Since Thursday, protests throughout Iran have caught the world’s attention. The rallies started in protest of the current Islamic Republic, shouting things like “death to the dictator” and other anti-Iranian government slogans. Kurdish media groups have reported that many are critical of Iran’s involvement in Syria, chanting “leave Syria, think about us,” as well as “The people are begging. The clerics act like God.” The country hasn’t seen demonstrations of this size since 2009.

The nation’s economy has also suffered recently; the capital plans to raise oil prices by 50% next year, despite their oil-rich reserves. The Statistical Center of Iran reports 12.4% unemployment in 2016.

These protests carried on throughout December 28 and 29 relatively peacefully, with a few arrests and little violence — though property was damaged in some of the demonstrations. However, on 30 December, the Revolutionary Guards opened fire and killed at least two demonstrators. The Washington Post has also reported the use of water canons and cited the arrests of over 200 people in Tehran on Saturday. This has all drawn more attention and the international community is watching closely to see how Iran deals with these demonstrations.

Most of the protests have been organized and conducted via social media. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has claimed to support the people’s rights to protest, but the Iranian government has made efforts to block social media platforms such as Instagram and the messaging app, Telegram. They claim to have concerns over destruction of public property.

Iran’s Islamic rule has not been in place since the Iranian Revolution of late 1978-early 1979. The country was not struggling so much at the time, and embraced western values. A previous Shah, Reza Shah, had come into conflict with many devout Muslims on many issues, particularly western treatment of women. He not only allowed women to discard their hijabs, he supported them. He also allowed and encouraged women to go to universities.

Reza Shah did these things in the 1930s, but his son would continue the trend. These rulers were mired in controversy and conflict, but it was this type of thinking that eventually sparked the revolution that ousted the Persian monarchy that had been around for 2,500 years — and of course there were a myriad of other reasons. The revolution was mostly non-violent, and it established the Islamic, authoritarian government in charge today.

CNN recently posted a video that went viral of a woman, amidst the Iranian demonstrations, taking off her hijab and waving it in protest:


Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.