Report: Iran protests are the most serious in 40 years

The New York Times reports on the protests against Iran’s repressive regime. It calls them the most intense since 1979. The 1979 protests, of course, led to the overthrow of the Shah.

The mullahs were the target of strong protests in 2009. But the Times supplies evidence that the current wave is even more intense.

The 2009 protests are believed to have resulted in 72 deaths over a period of many months. The current protests have led to 180 to 450 deaths in just four days.

More significantly, the nature of the protesters appears to be different. Students led the 2009 protests. Reportedly, the current protesters are mainly unemployed or low-income men between the ages of 19 and 26, and the protests are centered not at universities but in working class neighborhoods.

This makes sense because the current protests were triggered by economic grievances, especially an increase in gasoline prices. The Times acknowledges that the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran are “a big reason” for the economic squeeze.

The difference in the nature of the protests is significant because unemployed and low-income youths have less to lose than university students. They are less likely to cowed for long.

Even more importantly, as the Times points out, low-income and working class neighborhoods have long been the power base of the regime. I assume, too, that the regime’s shock troops come mostly from these neighborhoods.

If so, then Iranian security forces are being asked to shoot members of their own class and, indeed, people from their own neighborhoods. That’s a bigger ask than shooting at students. Following these orders takes a bigger emotional toll.

Will the current wave of protests lead directly to the overthrow of the mullahs? I doubt it. More likely, it will take future waves in the upcoming decade. But this wave seems like an important step towards the eventual overthrow of the regime.

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