Politics made easy: Why have protests broken out in Iran?

Iran is an Islamic republic on the Persian (Arabian) Gulf with a population of more than 81 million people. The country holds a rich cultural legacy and is home is home to historical sites dating to the Persian Empire.
However, the current Iranian regime is notoriously oppressive, plagued with human rights abuses, concerns about corruption and lack of freedom and controversy regarding its nuclear program. 
 More recently, Iran has been hitting the headlines due to mass protests, the biggest of their kind in nearly a decade, which began breaking out on December 28th 2017. 
Why did the protests start? 
The demonstrations initially began as small gatherings to protest against a slow economy in Iran’s second largest city, Mashhad as well as a steep rise in food prices across Iran. These quickly escalated into people demanding freedom from the country’s theocratic government (a government in which God is recognised as the supreme civil ruler), with many citizens demanding that both the supreme leader, Ayatollah ali khamenei and the president, Hassan rouhani step down from their positions. Iran’s economy has crumbled over the years and although prices for goods such as food and clothing have continued to rise, unemployment rates have increased astronomically. Young people within the country now face a very bleak future with no jobs and no money. 

Who is leading the protests?

No one is really ‘leading’ the protests which is why observers are so baffled as to how they have spread so quickly, although social media is said to have played a key part in encouraging more people to join in with the protests. Eye witnesses have told local news stations that the majority of protestors seem to be from poorer villages and rural towns, where oppression is surely felt more. 

 

What will happen now?

Despite repots that more than 20 people have been killed due to clashes with security forces and hundreds more have been arrested (with this number set to increase as the protests go on), the government doesn’t seem to be panicking too much about the current situation, owing mainly to the fact that it doesn’t see the protests as a direct threat to its stability. Thus, there has been very little done in the way of quashing the protests. However, if the protests continue to escalate to the point where violence is wide-spread, this could cause serious implications for the political stability of the country, in which case the government may decide to utilise its elite armed forces, known as the Revolutionary guard, to end the protests through the use of weaponry or heavy force.

Will America intervene? 

So far Donald Trump has been quite vocal on Twitter in his support for the protestors, saying in one tweet, “the people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.” However, given his decision in 2017 to place strict travel bans on Iranian citizens entering the U.S, it seems very unlikely that his support will be deemed credible. Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has called for two separate UN emergency sessions to discuss the situation. Another state official called upon Iran to stop blocking social media footage regarding the protests after it shut down messaging apps to prevent its citizens from informing the outside world about the brutality it was currently facing. 

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