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Economic Woes Cause Protests, but Why Do Iran’s People Target Regime Officials?

On June 5, the death anniversary of the Iranian regime’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini, all officials, from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to military commanders in rural villages, expressed concern over ongoing protests in Iran. Their orchestrated remarks revealed the regime’s fear of a volatile society and the Iranian opposition’s impact on domestic developments.

In less than a day, retirees and pensioners of Iran’s Social Security Organization held a nationwide protest calling out regime officials. With people chanting slogans against the regime’s President Ebrahim Raisi, these protests proved the mullahs’ fear is not unfounded. Reports from Iran indicate another series of protests in many Iranian cities on Tuesday, June 7.

Videos from a dozen Iranian cities, including Tabriz, showed hundreds of protesters chanting “death to Raisi” and “We can only obtain our rights by coming onto the streets.”

Deprived of their already meager pensions, Iranian retirees and pensioners demanded their salaries to be commensurate with the skyrocketing prices and inflation.

“According to Iran’s Statistics Center, the inflation hovers around 38.7%, but unofficial statistics, it is closer to 50%. Also, the household subsistence basket has reached more than 120,000,000 rials. Meanwhile, pensions hardly cover only a third of retirees’ living expenses. Still, the government has delayed the implementation of increasing the salaries and pensions of eight million pensioners,” Sharq daily acknowledged on June 6.

While people can hardly make a living due to skyrocketing prices, Raisi’s government removed the “preferential exchange rate” used to import essential goods at slightly lower prices, causing another surge in living costs.

Simultaneous with increasing oppression in the face of growing protests, Raisi, and his ministers make ridiculous gestures, such as eradicating poverty in two weeks, ordering costs to stop rising, and inviting Iranians to exercise austerity! These desperate attempts to quell Iran’s restive society are the subject of mockery, even by Iran’s state media.

“Officials should leave their luxurious lives, then invite people to economic austerity. We cannot stop prices from increasing by issuing orders. Inflation doesn’t buy these words and keeps on rising. The ruling system bears all responsibility for people’s current situation,” the state-run Mostaghel daily wrote in this regard on June 6.

Iran’s social security pensioners rally on 2nd day, chant “Death to Raisi!”

These daily protests by people from all walks of life across the country are the broadest display of discontent and a testament to Iran’s volatile society. People are left in abject poverty while regime officials enjoy lavish lives and squander national wealth on terrorism. Tehran has not only refused to address people’s grievances but has stepped up its suppressive measures. When farmers in Isfahan demanded their right to go irrigation, the regime attacked their sit-in and shot them using pellet guns. When people of Abadan took on the streets to mourn their loved ones who died after Metropol Tower collapsed, regime security forces opened fire on them.  These actions have indeed added to society’s explosive state, as demonstrated in recent protests.

Since the November 2019 uprising, one could hardly find a “social” protest that doesn’t feature anti-regime slogans. People have to endure numerous economic hardships and hold demonstrations to demand their rights, but in less than a few hours, they start chanting against the regime’s top officials.

This fact indicates a turning point in Iran’s social movements. In other words, people no longer consider their economic woes or lack of freedom as isolated issues caused by individuals. They see the regime in its entirety behind the crises and their misery and target the heart of the problem.

This has caused a lot of stir in the regime, compelling officials and state media to warn about the “consequences” of these protests and how they are influenced by the Iranian opposition or the regime’s “enemy.”

“The enemy counts primarily on protests and the current social situation. It aims to organize and expand these protests. The enemy tries to use social media to tarnish the image of the Islamic Republic. Unfortunately, the enemy’s media is not only disturbing but has a lasting effect on our youth,” Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib acknowledged on Jun 5, as quoted by the state-run Entekhab website.

“If the government fails to address retirees’ demand, there will be more protests, the enemy plays its role, and we should pay a heavy price,” the state-run Sharq daily wrote on June 6.

The question is: Can Iran’s ruling theocracy avoid paying this heavy price?