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What We Can Learn From Listening To Iran’s Protest Slogans

Behnam Ben Taleblu
17th January 2018 - Quoted by Jake Godin - Newsy

In just a few weeks, protests have swept across Iran. Some in the streets chant death to the country's president and, perhaps more surprisingly, to its supreme leader. The words are important. Listen, and they reveal what the protests are about and what the people want. So we scoured dozens of videos from the protests' first three days to translate and analyze those chants — to see to what the words reveal.

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"The significance of targeting Iran's supreme leaders is at once religious and political. Saying, 'Syed Ali has to go,' is a way to address him with his first name, his short name, without invoking his new rank or his newly promoted rank and that could be considered a slur or an insult. But the targeting of the supreme leader in particular shows that the grievances are not limited to the administration, it's limited to governing apparatus of the country," Behnam Ben Taleblu said.

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"Slogans like, 'Bless your soul, Reza Shah,' invoke that legacy of Iranian state that was anti-clerical, that was highly nationalistic and that extolled its Persian culture over its Islamic heritage. With almost 40 years under the Islamic Republic, I think we know which side of the scale the Iranian people are more leaning towards now than ever before," Ben Taleblu said.

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"In quality social science, correlation does not mean causation. It's important to note that there are in fact some overarching themes from town to city to village to the country's capital if you look at the protest slogans, in particular the politically charged protest slogans that targeted not an administration or not a government or not a political policy but the entirety of the regime. I think the overarching message here is that the Iranian people want an Iranian government that puts their interests first," Ben Taleblu said.

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