Protests against Iran’s chaotic economic situation gained momentum on August 1 in Shapoor district of Isfahan in central Iran. According to reports on social media, police used tear gas and paintball bullets to disperse the protesters.
Demonstrators chanted slogans against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei while calling on everyone to join the protests.
“Have shame, Khamenei, and leave the country alone,” and“Remaining silent is treachery against Iran,” they chanted.
Earlier, footage and images circulating on social media showed hundreds of people on July 31 in Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city, protesting against hardship, water and power shortages, and Iran’s extraterritorial military interventions.
Isfahan has witnessed numerous recent protests and demonstrations against the Islamic establishment and its “mismanagement” of national affairs. The videos that went viral show protesters chanting slogans against Tehran’s foreign policy, including Iran’s role in Syria.
“Forget Syria; care about us,” “No to Gaza; no to Lebanon; I’ll give my life for Iran,” hundreds of people chanted on July 31.
By referring to the founder of the Pahlavi royal dynasty, Reza Shah (1925-1941), protesters expressed nostalgia for pre-1979Iran, before the Islamic Revolution, and paid homage to the king, who died in exile.
Based on social media reports, businessmen and shopkeepers in Isfahan’s Shapoor-i Jadid district as well as truckers in northern parts of the city have gone on strike.
“Businessmen and merchants in Isfahan, as the rest of their counterparts across the country, are mainly unhappy with the recent fluctuations in the local forex market and demand the authorities address the problem in a way that enables them to plan for business at least six months ahead,” the chairman of Isfahan’s Guild House, Rasool Jahangiri, said on July 31.
Referring to business owners’ demands such as tax cuts and better insurance, Jahangiri said the foreign exchange, gold, and coins markets in Isfahan are currently inactive.
Footage and images circulated on August 1 showed protesters burning tires to neutralize tear gas canisters shot by security forces.
Gohardasht, a town on the northern outskirts of Karaj, approximately 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) west of Tehran, was also the scene of widespread protests, which continued until late on July 31 despite the heavy presence of anti-riot police and security forces.
However, no clashes between police and protesters in Isfahan and Gohardasht have been reported.
Recent protests against unprecedented fluctuations on the local foreign exchange and gold markets initially started on June 24 in Tehran and soon led to the closure of the Grand Bazaar.
A well-informed source told Radio Farda at the time that merchants of the bazaar in the city of Arak, central Iran, had also closed the market there on June 28.
Two days after the demonstrations in Tehran and Arak, Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said, “A large number of people who participated in protests in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar on Monday have been arrested and will likely face trial.”
Close allies of Khamenei, including judicial chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, have repeatedly accused “foreign enemies’ intelligence services” of fomenting unrest among laborers, teachers, students, farmers, and merchants who recently dared to raise their voices against corruption, mismanagement, water shortages, and unemployment, as well as what they call “useless foreign military interventions” that waste national assets.
Speaking on May 21 in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran "will have to choose between maintaining its economy or sponsoring terrorist and insurgent groups in countries like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen” or what he called "squandering precious wealth on fights abroad." While insisting that “Iran will not have the money to do both," Pompeo blamed the money that the Iranian government received after sanctions ended (during the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency) as a "newfound treasure" that it used to sponsor those groups.
"We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them," Pompeo said.
Pompeo said if Iran makes "major changes," the United Stateswould be willing to lift sanctions. He did not give a timetable for when the sanctions would be imposed.