At the end of December 2017, something almost without precedent happened in cities across Iran. It started in the largest shrine city of Mashhad, then moved to Kermanshah, which had not long before suffered a major earthquake in which some 600 people died and where survivors had been neglected by the state. After that, large-scale protests moved to Sari and Rasht in the north, the clerical city of Qom, then Hamadan, and by the December 29, Tehran itself. In the following days, people were on the streets across the country. Starting on the third day, protesters were challenged by massive turnouts of pro-regime marchers. Anti-government protests, which these were, had not been seen in this quantity since the brutally-crushed risings after the 2009 presidential elections. By January 2, at least 20 protesters had been killed and more than 450 arrested. It was reported on the same day that Iran’s Chief Justice, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, claimed that protesters might be considered “enemies of God”, and executed.
On his website, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
“accused unnamed foreign enemies of meddling in Iran’s affairs, using money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses ‘to create problems for the Islamic system’. The clerical elite is congenitally incapable of admitting that native Iranians, chafing under their harsh rule, might have genuine reasons for civil unrest.”