New Iranian protests differ from those at start of revolution

Jan. 5, 2018
At least twenty Iranians have died because of—as opposed to from—bird flu.

At least twenty Iranians have died because of—as opposed to from—bird flu.

Protests sweeping the Islamic Republic began in Mashhad on Dec. 28 in response, according to reports, to the rising price of eggs.

To counter avian illness, the government had culled chickens, which slashed egg supply, which raised food prices for people already suffering from economic malaise and inflation—not to mention oppression by a corrupt theocracy.

Responding as usual to dissent related to more than the price of eggs, the regime has killed and jailed dissenters.

It was, of course, popular unrest that, in 1978-79, enabled mullahs to control a country recently producing 3.8 million b/d of oil.

But current protests are different.

While Tehran was the focus of street protests during the revolution, this time the city stayed relatively calm until 3 days after the Mashhad eruption.

Most of the new activism has been elsewhere and notable for ethnic diversity.

Mashhad, Iran’s second most-populous city, has a large Turkmen population. Protests also have occurred in northern and southwestern towns dominated by Kurds and Arabs. Slogans have been in Kurdish and Azerbaijani as well as Persian.

But Iran is complex. Assessing the role of ethnic tension is perilous.

What’s clear is that poor, rural Iranians feel no benefit from the easing of US and European sanctions.

Iran is estimated to have received $100 billion in unfrozen assets from that move, undertaken in 2016 after Tehran agreed to suspend nuclear development.

Beyond the usual donations to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and powerful religious trusts, angry Iranians think they know where the money went.

“Leave Syria; think about us,” protestors chant in online videos from Mashhad.

Interesting. Iranians are resisting Iranian expansionism. Another chant, reported by BBC: “Not Gaza; not Lebanon; my life for Iran.”

This new point of argumentation will not mollify a ruthless regime determined to keep order and inclined to blame outsiders for domestic problems.

But it probably evokes smiles elsewhere in the region.

(From the subscription area of, posted Jan. 5, 2018; author’s e-mail: [email protected])