Iran grapples with how to deal with Protests

By Ali Hashem for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Roughly a week after protests began in several Iranian cities, the main challenge facing the establishment in Tehran is how to deal with them. On Dec. 28, few thought that the gathering of a few hundred people in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest and holiest city, was going to result in a domino effect, with protests popping up in several cities around the country.

Over the past months, sit-ins and demonstrations were organized by families who lost money in bankrupt financial institutions across the country. These sit-ins, however, did not give any indication to the organizers that such protests might turn into a bigger situation, where anti-corruption and anti-government chants would end up turning into anti-Islamic Republic slogans.

For President Hassan Rouhani, the protests should be dealt with as an opportunity, not a threat. Rouhani was originally the target of the first demonstrations, which were organized under the auspices of some of the Principlist camp’s figures, such as defeated presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi and his father-in-law, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the imam of Mashhad.

While the Principlists were accused of organizing the first gathering that sparked the demonstrations, a political source close to the Principlist camp denied this allegation in an interview with Al-Monitor. The source insisted that Rouhani’s economic and social policies are to be blamed for all that’s happening. In his Jan. 5 sermon, Alamolhoda criticized conservatives who are riding the protests to settle political scores.

Regardless of whether the Principlists are responsible for the protests, there’s a problem in the country and both sides lack a common vision for how to reach a solution. Rouhani and his Reform camp allies believe that it’s important to sort the demonstrators into categories, hence, refraining from accusing all of them of being part of a foreign conspiracy against the country. However, so far no steps have been taken to address the people’s grievances.

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