After Ecuador, Chile, Iraq, and Lebanon, the global wave of widespread anti-government protests resulted by economic hardships arrived in Iran on November 15 after the National Iranian Petroleum Products Distribution Company increased the price of gasoline by 50 percent for the first 60 liters and almost 300 percent after 60 liter. According to Fars News Agency, the gas pricing plan was agreed by the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination made up of the president, parliament speaker, and judiciary chief. However, many in the country believed that the supreme leader Ali Khamenei is the mastermind of the decision. Speaking in for the Islamic student, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday, threw his support for the decision to hike gasoline prices. Khamenei said that “I am not an expert, and there are different opinions, but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision, I will support it.” And The heads of the branches made a decision with the backing of expert opinion, and naturally it must be implemented,” he said.
Other Iranian officials maintained their support for the increasing gas prices, but with trying to keep their accountability, they are trying to blame Hassan Rouhani’s government for the decision. Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the judiciary branch, said that the Rouhani administration offered the proposal to raise gas prices at the meeting of the Supreme Economic Coordination Council. Raisi supported the decision but said that the government did not efficiently communicate to the public the logic for the price changes. Raisi and Rouhani are strong political rivals, and Raisi considered possible successors to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Ebrahim Raisi may seek to direct pubic anger toward Rouhani to further reduce the president and other reformer’s public support.
Protests have spread to dozens of places in Iran, including major cities such as Tehran, Mashhad, Qom, Esfahan, Shiraz, and Ahvaz, and continue as until today. Regime’s response to the protests was violent and brutal and followed two methods; first, the use of maximum force and second, shut off the internet. Police and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units deployed to different cities and have used lethal and nonlethal force against demonstrators. Reports indicate that the regime has arrested over 1,000 people. Protesters have used anti–the Islamic Republic rhetoric blocked roads and set fire to the government-owned banks, and Islamic Schools. On a statement published on November 18, the IRGC warned that they would take “decisive action” if demonstrations continue. Just two days after this statement, Amnesty International said in a report on Tuesday that since November 15, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards had killed at least 106 protesters. The London-based human rights group, citing “credible reports,” said the real death toll could be far higher, with reports from Iran claiming as many as 200 have been killed.
The Internet shutdowns have become a common strategy for authoritarian governments, but experts say the last one in Iran is the biggest yet. The internet in Iran has now been inaccessible to the general population for almost 90 hours, and it’s not clear when the government will turn it back on. “The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” according to NetBlocks, an internet freedom advocacy organization. The regime is conducting information operations to control protests and limit the amount of information leaving Iran.
While the increase of gas prices may have been the trigger that started these protests, but most observers acknowledge that the Iranian people are unhappy about several issues, including frustration over corrupt leadership, economic mismanagement, and a decline of economic situation ever since the Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Iran.