1. How did the protests start?
Protests started on Thursday in the city of Mashhad as demonstrators took to the street to protest rising prices, high unemployment rates, and corruption in Iran’s Islamic government. The protests, comprised of adults mostly under 40, are believed to have started on social media, which led to the Iranian government shutting down the internet to stop the protests from escalating. By the weekend, the protests had spread across Iran, including to areas that are considered strongholds for the government.
2. What do the protestors want?
Demonstrators are demanding the removal of the current regime, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as evidenced by chants from the crowds which include calls for the death of the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah, and Khamenei.
3. What are the crowds chanting?
The following quotes were pulled from Iranian protestors before Iran shut the internet down and translated by The Wall Street Journal:
“We don’t want an Islamic Republic, we don’t want it, we don’t want it.”
“They are using Islam as an excuse to drive people crazy.”
“Independence, Freedom, Iranian Republic.”
“Reformists, hard-liners, game is over.”
“We are all Iranians, we don’t accept Arabs.”
“We are getting poor and clerics are driving fancy cars.”
“Reza Shah, Rest in Peace.”
“We will die but we will take Iran back.”
“Come out to the streets Iranians, shout for your rights.”
“Death to the Revolutionary Guards.”
4. How has the Iranian government responded?
Reports vary on the response from the government; some indicate that the protests are more peaceful than riots in previous years, while new reports indicate that approximately a dozen protestors have died, according to two separate reports from the Associated Press.
“I do not know whether yesterday’s shooting was done by rally participants or the police and this issue is being investigated,” said Hedayatollah Khademi, Reuters reports.
The WSJ adds that some leaders have acknowledged the legitimate economic problems that face the country, which has an unemployment rate of more than 12%.
5. What is expected to happen next?
At this point it’s tough to know, considering the limited information coming out of Iran, however Al Jazeera notes that experts have indicated that the “demonstrations have escalated much faster than anticipated.”
“It wasn’t expected to be anything beyond the slogans against the administration and the president,” said Negar Mortazavi, a journalist for Iran International, which is a self-described independent online news service. “But, it seems like the dissent within the Iranian population is so much deeper; that this has gone beyond the presidency and all the way up to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], which is very worrisome for all factions of the establishment.”
The WSJ adds,”Uprisings in Iran tend to die out because of a lack of leadership, clear organization and goals. If the protests persist, the regime may crack down harder on them, with mass arrests and military lockdowns.”
6. How has the Trump administration responded?
President Donald Trump expressed his support for the protests over Twitter. Saying the world is watching, he condemned the country for shutting down the internet and also tweeted out videos from his speech at the U.N. over the summer in which he talked about the growing issues inside Iran.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the following in a statement:
We are following reports of multiple peaceful protests by Iranian citizens in cities across the country. Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people.
The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.
7. How has the American media reacted?
The media initially ignored what was going on in Iran, likely because it reflected negatively on former President Barack Obama, whose Iran nuclear deal was supposed to help Iran’s economy, and because the Trump administration’s response was night-and-day better than Obama’s response in 2009.
CNN and The New York Times did a terrible job of covering the protests, while ABC News’ Matthew Dowd declared that the U.S. did not have the moral authority to talk about Iran because “we” don’t talk about Russia:
Dowd was hit pretty hard for his remarks on Twitter as conservative media personalities weighed in: