With unemployment above 12% and inflation rising to 9.6%, protests– prompted by a 50% rise in the cost of eggs– have spread to over twenty cities and escalated to calls for the separation of state and religion.
The largest contingent of protesters consists of youths, who struggle with a 30% unemployment rate. Reports suggest the remainder are conservatives seeking to undermine Hassan Rouhani’s moderate presidency and reformists disenchanted by Rouhani’s inability to enact change.
Rouhani has urged his government to consider the demonstrations an opportunity to address people’s grievances. Dissimilar to a crackdown following the 2009 demonstrations, authorities have shown restraint, employing heavy police presences and sporadic shutdowns of social media platforms; the hope is to gradually subdue protester turnouts.
Without the leadership, coordination and singular purpose that sustained protests in 2009, demonstrators face an uncertain future. Furthermore, if Rouhani is unable to convince theocrats to address protesters’ demands, expect a crackdown by the Revolutionary Guard to end demonstrations by force.
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