To many nations, the 28th of December marked nothing more than a year approaching its end. For Iran, it marked the day when streets became flooded with angry protesters demanding justice, freedom, and more importantly, answers. It was the day that Iranians rose up to display their dissatisfaction with the economic hardship that they have been facing.
Mashhad, an Iranian city, was the first to witness these protests. Early on, the protests were judged to have been motivated by the Iranian government’s ultimate enemy, Ebrahim Rais, as reported by The Guardian in a recent article. The protests soon developed to include chants and slogans that specifically targeted the entire Islamic foundations that have been ruling Iran since 1979.
Interestingly, protesters were young members of the Iranian community around the age of 25, employed in local institutions.
These protests were not unanticipated and are a result of the lack of economic opportunities that have been produced by stagnant governance, and the state’s failure to tackle the debilitated condition of the Iranian economy. Many protesters’ chants and slogans were accusatory, declaring their complete rejection of the core foundations that the regime often preaches .
Numerous protesters have reportedly been detained by Iran’s regime as they demanded their full freedom from its poor conditions that had been plaguing Iran since 2009.Has the economy been this fragile since 2009?
2018’s protests did not solely grow out of economic dissatisfaction or Iran’s constant interference in Syria and Lebanon for all that matters. The protests were also grounded on social factors which both men and women had been exasperated by. In a totalitarian state, like the Islamic Republic of Iran, practicing one’s civil rights often becomes intimidating to the autocratic regime.
In addition, tweeting, or removing the veil in public for instance, are perceived to be acts of descent in a country that places many restrictions on personal freedoms. While the internet serves as a tool for President Hassan Rouhani and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Jawad Zarif to propagate their agendas on Twitter, citizens of Iran are denied right to their freedom of speech. The censorship and blockade of social media platforms in Iran illustrates the extent to which the regime will go to repress it’s population’s freedom of speech.
In attempt to prevent further protests, the regime opted to arrest university students that had not taken part in the protests. In many Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, the concept of resistance has been co-opted by authoritarian regimes and used to deflect the public’s attention from local corruption.
In order to fully understand the struggle of Iranian people, evaluating it from a purely geopolitical perspective may not be effective and may serve to marginally undermine human rights.
This piece was co-written by Hussein Cheaito and Nawafel Shehab