuclear agreement lifted some sanctions, the regime has also been called out for its ballistic missile program.
President Hassan Rouhani has said demonstrators have a right to protest peacefully, but the 78-year-old supreme leader, who has final say over all state matters, warned Tuesday of an enemy “waiting for an opportunity, for a crack through which it can infiltrate.”
The United States and President Trump have led a charge to call the Iranian regime to account. When the latest round of protests began, President Trump indicated his support for the protestors.
NCRI President-elect Rajavi wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, pointing out the shaky ground that the regime now stands on.
“The protests in Iran send a cogent message: The clerical regime stands on shaky ground, and the Iranian people are unwavering in their quest to bring it down,” said Rajavi in her op-ed piece. “The religious dictatorship has resorted to extensive suppression to confront protestors…In light of this brutal repression, the #international community must not remain silent.”
While the Green Revolution eight years ago was driven by the urban elite due to a questionable election, this recent round of protests has been initiated by the working poor, those who often have little to lose with a crackdown by the regime.
The Trump administration has indicated that it is weighing new sanctions against Iran in light of the unrest. President Trump has continued to point to the 2015 nuclear deal as the reason that the regime is now flush with cash to fund its military and continue its repressive measures against the Iranian people.
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called on the Security Council and the U.N. Human Rights Council to hold emergency meetings on the crisis. A UN Security Council emergency meeting was also held on Iran and the recent protests.