A wave of protest swept across Iran last week. The government had abruptly hiked gas prices in order to offset its budget deficit at a time of high inflation and negative economic growth. Angry protesters clashed with security forces, set government buildings and banks on fire, and blocked roads. The government responded with an iron fist, killing more than 200 protesters, arresting thousands, and shutting down the Internet across the country for about a week.
In a country where anti-government demonstrations are not allowed, widespread protests with an explicit anti-regime tone are significant. But to understand the meaning of these protests—to know what motivated protesters and why—is exceedingly difficult, given the restrictions on free expression and international communication that currently prevail in Iran. The identities and agendas of the protesters matter for their own sake. They also matter because Iran is a country eternally in the spotlight and often misunderstood.
It is not possible to question every protester or to reliably survey public opinion. But meaningful data about Iran do exist and can be fruitfully matched to the map of protests. We identified the counties that witnessed at least one day of protest, based on the videos that protesters