CAIRO – 2 February 2018: Iran witnessed a difficult night on Thursday as hundreds of Iranians took to the streets to protest against economic, political and social issues. While dozens of Iranian women took off their head scarves and chanted against the Iranian law requiring them to wear the head scarves in public places, a second wave of protests sparked under the motto of “Death to Dictator,” in reference to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.
One month ago, Iran witnessed a surprising wave of anger by protesters who took to the streets and defied the Iranian government and security apparatuses, chanting against religious leaders and statesmen, and clashing with security forces.
Although the anti-government protests were originally for economic reasons, politics emerged during the protests and political slogans were repeated. The protesters criticized their government’s intervention in Arab and regional countries’ affairs.
One month later, Iranian officials are defying the protesters and declaring that Iran will not stop interfering in other countries’ affairs.
Iranian police arrested 29 women who removed their head scarves on Thursday in several “hijab protests” across the country. Iranian Tasnim news agency claimed that those arrested women were “tricked” by Iranian expatriates to take off their Islamic veils in public.
Since 1979, Iranian women have been forced to apply a special unified dress code; women’s hair and body must be covered in public, otherwise mortality police have the right to suppress those who are not fully applying and respecting the dress code.
Men wearing Hijab in solidarity with Women's Hijab Protests Twitter
In December, a woman was arrested in Tehran for protesting against the dress code and the rules relating to the hijab. She has just been freed last Sunday.
"The girl of Enghelab Street has been released," human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh wrote in a post on her Facebook page on January 28, expressing her happiness that that unknown girl was released after being arrested at Enghelab Street in Tehran.
Nasrin Post on Facebook
#دختران_خیابان_انقلاب has widely spread via Twitter and various social media platforms. The hashtag means “Revolution Street Girls”. Men joined the wave and defended the Iranian women’s right to remove their hijab.
Iranian women remove hijab – the photo combined by Egypt Today
Conservative women also have joined the protests, as photos circulated on social platforms showed women wearing the chador, a garment covering women’s full body but the face, holding out a scarf in front of her in solidarity with women protesting against the compulsory hijab.
The Girl of Enghelab Street waving her headscarf on a stick Dec. 27, 2017 – Social Media
Second wave of anti-government protests
Iran’s capital, Tehran, witnessed dozens of protests on Thursday amid an intense police and security forces presence on streets.
Because internet users face many restrictions over using dozens of websites in Iran, few videos were published on Twitter showing the Iranians’ challenge to government and their chanting against leaders and statesmen.
“Death to Dictator” has been the key motto that Iranian protesters chanted in their recent rallies, which began last December in several Iranian governorates before the government and the Revolutionary Guard could suppress them.
On Thursday, the second wave of these protests re-launched in various governorates and cities, such as Isfahan, Ahvaz, Tabriz, Sanandij, Kermanshah and Tuyserkan.
Ahvaz witnessed violent clashes between protesters and security forces. The protesters were chanting against Supreme Leader Khamenei. Ahvaz is located in southwestern Iran and most of its inhabitants are Arabs.
On December 27, dozens of Iranian protesters took to the streets of Iran's second largest city of Mashhad to protest against the economic stagnation and rising unemployment, as well as rising prices and corruption.
Protesters appeared to be complaining against high food prices and unemployment; however, the protests quickly evolved into expression of anger against Iran's clerical leadership, including President Rouhani, who promised to revive the economy but, according to them, failed to do so.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protests in Tehran, but protesters continued to chant slogans with the goal of bringing down the theocracy. This is the most significant unrest in Iran in nearly a decade.
Although the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said that at least 50 protesters have been shot and killed by the Revolutionary Guards, the official statistics reported the death of only 22 protesters.
Unlike the Green Movement protests in 2009, there is no known leadership for the ongoing protests, but their logic is obvious. The protests do not have specified goals, but their ambitions of change are obvious.
Iran’s intervention in Arab affairs
Iranian protesters criticized their government’s intervention into other countries’ domestic affairs, too, as the Iranian regime has interfered in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
“Iran’s influence in the region is inevitable, and to remain a key player in the region, this influence will continue,” said Iran’s high-profile official Ali Akbar Velayati on Thursday, according to Fars news agency.
People protest in Los Angeles, California, U.S., in support of anti-government protesters in Iran, January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Iran backs armed militias in Iraq, Houthi militias in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In a related context, Iranian Revolutionary Guard spokesperson Sherif Ramadan accused the family of late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of being behind the current protests against the Iranian government.
In May 2015, dozens of protests against the deterioration of living conditions were organized in Ahvaz. Groups sought to link protests against the Iranian regime's practices, such as the Iranian intervention in the affairs of Arab countries, including Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and several western governments expected the nuclear deal would lead to a change in Iran's behavior and policies at home and abroad. There was an assumption that the interests and pragmatism of the Iranian regime would automatically force it to develop the country's economic structure and improve living standards first.
Iranians had high hopes when President Rouhani, who is perceived to be moderate, took office. Despite his weak and limited internal reforms, he was re-elected for a second term. The first budget presented last month seemed to be a test. It showed his intention to consolidate his power and reach an accord that ends the government's differences with the Revolutionary Guard and the religious institutions, directly connected with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by increasing their allocated funds without having sufficient resources.
Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in west London, December 31, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh