Presented in Los Angeles at a January 14, 2018 public forum sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice
It is four weeks after the protest began against the Islamic Republic of Iran in Mashhad, one of the most religious cities of the northern province of Khorasan. This protest is different from Iranian struggles for freedom and democracy over the last decade, including the Green Movement of 2009-10 that started in the capital city of Tehran. The start of this latest movement is more like the Arab Spring of Egypt and Tunisia which erupted into an unexpected uprising of poor and working-class people demanding democracy, social justice and economic equality within a matter of weeks in early 2011. The epicenters of the protests were in regions badly hit by the economic crisis like Mashhad, which was stronghold of religious fundamentalists and the home of two of President Hassan Rouhani’s main rivals in the 2017 presidential elections. On December 28, when thousands of citizens came together in Mashhad to protest against higher prices and economic hardship, some “reformers” accused religious principalist fanatics under Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, a representative of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, of having the intention of covertly organizing the demonstration for a few days to weaken the “moderate” president, Rouhani, and his administration. Despite the hardliners’ intentions, once people went into the streets, protests quickly followed in dozens of other small to mid-sized towns that suffered from high rates of unemployment. They chanted slogans against the supreme leader and the regime as a whole, which shows that even if the uprising was started by a conspiracy on the part of one faction in the regime, it was not under its thumb.