Iran: Three waves of urban protest (Farsi)

Ardeshir Mehrdad

ME4Change summary of the article: The author analyses the three large waves of urban protests in Iran over the last three decades.

The three waves differ in class content as well as the demands. The first wave began in 1992 and followed the fall in living standards after the introduction of structural adjustments policies by the Islamic regime and involved those layers of society particularly affected by such policies – the urban destitute on the margins of large cities and satellite towns. This wave was almost totally ignored by official news outlets.

The second wave spanned a decade bookended by two large demonstrations, in July 1999 (with the closure of the reformist paper Salam and the attack on the University) and June 2009 (with the mass protest at the rigging of the presidential elections). The middle classes formed the main backbone of these protests and the demands were predominantly over political and civil rights.

The third wave at the end of 2018 and again October-November 2019 was caused by the economic collapse of the country and involved a broad section of the population and with a wider spread across the country. This movement was able to use social media to great effect and was finally suppressed by a savage crackdown.

With the country almost certainly facing future waves of protest the author, addressing their potential trajectory and possible outcomes poses a number of preconditions that need to be addressed if the movements are not to fall into the various traps that lies on its potential trajectory to becoming an agent of structural change and towards a future of freedom and equality:

  • The ability and stamina to overcome the forces of suppression.
  • Organisation and achieving a level of internal cohesion and class solidarity.
  • Ability to mine the unused potential of the working class, bringing it into the arena and utilise its enormous potential.
  • Raising the political and class consciousness and overcoming the current religious and political impediments.

Having set out in details the above preconditions, the author discusses the various tactics and strategies that any future protest movement may face and the potential pitfalls ahead if the movement is not to totally suppressed, subsumed within sections of the regime or become a tool of imperialism. Those wanting to actively work in solidarity with these protests need to understand and accept the varieties and different identities of the various disjointed sections of these movements, and help to unite them in a single project for social, political and economic emancipation.

Read text in Farsi published on Political and Economic Critique,

December 21, 2020.

Read English translation

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