Iran is fast approaching the first anniversary of the latest round of popular uprisings that waged across the entire country, continued for several months, and changed the country’s socio-political landscape for good. As the people and the state are preparing themselves in opposite ways, the circumstances and underlying dynamics have fueled the society with more reasons for revolt.
In addition to enduring grievances such as the severe repression of political dissent, the erosion of civil liberties, and pervasive censorship, the regime has rendered life unbearable for the majority of Iranians who have been thrust below the poverty line in recent years. They now struggle to afford housing, energy, transportation, and even basic sustenance.
A major root cause of many daily protests in Iran lies in the crisis of soaring prices for essential goods, which in turn drives up costs across various sectors of the economy. The ruling clerics, who are remarkably skilled at holding onto power at any price, resort to creative ways to extract income from the pockets of the struggling Iranian population.
This critical situation has even forced tightly controlled state media to acknowledge certain realities of society.
Revealing how the Raisi administration is increasing prices to compensate for its budget deficit, the state-run Dideban-e-Iran wrote on August 5, “The thirteenth government is still far from fulfilling its promises; promises that the people always become the victims of… Instead of contemplating effective solutions, officials have resorted to pressuring the public, digging deep in people’s pockets, and attempting to compensate for shortages.”
“In recent days, bread, which is one of the most essential items on people’s tables, has seen renewed inflation due to alleged production cost hikes and an inability to offer it at its current price. It was promised that nothing would become more expensive in the new year. Yet now, bread, fundamental sustenance in many provinces, has become more expensive. Purchasing half a loaf of bread has become common for quite a while now. Are we to expect that with these price hikes, bread will become another high-priced and scarce commodity, leading people to buy it in installments and on credit? This comes at a time when price increases are not confined to bread alone. Dairy products are disappearing from laborers’ tables, rice has been removed from many people’s shopping lists, laborers cannot afford summer fruits, and even sugar has become more expensive.”
On July 13, the website Entekhab published a report on how prices of basic items are complicating people’s lives, admitting the failures of Ebrahim Raisi’s government and policies.
The website stated, “As a result of implementing the ‘economic surgery’ policy, the living standards of people in the country have reached the brink of crisis. A government that initially came into power with appealing economic promises is now incapable of providing even the most basic necessities.”
“These days, nobody even asks about a price at the store. The shop owner states the price, and the customer looks at their remaining inventory and their own wallet to determine whether they can make the purchase or not,” Entekhab added.
As Raisi’s government is grappling with a restive society, it is attempting to placate the public by propagating false accomplishments and disregarding the challenging conditions, often through the presentation of misleading statistics.
On August 6, the state-run ILNA news agency published an interview with a state-affiliated labor activist who openly accused the regime’s president of misleading the public.
Faramarz Tofiqi said, “I remember in the election debates, the President said, ‘People have the right to be informed,’ and ‘Officials must work in glass rooms, visible to the people.’ Now we say to them that from this March until now, the Statistical Center has refrained from providing accurate information regarding food prices. Why aren’t the influential components in the inflation basket unveiled by Iran’s Statistical Center?”
Warning that such lies will lead to a lack of trust in statistical data, he added, “The Statistical Center claims that food inflation has decreased. Could they please specify exactly which food items? Is it the chicken priced at 120,000 tomans per kilogram, or the sugar ranging from 48,000 to 60,000 tomans, or perhaps the 500,000-toman meat?”
Discrimination: a formula for a social explosion
Amidst the struggles faced by the majority of Iranians to meet their basic needs, the circulation of news and social media content showcasing the opulent lifestyles of the ruling elites and their children in the wealthy districts of Tehran, their extravagant coastal villas in the north of Iran, and their residences in Western countries make the blood of the public boil.
The state-run website Tabnak warned in an article that was published on July 19, “If our people feel that their country lacks wealth and everyone must live in poverty, they are willing to accept the equitable distribution of that poverty. What people are unwilling to tolerate is discrimination. People cannot accept a situation where, in a country with so much wealth and resources, a few amass fortunes while millions of families witness the division of poverty among themselves. This is not the right of the people living in a wealthy country.”
The state media and their well-connected owners within the ruling establishment, for all their resources, fail to show genuine concern for the people’s well-being. They are well aware that a significant and perilous threat confronting the regime mirrors the crises of December 2017 and November 2019, where nationwide uprisings were sparked by the initial surge in prices of essential commodities.
Reflecting on recent statements by ruling clerics who publicly propose eating less meals a day and arguing that meat is not healthy at all, Masih Mohajeri, a cleric and the editor-in-chief of the Jomhouri Eslami newspaper, wrote on July 25, ” The essence of Islamic governance is not about the powerful elite sharing lavish and comfortable morsels among themselves while telling the people to be patient, consume fewer meals per day, and return to an era of unwholesome food. It’s not right that part of the population can’t afford sufficient amounts of meat, chicken, dairy, and fruits, while a small number of individuals, due to their proximity to centers of power, enjoy lavish rewards, astronomical salaries, and special privileges.”
“Don’t assume that people’s patience is endless. Beware of the day when the army of the hungry rise against you. If you’re not adhering to your religious and legal duty of serving the deprived and enforcing justice, at least think about your own survival and governance,” Mohajeri cautioned.