The 2017/2018 Iranian Protests are the largest public display of discontent in Iran for nearly a decade. Reports say it has resulted in 21 deaths and over 1000 people arrested and restricted access to social media. Protesters are young Iranians, and protests have appeared in numerous towns, starting on the 28th of December as a reaction to Iran’s rising fuel and food prices, but is it more than that?
Iranians expected their situations to become better after the heavy sanctions were lifted in 2015. The country’s economy has for years been badly affected by its nuclear program. In 2015, GDP decreased by 1.4%, but after the sanctions have lifted, in 2016 the economy started to rise by 12.3% – much of the growth was due to the oil and gas industry. The expected growth in 2017/2018 is not more than 4.2%. A recovery, none the less, it is not the recovery the Iranian people had hoped for.
The country’s inflation has been fluctuating, with the official inflation rate remaining over 10%. Furthermore, the unemployment in the country is at a constant high for young people. Over half of the country’s population of 80 million is under 30, and it is estimated by the International Labour Organization that roughly 25% of 15-24-year-olds are unemployed. Despite the economic growth, people are still angry that not enough jobs are created to absorb the large amounts of people entering the market.
According to BBC Persia, “the consumption of bread, milk and red meat in Iranian households had decreased between 30% and 50% over the past years 10 years.” Iranians are becoming poorer in real terms and prices for basic products are increasing by as much as 40% in the last year – many people simply cannot afford to buy food. It has been reported that a 50% rise in the price of eggs, a result after the bird flu caused a nationwide hen shortage, sparked the first protests. They have since then continued to spread and are currently ongoing.
Now, however, the protests are about much more than just the rise of egg prices. People are tired of the current state, which gained power in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, led by the supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini. The government has ruled the country in a conservative and religious approach towards domestic and international affairs.
Authorities have shut down messaging apps and social media websites. They are blaming foreigners for the unrest, which is absurd. Protestors are calling for Mr. Rouhani to step down.
As they say, big things have small beginnings. That said, the protests might as well fail as they did in 2009. The regime has all the guns and torture cells, and are not afraid of using them. But one thing that the regime has to accept is that repression cannot keep the population’s anger down. Mr. Trump was right in calling the Iranian government “brutal and corrupt.” The Iranian people deserve better and might one day receive the leader they have hoped for.