[Marxism] Hard-Liners and Reformers Tapped Iranians’ Ire. Now, Both Are Protest Targets

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jan 3 10:01:09 MST 2018


Guess what. The Iran protests are detonated by the same causes of the 
Syrian revolt. Just substitute the word Syria for Iran and Baathist for 
Islamist in these paragraphs from the article below:

For decades, those living in Iran’s provincial towns and villages were 
regarded as the backbone of the country’s Islamic regime. They tended to 
be conservative, averse to change and pious followers of the sober 
Islamic lifestyle promoted by the state.

In less than a decade, all that has changed. A 14-year drought has 
emptied villages, with residents moving to nearby cities where they 
often struggle to find jobs. Access to satellite television and, more 
important, the mobile internet has widened their world.

----

NY Times, Jan. 3 2018
Hard-Liners and Reformers Tapped Iranians’ Ire. Now, Both Are Protest 
Targets.
By THOMAS ERDBRINK

TEHRAN — Antigovernment protests roiled Iran on Tuesday, as the death 
toll rose to 21 and the nation’s supreme leader blamed foreign enemies 
for the unrest. But the protests that have spread to dozens of Iranian 
cities in the past six days were set off by miscalculations in a 
long-simmering power struggle between hard-liners and reformers.

By Tuesday, Iran’s leaders could no longer ignore the demonstrations and 
felt compelled to respond publicly. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme 
leader, blamed outside “enemies” but did not specify who. President 
Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, appealed for calm while saying the 
protesters had a right to be heard.

But the anger behind the protests was directed against the entire 
political establishment.

While the protests that swept Iran in 2009 were led by the urban middle 
class, these protests have been largely driven by disaffected young 
people in rural areas, towns and small cities who have seized an opening 
to vent their frustrations with a political elite they say has hijacked 
the economy to serve its own interests.

Unemployment for young people — half the population — runs at 40 
percent, analysts believe. Meanwhile, Iran has spent billions of dollars 
abroad in recent years to extend its influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The initial catalyst for the anger appears to have been the leak by 
President Rouhani last month of a proposed government budget. For the 
first time, secret parts of the budget, including details of the 
country’s religious institutes, were exposed.

Iranians discovered that billions of dollars were going to hard-line 
organizations, the military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and 
religious foundations that enrich the clerical elite. At the same time, 
the budget proposed to end cash subsidies for millions of citizens, 
increase fuel prices and privatize public schools.

The leak appeared to be intended to tap popular resentment, and it 
worked. Telegram, a social media messaging app used by over 40 million 
Iranians, blew up with angry comments.

“It made me angry,” said Mehdi, 33, from Izeh, a town in Iran’s poor 
Khuzestan Province, who asked that his family name not be used out of 
fear of retaliation. “There were all these religious organs that 
received high budgets, while we struggle with constant unemployment.”

Last Thursday, hard-liners tried to take back the initiative and 
embarrass the president, staging a demonstration in the holy city 
Mashhad, where hundreds chanted slogans against the weak economy and 
shouted “death to the dictator” and “death to Rouhani.”

An Iranian security official confirmed that the Friday prayer leader of 
the city, Ahmad Alamolhoda, a prominent hard-liner, had been summoned by 
Iran’s National Security Council to explain his role in the demonstration.

Videos of the gathering then went viral on social media, where people 
had for weeks been heatedly discussing the proposed budget. Frustrated 
Iranians elsewhere were emboldened.

In reaction to the protest in Mashhad, Hesamodin Ashna, a trusted 
adviser to President Rouhani, sent out a Twitter message on Friday, 
highlighting “the unbalanced distribution of the budget.”

Iran’s military forces, active in several countries in the Middle East, 
saw their budget increase to $11 billion, a nearly 20 percent rise, he 
said. The budget for representatives of the supreme leader in 
universities was increased. An institute run by the hard-line cleric 
Mohammad Taghi Meshbah-Yazdi was to receive eight times as much as a 
decade ago.

Online anger reached a boiling point.

For decades, those living in Iran’s provincial towns and villages were 
regarded as the backbone of the country’s Islamic regime. They tended to 
be conservative, averse to change and pious followers of the sober 
Islamic lifestyle promoted by the state.

In less than a decade, all that has changed. A 14-year drought has 
emptied villages, with residents moving to nearby cities where they 
often struggle to find jobs. Access to satellite television and, more 
important, the mobile internet has widened their world.

“On Instagram, I saw a picture of a woman in Tehran with her S.U.V., who 
wrote she spends $3,000 on her pets each month,” Mehdi said. “A person 
can live here with that money for a year. I got angry.”

His city, Izeh, was famous for being home to many who had been exiled by 
the hard-line judiciary. “Izeh has changed a lot over the years — more 
people, but no entertainment, not even a cinema,” he said. “Many people 
use drugs.”

On Friday, protests broke out in Izeh. The government news agency said 
two protesters were killed there by security forces.

In Tehran, the capital, Mohammad Alinejad had been sitting behind the 
wheel of his dilapidated Peugeot when he heard of the protests in 
Mashhad. “I was cheering,” he said. “I want these clerics to go. They 
have destroyed my life.”

He had been hit by shrapnel during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, and a 
piece had remained stuck in his head. His status as a handicapped 
veteran exempts his son from the mandatory 24-month military service, 
but when he tried to get the exemption papers he got stuck in a 
bureaucratic merry-go-round that is all too common for Iranians.

“I had to pay bribes, or else no one would help me, and in the end we 
didn’t get anywhere,” he said.

He blamed the clerics for everything: privatization, corruption, 
inequality and long days with low pay.

“I don’t care if our country becomes the next Iraq or Syria,” he said, 
“but I’m so frustrated with them, that I just want them gone and we can 
think about the consequences tomorrow.”

In Qom, the center of Iran’s theological educational institutes, one 
cleric said he was worried about the level of anger.

“People are angry when they see how much money some clerical 
institutions and Friday prayer leaders are being paid in the budget,” 
the cleric, Fazel Meybodi, said. “Many of them are old and have no 
appeal to the youths. They must be changed.”

As protests took off in about 40 cities across the country, Tehran 
remained largely quiet. In 2009, over three million people took to the 
streets disputing the elections.

But this time, many said they feared the raging, leaderless protests.

“They are angry, and have a right to be, but there is just nothing more, 
no plan for the day after,” said Hamidreza Faraji, a cosmetic and honey 
salesman who struggles to live a decent life.

“We can’t keep on going on to change our leaders,” he said, standing in 
his shop, which like others nearby was empty of customers. No one he 
knew wanted Iran to become the next Syria or Iraq in the chaos that 
might follow, he explained.

“Many of the protesters shout, “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, I will give my 
life for Iran,” Mr. Faraji said. “But we have entered this bad game in 
the region, so now we have to finish it. Just like we have no other 
option but to live with our leaders. Unless there is a better alternative.”



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