Dara Porxelek
Dec 30 2017

Iranians speak up as anti-government protests spread for a third day

Protests over governmental corruption and living standards erupted in several cities across Iran. The demonstrations and protests started in Iran's second most populous city, Mashhad and quickly spread to Kermanshah and the Iranian capital Tehran.

What started as protests against economic living conditions swiftly turned political; people on the streets began chanting slogans against Iran's international politics; 'Work for Mahabad, Tehran, and Tabriz, not for Lebanon, Syria or Yemen.'

Several Iranian politicians, journalists, and citizens commented about the protests for Ahval.

Mihemed Salih Qadir, a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Iranian chapter of Democratic Party of Kurdistan and Erbil representative, responded to Ahval in a statement saying: "Iranian people in general, but the Kurdish people, in particular, are suffering under the control of a repressive and dictatorial regime. This wave of protests and demonstrations are a natural reaction of the Iranian people against the dictatorship of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei."

According to Qadir, "the protests are both against the corruption in the government", and "the administration's support to terrorist organizations like the Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq." Qadir predicted that "this natural reaction can only get stronger over time." "We believe that this is a significant moment in Iranian history. In particular, we think that these events will weaken the military and political pressures on Iranian Kurds. We also invite all the Kurdish parties to join Rasana Rojhelat (Awakening of the East.) movement against the oppressive regime. "

Qadir said; "As a member of a movement that knows the Iranian regime well, I assure you that the regime, using the "Jerusalem Power Army," will intensify its oppressive practices. The regime is openly saying: 'If you ask for freedom, we will jail you or kill you.' But the people in Iran, and especially in Kurdistan are refusing to give in. The protests will spread even more if they start arresting the protesters. If there is support from the international community for these protests, this movement can potentially grow further. The regime will not be able to stand up to global pressure in the long run."

Hemish Karwani, a journalist/writer, called the protests 'an extraordinary event for Iran’ and said: "People want the government to take immediate action to solve their problems. These events are the first time I've seen Persians taking to the streets to protest. Just imagine, bread prices recently went up 200 percent. Eggs used to be 250 tomans; now they are 1000 tomans. There is an economic crisis. The reaction started when the government failed the people of Kermanshah after the earthquake. On the other hand, I don't know how the government will respond to these demands. "

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli urged people not to take part "as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens", but videos posted online suggest that protests were held on Saturday in at least nine cities across the country, according to BBC.

Diako, a 28-year-old Iranian Kurdish journalist, told Ahval, "The Iranian demonstrators are demanding an end to corrupt practices in the government and a regime change. Tens of thousands of people spontaneously joined the protests. "

Diako added "Of course, change in Iran is not easy, but considering the crowd sizes, the government will have to re-evaluate their policies. It is clear that Persian, Kurdish, Azeri or Arab all Iranian citizens are demanding a regime change. "

Pointing out that the 'situation is a little bit different' this time, Diako said: "Historically the Azerbaijani or Persian citizens did not join the Kurdish protests against the oppressive practices of the government. But this time the Kurds joined the protesting Persians and Arabs. I hope that the Kurds can get some results this time around. "

Khandan Farrisi, an Iranian engineer, said that it was too early evaluate the cause and effect of the protests, adding, "But we need to briefly review Iran's political history in recent years to understand these events. There are two main fronts in Iran-the fundamentalists (principlists) front and reformist front. The President is closer to reformists, yet the Supreme Leader of the country is closer to the fundamentalists. The events started in Mashhad against the Supreme Leader with the support of some reformist parties. The demonstrations quickly spread to other cities with the participation of more and more people. These people are protesting the government. They are protesting the economic policies; mainly inflation, and corruption. "

An Iranian Persian journalist said: "I cannot understand the recent events. It happened suddenly. Neither the journalists nor the Iranian public know how and why these events started. " The journalist who wanted to stay anonymous for fear of repercussion said that the protests would most likely be short-lived. He also stated that without any public statements, it is difficult to make any assessments about the accuracy of the information floating on the internet.

Few more Iranian citizens we interviewed, said that they were afraid to join the protests fearing the Iranian Secret police and unwilling to speak to Ahval for same reasons.