Locals from the Iranian province of Khuzestan march the streets of the city of Abadan in support of the victims of the Metropol building collapse in the city. REUTERS./ MAY 30 2022

By Roshanak Astaraki

Anti-government protests across Iran have escalated since the start of the Persian New Year in March. Despite a brutal crackdown by the security forces, demonstrators have poured out into the streets of some 40 cities to cry out against runaway inflation and the deadly collapse of the Metropol building in Abadan.

In a wave of popular unrest that began in December 2017, the protestors are questioning the 1979 Islamic Revolution and shouting pro-monarchy slogans, such as: “We made a mistake in starting a revolution.”

Teachers, pensioners, farmers, and workers are rising up against gasoline price hikes, water shortage, low wages, and the high cost of living. Since the May 23 collapse of a building in Abadan, southwestern Iran, they have also been calling for regime change.

The 10-story Metropol residential and commercial building collapse killed at least 37 people and injured scores of others. According to the latest reports, search and rescue teams pulled 39 survivors from the rubble.

People in Abadan took to the streets two days after the collapse of the newly built Metropol building, while the search and rescue efforts continued. The tragedy happened a few days before the official opening of the building.

Demonstrators marched in the middle of the night in the streets of Abadan. The unrest quickly spread to other cities and turned against the country’s officials and the Islamic Republic itself.

Iranian Pensioners Protest Against High Living Costs – Reports

The building’s owner, Hossein Abdolbaghi, reportedly has links to a group of influential people, including the former governor-general of Khuzestan Gholamreza Shariati, and Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.

Iranian authorities have reportedly arrested dozens of people, including the building contractor and the current and two former Abadan mayors. Authorities have blocked the internet and deployed armed police and security units to intimidate and brutalize protesters.

Seven days after the building collapse, spectators at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran watching a match between the Masjed Soleyman Naft and Esteghlal football (formerly Taj) teams started shouting: “Abadan is not alone,” and “Reza Shah, God bless your soul,” at which point the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) abruptly ended its live broadcast.

The chants were made despite tight security measures at the stadium, including CCTV cameras and plainclothes security police among the football fans.

Meanwhile, Iranian state media refrained from covering the tragic collapse of the Metropol building.

Four days before the building collapse, it broadcast images from a carefully planned celebration on May 26 titled “Hail to the Commander” held at Azadi Stadium to honor Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A select group of students and families of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officers and personnel were seated in a designated corner of the Azadi Stadium.

After the Metropol tragedy, authorities took over the mourning ceremonies by turning them into ritual commemorations on the occasion of Ashura. They organized a massive state prayer vigil led by Abadan’s Friday prayer leader.

People attended the event but continued to chant ant-Islamic Republic slogans, ignoring the Friday prayer leader’s remarks and the police chief’s warnings. The crowd heckled the two men, describing them as ‘dishonorable.’

Link to Farsi page

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