A cleric speaking on Friday to a crowd of protesters in Khorasan Razavi province, Iran. Photo: AFP
A cleric speaking on Friday to a crowd of protesters in Khorasan Razavi province, Iran. Photo: AFP

As the Trump administration begins to reimpose sanctions on an Iran that is already facing an economic crisis, spontaneous protests are again springing up across the country.

This political unrest is unlike movements in the past, according to Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar. Speaking to German daily Die Welt, Forouhar said that this time, protesters’ anger was not directed at one political faction, but at the whole system.

“This crisis destroys the dignity of people, it destroys biographies. It’s a hopelessness that I have not experienced before,” the artist said. “And with the new sanctions, that will only get worse.

“The special thing about the current protests is that they are no longer directed only against the conservative camp within the power apparatus, as a few years ago, but also against the alleged reformers and moderates of the current government. It’s about the legitimacy of the whole system, ” Forouhar said.

“That’s why the disappointment is now all the more comprehensive. The middle class and bourgeois intelligentsia, who once paved the way for [President Hassan] Rouhani, are now disillusioned and paralyzed. That’s why the resistance is coming from below,” Forouhar said. “There the need is also greatest.

“The mistake of the West was to settle for Rouhani’s beautiful announcements.

“On social media, people are going back to speculation that the regime, as so often just before the abyss, gives way again,” Forouhar said.

But she pushed back on the notion that the Trump administration’s posture was the reason for this. “The protests began even before [US President Donald Trump’s] decision. And another impoverishment does not encourage political protest. In the worst case, that can lead to a chaotic civil war. ”

The first sanctions that will be in place starting this week will cover access to US dollar banknotes, the automotive sector and the export of metals, agricultural products, and carpets. A second step, coming in November, will see sanctions imposed on Iran’s vital oil sector. But the economic situation is already extreme. Over the past year, the Iranian rial has lost more than 80% of its value against the dollar.

This means extreme price increases for a population in which the official unemployment rate is more than 13% and at least one-third of the young working population has no job. For months, there have been protests across the country aimed at both economic misery and Iranian politics. Washington is increasing the pressure in a situation in which the country seems to be on the edge.

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