2018 began with demonstrations in several Iranian cities, among them Teheran, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Shiraz, the four biggest cities in the country. Thousands of people, according to some activists, went onto the streets responding to a call made through social networks to protest against the high prices of food and against Iran’s intervention in countries of the Middle East, like Syria and Yemen.
By Gabriel Huland.
In several videos in Facebook and Youtube, you can see the clashes between the demonstrators and the security forces of the Iranian regime, which reacted affirming that it will repress any protest that “goes against the security of our country.” Also, the authorities called a pro-regime demonstration in Teheran.
Apparently, there are already 2 deaths and hundreds of injured by the repression of a government that never allowed to exercise the right of demonstration. Over 200 people were detained so far, and the government restricted the use of the internet in the country.
These are the biggest protests since 2009, when the Iranian Green Movement irrupted into the scene after a controversial election, in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former president, was reelected in midst of several accusations of fraud and electoral manipulation. In May last year, the current president Houssan Rouhani won the election – completely controlled by the Ayatollah regime – promising economic and political reforms that never happened.
The demonstrations seem to be in crescendo, and its anti-regime nature is quickly growing, with slogans against the dictatorship and in favor of a referendum to decide the future of Iran.
The demonstrators are mostly a young working class from the urban neighborhoods most affected by poverty and the economic crisis.
Iran is highly implicated in a regional dispute against Saudi Arabia. Both countries are the main economies of the Middle East and North Africa, and as a response to the Arab revolutions they were forced to intervene in the region to suffocate the protests and avoid, or at least delay, the internal movements the threat the power of both regimes, strongly reactionary.
The nuclear agreement between the US and Iran in July 2015 was nothing but an attempt, by the Iranian regime, to gain some time and a few after-life years before the situation exploded. Trump’s policy of prioritizing the elections in Saudi Arabia and Israel, isolating Iran, might lead to a regional crisis without precedents.
Economic crisis and political repression
The decline of world trade, as a product of the financial crisis of 2007; the fall of oil prices (Iran has 10% of the world crude oil reserve and 15% of gas,) as well as the sanctions imposed by the international community, among other factors, explain the economic crisis striking the country.
The nuclear agreement with the Obama administration came with the decrease of international sanctions and increase of oil exports (the country grew over 10% in 2016). However, the population’s lives only worsened since then. The growing international intervention in the region, directly or indirectly – through the financing of similar groups, – in countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, and Syria, generates a constant public deficit, besides a major inflationary pressure and decline of public investment. Unemployment rounds the 12% and the public debt compromises about 35% of the GDP (World Bank numbers).
Iran is one of the most industrialized countries in the region. It is the biggest car producer in the Middle East, and it has a major petrochemical industry. About 60% of the economy is still State-owned. The industrial working class is concentrated in some cities, and together with Turkey’s and Egypt’s, it is one of the biggest ones in the region.
The right to free labor organization does not exist in Iran, neither the right to found opposition political parties. The participation of the working class in the revolution of 1979, that threw down the Shah Reza Pahlavi (puppet of the Western countries) was determinating, through strikes in sectors like rail, airports, petrochemical industry, and banks, among others. Currently, there are still no strikes or massive protests in the country. An intensification of the protests and the political crisis might change the situation of the entire region.
International solidarity with the Iranian people is determinant right now, as repression will increase and an important part of the world left will not say anything or will be on the side of the Ayatollah regime.