Analysis & Opinions - Aljazeera

Causes behind Iran's protests: A preliminary account

| Jan. 06, 2018

The causes of the uprising that has been rocking the Islamic Republic of Iran for a week now are unsurprisingly both structural and contingent. Initially kicked off by the economically dispossessed youth and joined by lower sections of the middle class, students and also some pensioners, it has reached an unprecedented geographical scope with protests spanning across 70 mainly smaller cities and towns in all four corners of the country. According to the authorities, 42,000 people, 90 percent of whom under the age of 25, have taken part, while the real number may be higher. They have been met by myriad methods of repression by the state's security apparatus, leaving over 20 people dead (again merely an official figure), 1,000 jailed and an uncounted number injured. 

Besides the structural factors that have been an almost constant feature of the Islamic Republic's rule, the past months and weeks have added a new level of discontent with the regime as a whole, which led me to speculate the recent waves of protests "may only be a forerunner of more to come." 

The immediate trigger was a protest staged by Rouhani's right-wing conservative opponents in Mashhad against the president's economic performance that spiralled out of control. Then, like a wildfire, it ignited the entire country with a combination of social justice and anti-regime slogans. Yet, all this took place against the background of a wave of protests in the preceding months and weeks by workers, pensioners, teachers, and students.

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For Academic Citation: Fathollah-Nejad, Ali.“Causes behind Iran's protests: A preliminary account.” Aljazeera, January 6, 2018.