Protests Rock Iran for 3rd Day Price Hikes Spark Demonstrations Protests: Lofty Economic Pledges Have Gone Unrealized

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 31, 2017 | Go to article overview

Protests Rock Iran for 3rd Day Price Hikes Spark Demonstrations Protests: Lofty Economic Pledges Have Gone Unrealized


Byline: Erin Cunningham The Washington Post

ISTANBUL -- Anti-government protests spurred by economic woes hit Iran for a third day Saturday, news agencies and social media reported, in what has quickly emerged as a significant challenge to the administration of President Hassan Rouhani.

Demonstrators protesting price increases and high unemployment turned out in cities and towns across the country, defying police and voicing anger at the cleric-ruled government, in an extraordinary display of public dissent.

Officials warned Saturday that citizens should stay away from "illegal gatherings," even as protests spread to new regions.

Footage emerged late Saturday of demonstrators appearing to attack government buildings and engaging in violent confrontations with police. The BBC Persian service reported that two demonstrators had been shot in the western part of the country, citing video on social media. Reuters reported that videos on social media showed two men lying on the ground covered with blood. A voice-over said the men had been shot dead by riot police firing on protesters.

The demonstrations were the largest since a 2009 uprising over disputed election results. Those protests -- dubbed the "Green Movement" -- were quashed by security forces.

"This is more grass-roots. It's much more spontaneous, which makes it more unpredictable," Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East

Institute in Washington, said of the current protests.

"Things are not working out economically for ordinary Iranians," he said. "But the root causes, and the much deeper resentment, go back decades. People do not feel this regime represents them."

President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon that "the entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change."

"Iran's people are what their leaders fear the most," he tweeted.

Earlier in the day, after a prior Trump tweet, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman lashed out at the American president, saying Iran "does not pay attention to the opportunistic claims by U.S. officials," according to state media.

Rouhani, a moderate, was elected to a second four-year term in May, pledging that he would continue to open up Iran to the world. But he has so far failed to deliver on promises of a revived economy since the 2015 nuclear deal, which was his signature achievement.

That agreement with the United States and five other world powers curbed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. But rampant corruption, problems in the banking sector and unilateral U.S. sanctions have hindered the country's economic progress.

Rouhani released a proposed budget this month that called for slashing cash subsidies to the poor and increasing fuel prices -- part of an effort to reduce debt and move the economy away from oil exports. The plan also included new and added fees for things such as car registration and an unpopular departure tax, which sparked public debate.

Anger over the budget, and a recent 40 percent jump in the price of eggs, helped stir the protests, analysts said. …

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