What Will the Anniversary of the Dey Protests Bring to Iran?
By Mohammad Sadat Khansari
Last year’s Dey Protests in Iran (December 2017 – January 2018) were the largest anti-regime demonstrations since the 2009 uprising.
The Dey Protests differed from those in 2009, in that the people specifically attacked Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other figures of clerical government.
A wider demographic joined. the Dey Protests, including people from the rural areas and smaller cities in relatively poor areas, while the uprising in 2009 was comprised of Tehranis and urban dwellers and wanted reformation, the Dey Protests wanted regime change in its entirely.
On December 28, 2017, in the holy city of Mashhad Iranians broke into a spontaneous protest of the government’s mishandling of the Iranian economy. The people targeted Regime’s President Hassan Rouhani and his government with their chants, but soon attacked the very foundations of the ruling dictatorship.
The anti-regime protests encountered resistance from regime security forces, but they did not stop — instead, they spread. Soon Iran’s 31 provinces and nearly 100 cities were all involved.
Protesters chanted, “Death to Khamenei”, and accused the regime of squandering the nation’s wealth in Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon. Protesters attacked velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist — the key ideological justification for Khamenei’s rule), and renounced the 1979 takeover of the revolution by the Mullahs.
The people also chanted slogans that opposed the regime’s regional adventurism and financial backing of non-Iranians, especially provinces with the highest unemployment rates, such as West Azerbaijan, Khuzestan, Sistan va Baluchistan, Kohgiluyeh va Boyer Ahmad, and Kermanshah.
Chants like, “if one embezzlement ends, then our problem will be solved” also targeted the regime’s corruption and economic mismanagement. Protesters accused the government for supporting “the house of thieves” that Iran has become. Anti-corruption and anti-regional chants were most prevalent in the provinces with the highest jobless rates.
The participation of the economically marginalized ethnic minorities, shows their deep-seated resentment of regime officials and of regime corruption. This should concern regime leaders because it demonstrates that minority resentment extends beyond what they had imagined.
Rouhani’s attempts to roll back the government subsidies that his predecessor, Ahmadinejad, used to cement his own power base, are a likely cause for anger among the poor. However, with the reimposed US sanctions, those subsidies are a huge drain on the Iranian treasury. Rouhani made their reduction a priority since taking office. The protests have delayed subsidy reform and may make it impossible.
The regime has not yet addressed the causes of the protests or instituted the economic reforms to reduce unemployment and to bring financial flows into Iran. In fact, the reimposition of U.S. sanctions has worsened the economic crisis in Iran. The Iranian rial has devalued by 300 percent against the U.S. dollar since last year.
The Dey Protests spurred a new, vibrant protest scene in Iran. The protest movement continues, it is reported that it shows no signs of going away. Since Dey, Iran has experienced protests over labor problems, ecological issues, ethnic and religious issues, and political machinations. They will no doubt continue to occur and evolve, and although they have not yet challenged the regime’s survival, but the restless nature of Iran’s protests makes re-ignition of a massive uprising likely.
The anniversary date of the Dey Protests is approaching, and the world is watching Iran.