Iran Daily: Will Rouhani Support the Right to Protest?

Demonstrators in Iran's second city Mashhad, December 2017

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is being tested in his recent statement supporting the right to protest, with one of the country’s leading political organization seeking a permit for a public rally in Tehran on March 5.

In a letter to Rouhani, the National Front set out its plan to mark the anniversary of the death of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was removed in a coup backed by the US and Britain in 1953 and then imprisoned and held under house arrest until his death in 1967.

“The National Front wishes to invite the people of Tehran to a public gathering where they can listen to the Front’s views and suggestions at this sensitive juncture of Iran’s history,” the signatories wrote.

Protests over political and economic issues escalated from December 28 and spread across Iran for weeks. After they ebbed, Rouhani said that he understood the reasons for demonstrations, while following the regime’s line of portraying the protesters as misled by foreign-backed agitators who hijacked the rallies and pursued violence.

The National Front’s letternreminded Rouhani of his proclaimed commitment to protect and enforce the Constitution, asking him to order the Interior Ministry to permit the March 5 rally “on any square in Tehran”.

If Rouhani endorses the permit, it could set up a showdown between his Government and the hardline judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani. It could also put pressure on the Supreme Leader to intervene.

After the mass rallies in 2009 over the disputed Presidential election, Ayatollah Khamenei stepped in to declare the protests illegitimate. When former President Hashemi Rafsanjani defended the right to gather, he was stripped of his role in Tehran Friday Prayers and put under legal and political pressure by other regime factions.

Three of the leaders of the Green Movement in 2009 — Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both candidates in the Presidential election, and Mousavi’s wife, academic and artist Zahra Rahnavard — remain under a strict house arrest imposed in February 2011. Other activists and political figures are still imprisoned.

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  1. The key date for marches will be May 1st and the Labour Day event. Will the Interior Ministry allow for demonstrations to be held in cities across Iran that could turn into a massive protest against the economic policies of the Rouhani government? My prediction is that they will only allow assemblies to be held indoors.

  2. New poll of Iranians finds little support for major changes to political system:

    “The poll, released on Friday by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and IranPoll, found comparatively little support for changing Iran’s political system or relaxing strict Islamic law and suggested that criticism of Iranian foreign policy in Syria and Iraq was not as widely shared by the general population.”

    The full poll details can be found here:

    • You left out the lead paragraph of the Washington Post article:

      “A new poll of Iranians, conducted in the aftermath of widespread protests that left scores dead and many more arrested, has shown complaints about corruption and economic mismanagement voiced by anti-government demonstrators are widely shared by a broader population.”


      “When polled between Jan. 16 and 24, 69 percent of Iranians were found to describe the economy is bad, the highest measured by IranPoll since it began asking in 2015. A majority of the country — 58 percent — said on the whole, conditions in Iran were getting worse, while 41 percent said the economic condition of their family had worsened over the previous four years.”

      • Yes, But its a no-brainer to learn that there is widespread anger over corruption and mismanagement, or that the economic situation is worse than it was before the JCPOA was agreed. Tell me something I didn’t know.

        • It’s called “burying the lede” in journalism — putting aside the central point and playing up a secondary one to skew the narrative.

          • The poll does not ask Iranians directly whether they supported or condemned the latest protests/riots. However, 63% of respondents (Q28) did strongly agree that the government should be more forceful in stopping rioters who used violence or damaged property. Another 64% (Q38) thought the police used an appropriate amount of force in handling the unrest. They were also supportive of those who burned the national flag (as in this video from Kermanshah: being severely punished (Q34). 20-25% thought that those who chanted against Islam (as in this video from Khorramabad:, or against the political system, should be released and not punished.

            • Like I said, you keep burying the lede about the core issues around the protests….

              Meanwhile, for Syria-watchers, Iranian opinion almost evenly split between those who favor ending/reducing aid to Assad and those who favor continuing at current levels.

              And unfavorable view of Hezbollah is showing slight increase.

              • All very true, although those calling for complete cessation of aid to Syria is quite small. The level of anti-US (government) sentiment is currently at levels never before seen (85% strongly opposed). There are other interesting answers: 30% of respondents believe there is insufficient political freedom, and 18% think the government is interfering too much in their personal lives (relevant to the issue of mandatory hijab).

              • 14.8% called for complete cessation of aid to Assad — whether that is “quite small” is in the eye of the beholder.

              • Don’t sweat it. Anti-Iranian sentiment is always sky high in the US. So I suppose the feeling is mutual. Why else would a populist wannabe POTUS be using such anti-Iranian language? Because people despise Iran. Strangely that sentiment doesn’t keep a huge chunk of your population from wanting to live here. The same cannot be said of Americans wanting to live in the Islamist hellhole of Iran.

  3. 14.8%: Iranian electorate (inside Iran) is about 52.8 milion. So 14.8% would be 7.8 million Iranians. A large number, but still small relative to those who want aid to continue to flow to Damascus.

    • Yeah, you keep skipping the part where number of those who want to end or reduce aid to Assad regime is about equal to those who want to continue….

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