The Wall Street Journal reports that Iran’s biggest wave of street protests in almost a decade is presenting a mounting challenge to the country’s leadership, as calls for fresh demonstrations Sunday circulated on social media despite threats of a government crackdown.
The unrest began Thursday as a rebuke to the economic management of President Hassan Rouhani, who many Iranians blame for failing to control inflation and fix high unemployment. But they have widened to more than a dozen cities, and have started to feature chants targeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who sits atop the country’s unique form of Islamic government.
The wave of unrest is the largest in Iran since protests in 2009 over the disputed re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Popular anger about what many perceived as rigged voting results coalesced into the so-called Green Movement, which organized mass protests and drew a harsh government crackdown.
This time, double-digit inflation and unemployment, coupled with the planned removal of subsidies and new taxes, drove the unrest at first. Another spark was Iranians’ losses in unregulated financial schemes that have collapsed in recent years.
Cries of “Death to the dictator!” and “We don’t want the Islamic Republic, we don’t want it” could be heard Saturday as protests spread to Tehran for the first time. Many Iranians, especially younger generations born after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, view the system as oppressive and want to change how the country is governed.