'Death to the Supreme Leader' protesters chant in Iran

'Death to the Supreme Leader' protesters chant in Iran

People hold a demonstration, in support of the ongoing anti-regime protests happening in Iran, outside Downing Street in London, Britain, January 13, 2020. (REUTERS Photo)

Ever since the US-Iran tensions began 10 days ago, the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities have been filling up with scores of people, first mourning the death of the Quds force commander General Soleimani, people protesting against US actions and most recently protesting against the ‘accidental’ shooting down of Ukrainian International Airlines PS 752. 

Iran is not new to witnessing protests, there have been many since the fall of the Shah and the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. However, over the past decade, the majority of protests in the heavily sanctioned country have asked for economic policy reforms and better job opportunities among other demands. Protests over the past couple of months have been of a slightly different nature, demanding a different regime, demanding a return of the Shah of Iran and these protests have displayed great resentment for the current system of governance. 

The current US-Iran tensions and the Iranian government’s reactions to it have amplified the protests giving protesters many other reasons to protest. Chants and slogans used in the current protests are different from the ones used in the past decade, but they are not unheard of. 

Slogans used in these protests are far more radical than the ones used in previous protests, he says. “Death to Khameini”, “Death to Mullahs” are some slogans used with many chants demanding the Supreme Leader to step down and even tearing up posters of Khameini and Soleimani. 

“The protesters are chanting against the entirety of the regime. The disdain towards the regime goes back decades but the protests in the last 10 years have had two main reasons, social demands (improved democracy and compulsory hijabs) and economic issues (partially due to the corruption of officials and US sanctions),” says Khashyar Rahnama, an Iranian from Tehran. He adds that “The shooting down of the plane acted as a catalyst and unified masses to keep protesting, although this incident is only one of the hundreds of reasons why people are out on the streets.”

There have been several reports of internet shutdowns in the country however, Khashayar says that there has been no internet shutdown but internet speed was slowed down sometime in a few days ago, however, the internet is fully functional now.

“While the regime was trying to unify people against the US after the assassination of General Soleimani, the plan backfired with the admission of shooting down the plane. It has only increased people’s hatred towards the regime,” says Khashayar. 

Protesters have been pouring into the streets of over 10 cities including Tehran, Rasht, Kermanshah, and Mashhad over the past few days. These protests initially started with students taking to the streets in and around Amir Kabir University of Technology and Sharif University of Technology. Several people from different walks of life joined but security forces deployed in high numbers are making gatherings difficult, says Khashayar.

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