The hardline Islamic regime of Iran is facing widespread protests from its own people, and it’s cracking down in return. So far, the US has clearly stood with the protestors but stopped short of calling for regime change.
Over the weekend, Iranians took to the streets in more than 100 cities. The country has been struggling to remain economically viable in the face of renewed US sanctions after President Trump pulled the US out of a highly criticized nuclear deal with Iran over a year ago.
Iranians held economic protests in 2017 and 2018. But this time, the protests have spread to at least 116 cities.
In some cases, the protests have turned violent with demonstrators setting fires. There have also been reports of gunfire. At least three people have died.
The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed Sunday that demonstrators had ransacked roughly 100 banks and stores in the country. Authorities arrested 1,000 people out of 89,000 protestors, Fars reported, citing unnamed security officials for the information.
Keep in mind that the official death toll and the other numbers come from Iranian authorities so there’s no way to verify their accuracy.
What sparked the outrage this time? The government’s hiking of gas prices by 50 percent.
In response to the protests, the government shut down internet access over the weekend to the country’s 80 million people.
Iran’s supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is backing the government’s gas hike, and signaled a potential crackdown on the protestors calling them “thugs.”
Meanwhile, the US is backing the protestors.
“These developments that you see right now are their own people telling them we need change and to sit down with the American government and let’s negotiate this so that it’s to the benefit of all,” said US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates John Rakolta.
But Ambassador Rakolta made clear the US is not calling on the protestors to overturn the government.
“We are not advocating regime change,” Rakolta said. “We are going to let the Iranian people decide for themselves their future. But their future is to be a part of the world community.”