In a video interview with the state-run ISNA news agency which was published on their website on Friday, Hesamodin Ashna said that the economic context of the December 2017 protests were similar to those held in the 90’s, adding that they differed in the social context and that last years protests had “much more depth”.
During the 1990’s street protests erupted in Mashhad, Qazvin and Islamshahr. A large number of protesters were killed by security forces while some were executed.
Earlier, government officials warned that the major protests which broke out all over Iran in late December 2017 and continued into 2018 could once again erupt in Iran.
One such example was Iran’s Interior Minister, Alireza Rahmani Fazli, who said in March 2018 that elements of the dissent had not come to an end and that just “a spark would flare” the protests.
Rouhani’s advisor said that the purpose of the December 2017 protests was “the downfall of the government” but that it became clear that “the weakening of the government and the state” were the same.
“Some people thought that the government could be weakened without weakening the state, but experience from the December 2017 protests showed that the weakening of the government and the state were one path,” Hesamodin Ashna said.
“If there was a plan for these protests, it was to bring down the state and if there was none, the state could still have collapsed,” he added.
The Iranian regime distinguishes between the “government”, currently headed by Rouhani and the “state” or system of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist or the Vilayat-e Faqih, run by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the real decision maker in Iran.
Criticism of the “government” is tolerated in Iran while criticism of the Supreme Leader is a red line not to be crossed. Therefore it came as a surprise to many when protesters chanted “death to Khamenei” in the December 2017 protests.
Protesters also chanted “moderates, hardliners, the game is over”, signaling their disenchantment with the whole system.
After the December protests, the Security Deputy of the Minister of Interior, Hussein Zolfaghari, acknowledged that the protests had “crossed all the country’s political factions.”
Social media campaigns also erupted after the protests with Iranians using the hashtag #براندازم meaning they support the regime’s collapse.
Meanwhile, Abolfazl Qadiani, a senior member of the “reformist” Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution of Iran Organization, wrote that the “remedy”, to Iran’s problems was the dismissal of the leader of the Islamic Republic.
He addressed the so-called reformists “who seek to reform affairs by maintaining a corrupt and defective structure” and said that they “are either not reformists at all, or are only thinking about the impossible.”
The December 2017 protests spread to more than 100 Iranian cities.
However, Ashna said that the Ministry of Intelligence had “information and an analysis” about the possibility of these protests and was able to “manage” and prevent its spread.
The advisor to the Iranian president also described the method that the government encountered the protests as “more mature” compared to similar protests in the past, including the 2009 post-election protests.
He said that there were laws in place to deal more violently with the protests but because of “one person” who stood and took responsibility, the laws were not implemented. He did not mention who this “one person” was.
Despite these claims, 25 protesters were killed by security forces in less than a week during the December 2017 protests. Ten other protesters died in prison under suspicious circumstances.
According to official numbers, around 5,000 protesters were detained in Iran during the protests including more than 400 who were detained in Tehran.