2018-01-04 15:28 GMT+8
Iran has been rocked by week-long protests since last Thursday. These are the biggest protests the country has since the last mass demonstrations in 2009 over electoral fraud. The largest one has drawn more than 15,000 people to the streets, overall the protests have claimed at least 21 lives and hundreds have been arrested.
Protests of this scale are rare in Iran. “We have had rallies over economic issues, which lasted for a few days and then calmed down, but the unrest this time is unusual – it is not just about economic concerns,” said Ghanbar Naderi,columnist with Kayhan International Newspaper based in Tehran, “but the good news is, the protest will soon be fully controlled and will come to an end in a few days.”
At least 450 people have been arrested.
“The government has confirmed and arrested leaders behind the protests. But their identities haven’t been unveiled due to security concerns,” Naderi said.
Iranians chant slogans as they march in support of the government near the Imam Khomeini grand mosque in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017./AFP
Iran protests politicized and hijacked by opponents
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamemei said on Tuesday that the country’s “enemies” were orchestrating a plot to challenge the regime. Earlier on Sunday, after three days of protests, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States, Israel and the country’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, of fueling the unrest. The US and Israel have both denied any involvement.
The protests began with dissatisfaction over the country’s economic status and its foreign policies, with protesters chanting “No to high prices”, “Let go of Palestine”, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I’d gave my life for Iran”.
“The slogans quickly changed from focusing on the economy to ones against Rouhani and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,” a resident said to Reuters by phone.
The demonstrators also shouted: “Reza Shah, bless your soul”. Such calls break a taboo in the country of praising the deceased monarch. Reza Shah Pahlavi ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941 and his Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown in a revolution in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s first leader.
Naderi said, the protests have been politicised and hijacked.
“People from different backgrounds attended the protests. Their calls are different. Some are unhappy towards the foreign policies and some expressed their unsatisfactory towards economy. But there were some people, with foreign supports, politicized and hijacked the protests. They care nothing about the national interests and the county’s unity, that is not acceptable by the public,” Naderi explained.