Towns all over Iran have been host to riotous demonstrations since Thursday December 28. The violent protests have resulted in 21 deaths. The authorities have cut off access to Instagram and Telegram, and have restricted internet access, making it difficult for journalists to speak to people inside the country. The France 24 Observers did manage to get in touch with two Iranians, who say that the protests are nothing like the Green Movement of 2009.
The demonstrations began five days ago in Mashhad, the second most populous town in the country. The protests then grew, stretching from the east of the country towards the centre and starting in the capital, Tehran. During the night of the 1st to the 2nd of January, at least six people were killed when they tried to seize guns in a police station. A police officer and a soldier were also killed.
In front of the theatre in Tehran. Hundreds of police officers wait to put down the protests. Photo published on Telegram on Tuesday January 2.
Protesters are decrying the country’s economic woes. The protests were sparked after the government announced an increase in the price of eggs and petrol in 2018 – an announcement that was then retracted on Saturday, December 30. People are also directing their rage towards organisations that gave out loans and then went bankrupt.
Nearly 40% of the country’s economy is controlled by the Guardians of the Revolution or other religious organisations. Demonstrators are railing against these economic imbalances in the country and the monopoly that religious organisations and figures hold over the country’s finance.
“Sometimes I feel like everything is forbidden in my country: it’s humiliating”
Hesam, 30, has been involved in protests in a city in the east of Iran, for the last three days. We have changed some personal details to protect his identity.
I found out the location and time of protests through some channels on Telegram [a mobile social networking app], and I went and joined them, mostly out of curiosity. But I have my reasons anyway: I had to live with my parents until two years ago. I’m an engineer and I could never find a job in my field, so I had to work in other industries and do different little jobs. So yes, I’m angry.
People were protesting corruption and economic difficulties. People are tired of being poor. The protesters in the streets are from different backgrounds. It is anyone who is fed up: people who have lost their money in banks that have gone bankrupt, workers and university students. The average age is about 35. Basically it is a protest by hungry people, humiliated young people.
“I’m not ready to die”
People were demanding different things. Some people don’t want the mullahs to be ruling the country anymore. There was lots of chanting against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Young people are angry that some of the simplest things are forbidden in Iran because of religion: drinking, parties, walking with your girlfriend… Sometimes I feel like my country has banned everything: it’s humiliating.
The police attacked us so we had to defend ourselves, but I’m not ready to die. I am not the kind of person to risk his life for a cause. What’s going to happen as a result of these protests? I have no idea. I honestly do not know.
Initially published on France24 on 01/02/2018
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