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Geography Of Iran Protests Reveals An Unprecedented Uprising

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Geography Of Iran Protests Reveals An Unprecedented Uprising
"Many who protested wanted a better life. But almost all who protested believed that their basic rights were not being met." — Behnam Ben Taleblu
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Modern Iran has never seen protests this widespread.

The protests started in Iran's northeastern city of Mashhad. From there, they spread across the country. They've gone on more than a week.

"In many ways, the protests are about changing the government, reforming the government, fixing the government. But, you cannot get around the fact that the protests are about the government," Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told Newsy.  

When the protests started, they were mainly made up of urban poor. But, as the demonstrations grew, the kinds of people protesting did as well.

"Some who chanted economic slogans were workers. Some who chanted political slogans were university students. But they were not limited to university students. And those demanding a better life were not limited to workers. Many who protested were out of a job. Many who protested wanted a better life. But almost all who protested believed that their basic rights were not being met," Behnam Ben Taleblu said. 

During Iran's Green Movement in 2009, millions in the middle class protested in Iran's capital of Tehran after a disputed election. That was the last time major protests swept through the country. These recent protests are smaller, but they're also hitting in many more places than during the Green Movement.

"While the protests now compared to 2009 are smaller in scale because of their wide geographic scope, I think it's much more representative of the sentiments of the Iranian population," he said. 

The catalyst for the recent demonstrations seems to be from a budget proposal Iran's President Hassan Rouhani released. Part of it revealed that billions of dollars were going to unaccountable hard-line groups and military factions, like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. 

Rouhani has responded to the protests with calls for unity and calm. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had a different view, suggesting foreign agents are behind the protests.

"For over a century, Iranians have been on a quest for national emancipation, economic rights and social justice. What we know for certain is that these protests are a result of the 2009 protests. And if these protests fizzle out or are crushed, we will know one thing else for certain: There will be yet another movement that demands the same thing," he said.