Readers of this blog will know that I do not profess to be a specialist on Iran nor do I provide regular coverage of the latest developments in Iran. All that said, it is frustrating to see how much social media commentary on every round of protests and unrest in Iran is simply each side of the Western policy debates on Iran trotting out the same positions and opinions, with little attempt to give a voice to people living inside the country and provide an objective assessment of the situation.
To learn more about the latest rounds of protests that occurred in Iran, I interviewed my friend who lives in the city of Qom. The interview is slightly edited for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: What are the causes of the protests and where have the demonstrations been taking place?
A: The main reason for the protests is the hike of fuel price, as the government decided to triple the price from 10,000 rial to 30,000 rial for 1 litre. This decision came into effect on Friday 15th November. Unlike the demonstrations that took place in 2017, this time the demonstrations happened almost across the country especially in poor areas where the people cannot afford the high price of fuel.
Q: What is the atmosphere like in Qom?
A: Nothing happened in Qom at all. However, there were some police officers near gas stations and banks.
Q: Have people been calling to bring down Iranian government in protests? Have people been blaming the U.S. sanctions?
A: Yes and they were calling for the return of the Iranian king who lives in exile in the U.S. Yes they always blame the U.S. sanctions.
Q: You mean they blame both U.S. sanctions and [Iranian] government?
Q: Are any protests still continuing?
A: No, there was a heavy crackdown by the government, so there are no protests now.
Q: Do you fear for the future?
A: Of course I fear. I am meeting a lot of Iranians everyday and I figure out that their hope for good life faded away. In this situation, they cannot save a single penny from their salary despite the fact that Qom is not a poor city, its people are considered medium and upper class. Other people literally told me: what do you do here in this country? What are you waiting for to leave? I reply them I will leave as soon as I graduate from university.
Q: What is the Internet access like now?
A: The Internet access was first interrupted on Sunday 17th November till Saturday 23rd November. At that time (17-23) the access to the global sites was blocked by the government. However, I could access just the Iranian sites, for example I could go to the [Qom] university's site and those ending with .ir, like http://www.food.qom.ac.ir/. On Saturday 23rd November the Internet access returned but only for the users of Wifi connection, mobile data was not working until November 27th.