The number of demonstrations protesting the state of the Iranian economy doubled in the last month, even as the Islamic Republic continues its massive spending on military and nuclear infrastructure.
For the first time since the Green Revolution, the 2009 democratic protests that were violently crushed, opposition activists are now returning to organize rallies and demonstrations against inflation. “The unemployment rate in Iran is out of control, reminding the Iranians of the drought years,” an opposition leader told the influential newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat (Arabic link).
There were 250 demonstrations documented across Iran during the month of April, twice the number than in March. Workers demonstrated against harsh living conditions and a delay in salary payments. The Iranian regime rejects the opposition’s accusations, and claims the country is “very strong” economically. But many commentators in the West and the Arab world believe that the reason the regime is so interested in a nuclear agreement with the West is to alleviate the deep economic crisis facing Tehran, and to eliminate the crippling international economic sanctions imposed on it.
According to official statistics, the number of people in Iran living in poverty increased by 150 percent over the last decade, due mostly to three main drains on the national coffers: the vast billions Iran spends on its military forces and proxies in the Arab world; its massive, expensive nuclear program; and widespread corruption. According to A-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, President Hassan Rouhani even told his associates that spending on security forces operating within the country and abroad is the most important issue in the state budget. According to estimates, Iran is spending tens of billions of dollars to help the Syrian regime, and hundreds of billions on the development of its nuclear program.
Even within the Iranian regime, some voices are now questioning why so much money is given to forces in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, while the value of domestic currency is has been badly eroded and the long-promised recovery as a result of the nuclear agreement does not yet appear in the horizon. Opposition sources claim that Rouhani, who came to power two years ago, promised to improve the economic situation of the people, but instead has led the country to further economic deterioration.
Iranian regime officials have already admitted that 90 percent of the workers in the country live below the poverty line. Many fail to keep their jobs and find themselves unemployed. In addition, many companies delay the payment of the monthly salaries to their employees or employ them under temporary contracts. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani recently admitted that more than 40 percent of Iran’s university graduates cannot find work.
Many Iranians believe that the current situation is no better that the days of the severe drought that hit the country seven decades ago. The see the future being even more bleak if the current government policies continue.
“Millions of workers and farmers are suffering because of difficult living conditions as a result of the regime’s economic policies,” a senior opposition official said. He said that while in the past the reason behind the economic crises was a lack of rain, today it is because of poor government policies designed to please the country’s leaders while the nation suffers from shortages.
[Photo: Freedom Messenger / YouTube ]