As protests grow across Iran, Khamenei’s worst fears turn into reality

The three-day strikes of teachers in more than 100 cities across Iran is indicative of the restlessness of the society and the regime’s waning capacity in preventing protests. Starting on Saturday, the teachers refused to go to classes and held protest rallies in different cities.

In Shiraz and Tehran, thousands of teachers gathered to voice their protest to government policies and the regime’s lack of will to address their demands. The teachers are mostly struggling to make ends meet and are protesting for their most basic needs, including better wages, education reform, the implementation of classification laws, and employment security.

Having seen nothing but empty and unmet promises by government officials, the teachers were chanting, “Rise teachers and defend your rights,” “No nation has seen such injustice,” “Teachers will die but will not give in to disgrace,” and “We will not rest until we get our rights.”

In recent months, many teachers and education activists have been arrested for organizing and taking part in protests. Instead of being intimidated, the teachers have become more resolute in their protests. And this resolve was reflected in their slogans in the three-day protests that began on Saturday, including “Teachers don’t belong in prison,” “Imprisoned teachers must be released,” “Freedom-loving teachers, our only solution is to raise our voices,” and “Strikes, assemblies are our undeniable right.”

The teachers’ protests follow a joint move by the government and the Majlis (parliament) to further undermine their rights. After months of protests by teachers, the government only allocated a fraction of the budget needed to address their needs. The bill has been handed over to the Majlis and is expected to be approved. This will further damage the lives of the teachers and the country’s education system.

Teachers are one of many segments of the Iranian society that are suffering from the regime’s policies and have found no other solution than to take to the streets and claim their rights through protests. What makes this round of protests significant is that it comes on the heels of intense protests by the farmers of Isfahan, who are equally suffering from the government’s destructive management of water sources.

Despite the regime’s brutal response to the protests of Isfahan’s farmers, Iranian teachers did not shy away from holding their protests. In fact, they have become more organized and determined in their struggle.

During the three-day protests, the regime’s security forces tried to disperse the protesting teachers in Tehran, where the rally was held in front of the Majlis. But the teachers stood their ground, resisted the repressive forces, and continued their rally.

The growing protest movements by the different segments of the Iranian society is what the regime has been fearing and warning about in the past years.

In June 2016, regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei warned, “We have fault lines in the society… if they grow, they will cause earthquakes.”

In December 2017, the regime experienced the first of such earthquakes in a nationwide protest, followed by similar protests in 2018 and another major uprising in November 2019, in which people across nearly 200 cities called for the overthrow of the mullahs’ rule. In 2021, the regime has also faced a series of major protests, which were triggered by economic grievances but quickly turned into anti-regime demonstrations.

Indeed, Khamenei’s fears and warnings are turning into reality as every day, protests sprout in different parts of the country and across the social and economic spectrum. Meanwhile, the regime’s power to put down protests through sheer violence is waning. As these protests grow and join, the regime will inevitably face another major social “earthquake,” one that it will not be able to handle.

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