This figure was attributed to the Iranian news agency ILNA, but may be a conservative estimate in light of the fact that the report called the protests “silent gatherings,” in contrast to the claims of witnesses on the ground who said many of the teachers chanted and waved signs calling attention to the poverty-level income of Iranian teachers and the political imprisonment of union organizers and teacher-activists.
The ILNA report may thus be part of Jannati’s strategy of heavily promoting government approved content to put a favorable spin on stories that might raise questions about the regime’s stability or control over its population. In any event, this strategy certainly had input from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who anticipated the May 7 protests by attributing their planning to an external “enemy” that wanted to “bring up seditious slogans and create trouble for the regime on the pretext of the livelihood of the teachers.”
But even if the regime shifts from attempting to suppress media to attempting to overwhelm it, this say nothing of possible changes in their treatment of protest, dissent, and the spreading of information that is not government sanctioned. This trend was also on display in the midst of last week’s protests, as the International Campaign reports that a large number of teachers were summoned by authorities and threatened not to participate in the planned events.
Notably, the size of the protests suggests that the strategy was not effective. However, this is not always the case, and the Human Rights Activists News Agency reports that on the same day as the teacher protests, threats by security forces succeeded in preventing a meeting of the National Front, even though this was only scheduled to take place inside the home of a member of the political party.
Still, attempts at even more aggressive repression may fail to contain protests, as has been the case in the Kurdish region of Iran for the past several days. Asharq al-Awsat reported on Monday that three Kurdish protesters had been killed so far in clashes with security forces, dozens more had been injured and over 200 had been arrested.
The protests began in the city of Mahabad on Thursday following the death of a 25 year-old woman who either fell or leapt from a hotel balcony after an agent of the intelligence ministry attempted to rape her.
The incident has brought simmering tensions to the surface. The Iranian regime reportedly sends spies from the intelligence ministry into the region on a routine basis under the guise of the Ministry of Tourism. The intelligence officials also allegedly use bribery to secure collusion from influential locals like the hotel owner in the current case.
The Kurdish Freedom Party is now calling for an “uprising” in the midst of the ongoing protests, potentially raising questions about the regime’s control over not just media coverage of unrest, but also the extent of that unrest itself.