Iran: Pensioners hold rallies in more than a dozen cities, call for election boycott

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, April 8, 2021—On Wednesday, Retirees and pensioners of the Social Security Organization in Iran took to the streets again and held protest rallies in several cities. The demonstrations took place in front of the offices of the Social Security Organization. While reiterating their economic demands, the pensioners also stressed that they will be boycotting the regime’s presidential elections because the past decades have proven that no matter who becomes the regime’s president, the situation for the Iranian people will only become worse.

Protests took place in more than a dozen cities, including Tehran, Karaj, Qazvin, Khorram Abad, Ardebil, Ahvaz, Sari, Andimeshk, Rasht, Tabriz, Ilam, Isfahan, Arak, Shahrud, Dezful, Shushtar, Shush, Kermanshah, Yazd, Neyshabur, and Kerman.

In the past months, retirees have been regularly organizing protests in various cities. But regime officials refuse to answer the pensioners’ demands. The protesters complain that even their meager pensions are not nearly enough to cover their most basic expenses and are often delayed for several months. While in previous weeks, they had been usually gathering on Sundays, this new round of protest happened on a Wednesday, which suggests such movement will become more frequent in the future.

Another significant change in the protests is the political nature of the demands. Previous rallies focused on high inflation rates and prices and low pensions. But since the beginning of April, the slogans of the rallies are becoming political with protesters calling for a boycott of the elections.

Protesting the regime’s corrupt economic policies, resulting in nothing but devastating poverty and deprivation for tens of millions across Iran, the protesters chanted:

  • We will not vote anymore. We’ve heard too many lies
  • We’re fed up with this injustice
  • Housing and livelihood are our basic rights
  • Enough with the empty promises. Our tablecloths are empty
  • Our country sits on treasures. But pensioners live in suffering
  • Social Security Organization, have some shame
  • We will not back down until we get our rights
  • High prices and inflation are ruining the people’s lives
  • The adjustment law was a lie

In the past months, pensioners have been regularly organizing nationwide protests, and they have grown into a nationwide movement that continues to spread to more and more cities. The number of people participating in such rallies are increasing with each passing week of these pre-announced gatherings.

The decline in Iran’s economy, spurred by government corruption and destructive policies, has plunged the lives of many pensioners and retired government workers into utter poverty. While the price of the national currency, the rial, has lost more than 80 percent of its value in the past few years, pensions have not changed much, and the government has not adjusted salaries based on the change of currency prices and inflation rates. Under the current rates, most pensioners live under the poverty line.

This is against the government’s own policies to adjust pensions based on changes in inflation rates. According to a 2020 census, there are 18 million pensioners in Iran. These are part of Iran’s impoverished masses, who account for 96 percent of the population and live under the poverty line. According to the regime’s own statistics, more than 75 percent of pensioners are struggling to procure their needs.

Pensioners receive on average 25 million rials per month while the poverty line in some parts of Iran has reached 100 million rials in the past year. Along with pensioners, workers are also suffering from the regime’s destructive policies and its refusal to increase the minimum wage based on inflation and price rises.

The protesters are demanding the implementation of article 96 of the welfare law, which states that pensions must be adjusted to allow pensioners to procure their needs. The protesters are also demanding free health care for pensioners and the prioritization of the pensioners’ demands in Majlis sessions.

Concerned about the result of taking repressive measures against these gatherings, the mullahs’ regime had attempted to tolerate the rallies through silence and not providing any media coverage. The regime’s measures have been focused on preventing the rallies and demonstrations through threats and intimidation targeting the pensioners.

However, unfazed by the regime’s threats and knowing that they will not get their rights in any other way, the retirees and pensioners have proven to be steadfast in their protests. And they are using social media networks and online platforms to organize their rallies and spread the word about their protests. The regime is extremely terrified of the organized nature of these and other protest movements. Senior regime officials, including the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, have called for a clampdown on social media networks to prevent the spread of protests. But continued protests prove the futility of their measures. And as the presidential elections close in, protests are gradually turning political in nature. Protesters increasingly calling for a boycott of the elections, whose result will be none other than more corruption and economic bankruptcy for the country.

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