They may have started small, but the protests engulfing Iran for a fourth day are an "audacious" challenge to four decades of clerical leadership, in the words of Reuters. President Hassan Rouhani sought to calm things Sunday by defending Iranians' right to protest but condemning any resulting violence. “People are absolutely free to criticize the government and protest, but their protests should be in such a way as to improve the situation in the country and their life,” he said. “Criticism is different from violence and damaging public properties.” Background and developments:
- What protesters want: To put it succinctly, "regime change," per the Wall Street Journal. These protests were small and scattered and largely focused on economic issues in September. That changed this week when news of a large protest in Mashhad spread on social media and spontaneous demonstrations broke out elsewhere. Protesters have moved beyond issues such as rampant inflation to vent over larger matters such as political oppression.