Gas prices have doubled overnight in Iran. Since Nov. 15, street protests and riots have been spreading. The protests started peacefully, but turned violent fairly quickly. The security forces were relentless: they had no intention of tolerating this public objection to the price increase.

As the security forces are cracking down on protesters, we are witnessing how more of the outcry is turning against the regime and the Supreme Leader Khamenei. Iranians are chanting “We do not want the Islamic Republic” and “Down with Khamenei,” and they are burning pictures of the Supreme Leader.

Back in 2009, Iran witnessed dense street protests right after the presidential elections. Back then, Iranians believed the election was rigged and their intention was to ask where their votes were. The answer of the regime had been harsh — the regime stifled the protests within a month. People were killed, hundreds were jailed. The leaders of the Green Movement are still under house arrest. 

Back then, the protesters mainly consisted of the urban middle class. They were not against the regime; they just wanted some change for the better within the boundaries of the Iranian political system. In 2018, we witnessed another surge of protests. This time, the working classes flooded the streets, and protests were not only in big cities: they were everywhere — in small cities and towns. They were chanting for the Shah to come back. They had problems with the regime directly.

This time, both the middle class and the working class are protesting. The protests are in big cities like Tehran and Isfahan as well as in small towns. 

The revolution in 1979 promised Iranians one thing above all: that Iranian local resources would go directly to Iranians, unlike in the times of the Shah. One force that drove the revolution was the fact that the British Anglo-Persian Oil Company was drilling Iranian oil, and Iranians were not benefiting from their own local resource. So the promise of the revolution was that the energy resources were the birth right of Iranians.

At this point, Iranians are questioning what is left of the revolution anyway. There is unemployment and corruption. The country is run by an oligarchy of the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards. Life is hard and expensive. There are no basic rights. And on top of it, now the oil is not cheap. 

President Ruhani spoke in the city of Kerman — he said the country is facing its most difficult days since 1979. He is right. But there is not much he can do about it. 

The price increase decision is not taken by the government; but by the council, directly set up by the Supreme Leader Khamenei. 

The Supreme Council of Economic Coordination was set up right after the U.S. withdrew from the JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal. The Council answers directly to Khamenei, nobody else. Iranian citizens have the right to file complaints against government decisions through the Court of Administrative Justice, but since the decision regarding gas prices was not taken by the current administration, the court is unlikely to deal with such a complaint. 

The only thing Iranians can do is protest, and it seems all the world can do is watch.