Ongoing protests in the southern Iranian city of Kazerun have morphed into anti-regime riots as riot police fired into a crowd killing at least two demonstrators.
The protest began when the central government sought to divide the city in two. But it quickly became a platform for demonstrations against the regime, with the crowd chanting anti-government slogans and getting into running battles with the police.
People have sent eyewitness accounts documenting the violence, including video footage, to IranWire and other media outside Iran. Some Iranian media have also reported on the riots.
In addition, people have posted videos on social media claiming to document the unrest in Kazerun, which is west of Shiraz. Unconfirmed reports say that protesters attacked a police station and surrounded a number of government buildings. According to these reports, several people were injured and at least three of the protesters were killed.
Protesters shouted out various slogans during the rallies — “State Radio and Television Should be Ashamed,” “The Government Supports Gazans, But Betrays Kazerun,” and “Our Enemy is Here, not in the US” among them.
Some people shouted: “Our enemy is right here; liars say it is America,” but there were other, more shocking slogans too, including “Be afraid when we get guns” and “We will kill the traitors.” This readiness for violent confrontation is new, and had not been a feature of earlier rallies.
One of the more honest members of the Iranian parliament noted, “People are protesting in response to their financial and employment situation.”
Despite promises of better times from the regime as a result of the signing of the nuclear deal with Western powers, ordinary Iranians who suffered horribly under the UN sanctions regime have yet to see any benefits from the deal. Now that Trump has pulled out of the agreement, the government has been trying to ratchet up feelings against the U.S., hoping that blaming America for the people’s ills will take the pressure off of them.
But the people aren’t buying it:
In a memo published on April 21, Parvaneh Salahshouri, a representative from Tehran, sounded the same note. “The responsible authorities, whether they accept it or not, are on one side and people are on the other side,” she wrote. “We can see proof of this in Isfahan and Kazerun and many other places. We must be aware that for years now people have been under pressure and these [protests] amount to acts of civil disobedience.”
Unless there is a massive crackdown as there was earlier this year, where dozens of people were killed, the unrest will only grow. And now that sanctions have been re-established by Washington, the economic situation in the country will become even more dire. Iran’s main source of foreign income, the oil industry, is especially vulnerable due to years of incompetent management.
The time is ripe and the U.S. has a new plan to assist demonstrators in their efforts to democratize the country. It will not be peaceful. But much of what is happening in Iran today echoes events of 1979 when Iranians overthrew the Shah. Then, nationwide demonstrations along with international pressure finally forced the Shah into retirement.
Could history be repeating itself in this post-nuclear deal world?