The protests that have rattled Iran this weekend are in many ways an echo of the near past. In the summer of 2009, millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose rhetoric and policies had isolated their country for four years.
The opposition believed his reelection victory was fraudulent. They chanted slogans demanding a recount of the votes. Others denounced the regime and its highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Hardliners and security forces confronted the crowds with anti-riot gear and harsh condemnation, often labeling them agents of foreign powers. It was a huge moment and seemed, at the time, to portend an irreversible shift in geopolitics.
But the protests, now known as the Green Movement, died out after a few months. Some protesters left the country, others were arrested or killed. Mostly, they went back to their daily lives.
Now, Iran is experiencing the first large-scale unrests since the Green Movement faded. Since then, Iranians tackled their challenges at the ballot box rather than on the streets—in two presidential elections, both won by the moderate Hassan Rouhani; and in two parliamentary elections leading to the country’s legislative body being populated by more moderates and reformists. But familiar difficulties have returned. With the controversial nuclear deal—between Tehran and world powers, including the United States—failing to deliver economic recovery for the masses, many were starting to feel restless once again. In the weeks prior to the demonstrations, Iranians were complaining about the price of basic food items. Memes surfaced on social media, poking fun at the price of eggs.