Iran is facing a series of protests across the country that were sparked by rising living costs and a stagnant economy but slowly developed into a broader demonstration against the regime. This outcry is the most serious challenge to Tehran’s authority since the so-called Green Movement of 2009 when millions marched in Tehran to express their dissatisfaction with the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following allegations of the rigged vote.
The country has not seen economic growth that President Hassan Rouhani promised in his re-election campaign that he hoped would come after the nuclear deal relieved Iran of sanctions and opened the country to the global markets. In spring 2017, unemployment was 12.6%, up only a bit from 2016, the World Bank reported. Nevertheless, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tried to downplay the meaningfulness of the current wave of sometimes-violent protests that have left 12 people dead. “Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them. This is nothing,” he said.
While EU leaders have not directly addressed the unrests in Iran yet, the spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ray, tweeted: “The EU is following demonstrations in Iran. We have been in touch with the Iranian authorities. We expect that the right of peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression will be guaranteed.” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed his concern about the rising death toll and appealed to the Iranian government to respect people’s rights. “We appeal to the Iranian government to respect the rights of the demonstrators to assemble and to peacefully raise their voices,” Gabriel said.
While German Foreign Minister carefully chose his words when he reminded that “after the confrontations of recent days, it is all the more important that all sides refrain from violent actions”, US President Donald Trump expressed his support for the protests in a series of tweets on Sunday (31 December) when he tweeted: “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”