Thirty-nine (39) years from the success of the Iranian revolution of 1979, Iranians are now giving a serious thought on how many of [the] promises [made during the revolution] have been realized. They feel they were deceived by the revolution.
[Manish Rai | Oped Column Magazine]
The recent protests which broke out in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, with hundreds of angry shopkeepers taking to the street against the sharp fall in the value of the Iranian currency have surely been suppressed by the regime. But the sentiments — which drove these protests in one of the most loyal support base of the current Iranian regime — are still very prevalent among the masses.
Iran’s clerical regime quelled these demonstrations by the “Bazaris” with excessive force. In doing so, the regime has only managed to buy itself some time before a full-fledge people’s revolution breaks out due to the failure of the regime to address any of the fundamental problems that the common Iranian people have been regularly suffering.
Iranians are discontented with the state of the economy that is rattling the country. Moreover, the frustration of the Iranian people has been growing by the day when they see their leaders have no solutions to end their hardships. The level of anger of the common people against the regime is at all time high and was clearly echoed when people shouted slogans against Iran’s ultimate authority, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials, calling them thieves who should step down.
At the core of this dissatisfaction is the government’s decades-long disregard for the economic prosperity of the citizenry.
The Iranian regime is failing to understand that one of the main catalysts for Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 was the economic dissatisfaction. The revolution won hearts and minds with grand promises like equal educational opportunities, a healthy and robust economy based on the values of “Islamic banking,” creating new youth employment opportunities, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as well as good relations with the Muslim world based on the principles of good governance.
Thiry-nine (39) years from the success of the revolution, Iranians are now giving a serious thought on how many of these promises have been realized. They feel they were deceived by the revolution.
Hence, it wouldn’t be surprizing if history repeats itself. Iran’s clerical regime might as well embrace the same fate that Shah Reza Pehlevi had to embrace.
Unlike the 2009 Green Movement, which was largely a product of the urban middle-class youth in Tehran, the recent unrest reflects the economic grievances of the lower and working classes, who has been alienated from Iranian institutional politics and has been suffering from the consequences of a broken economy. The recent protests are driven by disaffected young people in rural areas, towns, small cities and larger urban centres. Hence, the recent unrest has a broader mass base than that of the 2009 Green Movement.
Although Iran’s economy — to some extent — came out of recession after the Iran nuclear deal, the citizens complain that benefits have not filtered down to ordinary people. Almost all the economic growth has been concentrated in the oil industry. For other sectors, the lack of access to finance, raw materials and foreign markets have been a major impediment.
In current scenario, the Iranian currency, Rial, has lost 40% of its value since May when the US President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord and announced sanctions on Tehran. Now the Iranian Rial is one of the most worthless currency on earth.
What’s more, the country is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, leaving electricity output from hydropower plants at a bare minimum. Capital outflow surpassed the inflow. Last year, Iran had a capital account deficit of $11 billion and unemployment is above 11%. Purchasing power parity per capita in Iran is $20,030 according to the International Monetary Fund, far below neighbouring Turkey and countries like Mauritius and Equatorial Guinea. All these numbers indicate that Iran’s economy has become fragile and is quickly moving into a death spiral.
Iran boasts the world’s second largest reserves of oil and gas. But the sanctions, mismanagement, corruption and lack of any definitive economic policy have dramatically eroded the overall well-being of the people.
Iran needs serious economic reforms that could integrate the country with global economy. Iranians eagerly want shift in their government’s priorities with more attention paid to improving their economic conditions. For this, it’s very important that Iranian regime abandon its policy of expansion in the Middle East and abandon its support for insurgency in several regional countries.
Moreover, Iran needs to change its foreign policy, especially toward its Arab neighbours, the European Union and countries with which it doesn’t have diplomatic relations, such as the US, so that Iran can also benefit from regional and world economic order.
If Iran doesn’t act fast to end its economic isolation, the country might turn into the Venezuela of the Middle East.
Manish Rai is a columnist for Middle East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geopolitical news agency Viewsaround.