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Iranian regime fears a recurrence of 2019 protests

On the first anniversary of the November 2019 nationwide protests in Iran, as many Iranians commemorate the deaths of hundreds of protesters, the country’s leaders appear to be extremely concerned about a recurrence of the widespread demonstrations.
Last year’s unrest is known in Iran as “the Aban protests” or “bloody Aban,” and the regime in Tehran is trying to create a false narrative about it — for example, framing the protesters as foreign conspirators.
The Iranian newspaper Resalat recently published an article titled “A word about November 2019,” that said: “2019 was one of the most important landmarks of the post-Islamic Revolution era .… when organized groups were activated to make use of the distressed environment and provoke protests.”
“The November sedition (a term used by state-run media to demonize the popular protests) was supposed to be a starting point for a chain of more expanded unrest and disruptions ... It was launched to create instability and insecurity inside Iran.”
The reality is that in November last year widespread protests and demonstrations first erupted in Ahvaz and then spread to many other cities including the capital, Tehran.
The protesters were initially angered by the regime’s decision to increase the price of gasoline by 50 percent. Some protesters blocked roads and were heard shouting: “Gasoline has become more expensive, the poor have become poorer.”
Although the gas price increase provided the spark that ignited the demonstrations, the political nature of the protests was clear from the start. That is why people were heard calling for the regime to step aside. They were angered by its corruption, mismanagement, embezzlement, and money laundering.
Also of concern was the vast waste of Iranian wealth on intervention in foreign conflicts and its support of terrorist proxies. Some protesters, at great risk to themselves, were heard shouting: “Let go of Syria, think of us.” The Iranian regime allocates a significant portion of its budget to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its militia and terror groups.
The Iranian authorities responded with brute force and aggression. Security forces attacked demonstrators and more than 1,500 men, women, and children were killed. Thousands more were arrested. Some protesters, such as champion wrestler Navid Afkari, were tortured and executed in order to send a message to the people.
Amnesty International recently documented some of the torture techniques employed by the Iranian regime: “The organization’s research found that victims were frequently hooded or blindfolded; punched, kicked and flogged; beaten with sticks, rubber hosepipes, knives, batons and cables; suspended or forced into holding painful stress positions for prolonged periods; deprived of sufficient food and potable water; placed in prolonged solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or even months; and denied medical care for injuries sustained during the protests or as a result of torture.”
Now the regime in Tehran is being warned of further widespread demonstrations, because it has failed to address people’s grievances.
In an interview with the Iranian newspaper Etemad, the so-called reformist politician Javad Imam said: “Salaries were not raised but prices rose several times, and people must endure all these troubles. The likelihood of people’s reaction has increased.”
In fact, the current situation is much more dire for many ordinary people than it was last year. President Hassan Rouhani admitted that as Iran’s currency, the rial, continues to lose its value, the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis since 1979.
Iran used to export about 2.5 million barrels of oil a day but according to the latest reports, the figure is now about 100,000 barrels a day, a reduction of nearly 95 percent. The country’s budget relies heavily on oil sales. Its currency, which has been in free fall this year has plunged to record lows. As of Nov. 1, one

US dollar is now worth about 290,000 rials. Inflation and unemployment are at record highs. People have seen the value of their wages and savings depreciate almost tenfold and have been rushing to buy foreign currency.
If a new round of demonstrations erupts in Iran, Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the main figures of the theocracy, will be the main targets of public frustration as Iran’s top leaders have become a permanent fixture in the protesters’ slogans.
Throughout Rouhani’s more than seven years as president, his people have been subjected to a deteriorating economy and an escalating crackdown on dissent, involving mass arrests of activists, journalists and other advocates of a more liberal society. In other words, the Iranian people are now not only furious about the regime’s economic mismanagement but also the broader issues of political suppression, human rights violations, and the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Iran’s leaders are correct to be concerned about further demonstrations erupting and escalating across the country. The situation the Iranian people find themselves in is much worse than it was last year, when nationwide demonstrations shook the foundations of the theocratic regime.