Iran: Retirees, pensioners, call for elections boycott in widespread protests

Reporting by PMOI/MEK

Iran, May 9, 2021—Defying a wave of repressive measure by the Iranian regime, retirees and pensioners of the Social Security Organization took to the streets and held protest rallies across Iran on Sunday. The protest rallies, which are the latest in a series of events coordinated and organized on social media, took place in front of the offices of the Social Security Organizations in several cities, including Tehran, Karaj, Kermanshah, Rasht, Tabriz, Shiraz, Shush, and Haft Tappeh.

The outraged protesters, who are fed up with regime officials ignoring their demands and unpaid salaries, slammed officials for their corrupt policies. “Resign Salari,” the protesters chanted, referring to Mostafa Salari, the head of the Social Security Organization. “We will only get our rights on the streets,” the protesters chanted, reflecting their frustration at a government that has refused to address the problems of many communities that have been struggling with economic problems over the past years. The pensioners also called on other retirees to join them. “Rise against tyranny and discrimination retirees,” the protesters chanted.

Protest rally in Karaj

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. “We are dealing with coronavirus and discrimination, and no one is thinking about us,” the protesters chanted.

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.

Protest rally in Rasht

“We’ve heard so many lies that we won’t vote anymore,” the protesters chanted on Sunday. This slogan is significant since the Iranian regime’s presidential elections, scheduled for June, are fast closing in. Like many other communities in Iran, the pensioners have come to realize that the regime’s political lineup will bring no change to their lives, and as long as the mullahs are in power, poverty, overdue wages, and skyrocketing prices will be the staples of their lives.

In the same protests, the retirees and pensioners called for the freedom of activists of other communities. “Imprisoned workers must be freed,” the protesters chanted, referring to labor activists who have been arrested by security forces in the past weeks.

In the past months, pensioners 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.

Protest rally in Shiraz

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.

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.

Protest rally in Haft Tappeh

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 regime is faced with a deadlock regarding protests by pensioners and other communities in Iran. On the one hand, the regime knows that if it continues to remain silent on the pensioners’ protests, they will expand to other parts of Iran’s largely dissatisfied society. But on the other, the regime knows that cracking down on protests can have a reverse effect and further enrage the already outraged society. The regime has tried to curb the protests through half-measures such as hollow promises and threats.

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.

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