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Iranian Protests: What We Know and Why It Matters

Today, Wednesday the 20th of November is the 6th day of Iranian protests over fuel prices. Since Sunday, there has been almost a complete internet shutdown carried out by the government.

What caused the Iranian protests?

Iran has been experiencing increasing economic difficulties for some time, similar to other countries in the region that are also having protests, like Iraq and Lebanon. The Iranian government raised fuel prices up to 300%, which seemed to be the breaking point for many Iranians, who took to the streets to protest.

For more insight into the nuances of what has sparked the frustration of so many Iranians, read this opinion piece in Politico.

This hike in fuel prices has been pointed to as the result of increasing US sanctions against Iran after the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement signed under Obama. You can read more about the nuclear agreement and the US withdrawal from it here.

Why is there an internet blackout?

The Iranian government shut down the internet in an attempt to prevent protestors from organizing as they have in Hong Kong and other cities across the globe and to prevent the spread of information about what is happening in Iran.

Even with the internet blackout, some protestors inside Iran have managed to find some internet access to get out photos and videos and make contact with people outside of Iran, but all communications have been very limited and sporadic.

How violent are protests?

Iranian officials have reported the deaths of 12 protesters, but the rights group Amnesty International is reporting more than a hundred deaths from “credible reports,” saying they’ve reviewed video and spoken with witnesses on the ground in Iran.

Iran’s security forces have said that protesters killed two police officers and at least five members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to the New York Times.

According to Amnesty International, videos show security forces using tear gas, firearms and water cannons on protestors.

Protestors have been attacking banks and government buildings despite authorities saying that anyone participating in the protests will be punished.

What is the Iranian government saying?

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei has said that the protestors should be hung. He has also blamed the protests on external forces, “enemies of Iran,” that support “sabotage and breaches of security.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has urged foreign nations not to show support for protestors and so far, the Iranian government has shown no signs of reversing fuel price hikes or backing down from their stance in any way.

What is the US government saying?

On Sunday, the Trump administration condemned Tehran’s use of “lethal force and severe communications restrictions.”

Tehran has called these criticisms hypocritical since the US has been using a policy of “maximum pressure” in attempts to force Iran to comply with the treaty conditions, which has played a role in the increasing economic pressure on Iran.

Do we know anything else about the Iranian protests?

As of now, this is about all that is known of what’s going on for sure. Numbers of people that are dead or injured have not been confirmed, but are believed to be quite high and rising. It is not known when either side may give in to prevent further death and destruction.