Protesters gather in Tehran on January 1 to protest the poor state of the economy. Image from IRNA news with the rights to republish.
This piece was originally published on January 8, 2017, on the website of Arseh Sevom, a non-governmental organization that promotes peace, democracy, and human rights for Persian-speaking communities.
A budget proposal that many workers and struggling households feel doesn't recognize their needs is at the heart of protests in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Protests against the budget bill began as soon as it was introduced on 10 December. Teachers, bus drivers, unions, and retired people were among the first to take to the streets in front of parliament.
It was the first time that an entire draft budget was published at once. “By publishing the entire budget at once,” journalist Mostafa Khosravi told Global Voices, “the corruption at the heart of the system was more apparent.”
There are questions about funds going to religious and cultural organizations that lack transparency and accountability. Many of those organizations are unknown to many in Iran.
It's widely believed the national protests began in the north-eastern city of Mashad. However, 10 days before the break out of the national protest movement, citizens were already publicly expressing their anger on the streets at the draft budget. On the message sharing app Telegram, member of parliament Mohammad Taghi Akbarnejad shared his experience walking anonymously among people demonstrating in front of the parliament building:
I was in the middle of the protests, and a woman in her late 50s came to me and asked, ‘Are you an MP?’ I answered, ‘I am here like you.’ She told me, ‘If you can go to parliament, tell them I made a mistake becoming a teacher. You’ve turned as all into beggars. Please tell Mr. Khamenei, tell the president, tell everyone, tell them we are desperate. We don’t need this revolution. We hate the clerics.’
Later a woman in her 60s approached me calmly to tell me to hide my clerical robe. ‘The people are thirsty for your blood!!!’
I didn’t take any of this personally, I tried to show solidarity.