- Protests in Iran have become a major global issue and resulted in deaths.
- They were catalysed by soaring egg prices, which have gone up 50% and in some cases doubled.
- A harsh government response and general antipathy from the authorities caused the protests to grow.
Iran is currently being rocked by widespread protests throughout the country that have become the biggest geopolitical issue of the day, attracting the attention of the US President and most other major world powers.
As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 21 people had died and hundreds more were under arrest in the biggest unrest to affect the region in almost a decade.
There are plenty of reasons for Iranians to be unhappy. The economy is in poor shape, corruption is widespread, and they have lived for some forty years under a harsh and oppressive theocracy.
But one of the most significant factors being cited is a recent spike in the price of eggs.
According to Iran’s Mehr news agency, egg prices last week were up 50%.
The English-language Financial Tribune newspaper had more detail, citing prices as high as 210,000 rial ($6.30) for a tray of 30 eggs, more than double the usual price. Other commodities are also more expensive.
Increases have been blamed on abnormally high animal feed costs, as well as an outbreak of avian flu which led to many millions of hens being culled.
The hike prompted demonstrations in the streets, beginning in the city of Mashhad before spreading to the capital, Tehran, and other urban and suburban areas.
This video, purportedly from Karaj, a city just outside Iran, shows parts of the city on fire against a background of weapons fire.
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) January 2, 2018
Protest is not common in Iran, which has a strong and pervasive security apparatus. As authorities began to respond, to block messaging technology and to arrest people, the protests worsened. Threats as severe as the death penalty were levied against demonstrators.
What an egg costs has no especial political symbolism in Iran, but was an obvious example of life getting worse, and the government’s indifference.
Having recently re-elected moderate Hassan Rouhani, and seen their leaders sign the nuclear accord with the US and other economies in return for sanctions relief, Iranians may have hoped for economic improvement, rather than the opposite.
Eggs have ceased to be the central issue, as state authorities confirm a steadily rising count of dead which includes children and members of its own security services.
Video from inside the country shows police stations under siege, gunshots, and buildings set on fire.
- Thomson Reuters
Chanting protestors have voiced their dissatisfaction with the government more generally, and have also condemned Iranian authorities for spending money intervening in conflicts overseas.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed foreign governments for stirring the unrest using their money and intelligence services.
Western powers including the United States condemned Iran’s harsh response to protest, bringing the focus of the conflict firmly into the realm of international politics, rather than food and the economy.
But every protest movement starts somewhere, often for prosaic reasons – the Arab Spring of 2011 was triggered by the suicide of a Tunisian fruit seller whose roadside stall was seized by the government – and in Iran the trigger was unaffordable groceries.