Alex Arza | January 4, 2020
Iranians are no strangers to political unrest, and today, they’re going through the deadliest one since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago. The current death toll has hit 1,500 as the country’s Supreme Leader ordered military officials to “do whatever it takes to stop protestors.”
Despite this brutal crackdown, people continue to fight and show their resentment towards the theocratic regime. Iranians keep rallying on the streets, chanting to free their country of systematic repression. Learn more about the issue by reading on.
The 2019 Iranian Protests
In November this year, the government of Iran raised fuel prices without warning. There was a 50%-200% increase in the cost, ultimately affecting businesses and ordinary individuals. Cheap gasoline is almost considered a birthright in the country, so the oil price hike sparked protests nationwide. People wanted to express their objection to the abrupt economic decision.
The peaceful demonstrations quickly turned into violent riots as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered his officials to stop the protests at whatever cost. Though the government is very familiar with political uprisings, the regime felt it was different this time around. The resistance seemed much stronger and more widespread than before, so they were forced to take extreme measures to keep the upper hand.
A nationwide internet shutdown prevented Iranian Americans in the U.S. from learning about the situation. Security forces also dispersed the demonstrators with blows from batons, blasts from tear gas, and bullets from their high-powered machine guns. Protesters had the option to give up and save themselves from such cruelty, but they chose to carry on.
Beyond the Rise in Oil Prices
While the chain of protests started as an expression of discontent over the rise in oil prices, it quickly morphed into calls to end Iran’s ruling system. The people’s chants, “Death to the dictator” and “No Gaza. No Lebanon. I give my life for Iran,” reflected the political grievances at the heart of every demonstration. This proves that there’s more to this public outcry than the recent economic decision.
People have long been upset by the government’s inability to manage their country’s financial crisis. Raising fuel prices without notice was simply the final straw. Within the past few years, Iran’s economy has worsened, with inflation rates shooting up to almost 50%. This is caused by several factors, including America’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the widespread corruption within Tehran’s political institutions.
Inflation directly affected the purchasing power of consumers in the Islamic Republic. It became more difficult for people to afford basic needs as prices of goods increased across the country. The cost of food, such as fruit, vegetables, and meat, almost doubled compared to the prior year. Housing prices were spiraling out of control. The value of pharmaceuticals also skyrocketed, preventing patients from receiving quality healthcare.
A Means to Stay Alive
People of the Islamic Republic are struggling to survive, so they rally on the streets in hopes of raising their economic stance. While they dance with death in doing so, they may suffer the same fate if they choose to keep silent. The cost of living is already too high for many citizens, and the next price hike might just be around the corner. No one knows when these protests will end, but the Iranians are not giving up.
It’s time you engage with today’s most crucial issues. Get in touch with the Organization of Iranian American Communities to help Iranian American community groups around the world.