In the latest mass protests in Iran, 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, with similar protests also taking place in two other cities.
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 Ali Khamenei, and “Forget about Syria, think about us”, while carrying banners denouncing the Iranian regime’s interference in Arab nations.
Protesting against recent increases in food prices, the people also chanted: “Just one less embezzlement, will solve our problems” and “Death to Rouhani”, expressing anger at the president’s failure to keep his election promises to end unemployment and tackle the financial crisis.
The mass protests in Mashhad was reminiscent of the beginning of the ‘green revolution’ of 2009, in which thousands across Iran took to the streets for protests against the controversial results of the election that year, which was widely believed to have been rigged. 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. The regime’s actions didn’t have the desired effect, with protesters chanting, “Police go after the thieves!”, “Women joined us, but cowards stayed away”, “Don’t be scared – we are all together”, and “By taking advantage of Islam, you have angered the people.”
According to regime-controlled Iranian media, a number of protesters were injured in clashes with riot police.
The protesters also expressed anger at the regime’s colossal expenditure on its war in Syria and massive deployment of troops and militias there, with Tehran spending billions of dollars on helping to prop up Bashar Assad’s regime since the Syrian revolution began in 2011, despite major domestic financial problems and soaring poverty levels in Iran.
The city’s governor Mohammad Rahim Norouzian, was quoted by the regime’s semi-official ISNA news agency, giving an ‘imaginative’ interpretation of the security forces’ brutality towards demonstrators, saying, “The demonstration was illegal but the police dealt with people with tolerance.” He also claimed that a number of protesters were arrested for “trying to damage public property.”
Despite footage of the massive protests spreading rapidly online, the city governor attempted to play down the significance of the demonstration, issuing a statement which said, “Some rumors have been announced in cyberspace claiming that citizens of Mashhad have gathered in protest at the increase in some commodity prices. However, no organization or group has requested a rally and no license has been issued in this regard.”
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”, “Reza Shah Reza Shah!”, and “Where there is no Shah, there is no accountability”, rare expressions of support for the former ruler, as well as “The Mullahs should be ashamed – leave the country!”
The demonstrators also voiced anger at the collapse of many state-backed financial institutions, with thousands of Iranians losing their life savings in a string of closures with no chance of any compensation, voicing their frustration by chanting slogans such as “Shame on the Caspian Bank, release our money!”, “Death to the government that deceives the people!”, and “Iranian would rather die but will not accept a miserable life!”
Similar large protests also took place in the cities of Neyshabur and Shahroud, Kurdistan, and Shiraz.
These protests came only days after similar large demonstrations in Isfahan in central Iran where demonstrators voiced anger about escalating unemployment crisis. Officials in the city have warned that the situation is rapidly worsening, with statistics indicating that more than 27,000 people in the city were dismissed from their jobs in the past nine months due to firms going bankrupt in the ongoing financial crisis.
Many in Iran believe that the economic situation is worsening rather than improving due to large-scale corruption and mismanagement among the regime leadership. Unemployment stood at 12.4 percent in the 2017 fiscal year, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran, an increase of 1.4 percent on the previous year. Around 3.2 million Iranians are currently jobless out of a total population of 80 million.