Nowadays, Iran’s economic collapse and its direct effects on political, living, environmental, educational, immigrational affairs have become the main talking points inside the country and abroad.
Furthermore, many Iranian outlets explicitly speak about corruption that has engulfed the entire ruling system and not only has led the people’s livelihood to misery but annihilated the country’s natural resources.
In this context, it is important to shed light on the current crisis in Iran and its elements separately, which have not yet been discussed collectively so far. Notably, these elements are originated from the government and its different apparatuses and officials. However, they have shaped the major political challenge in Iran on the verge of the 2021 Presidential election.
Iran: A Unique Opportunity for Plundering
Since the beginning of the Islamic Republic in February 1979, the ayatollahs considered Iran an opportunity for economic interests. Therefore, besides political monopolization, they applied a totalitarianism policy to gain maximum privileges.
In this regard, they added valuable mines, national funds and properties, and the production reserves to either their own assets or their relatives’ properties.
They initiated this policy for the occupation of Iran’s economic resources and wealth through ‘privatization.’ In other words, the government and its relevant officials monopolized all financial assets to apply their destructive policies on the one hand and prevent an independent opposition movement from shaping on the other hand.
According to observers, following the death of Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, then-Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani launched the privatizing project. He later became the president for two consecutive terms, which paved the path for him to continue the project forcefully. However, the privatization was followed by other administrations and government-backed mafia bands. It also brought more ruin and hardship to the people.
“During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the privatization policy continued more unbridled. We witnessed that the public and national assets of the Iranian people have been auctioned under the banner of privatization,” said Foad Shams, a government-linked scholar, in an interview with Mostaghel daily on February 24.
“In [President] Hassan Rouhani’s era, we saw the shock-treatment project alongside the unbridled privatization. For instance, gas prices hiked up three-fold in November 2019. Not only the increase exerted severe pressure on low-income classes, but they were publicly suppressed on the cities and streets.”
He implicitly mentioned that the implementation of this policy was dependent on maximum political suppression. “Officials performed policies for economic reforms by resorting to military and security force,” Shams added.
Privatization through Unscientific Methods
Officials’ enthusiasm for monopolizing all national reverses under the banner of privatizing projects has breached all scientific principles and norms in the financial, health, and educational sectors. Therefore, besides the unrestrained suppression in the political aspect, the government severely attempts to cover hygiene and education institutions. These efforts were even followed amidst the coronavirus outbreak with more power.
“It would definitely be said that we do not see such easy privatization in health and education sectors even in the most capitalist countries like the United States and the United Kingdom,” said the scholar.
“Those governments realize that several aspects like hygiene and education are the country’s basic and infrastructural needs, and the government should not privatize them simply. However, in Iran, we perform far right economic policies,” he added.
Tehran Uses Coronavirus Crisis for Privatization
Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Iran, activists and netizens revealed that the government is exploiting the pandemic for political and financial interests.
However, the people of Iran, who are the foremost victims of the government’s mismanagement, feel this truth with their flesh and blood. Growing public hatred toward the entire government shows the society’s suffering. Nonetheless, officials exploit the health crisis to line their pockets with the people’s meager money through the privatization excuse.
“Privatizing health and education apparently showed its results. During the coronavirus crisis, we witnessed what pressure was applied on the country’s health sector. Because earning more profit is the main issue in the private sector’s logic while in the health sector, ensuring society and people’s health must be prioritized, not profit,” said the scholar.
Students and Teachers Are Primary Victims
The education sector is one of the privatization’s victims. Under the banner of privatization, Iranian officials have filled their pockets with windfall money. This project imposed irreparable blows to Iran’s education system, pushing millions of students to drop out.
This policy has forced children to leave education and turned them into child laborers. “Millions of teachers and education staff fell in severe living dilemmas,” Iranian state-run media wrote, addressing a result of privatizing the education system.
“In the education sector, the deep rift between school and college students is an outcome of privatization. Classes for college entrance exams and relevant problems are the product of privatized education system and creating extreme competition in this sector,” wrote Mostaghel daily.
“Aside from families’ economic inability, millions of teachers and education staff have been stuck in severe living dilemmas. Because the government no longer recognizes investing in the education sector as its own duty,” Shams said. “In a nutshell, privatization is tantamount to putting people’s public assets to an auction.”
Officials Launch Stock Market for Government’s Interests
In the past three months, the Stock Market has become a mystery for the people and the government. Previously, high-ranking officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, invited society to invest their money in the Stock Market.
“The people should invest in the Bourse,” said Khamenei on November 18, 2019, and Rouhani later added during the August 12, 2020 cabinet session said, “The stock market and oil — not gold and the dollar — are the places to be investing, and we want to help people this way.”
However, according to details disclosed during political rivalries, the government organized the Stock Market to offset its deficits. In this context, the people witnessed a sharp decline in their stocks’ value, which has prompted their anger over the entire ruling system and its institutionalized corruption.
“In the past year, we witnessed millions of small stockholders lose their money during the Stock Market’s experience. Nonetheless, several major stockholders close to government-backed institutions gain stellar privileges. Some believe that the bourse policy was adopted to compensate for the government’s budget deficits. Others think that several government organizations and institutions applied this policy to make their own advantages,” wrote Mostaghel daily.
Contradiction Between Nature and Appearance
The Islamic Republic faces a contradiction between its nature and appearance. While the most fundamentalist figures have monopolized all means of power and have vehemently rejected modern methods in different sectors, they resort to the newest technologies for their establishment to survive.
They justify their illegal and horrific performances by religious explanations and terrify society from a revolt against the theocracy. They shed crocodile tears for underprivileged people, and they have even established an institution for impoverished families. However, the institution uses violence to force impoverished people out of their own properties. It also squanders the country’s national assets on terrorism, warmongering, and improving oppressive apparatuses.
There are millions of dropout students in Iran while officials send their loved ones to the United States, Canada, and other countries to receive their education. At the same time, they sarcastically chant, “Death to America.”
Today, the ayatollahs are the most powerful and wealthy individuals in Iran. Commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) control illicit transactions. They have impounded the spinal sectors of Iran’s economy. IRGC commanders manage oil and petrochemical, automaking, mines, transport, fisheries, advertisement, sports, and all profitable industries in Iran. They have recently granted low-price power to the Chinese for bitcoin mining. In other words, officials’ hypocrisy is likely a spark on society’s powder keg.
“In such circumstances, both principalists and reformists are representing a sole corrupt clique ruling the country. This clique has gained top economic positions through governmental corruption in the past years. Initially, it was a governing manager, then it occupied public assets under the name of privatization, and currently, it has become a capitalist,” Mostaghel daily wrote.
in the runup to the 2021 Presidential election, Shams admitted to the reformist factions’ failure to gain public trust. For decades, Iranian authorities tried to deceive the people by the game of reformists versus fundamentalists.
However, Iran’s society had never forgotten the crimes committed by ‘reformists’ in the 1980s, when they were calling themselves the Followers of the Imam [Khomeini]. Prominent ‘reformists’ like Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mohammad Khatami, Hassan Rouhani, and others had key positions during the mass killings of political prisoners in the summer of 1988.
“Generally, these reformists do not have any theory, but their political intentions are affected by the general atmosphere. Their transfer between different classes of society should be considered. These people gradually became richer through corruption, and their political positions were changed due to their economic situations,” Shams added.
On the other hand, working classes, who live below the poverty line, have been deprived of fundamental rights. Instead, the government immediately quells any objection and protest with violence. “Workers do not have even one real syndicate or labor union. They do not have media. Their voice would reach nowhere, and they are rapidly suppressed,” the scholar said.
In its February 24 edition, Mostaghel shed light on the social volcano in Iran, which is on the verge of eruption at any moment. Current rallies, sit-ins, and marches are merely the tip of the iceberg, and further protests are on the horizon due to political-socioeconomic crises that have swept throughout the establishment.
“A crisis does not appear itself in the shape of street protests. The most serious danger that threatens our [state] is the possibility of a complete collapse of social relations—i.e., a nationwide uprising,” Mostaghel concluded.