The Voices Are Heard: Reflecting On The Iranian Protests

Iran was built by protests. To observe this concept, one does not have to look far into the country’s history. Take the 1979 revolution as an example; a nation once secure under the very foundation of the Pahlavi dynasty was soon met with the swift uprise of an Islamic Republic. A change so powerful yet so sudden does not get forgotten. Since then, the nation has seen many similar occurrences including the events of the Green Movement, and the protests of 2011. Today, in the midst of Hassan Rouhani’s rule, it seems that history may once again repeat itself.

Following the logic, it may come as no surprise that the public’s defiance may once again be the very vehicle of change to the land. Only recently, Iran was once again met with an uproar of protests. Following the sharp rise in the prices of eggs, hundreds had rallied on the streets of Mashad. By the 28th of December, protests had spread to more than 70 towns and cities. Over 20 deaths have been confirmed as result of the conflict, and many more arrests. Although the initial effect was triggered by a small cause, it is clear that egg prices were not the primary motive, but rather the final slap in the face to the public. The Iranians have met their boiling point, a condition that can only be given blame for the rising living costs, the widespread corruption, and the poor governing of Mr. Rouhani and his fellow political advocates. Now citizens demand the resignation of Rouhani.

Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in west London

One of the most detrimental issues of the Iranian government is the constant allocation of resources being invested in aggressive foreign policy, rather than the nation’s infrastructure. This is evident by the endless number of proxy wars with the nation of Saudi Arabia, the backing of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and additionally, the support of armed groups in the Yemen crisis. Mr. Rouhani continues to seek foreign dominance, despite the overwhelming cry for help by his own people. “‘Leave Syria, remember us!’ they shout. ‘Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran!”’(“Iranians demand- and deserve- a less oppressive regime ”, 2018) .

Additionally, there is the aspect of the nuclear deal. In response to Iran’s development with nuclear technologies, the United States had placed severe sanctions on Iran’s economy. In 2015, Mr. Rouhani sought to remove these barriers in exchange for curbing the country’s nuclear programme. Although only partial sanctions were lifted, Iran’s economy has seen growth, but not of such significance that Rouhani may be called a savior. The economy will take time to adjust, hence results will be seen in the long term.

Finally, there is the issue of corruption. Iran is plagued by the abuse of those with higher political power. From tax collectors to law enforcement, Mr. Rouhani fails to place pressure on those who have power but chose to misuse it. Take the Iranian police as an example; officers operate with high inefficiency. The public is not confident with them being able to protect individuals from crime and uphold the law of Iran. Not only do the police exploit their power by acting with unjustified brutality, but they tend to receive more bribes then calls for help, illustrating how truly deep-rooted the corruption stands. Tax collectors face a similar situation. Irregular payments and bribes are met on a daily basis in an effort to avoid the taxman. Similar occurrences can be seen throughout the sectors of Iran, as the corruption holds no bounds.

The international response to the activism further supports the point that the injustices faced by the public are a result of the  Rouhani government. Donald Trump, in particular, continues to promote the movement of the protests. Trump suggests that citizens are finally recognizing the immoral actions that are being taken by the Iranian government, and are choosing to make a stand against them. He accuses the government of supporting acts of global terrorism, a claim supported by his tweet: “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”.

In terms of responses to the protest, the government has placed a solid ban on some of the more popular mediums of social media in Iran. For instance, Telegram, an instant messaging service, was placed on full restriction, disconnecting protesters from one another. Pavel Durov, a chief executive of Telegram gave his insight on the importance of free speech evident by his tweet: “We are proud that Telegram is used by thousands of massive opposition channels all over the world. We consider freedom of speech an undeniable human right, and would rather get blocked in a country by its authorities than limit peaceful expression of alternative opinions.”

Furthermore, Trump continues to condemn Mr. Rouhani’s restriction of free speech. “ Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!”.

Conversely, Rouhani argues the purpose of the temporary restriction was not to block the freedom of speech, an aspect he recognizes of being crucial importance to a democracy, but rather to prevent acts of further violence. He argues that the public has become increasingly resistant to authority, with more individuals destroying public property and some chanting death threats. In order to minimize these effects, Rouhani justifies his restriction of free speech.

Iran was built by protests, built by the voices of the public and built by a series of struggles. Whether this conflict will extinguish itself, or lead to a better suited Iran, are questions that cannot be answered at the moment. However, one thing is for certain: the public’s voice has been heard, and with that, the future remains to be seen.

Works Cited

Afary, Janet. “Iranian Revolution of 1978–79.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 24 Oct. 2017, http://www.britannica.com/event/Iranian-Revolution-of-1978-1979.

Fackler, Martin, and Rick Gladstone. “Rouhani Urges Calm in Iran as Protests Continue.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Dec. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/31/world/middleeast/iran-protests.html.

“Iran Nuclear Deal: Key Details.” BBC News, BBC, 13 Oct. 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33521655.

“Iranians Demand-and Deserve-a Less Oppressive Regime.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 6 Jan. 2018, http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21733998-now-alas-they-probably-wont-get-one-iranians-demandand-deservea-less-oppressive-regime.

 

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