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IRAN’S Protests in Perspective

IRAN'S  Protests in Perspective

The regime needs to change its policies

Living under the shadow of crippling international sanctions for a long time, Iran has faced many an economic predicament. Its population of over 80 million has been reeling under the isolationist policies of the world, especially those of the United States and Europe, against the Islamic Republic. On the other hand, nearly three decades of Iran’s Revolutionary government’s rule has been marked with lack of good governance and productivity. The Iranian regime, over the years, failed to come up with new ways and means to support its flagging economy. A ray of hope emerged after the landmark Iran-P5+1 Nuclear Deal, also known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), whereby some sanctions were lifted, in early 2016, and Iran was given access to its frozen assets amounting to more than US$50 billion besides the long-awaited freedom to sell its oil to the world, but there have been no substantial improvements in the lives of ordinary Iranians. 

Although the incumbent President, Dr Hassan Rouhani, has reaped the benefit of the nuclear deal, as he got elected for the second term, no substantial vitality and vibrancy in the country’s economy has been seen yet. The situation has been so precarious that even the Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is considered the real hand behind the regime, in March 2017, condemned Rouhani government for its utter failure to deliver the nation any significant economic rejuvenation. “I receive people’s complaints and experts’ views. [The government] must act in matters such as production, employment, elimination of recession … in a way that people feel its impact on their lives,” said the supreme leader. However, on the other hand, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) declared an “impressive recovery” for Iran which is attributed mainly to a doubling of Iran’s crude production since the lifting of sanctions in January 2016. Nonetheless, this, too, had least positive impact on the people’s living standards, inflation and employment rates.

This decay has not happened in a vacuum as it appears that the state, after the 1979 revolution, deliberately or criminally neglected the economic welfare and kept on feeding the nation with rhetoric and slogans like ‘Iranian Nationalism’ and ‘Anti-Western’ and ‘Anti-Arab’ doses. In this regard, very surprisingly, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini reportedly said during the early days of the new Iran, that economics was “for donkeys,” and over the question of rapidly-rising inflation, he said tauntingly that “1979 revolution was not about the price of watermelons.” It very well clarifies what the priorities of the Iranian regime and its powerful clergy has been all through these three decades. This false and misplaced prioritization can evidently be witnessed from the Islamic Republic’s foreign “missionary” adventures. Its sectarian proxy war with Arab patron Kingdoms of Salafist ideology particularly in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen; recruitment of warriors from South Asia especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, and further plans of expansion and export of its revolution beyond Middle East have always been at the top of its priority list – all, obviously, at the cost of welfare and development of the social sectors and the people’s basic needs. Same priority problem is also the cause of international isolation of Iran and the unending series of sanctions against it.

The major dilemma which the Islamic Republic has been facing since long is the ever-increasing disparity between the various classes of society. Sharp economic differences as well as the uneven state policies in terms of its welfare programmes are further widening the gulf. The inhabitants away from Tehran and other mainstream areas feel alienated and neglected and their living standards are painfully miserable as shown by various reports in international media. One such piece titled: “How the other half live in Iran” was published in New York Times on 15th January 2018.

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About Mustansar Hussain Tasir

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The writer is an independent journalist and researcher. He can be reached at: mustansar.tasir@gmail.com

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