Thousands of residents of the Iranian city of Mashhad staged mass anti-regime demonstrations on Thursday (December 28) to protest against rising unemployment and poverty.
Despite coming under brutal attack from regime security forces, the protesters refused to disperse, chanting slogans including “Death to the Dictator”, a veiled reference to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and “Forget about Syria, think about us”, while carrying banners denouncing the Iranian regime’s interference in Arab nations.
The demonstrators were protesting primarily against the rising unemployment high food prices and increasing poverty in Iran, where the economic crisis continues to worsen, even while the regime spends billions on regional wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Protesters at the demonstration, held in the ‘Martyrs’ Square in the centre of Mashhad, the second-largest city in Iran, also chanted “Death to Rouhani”, an expression of anger at the failure of the president, Hassan Rouhani, to deliver his election promises to eliminate unemployment and poverty in the country, where more than quarter of the population – 25 million out of a total of 80 million – live below the poverty line, despite Iran being the second largest oil exporter in the region after Saudi Arabia.
Other slogans chanted by the protesters included “Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, my soul is sacrificed for Iran”, “Don’t be scared – we are all together”, and Reza Shah Reza Shah!” a rare expression of support for the former ruler, as well as “The Mullahs should be ashamed – leave the country!” “Caspian bank be ashamed, release our money.” “Iranian would rather die but will not accept a miserable life”. “You take advantage of Islam and made people miserable”. “Death to the government that deceives people”. “Where there is no Shah, there is no accountability. “Death to the government that deceives the people!”
Fearing similar public unrest to that seen in 2009, regime authorities on Thursday sent large numbers of security personnel and Basijis [plain clothes thugs] to the protest in Mashhad, with some of the regime thugs beating protesters and using water cannons against the crowds, while others fired guns into the air in an effort to disperse the demonstrators.
Similar large protests also took place in the cities of Neyshabur and Shahroud, Kurdistan, and Shiraz.
The Iranian government has taken several harsh economic measures which impacted the middle and lower classes.
While few Iranians previously dared to publicly criticize the regime for fear of the punishment they might face as a result, the current economic crisis, which has seen a string of state-backed financial institutions close, leaving many savers penniless with no hope of compensation, along with surging unemployment levels, has led more and more citizens to participate in angry protests. The financial institutions in question are almost all affiliated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is close to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and has de facto control over much of the country’s economy.
The government’s failure to provide any compensation to the millions of savers across Iran affected by the closures, many of whom have lost their life savings, despite the finance houses being state-backed, has added to public frustration; many such credit institutions were established in the past decade, attracting many citizens with promises of high-interest rates and excellent returns on their savings. Many of these institutions are now known to have operated without the correct licenses and despite a shocking lack of regulatory oversight, with a large number forced to file for bankruptcy after investing recklessly or approving too many high-value loans which went unpaid; these factors, along with the lack of accountability, have increased suspicions amongst the disgruntled savers over management practices and the real ownership of the defunct institutions.
Tallies show prices of fuel have been increased by 50 percent. This increase led inflation to hike. Prices on many essential products, including eggs, have increased up to 40 percent in recent days. Farmers have blamed the hikes on higher prices for imported feed.
According to Iran’s Central Bank, inflation in the country is running at about 10 percent. Rouhani’s signature achievement, a deal in 2015 with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions, has yet to bring the broad economic benefits the government says are coming.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly criticized the government’s economic record, said on Wednesday that the nation was struggling with “high prices, inflation and recession”, and asked officials to resolve the problems with determination.
This improvisation is no implemented through economic measures only. State institutions siphon off the money of the Iranians.
Thousands of Iranians in Mashhad city have rallied against graft and looting their properties by Caspian financial institution, which is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Recently, Iranian protests broke out in different cities against banks and other financial institutions that seized the depositors’ money.
The Iranian people have been attempting to get rid of the ironclad theocracy ruling the country for decades. In 2009, people took to streets to protest rigging the presidential elections in favor of the conservative candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Protests were violently put down, with hundreds killed and detained.
In 2005, the Ahwazi people rose up, demanding their freedom as they seek to liberate the oil-rich area from the clutches of the regime. Citing these incidents, commentators said time is ripe for the regime in Iran to fall. The Iranians have every single justification to rise up against the regime.
The regime, in power since 1979, have suppressed the rights of minorities, deprived, executed, tortured the people and set about implementing expansionist schemes across the region. The message in today’s protests was clear: the regime should stop adventures and go. They noted, affirming what is happening in Iran is a genuine hope for change.