Top five stories in Iran in 2019

Protesters gathered around fire and smoke (© AFP/Getty Images)
Protests across Iran in November started after a hike in gas prices but grew to challenge an oppressive regime. (© AFP/Getty Images)

In 2019, the Iranian regime faced its most turbulent year in power since 1979.

Here are this year’s top Iran stories:

5. Iran’s economy collapses

Words and dollar figure giving example of Iran's terrorism financing (State Dept.)The Iranian government spent billions last year on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Quds Force (IRGC-QF), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that supports Hezbollah, Hamas and other foreign terror groups, and plots attacks in Europe. Meanwhile, its citizens struggled as inflation soared to 40 percent and youth unemployment remained near 30 percent. Consumers also faced rising prices for basic necessities. The cost of vegetables, for example, shot up 155 percent in April, compared to the previous year.

4. Attack on the global economy

Man standing and holding device near industrial facility (© Amr Nabil/AP Images)
A man films Aramco’s oil processing facility after the September 14 attack in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, on September 20. (© Amr Nabil/AP Images)

Desperate to extract concessions from the international community, Iran’s leaders continued a foreign policy of extortion. The regime violated limits on stockpiling and enriching uranium, menaced international waters, and attacked the global economy with a missile strike on Saudi Arabian oil fields. The United Kingdom, France and Germany joined the U.S. in blaming the Iranian regime for the attack and calling for an end to the ayatollah’s threatening behavior.

3. Hostages as bargaining chips

Poster with three photographs of man (© Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images)
An FBI poster shows a composite image of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson during a news conference in Washington in 2012. (© Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images)

The Islamic Republic of Iran continued a 40-year tradition of hostage taking and using people as bargaining chips. This year the U.S. won the release of Princeton University student Xiyue Wang, a naturalized American citizen originally from China who had been held since 2016. Other dual nationals that Iran has taken hostage include British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and American-Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi. Retired FBI agent Robert Levinson has been missing for more than 12 years. The Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $20 million for information leading to Levinson’s safe return.

2. World unites over Iran’s ‘Blue Girl’

Women in crowd reacting (© Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images)
Iranian women react during the FIFA World Cup qualifier match between Iran and Cambodia at Azadi Stadium on October 10 in Tehran. (© Amin M. Jamali/Getty Images)

The death of “the Blue Girl,” a 29-year-old woman who faced prison for trying to watch a soccer (football) game, spurred outrage over the regime’s ban on women attending matches. Sahar Khodayari, nicknamed after the color of her favorite team, died September 9, several days after setting herself on fire in front of a Tehran courthouse. The regime acquiesced to the demands of FIFA, the international soccer/football organization, and allowed 4,000 women to attend a World Cup qualifier match in Tehran.

1. Iranian people take to streets

Man standing in street with hand to face (© AFP/Getty Images)
An Iranian shields his face from tear gas during demonstrations against an increase in gasoline prices in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on November 16. (© AFP/Getty Images)

“Fed up,” the Iranian people took to the streets in November protesting the regime’s corruption and repression. Responding to the most serious threat to its legitimacy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s leaders blacked out the internet to cover their brutal crackdown on demonstrators, including the killing of around 1,500 protesters, according to Reuters.