Anti-government protests across Iran challenge the Islamic Republic’s regime

Anti-government demonstrations have spread across the country, marking the ninth day, in which thousands of Iranians have marched calling for the end of the Ayatollah regime. Footage obtained by TV7 shows Iranian protesters chanting “death to the dictator” and “down with the clerical regime” as Iranian security forces struggle to contain the boldest challenge to the Ayatollah regime since unrest in 2009. Several thousands of protesters have been reportedly arrested over the last several days with a confirmed death toll rising to 21. While the demonstrations initially broke out focusing on economic hardships and alleged corruption, the calls for a ‘regime change’ quickly turned the protests into political rallies. In a first reaction to the unrest, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused enemies of the Islamic Republic of stirring unrest across his country, as his regime intensifies efforts against protesters. Khamenei said, “The enemy is poised for an opportunity, a breach to penetrate through. Look at the incidents in the past few days! All those who are against the Islamic Republic, those with cash, politics, weapons and intelligence apparatus, join hands so they may be able to create troubles for the Islamic regime, for the Islamic Republic. I have things to say about issues in the recent days to people, I will talk to people regarding these issues, God willing, when the time is right,” the Iranian supreme leader said during a teaching to his followers.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also responded to the protests against the regime, accusing the United States and Israel of “taking revenge” against the Islamic Republic “by provoking” protesters. Both Washington and Jerusalem rejected the notion of being involved in the protests against the regime, while expressing support for the Iranian opposition in seeking “freedom and justice”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement, “I heard today Iran’s President Rouhani’s claim that Israel is behind the protests in Iran. It is not only false, it is laughable and unlike Rouhani I will not insult the Iranian people, they deserve better. Brave Iranians are pouring into the streets. They seek freedom. They seek justice. They seek the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades. Iran’s cruel regimes wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate. This money could have built schools and hospitals. No wonder mothers and fathers are marching in the streets. The regime is terrified of them, of their own people. That’s why they jail students. That’s why they ban social media. But I’m sure that fear will not triumph. Because the Iranian people are smart, they’re sophisticated, they are proud. Today they risk everything for freedom. Sadly, many European governments watch in silence as young heroic young Iranians are beaten in the streets. That’s just not right. And I for one, will not stay silent. This regime tries desperately to sow hate between us, but they won’t succeed and when this regime finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again. I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom,” the Israeli leader said.

While the United States accused Iran of human rights abuses in attempting to crackdown the protests, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged countries not to take advantage of the “inner-Iranian conflict” in their aspired bid to overthrow the Clerical Regime, warning of a dangerous escalation. Minister Gabriel stressed, “I think we are all concerned about an escalation of the conflict in Iran. There are many dead and injured. I believe that there must always be a way in a country for its people to express their disagreement with the political and economic developments. But this needs to happen in a peaceful way. But the state must not respond with force against such protest. The right to free speech must be upheld. We strongly advice against the use of this inner-Iranian conflict – which has its background partly in the economy, partly in politics, which we can understand – to use this conflict internationally. That will not ease the situation. But our position is quite clear: people in every country must have the right to express their economic and political opinion, to stand for their rights, and that must also be the case in Iran,” the German top diplomat said during a press conference in Berlin.

It is important to note that while thousands of Iranians have rallied against the government, pro-government rallies in several Iranian cities drew thousands of marchers in support of the Islamic Republic’s clerical regime.