When protests broke out in Iran, I assumed what most Americans did, that it was about freedoms and oppression. Unlike most Americans though, I actually know a few people from Iran, so I had the luxury of asking them. What they told me was not what I expected.
My Persian friends likened protests and riots in Iran over the past few weeks to the 2008 American economic meltdown. Essentially, it began because the Iranian economy took a dive, and people were losing their savings and futures. They took to the streets because their money was gone, and it was gone in part because Tehran had not taken steps to regulate the economy and secure their money. They were unhappy.
From there, it took a turn not unlike our response to the 2008 crash. Other aggrieved people, with completely unrelated causes, joined the populist uprising, and employed other methods. Whereas the Tea Party popped up here and provided a right-wing populist response to America in 2008 and 2009, Iran has had their own unrelated radicals pop up. Anarchists, people opposed to the religious nature of the government, and people with all kinds of other, unrelated causes joined the economic populists in the streets, and sometimes went beyond non-violent protest. They sought to take advantage of the moment and push their agenda.
It might seem familiar for those of us who saw the ugly side of populism here in America.