Protests began to break out across Iran Thursday, beginning in small cities with a few hundred protestors and eventually ending up in the capital city of Tehran. Not that you would know it by looking at American media outlets, who largely yawned and continued to cover fluffy, end-of-year feature stories even as it was reported that Iranian police had decided they could no longer arrest uncovered women, which some assumed was because too many had thrown off the hijab.
This is a brutal hateful unpopular theocratic regime. Some people — @CNN — might tell you Iranians like the regime. They might even make it a headline. They might write PRO-GOVERNMENT RALLY in all caps. But this is still a brutal hateful unpopular theocratic regime. #IranProtests https://t.co/LDIM9rWxsn
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) December 30, 2017
Iran regime will no longer arrest "bad-hijabi" women because there are too many women to arrest. Unveiling and refusing to submit to misogynist rules bringing regime to its knees. Long live women's liberation movement in Iran. https://t.co/0GPg2WYSyQ
— Maryam Namazie (@MaryamNamazie) December 29, 2017
The BBC reported that the protests were varied but had a common theme: frustration with the current political regime in Iran.
What began as a protest against economic conditions and corruption has turned political.
Slogans have been chanted against not just Mr Rouhani but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and clerical rule in general.
Demonstrators were reportedly heard yelling slogans like “The people are begging, the clerics act like God”. Protests have even been held in Qom, a holy city home to powerful clerics.
There is also anger at Iran’s interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”, a reference to what protesters say is the administration’s focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.
Other demonstrators chanted “leave Syria, think about us” in videos posted online. Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
BuzzFeed News World correspondent Borzou Daragahi, who has covered Cairo, Beirut, Baghdad and Tehran, has been methodically covering the breaking news from the protests as they happen. His Twitter thread is updated regularly and not to be missed. It begins Thursday with the protest in Mashad and contains video of protests as well as on-the-ground analysis from those who know the players and the desires of the protestors.
‘Hundreds took to the streets of Iran's second largest city of Mashad on Thursday to protest over high prices, shouting slogans against the government.’ https://t.co/eEOU8ePR1T
— Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒 (@borzou) December 28, 2017
High-ranking U.S. politicians and thought leaders expressed their support for the anti-government protests that reportedly had Iranian citizens shouting slogans such as, “Independence, freedom, Iranian republic!” and “we don’t want the Islamic Republic!” The protests seemed to cover all aspects of the repressive regime, from how women are treated to the missing economic boon that was supposed to come from former President Obama’s Iran deal. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement similar to President Donald Trump’s, and was in good company in showing American support for Iranian peaceful protesters.
Reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights including their right to express themselves. The world is watching
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) December 30, 2017
U.S. strongly condemns arrest of peaceful protestors in #Iran, urges all nations to publicly support Iranian people. As @POTUS said, longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are Iran's own people. #Iranprotests pic.twitter.com/mUTObTeHft
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) December 29, 2017
Important that we support the nonviolent protesters in #Iran. This is the result of a regime more focused on propping up terrorist organizations than addressing the plight of its citizens.
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 29, 2017
Good catch by @SenTomCotton: Iran got billions in windfall from nuclear deal, but Iranians are rioting because they say they haven't seen any of it.
— Omri Ceren (@omriceren) December 29, 2017
Imagine a free, democratic, independent, wealthy Iran. Giving full expression to beauty of Persian culture. Tapping into brains & spirit of its remarkable people. No nukes. At peace with its neighbors. Pray for peaceful end to this brutal & corrupt regime. #IranProtests
— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) December 30, 2017
However, perhaps not surprisingly, American media outlets chose to ignore the protests and, at least in the case of CNN, only began covering it once pro-government protesters were rallied together to counter the anti-government protests that had been happening for several days.
The verdict is still out on whether this rash of discontent will hold and actually accomplish anything to benefit the suffering people of that Middle East nation. By Saturday, the Iranian regime had begun to crack down on “illegal” gatherings, although there does appear to be some agreement between Israel and the U.S. to begin mutually addressing Iran.
At the table: The Israeli team was headed by national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and included senior representatives of the Israeli military, Ministry of Defense, Foreign Ministry and intelligence community. The U.S. side was headed by national security adviser H.R. McMaster and included senior representatives from the National Security Council, State Department, Department of Defense and the intelligence community.
But the relative silence from American media on what looks to be a legitimate democratic human rights rally — especially when they couldn’t get enough of the Women’s March, the #MeToo scandals, and anything having to so with the “Resist” movement — is louder than the shouts of the oppressed in Iran. And it’s shameful.