Iran: Calls for elections boycott amidst widespread protests

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, April 25, 2021—Saturday and Sunday saw a large wave of protests by different segments of the Iranian society in many cities across the country. From small investors in the stock market to pensioners, nurses, and farmers, a large number of Iranian communities are dissatisfied with the current economic situation and their living conditions. And with the government doing nothing to address their grievances, the protesters are turning toward political demands and slogans, calling for a boycott of the Iranian regime’s upcoming presidential elections, scheduled in June.

On Saturday, creditors of the Tehran Stock Exchange held protest rallies in several cities, including Kermanshah, Zanjan, and Mashhad. The protesters were calling out regime leaders for inciting the public to invest in an artificially inflated stock market that crashed earlier this year and wiped billions of dollars’ worth of investors’ money. This latest round of protest comes on the heels of another protest that took place on Wednesday, in which the creditors in several cities chanted slogans against regime president Hassan Rouhani, supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and the Majlis (parliament).

“We will not vote, we’ve heard so many lies,” the creditors were chanting on Saturday, voicing their frustration with the entire regime and their disillusionment that a change in the political lineup will bring any change to the economic conditions and the people’s lives. The past decades have proved that no matter who is occupying the seat of presidency, corruption, poverty, and repression will remain a staple of the lives of the Iranian people.

At the same time, a group of customers of the carmaker Azvico gathered in front of the headquarters of the ministry of industry, mine, and trade and protested to the state-back manufacturer’s failure to deliver vehicles they had pre-purchased four years earlier.

“Azvico has not fulfilled orders for the MG360 car for four years, and the legal case is being delayed for various reasons,” the protesters said.

While the customers of Azvico have been holding regular rallies over the past years, on Saturday, they joined their voices to those of the creditors and pensioners and chanted, “We will not vote anymore. We have heard too many lies.”

In recent months, the regime has been reluctant to take any brash action against protesters who come out on the streets for economic protests. The regime is in a particularly tense situation given the upcoming elections, and regime leaders want to avoid any measure that would further exacerbate tensions and put a spark to the already explosive situation of the society. But on Saturday, security forces attacked the rally of the Azvico customer and arrested several demonstrators in Tehran.

At the same time, in Isfahan, more than 3,000 farmers in Isfahan gathered to reiterate their demands for their right to the waters of the Zayandeh Rud River, which is their main source of irrigation for their lands. In the past years, various projects led by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have disrupted the ecosystem and deprived the farmers of the water they need to grow their crops.

Despite regular protests, the government has taken no action to address the demands of the farmers. On Saturday, the farmers led a long procession of more than 700 vehicles to voice their protest. The farmers have said that if the regime does not address their needs by the elections, they will boycott the elections and take away the ballot boxes.

The rally took place despite threats by the regime’s justice ministry banning the farmers’ demonstrations.

In this regard, MP Mohammad Taghi Naghdali, said, “The patience of the farmers of Isfahan is running thin because of the mismanagement of Zayandeh Rud by the energy ministry. Today, Isfahan province is faced with a crisis in irrigation and potable water, and unfortunately, officials don’t listen to the people. Neither the energy minister nor other officials have any serious intention to address the problems.”

On Sunday, pensioners and retirees took to the streets again and held protest rallies across Iran. The protest rallies, which were coordinated and organized on social media, took place in front of the offices of the Social Security Organizations in more than a dozen cities, including Tehran, Karaj, Kermanshah, Borujerd, Qazvin, Arak, and Ardebil.

As in the past weeks, the protesters chanted anti-regime slogans and reiterated their intention to not vote in the upcoming elections. “We’ve heard so many lies that we won’t vote anymore,” the protesters chanted on Sunday.

The protesters also chanted, “Our enemy is right here, they’re lying that it’s the U.S.” This slogan, which can be heard in various protests across Iran, shows the people are not buying into the regime’s propaganda efforts to lay blame for the country’s problems on the U.S.

“Our problems will be solved if there was one less embezzlement case,” the protesters chanted, referring to corruption cases involving government officials who have stolen billions of dollars from the country’s wealth.

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 their meager pensions are not nearly enough to cover their most basic expenses and are often delayed for several months. Sunday protests by pensioners have become a regular scene across Iran as the living conditions of this deprived segment of the society continue to become worse.

A 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.

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. On Sunday, the demonstrators also chanted, “We pay our expenses in dollars, but receive our wages in rials.” The rial, Iran’s national currency, has seen a huge dip in the past few years, losing more than 80 percent of its value. This has caused a spike in the prices of basic goods. Meanwhile, pensions and salaries have not been adjusted to this fundamental shift in the economical dynamics of the society. Under the current rates, most pensioners live under the poverty line.

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