Whose Turn Next?


Fourth day of the what has been sweeping cities across Iran, named across the social media as #IranProtests has gone by. I concluded my yesterday note insisting that Rouhani & co. must speak up; which they did. Moreover, the government was not the only speaker of the day:

  • By noon today it was formally announced that Telegram and Instagram are going to be “temporarily” unavailable in Iran. As a matter of fact, Iranians are quite familiar with this kind of circumstances. Back in 2009, when social networks were not as spread and as advanced as today, text message service was blocked on the very day of the election; Twitter, a pretty small community back then, was filtered the day after and Facebook was filtered in three days. What makes Telegram and Instagram more anomalous today is the fact that these sorts of social networks are counted as important instruments for the very government, both for information and organization. Social networks back then were mostly for the more modern social classes who did not share the government’s values, therefore using them to mobilize. Since that time, the government has had remarkable expenditure on enforcing his own supporters in the so-called “Cyber War.” The filtering decision was a huge defiance of what the current Minister of Communication, in favor of free information circulation before he actually took office, had vowed for. As we know, politicians not acting as they had stated is no longer a surprise.
  • Another figure, who turned to be one of the speakers of the day was Telegram CEO: Pavel Durov. His tweet, complaning about the decision of the Iranian goverment to block Telegram, to some extent, came to be a proof that the negotiations between Iran and Telegram had not gone as expected. Durov, as a matter of fact, seems to have forgotten his life experience in an authoritarian regime: once you bow to the power, you have to keep bowing.
  • Protests in the late afternoon and evening broke out as large and as spread out as expected. The iReport style was less functional today as the Internet had slowed down and the main communicative channels were filtered. We actually got to have the footages from today much later in comparison to previou days; however the protests seemed as numerous as previous days. Some cities rose up for the first time.
  • Jafar Azimzadeh, one of the forefronts of the Labour Movement who has been jailed and gone through different hunger strikes, spoke up today in favor of those who have not been listened to, who have been denied their basic rights and who have difficulty leading a basic life; calling such protests “inevitable and what the struggling Labor Movement had warned against.”
  • Another key speaker of the day was Hassan Rouhani. His appearance on television eventually took place in a controversial manner. A speech was scheduled on Channel 1 of the State TV, immediately highlighted that it would not be live. Eventually, it was aired on a different channel with a remarkable delay and the President that was supposed to address the nation was speaking to his cabinet member. The speech was indeed disappointing; as he admitted the problems, insisting that people can and should criticize and protest but their criticism and protest should be legal, highlighting that unfair and unjust behavior of the critics would not be tolerated and concluding his speech by thanking the security forces who have been patient, treating the people kindly and in a non-violent manner. In addition he stormed at the Donald Trump calling him “enemy of the nation who has no right to sympathize with Iranians since he has called them terrorists.” His speech echoed Mariano Rajoy on October 1st, thanking the Spanish Guardia Civil for handling the situation with the necessary delicateness.
  • Conspicuous American left-wing politicians had their say, defending Iranian’s right to free speech and stand against the government’s politics; calling on the government of Iran to respect such rights.
  • Some of the prominent political activists who were detained yesterday announced a hunger strike today. A large number (200 people in Tehran as reported by AP) is reported to be arrested.
  • Activists of the reformers’ camp continue to denounce the entire saga, calling it a joint operation of hardliners and external opposition forces (as stated in my previous note) to defame Hassan Rouhani and hold him in disrepute.

At the end of the fourth day of the protests, there are some leads to think about:

  1. What’s the Supreme Leader’s take on these protests? When and how is he going to weigh in? Is he going to look for the famous last word as he did in 2009 or by keeping a low proflie he is going to avoid taking the same risk again after he got defied back then?
  2. How popular is the foreign opposition among the protestors? Are the slogans in favor of Reza Shah, the first Pahlavi King whose son reigned the country until the collapse of monarchy in 1979 Islamic Revolution, only a symolically yearning desire for  modernization and repudiation of the clerics? Or are Reza Shah and monarchy actually what the protestors want to restore?
  3. At the end of the fourth day, the intelligentsia -which forms a wide range from religious to secular, right to left, orthodox to liberal, not only has refused to partake in the protests but also have taken no stand towards it.
  4. Is the lack of a leader, or a leadership council, going to lead to a cul-de-sac?
  5. Most specifically, how far are the people going to get back on the streets? Is there going to be a fifth day for the protests?

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