Traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar have become part of a growing list of protests in Iran: the merchants recently closed their shops to object to worsening economic conditions.
Since the wide-spread demonstrations that took place throughout the country in late December and January decrying the regime’s economic policies, as well as its corruption, foreign adventurism, and repression, anti-government protests have occurred in various places and by various segments of society in Iran, including women deploring the compulsory hijab; university students objecting to harsh prison sentences for fellow students; striking truck drivers angered by rising costs and poor pay; members of Iran’s ethnic minorities protesting government discrimination; and Gonabadi dervishes demonstrating against religious repression.
Commenting on Twitter, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that “5,000 Iranians [were] arrested in January’s protests. 30 women jailed for protesting the hijab. Hundreds of Sufi dervishes, dozens of environmentalists, 400 Ahwazis, 30 Isfahan farmers – all imprisoned by #Iran’s criminal regime. Iranian people deserve respect for their human rights.”
Additionally he tweeted that “#Iran’s corrupt regime has enriched #IRGC, #Hezbollah and #Hamas, and plundered the country’s wealth on proxy wars abroad while Iranian families struggle.”
In a briefing to reporters, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert observed, “We have seen the Iranian population tremendously concerned with their lack of economic progress. We’ve seen the Iranian regime pledge that regular Iranian people would see the benefits of their economy, and they certainly have not seen that:
“So we start to see people express their frustration through freedom of speech through these types of protests.”
In May, when Secretary of State Pompeo outlined the new U.S. strategy toward Iran, he asked, “What has the Iranian revolution given to the Iranian people?:
“Its young people are withering under the weight of frustrated ambitions. They are longing to pursue the freedoms and opportunities of the 21st century.”
Instead of responding to legitimate protests with arrests and imprisonment, the time has come, as Secretary Pompeo has said, “for the Supreme leader and the Iranian regime to summon the courage to do something historically beneficial for its own people.”
The United States stands with the Iranian people as they seek to reclaim their culture, its civilization, and the free exercise of their fundamental rights.