On Monday, protesters swarmed the Grand Bazaar in Tehran. Most of those protesting were middle-class merchants and their supporters, who are affected by the free falling value of the national currency.
Merchants closed their shops and marched toward parliament. Suppressive forces attacked the protesters with tear gas, hoping to deter them from their purpose, but the protesters continued on.
The protests spread quickly to other areas of Tehran, and the focus shifted, as it has so often in recent protests, from economic concerns to dissatisfaction with the ruling regime.
People from all sectors of society joined the protest to confront the regime, and clashes ensued between the protesters and suppressive forces sent to crack down on the protesters.
The regime attempted to suppress the protests by maintaining a heavy security presence in the capital, but their efforts failed.
On Tuesday, protests continued in Tehran and spread to other cities, including Kermanshah in western Iran.
The protests are significant for a number of reasons.
First, the protests are fast-paced. As in the Kazerun protests last month, protesters in Iran no longer fear security forces and thus, cannot be easily suppressed. And most interestingly, protests quickly multiply and spread throughout the country.
Second, the protests encompass a wide range of people. Merchants lit the spark of this protest, but the middle and lower classes quickly joined their cause.
People from every sector of Iranian society are angry about the failing economy and corrupt regime and ready to join protests.
The wave of protests, once begun, expanded to other parts of Tehran and other cities. By Monday night, there were protests in Mashhad, Tabriz, Kermanshah and Arak.
Third, the protesters have moved beyond the issue of the economy and are calling for the overthrow of the regime. Slogans heard by the MEK network inside Iran and captured on video included:
“Death to the dictator!”
“Death to Rouhani!”
“Death to Khamenei!”
The protesters put the blame for the broken economy squarely at the feet of the regime.
Their slogans point to the regime’s interventions in other countries of the region, which are paid for with the Iranian people’s money. Slogans heard by the MEK network and caught on video included: “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran!”
Fourth, the regime has responded to the protests in an uncharacteristic manner. While the state-run media generally does not acknowledge protests at all, the media was quick to cover the protests in Tehran, claiming that they were solely economic in nature, with no political agenda.
Finally, these protests are significant in their timing. In less than a week, the Iranian opposition will gather in Paris for the “Free Iran” convention.
For almost four decades, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the largest and most well-organized members of the Iranian opposition, have been calling for regime change. They have achieved support from politicians, lawmakers, activists and political and human rights groups from across the world.
This year’s event will focus on supporting the uprising of the Iranian people and presenting a viable alternative to the corrupt and tyrannical rule of the Iranian regime.
The convention comes at a crucial time in Iran’s history. The time is ripe for change.
The “Free Iran” (#FreeIran) convention will be held on June 30th in Paris.