The Iranian regime’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak confirms how they consider this humanitarian crisis to be a security threat. The Iranian regime’s officials and state media have been giving warnings of the “post-coronavirus outbreak” situation and a possible uprising.
When we look at the situation from this perspective, we could understand the regime’s continuous mass arrest of political prisoners, suppressing prison riots over the coronavirus outbreak, executions, and most importantly the regime’s incessant campaign of cover-up and deception.
The Iranian society is like a powder keg. The Iranian people, particularly youth and women, are frustrated with the regime’s 40 years of oppression. On the other hand, the regime’s institutionalized corruption, economic mismanagement and plundering of national wealth for funding its terrorist activities have left the Iranian society in poverty and increased the inflation and unemployment rates.
The coronavirus has increased the unemployment rate, adding more people to the army of hungries. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the minimum wages, particularly those of the Iranian workers, could not cover household expenses.
In this regard, Hossain Raghfar, one of the regime’s economists, in an interview with the state-run Jahan-e Sanat daily in early March, said that there was a 70% gap between Iran’s minimum wage and the money needed for daily expenses.
“Now with the spread of the coronavirus they have become unemployed and it’s not clear how they provided their basic needs and that of their families,” he told the Jahan-e Sanat daily adding that workers were going through “very harsh days.” “The minimum wage only covers 30% of household expenses,” he added.
On Monday, the state-run daily Sharq wrote: “It is predicted that between 2.8 and 6.4 million people will lose their jobs due to the Coronavirus crisis, of which 70% do not have any insurance coverage … Workers, laborers, and self-employed people will suffer the most. Most of them will be pushed below the poverty line, and if the government does not offer effective support, the unemployment crisis and poverty will turn into other issues.”
The state-run Esteqlal daily wrote on Sunday: “In Tehran, 14,000 people live on scouring garbage, 4,600 of whom are children. There are half a million child-laborers in Iran who will face a deep crisis if they do not work. Although for ’child-laborers,’ the pre-Coronavirus era was also risky, not taking precautions and searching garbage at a time when ’risk of death‘ is felt more than ever is a wake-up call for all sectors of society and also a warning to the government.”
In an article, the state-run Jamaran website on May 1 wrote:
“If a worker, before the revolution, could purchase a house with 24-year installments, now in 2020, they must pay 137 years of installments to have a house. If in 1979, a worker was able to purchase a Peykan automobile by only saving 13 months of their income, now, in 2020, they can purchase a Perayd automobile by saving 46 months of their income. If in 1979 each worker was able to purchase 74 kg of meat with only one month of their income, now they can purchase the only 17kg of meat with a month’s income. And if in 1979, they were able to use their salary to purchase 12 grams of gold, now they can use their monthly wage to purchase 3.5 grams of gold.”
Under the mullahs’ regime, the employed workers are not in a better situation. Their situation has deteriorated in recent years, and their purchasing power has declined every year. Mohammad Shariatmadari, the Rouhani government’s minister of labor, announced on April 9 that the Supreme Labor Council had “set the minimum wage at 1,835,426 tomans (about $150), with a 21 percent increase in comparison to the previous year.”
This amount is less than the official 41 percent inflation rate. According to Article 41 of the regime’s Labor Law, the regime is obliged to determine wages in accordance with the inflation rate announced by the Central Bank, and this year the Central Bank has announced an inflation rate of 41%.
While Iranian workers and the entire society suffer from these economic hardships, the financial institution close to the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) control a vast financial empire.
In this regard, the state-run Jomhuri-e Eslami daily on April 10 asked: “What will the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), Mostazafan Foundation of Islamic Revolution and Astan Quds Razavi do if they do not spend their money for the impoverished people?”
“These financial powers include the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, Mostazafan Foundation of Islamic Revolution and Astan Quds Razavi. The vast financial and facilities these centers possess, if used to help the damaged society sectors by the coronavirus, will resolve these sectors’ problems rapidly and completely. These assets and facilities belong to people and should be exactly used in such situations to resolve people’s problems,” the article added.
The regime, instead of providing these assets to the people, forced poor people to go to work and end the quarantine. This now has resulted in more death and infection.
The regime’s president, Hassan Rouhani’s remarks in this regard are notable.
In his speech justifying sending workers back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rouhani left workers to choose between death due to the coronavirus or poverty and unemployment. He said: “The coronavirus is a disease, yet unemployment is a great danger. The coronavirus death should not be contained while there will be deaths due to poverty and unemployment.”
The real threat
Sending people back to work, arresting people for telling the truth about the coronavirus outbreak and suppressing prions riots are among the regime’s desperate attempts to control the restive Iranian society. Telling the truth about extent of this crisis, quarantining people yet not backing them financially, sending them back to work or covering up this situation will lead to an uprising.
In a nutshell the regime is in a deadlock.
In this regard, referring to the economic hardships, the state-run Jamaran website wrote: “For this reason, a huge part of the November 2019 protesters [the nationwide Iran protests sparked by the sudden increase in fuel prices] are the unemployed children of these workers. This year, what choice does a government with zero oil revenue and a 50% budget deficit have other than printing banknotes? And this means a higher inflation rate and workers’ food basket shrinking, making the next protesting force more explosive. Will anyone listen? Is there a will to bring the country out of this bone-breaking deadlock?”
Ahmad Naderi, one of the regime’s officials told the state-run Resalat daily on March 7: “I am worried about the social and security outcome of this crisis. Soon, rebellions, much larger than the ones in 2018 and 2019 and certainly much larger than the ones in the 1990s, will happen.”