The recent three days of protests that 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 for sure been suppressed by the regime. But the sentiment that drove these protests in one of most loyal support base of the current Iranian regime is still prevalent among the masses. Mullah regime used excessive force to quell these demonstrations by “Bazaris” but regime have just bought some time before a full-fledged peoples’ revolution breaks out. The regime has failed to address the fundamental problem of common people. Iranians are discontented about the state of economy which is rattling the Islamic Republic. Moreover, frustrations are enhanced when people here see that their leaders have no solution to end the logjam. The level of anger against the regime is at an all time high which was clearly echoed when people shouted slogans against Iran’s ultimate authority, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other top officials demanding that they should step down. At the core of this dissatisfaction is the government’s decades-long disregard for the economic prosperity of the citizens.
What the Iranian regime is failing to understand that one of the main catalyst for Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 was the economic dissatisfaction. Islamic Revolution of 1979 won hearts and minds with grand promises like equal educational opportunities, healthy and robust economy based on the values of Islamic banking, creation of 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. But now Iranians are giving a serious thought as how many of these promises have been realized thrity-nine years after the revolution. People are feeling deceived now by the outcome of the revolution. So, it won’t be a wonder that history repeat itself which means that what happened to Shah Reza Pehlevi can surely happen to Mulla regime as well. Unlike the 2009 Green Movement, which was largely a product of the urban middle-class youth in Tehran, current unrest reflects the economic grievances of the lower and working classes, which are alienated from Iranian institutional politics and are suffering from the consequences of a broken economy. The protests are driven by disaffected young people in rural areas, towns, small cities and larger urban centres. Hence current unrest has a broader mass base than 2009 green movement.
Since the nuclear deal, Iran’s economy up to some extent came out of recession, but citizens complain that benefits have not filtered down to ordinary people. Almost all the economic growth has been concentrated in the oil industry. In other sectors, lack of access to finance, raw materials and foreign markets have been some major impediments. A look into the current economic situation of Iran reveals a different picture. The Iranian Rial has lost 40% of its value since last month, when President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord and announced draconian sanctions on Tehran. Now the Iranian Rial is the one of the most worthless currency in the world. The country is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years, leaving electricity output from hydropower plants at a bare minimum. Capital outflow surpassed inflow and 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 Turkey and neighboring and countries like Mauritius and Equatorial Guinea. These numbers indicate one thing – that Iran economy has become fragile and is quickly sinking into a death spiral.
Iran boasts of possessing 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 wellbeing of people. Iran needs serious economic reforms which can integrate it with global economy. Iranians eagerly want shift in their government’s priorities with more attention paid to improving their economic conditions. For this it is very important that Iranian regime abandon its policy of expansion in the Middle East and support of insurgency in several countries in the region. Moreover, Iran needs to change its foreign policy, especially toward its Arab neighbors, the European Union and countries with which it doesn’t have diplomatic relations, such as the United States. So that Iran can also benefit from regional and world economic order. If Iran doesn’t act fast to end its economic isolation the Islamic Republic may soon turn into the Venezuela of the Middle East.