Amid Anti-Regime Protests, Iranians Repeatedly Refuse to Trample American, Israeli Flags
Video and photo evidence coming out of Iran shows multiple crowds refusing to walk on American and Israeli flags amid protests against the Islamic Republic’s clerical establishment, signaling a rejection of the Tehran regime’s hardliner narrative and eliciting praise from some Western observers.
The Iranian government often depicts domestic unrest as a product of foreign meddling, particularly by the US and Israel, in an effort to undercut the legitimacy of local opposition. Those countries’ flags have been burnt or otherwise damaged at pro-regime rallies, and deliberately placed or painted on the ground in public spaces so they could be symbolically walked over.
Yet in a widely-shared video published Sunday, a crowd at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran was seen refusing to walk over American and Israeli flags while chanting anti-government slogans. A separate video showed the protesters jeering those who walked over the national symbols.
The following day, a video was released by an anti-regime outlet showing students at the University of Kurdistan in Sanandaj, in northwestern Iran, avoiding stairs painted with the American flag.
Later in the week, a photo emerged purportedly showing mosque attendees in Ahvaz, a city in southwestern Iran, largely refusing to place their shoes on American and Israeli flags.
— Alireza Nader (@AlirezaNader) January 15, 2020
Such displays have drawn praise as a mark of tolerance and openness to a deescalation in hostility.
“Wow! The wonderful Iranian protesters refused to step on, or in any way denigrate, our Great American Flag,” US President Donald Trump wrote on social media on Monday. “Big progress!”
Thousands of Iranians took to the streets this month, initially in a show of grief over the US killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was blamed for orchestrating the killing of hundreds of American and coalition troops and directing a web of proxy militias across the Middle East that have been accused of attacking civilians, among other atrocities.
The protests morphed after Iranian armed forces downed a Ukrainian commercial airliner carrying 176 people on the outskirts of Tehran, in an incident the Tehran regime first denied, then blamed on human error.
Demonstrators have castigated the country’s clerical leadership over the deaths, spilling into the streets with chants deriding the country’s supreme leader and tearing up photos of Soleimani, according to Iranian and Western media.
The protests tap into brewing discontent that erupted following a hike in gasoline prices in November, which government forces responded to that month by killing about 1,500 people in less than two weeks, according to several Iranian officials who spoke to Reuters.