The Main Crisis in Iran Is Not Economic!
The editorial of Arman Melli underlines the fact that the nature of the crisis that Iranian society is facing now is more social than economic. The main crisis in Iran today is not economic; it is social. The Center for Strategic Studies has released a revealing report about cultural conditions in society. In this report, trust among people has declined to 10 percent and honesty to 8 percent, while these numbers are about 70 percent in Scandinavian countries, which means that Iranian society, despite all the propaganda and huge budgets spent on cultural issues, has morally collapsed.
Social problems are rooted in policies and legislation and will lead to an economic crisis. Dishonesty has damaged national solidarity, and people cannot trade with each other any longer. Dishonesty is rooted in ambiguous legislation and the culture of deceit is pervasive among Iran’s authorities. The institution of the family is damaged because of the lies told by public officials (for example, about employment), empty promises made by officials (like improvement in livelihood, investment in the stock market, and defrauding of millions of people), discrimination and injustice, while in the meantime, the youth in Iran shun marriage and having children.
Public trust has been damaged because of the policies of the government. If the government is transparent, people will trust officials and there will be no need for huge spending on advertising and propaganda in this regard. That money can be then spent on uprooting poverty.
We must keep in mind that transparency is a matter of action. Transparency means sharing information regarding salaries, assets, and properties of officials on the government’s website, and holding all trials publicly and openly. Meanwhile, the sessions of the government, the Parliament, Guardian Council, Expediency Council, etc., must all be held openly except in matters that are related to security issues. All unfair and discriminatory laws must be amended or replaced if the people’s trust is to be restored.
Attacking Ukraine and Progress in the Vienna Talks
The editorial of Arman Melli, penned by reformist academic Sadegh Zibakalam, argues that some “hardliners” in Iran favor the Russians attacking Ukraine and think that it will be to Iran’s advantage. Perhaps it seems surprising to talk about the Ukraine crisis in relation to Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna, and some might question if there is any correlation between Russia’s possible attack against Ukraine and the nuclear deal with Iran.
For weeks, Russia has deployed more than 100,000 of its troops and a considerable number of weapons including helicopters, aircraft, and other heavy weaponry to Ukraine’s borders with the serious threat to occupy the country. Many leaders of Western countries have asserted that Russian attacks against Ukraine will happen in the coming days, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has not revealed his real intention in this regard.
Russia’s strategic objective in this move is to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. If Ukraine joins NATO, it means that NATO or Western armies will be located on Russia’s borders, and Putin has repeatedly said that he will not accept such a situation.
Western countries’ leaders have threatened to impose heavy sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine. The most important sanction which they can impose on Russia is preventing Russia from exporting its natural gas to Europe, which will not only be a heavy blow to Russia’s economy but will also be costly for the Europeans. In winter, cutting off Russian natural gas which is exported to European countries will create many difficulties for the Europeans.
Now this issue is tied to Iran’s nuclear talks in Vienna. If Russia invades Ukraine, in what would be the worst conflict between East and West since World War II, then the Russians will not allow an agreement between Iran and the P4+1 to take place. And the Russian invasion of Ukraine will actually wreck any hope for reaching an agreement in Vienna.
Perhaps some “hardliners” in Iran are not against Russia invading Ukraine. Iran has put all its foreign policy’s eggs in the basket of Russia and China. So the more the conflicts between Russia and the West escalate, the more Iran will benefit from it, they think. And vice versa: if Russia compromises with the West, then the Russians will not jeopardize their relations with the West for the sake of Iran. So Iran too must wait and see if Russia invades Ukraine or not. If Russia does not attack Ukraine, then the de-escalation between Russia and the West will not be to Iran’s advantage.
What Are the Reasons for Widespread Migration From Iran?
The editorial of Arman Melli focuses on why Iranian elites and non-elites are increasingly trying to emigrate from Iran. There are two factors impacting widespread migration from Iran, both among the elites and other groups of people.
The first factor is distrust and a decrease in social capital which has left no hope for the current government’s plans and measures; people’s distrust increases every day and social capital has reached its lowest. The other factor is the drop in income and social welfare. Currently, income per capita has sharply declined, inflation has skyrocketed, production and investment have reached their lowest levels, and the level of exports is unsatisfactory. The elites and intellectuals have lost trust because of the situation in society, while their incomes have plunged, compelling them to flee Iran. Most immigrants head towards Europe, Western countries, and the United States.
The elites seek to improve their living conditions where they can think and implement their political, social, and economic views freely in a stable and open environment.
The desire to migrate among low-income groups in Iran has also increased because of the drop in social capital, welfare, and incomes compared to previous years. When incomes become so low that it is not possible for people to live a decent life, they seek to migrate in pursuit of a better life.
If Iranian officials want to prevent emigration, they must increase social capital and create trust among different groups of people. First and foremost, they must grant people’s rights so that society can breathe and move forward. They must also pay attention to people’s incomes so that they have the minimum necessary to live with dignity and so diminishing incomes do not push people below the poverty line.
The Complexities of the Internet
The editorial of Aftab Yazd maintains that the issues related to the internet in Iran are not simply created by government officials, as the recent issue regarding the drop in internet speed in Iran proves.
One of the issues that is talked about and discussed on social media is the slowness of the internet in Iran, which has apparently become even slower these days. During some hours of the day, the internet speed is so slow that it is even impossible to download simple files. And when we listen to the explanations of the minister of information and communications technology, we realize that even he has nothing to do with the internet and apparently other people are in charge of the decisions made with regard to this issue.
Usually, authorities who are directly responsible for society are willing to build a brilliant record for themselves during their tenures. So, the slowness of the internet will definitely upset the minister of information and communications technology.
On the other hand, public bodies are becoming weaker by the day. In fact, public bodies do not have their former executive power while parallel organizations, which exist alongside government organizations, do not allow the decisions made by the government to be implemented. The growing number of parallel organizations that are sometimes more powerful and influential than the government can often influence the flawed decisions made by ministers.
Under these circumstances, officials are faced with a dilemma: they can either insist on independent decision-making, be sidelined and pay the price for siding with the people, or cave in and stick to their positions. Over the past years, officials have generally subordinated to the will of parallel organizations in order to protect their positions instead of defending people’s rights.
The issues related to the internet seems to be determined by those who are above the government, and the minister cannot make any decisions in this regard. We can keep reminding officials of this or that promise they made about the internet during their election campaigns, but it is as obvious as broad daylight that matters concerning the internet have certain complexities and that the government is not transparent in this regard.
Nine Civil Organizations Call for Not Lifting Humanitarian Sanctions Against Iran
In a statement, nine human rights organizations underscored that humanitarian sanctions against the Iranian authorities, particularly Ebrahim Raisi, must not be lifted. The statement points to the talks in Vienna to revive the nuclear deal which include lifting sanctions against Iran, and declares that “killing protesting citizens, illegal arrests and imprisonment, torture, and execution of protesters and dissidents and civil activists are among the many blatant violations of human rights in Iran.” The statement urges that sanctions against those who were involved in these cases must not be lifted.
In this statement, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been specifically named as one of the main violators of human rights since the establishment of the Iranian republic. Furthermore, his involvement in some judicial cases are clear examples of crimes against humanity and therefore the sanctions against him must not be rescinded. The statement was signed by the Center for Human Rights in Iran, the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, Justice for Iran, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Human Rights Activists in Iran, Unity for Iran, the Siamak Pourzand Foundation, the Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran, and the Kurdistan Human Rights Association-Geneva.
Recently, former UN judges and inspectors asked Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to investigate the massacre of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1987, particularly the role of Ebrahim Raisi in killing prisoners without due process.
Raisi, who took office last summer, was one of the four people who supervised the cases of political prisoners in the summer of 1987. When asked about his role in the massacre of political prisoners in the 1980s, Raisi said he was proud of his role back then.
Furthermore, the EU Parliament recently ratified a resolution calling for Iran to immediately stop capital punishment. The resolution asserts that since Ebrahim Raisi took office last summer, the number of executions, including executions of women, shows a considerable increase.
The Deliberate Slowing Down of the Internet in Iran; “Instagram Is the Target”
The Parliament has ratified the generalities of the plan for imposing maximum restrictions on the internet and increasing control by the military over cyberspace, while the increasing disruption to internet access led to speculation that this might be a deliberate move by the Iranian government.
According to the Iranian newspaper Etemad, one of the objectives of slowing down the internet is limiting users’ access to popular social media. The newspaper asserted that just as Viber messenger was blocked in 2015, access to Instagram will be denied and Iran’s broadband will be narrowed to the extent that users will actually forget that a social network called Instagram even exists. According to the latest report by Iran’s Statistical Center, 88.5 percent of Iranian social media users utilize WhatsApp and 68 percent use Instagram.
For years, the Iranian government has sought to separate the domestic internet network (intranet) from the global internet on security grounds and for controlling protests and implementing crackdowns, as well as censoring news related to crackdowns. The plan, called “the key to cutting off connection with the global internet,” is supposed to be finalized by 2023.
Moreover, the Iranian Parliament intends to ratify a plan for “protecting cyberspace” which, according to experts, aims at limiting users of social networks including Instagram as much as possible. The Parliament took up the plan when the Iranian supreme leader said that cyberspace is “loose and uncontrolled,” criticizing the responsible organizations for not restricting it.
The opponents of the Parliament’s plan to place curbs on the internet have warned that it is not just limited to restricting international social media platforms like Instagram; if ratified, this plan will create fundamental changes in users’ activities, monitoring of the internet and narrowing broadband, all aimed at implementing severe restrictions on access to the internet.
The opponents of the plan also say that those backing the Parliament’s plan are after more extensive filtering of the internet and will later replace certain applications with domestic counterparts. One of the proposed applications is Robinio which is said to be replacing Instagram.
This application is run by one of the affiliate companies of the Headquarters of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, which is the biggest economic holding under the aegis of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
820,000 AstraZeneca Vaccines Returned Amid an Increase in Coronavirus Deaths
While the coronavirus takes more victims in Iran, the Iranian health minister announced that 820,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines donated by Poland will be returned. It is not because there is any problem with the vaccines, but because they were probably produced in the United States.
Despite the fact that the AstraZeneca vaccines were cleared by Iran’s Customs Office, Iranian Health Minister Bahram Eynollahi, in a letter, has asked the head of the Customs Office to return the coronavirus vaccines to Poland. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had earlier banned the import of any British or American vaccines. After the widespread backlash against this order, the Iranian authorities announced that if British and American vaccines are produced in a different country, they can be imported to Iran.
Poland has already donated 2 million COVID-19 vaccines to Iran, and according to previous reports these vaccines were supposed to be used for vaccinating Afghan refugees in Iran. AstraZeneca vaccines were returned while in recent weeks there has been a shortage of foreign vaccines including AstraZeneca in Iran and Iranian citizens have shown a willingness to take these vaccines.
In January, the Iranian authorities announced that they would only rely on domestically manufactured vaccines and would not import foreign vaccines. Most Iranian vaccines are produced by an economic holding affiliated with the office of the Iranian supreme leader.
During the last month, there was a significant rise in the number of deaths due to coronavirus, and health officials say that Iran is facing the sixth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Iranian Health Ministry, currently 337 cities are in the red zone, 64 cities are in the orange zone, 47 cities are in the yellow zone, and there is no city in the blue zone. This is not the first time that the Iranian supreme leader and the government have blocked the import of vaccines that could have saved people’s lives in the pandemic.
Minimum Wage in Iran Less Than Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Libya
The Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) has published a report based on the data of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showing that Iran, with a minimum wage of $75 per month, ranks 160 among the countries of the world, lower than Burkina Faso, Iraq, Bangladesh, and Libya. In its report, ILNA has pointed to the slogan of “living costs are by dollar, salaries in rial” chanted by retired workers in many assemblies, underscoring that all livelihood costs in Iran depend on the price of the dollar.
Based on IMF data, Switzerland with a monthly minimum wage of $6,153, Liechtenstein with $6,060, Monaco with $5,734, Luxembourg with $4,431, Tuvalu with $4,012, Australia with $3,744, and Singapore with $3,732 are on top of the list of monthly minimum wages for workers. At the bottom of the list are Palestine ranked at 66 with $827, Maldives ranked at 72 with $735, and Congo ranked 71 with $740. Iranian workers, with a minimum wage of $75 per month, rank at 160.
Interestingly, even Bangladesh, which is a very poor country stands above Iran, while crisis-stricken Libya and even war-stricken Iraq also have better standings than Iran. ILNA has questioned the claims reiterated by different governments in Iran regarding increasing wages in accordance with – and even more than – the rate of inflation in recent years, underscoring that if these claims were true the minimum wage of Iranian workers should not have dropped to the bottom of the list of minimum wages in the world.
If wages had gone up in proportion to the cost of living and the inflation rate and if the national currency had not lost its value so dramatically, then Iranian workers would not have lost their purchasing power.