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James Couture

Ph.D. Student at Free University of Berlin

Historically Iranian cities were the area of clashes between governmental authority and the power of people. The main start point for these clashes was constitutional revolution that, Qajar dynasty tried to control democratic movements and grab the power in all aspects in its hands. In result, revolutionaries fought against what they were calling “dictatorship” and, in military aspect they were successful. These rebellions by using that power forced the king to sign the constitutional command and accept the new order. As we know, later with coming of Pahlavi kingdom to power (1925) constitutional heritage became just a historical and abandoned event and the political dictatorship and economical corruption and also inequalities continued till the Islamic revolution (1979). After Islamic revolution, ten years of unstable situation and war with Iraq and thirty years of systematic corruption and political and economic monopolism made the people to think that they can just get their rights in streets. With a long history of street protests, the people of Iran can understand the necessity and importance of a social act and especially in important topics like economic and political burdens that government tries to impose to people. This has taught to people to express their demands in collective way and somehow with social force.

In last three years and after election of Donald Trump, we saw a shift in US politics against Iran and US government started new sanctions and claimed new deal by leaving the nuclear deal with Iran. Iranian regime didn’t accept new claims and in result, the sanctions came back. American sanctions over Iranian economy put the economy in more problem and Rouhani’s new-liberal economic plans push the pressure on working and middle classes and it came to a level that most of the analysts have said that Iranian middle class has shrunken and wiped away. These were the result of political and economic reforms that government wanted to do to join free market and delete subsidies for Fuel, essential consumable products, energy and industrial and agriculture sector. For applying this the government in last years has sold so many state-owned factories and big companies to private sector, mostly in unclear auctions and contracts and cut its supports for different sectors whenever it was possible. These made the economic situation worse because of the corruption that exists in economic deals and more important than that, by cutting governmental supports to the working class. As an example, big part of the protests in last two years were from the workers of the factories that have been sold to private sector and or other working class and the poor that they couldn’t get their salaries for some months. These made continuous chain of protests in different time spans and different places. November protests that now in most of the cities are in practice, based in long lasting structural factors and a very important fresh reason. As sturdy factors we can name resistance of the political system against changes, free market economic politics, corruption and raising inequality. But as a fresh factor that is closely related to above mentioned factors, and was in the path of cutting subsidies, is the raise in the price of the petrol for 200 percent. This means triple raise in the price of the fuel in one night (14 November).  As it’s mentioned, in one side, this change is occurring because of Iranian governmental politics in deleting subsidies, and on the other side, that is tactic to solve the budget shortage that government has for next year. The first part is strategic act of the government and the second, is tactical way to fight against the governments upcoming economic problem. For the second one, we can say that in the result of sanctions, government can’t sell the petrol and should compensate the money from other sources. The easiest and available source for that was raising the price of the petrol. With that raise, government can get directly huge amount of money and also indirectly it can save money in result of inflation and paying less to its employees and cut in expenses. But from the last experiences, Iranian people knows that any raise in petrol price means inflation in all products like transportation, food, service and other things. 200% raise for petrol in one night was a big shock to the population, and that made them to come to streets and had clashed with police in most of the cities. In the result of these clashes number of the protesters have been killed (till now 8 dead is proven) hundreds injured and more than thousand captured by the security forces. Many banks and governmental offices sat on fire and the streets and highways in big cities have been blocked by the protesters. People blocked streets and highways with their cars and in some cases, police tried to open the road with violence and force. The protests still are going on in most of the cities like Tehran, Tabriz, Shiraz, Mashhad, Ahvaz and other big and small cities and people in one side wanting their right and on the other side, authority is trying to keep the whole control in its hands. This process is kind of competing between people and power in the country that started its modern history with clashes between ruler class and folk.