Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Defusing the Iranian protests

Whether his words have any affect on policy or not, the message might reduce protests.

Iran Can’t Keep Dictating Lifestyle, Its President Warns
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran lashed out at his hard-line opponents on Monday, saying the protesters who have shaken Iran in recent weeks objected not just to the bad economy but also to widespread corruption and the clerical government’s restrictive policies on personal conduct and freedoms.

In his most extensive comments yet on the protests, Mr. Rouhani said that those people who took to the streets across the country did so because they were seeking a better life. “Some imagine that the people only want money and a good economy, but will someone accept a considerable amount of money per month when for instance the cyber network would be completely blocked?” he asked. “Is freedom and the life of the people purchasable with money?…

Mr. Rouhani, a moderate, has been seeking a relaxation in social controls, but he faces resistance from hard-liners in unelected power centers like the judiciary, vetting councils and the state news media. They want to keep in place the framework of Islamic laws that effectively dictate how people should live, despite enormous changes in Iranian society in the past decade alone.

Iran’s judiciary and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blame the country’s “enemies” for the protests in over 80 cities, which started on Dec. 28. They said the actions were organized by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia with the aim of bringing down the Islamic government…

Several political supporters of Mr. Rouhani say that the first protest in the city of Mashhad was actually masterminded by the hard-liners, in an attempt to discredit the government…

But the protesters have also spoken of a host of other problems, including endemic corruption and the government’s expensive support for the Syrian government and Shiite groups throughout the Middle East, particularly Hezbollah, the Shiite movement in Lebanon.

Seeking to blunt criticism over the economy, Mr. Rouhani stressed the breadth of the protesters’ demands as well as their validity.

“The people have demands, some of which are economic, social and security-related, and all these demands should be heeded,” he said on Monday. He did not directly refer to slogans calling for Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to step down, but he said that no one was exempt from criticism…

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