by Cyrus Yaqubi
The bitter reality of living conditions and falling welfare levels in Iran under Khamenei’s rule can no longer be concealed by the regime..
On Saturday, May 1, 2021, coinciding with International Workers’ Day in Iran, there were large gatherings of workers and retirees in 20 cities, including the capital Tehran. It was held in protest of their dire living conditions. Demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Government of looters, enemy of workers”, “Shout of so much injustice.”
“Our enemy is here, they are lying that it is America ” – “Political prisoners must be freed” – “Workers awaken they are fed-up with the dictatorship” – Death to the oppressor; hail upon the worker!
They protested the current situation. These protest rallies have been held almost every week by this segment of the Iranian society for some time.
The bitter reality of living conditions and falling welfare levels in Iran under Khamenei’s rule can no longer be concealed by the regime and has become a serious threat to the regime’s survival. Government incompetence and widespread corruption in all branches of government have wiped out the middle class and left more than 80% of the population below the poverty line.
While the poverty line index has been announced by the government as more than 10 million Tomans, the average income of Iranian families is less than 3 million Tomans. Despite the rampant inflation of more than 50%, the rate of increase in workers’ wages for the next year is estimated at 26 %, which means a further decline in meager income of workers and employees. This is of course for those who are still employed. Because according to the official statistics of the regime, the percentage of unemployed workers has now reached more than 23.5%, which is equivalent to a quarter of the labor force. All of this has led to a massive migration of 35 million working-class families from the cities to shanty towns in outskirts of cities because they can no longer afford the high cost of housing in the cities. Meanwhile, 2.5 million vacant houses have been identified, of which 500,000 units are located in capital Tehran. According to the Minister of Roads and Urban Development of the regime, 1.8 million of these vacant housing units belong to people who have more than one housing unit who are affiliated with the regime and are living in the best condition in multi-million dollar villas and apartments in Iran or abroad.
The working class and retirees with meager fixed pensions are no longer even able to provide the ordinary food for their families, so that they have since removed meat and fruit from their table and had to buy chicken skin or bones to provide the protein their children need and to obtain other items such as oil, eggs, etc. from cooperative stores with lower prices, they must stand in long queues for several hours.
This situation has angered the majority of the people and pushed the society towards an explosion. Despite the widespread propaganda of all regime leaders from Khamenei to Rouhani and all Friday prayer clerics for the people to participate in next month’s presidential election, the vast majority of the people have decided to boycott the election and showed their intention with slogans such as ” We have heard so many lies that we will not vote anymore ” in these gatherings. also have expressed their feelings on social media with the slogan such as” Our vote is overthrowing the regime. “
According to reports in Saturday’s gathering, repressive police forces and plainclothes men stormed a rally of workers and retirees in front of the Social Security Organization in Tehran and arrested a number of protesters.
And based on the latest reports more than 30 labor activists were arrested during a workers’ rally in Tehran. According to the Free Trade Union of Iran, Shith Amani, a member of the board of directors of the Free Trade Union of Iran and a former representative of the workers of the Kurdistan Textile Factory, are among those detained.
In the closing statement of today’s rallies, protesters raised their demands for job security, an increase in the minimum wage in line with inflation, the recognition of independent trade unions, and the payment of arrears.
It is worth noting that the salaries and benefits of some workers have not been paid for more than a year.
Sociologists and economists of in Iran have repeatedly stressed and warned that poverty and high prices and the dire living conditions of citizens are acting like a time bomb, and if they are not neutralized, no one knows how much damage will be caused by when it is exploded, and it might even end up overthrowing of the regime.
Cyrus Yaqubi is a Research Analyst and Iranian Foreign Affairs Commentator investigating the social issues and economy of the middle east countries in general and Iran in particular.