Protests and strikes in Iran continued Saturday as President Ebrahim Raisi marked the first anniversary of his election amid economic and political uncertainty.
Retirees took to the streets in many cities and towns across the country again to protest the meager rise in their pensions, which fails to compensate the huge drop in their purchasing power given the inflation rate of over 40 percent. Retirees’ protests which began a few months ago have become more frequent recently.
The current round of strikes and demonstrations began on Sunday, June 12, after Iran’s currency fell to a historic low of 333,000 rials to the US dollar.
Parallel with retirees, small business owners have been at the forefront in recent days. There were protests on Saturday by retailers in Tehran and clashes with police.
In Ahvaz in the oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province retirees chanted slogans against Raisi, a self-professed seeker of economic justice for all as he claimed on Saturday, and accused him of lying.
Raisi who assumed office in August is the first Iranian president since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 whose government has faced extensive protests within a few months with disillusioned protesters often demanding his resignation for mismanaging the country.
“Where Is He Who Pretended Seeking Justice,” videos posted on social media show them chanting outside the offices of the province governor. Protesters marched with a long tablecloth over their heads as a symbol of their bare tables.
In Bandar Abbas, capital of southern Hormozgan Province, protesters demanded action from the government: “No More Promises, Our Tables Are Bare”, they chanted. “Poverty Line 180 Million Rials, Our Pension Only 30 Million!” a banner protesters carried in Ahvaz read.
Similar protests took place in Zanjan, capital of a province of the same name, and Shoushtar, a city of over 100,000 in Khuzestan where protesters chanted “No More Living in Shame” and “Revolutionary Government, Only Empty Claims”.
Retirees are demanding pension increases in par with rising prices of essential foods, saying that the current payments are not in line with decrees by the Supreme Labor Council, which had stipulated a 38-percent increase in the minimum wage. Earlier this month the government announced that pensions for most retirees would increase by just 10 percent.
A bill to address the pensioners’ demands has been languishing in the parliament for months. “Both Parliament and Government Are Lying To the Nation”, another video shows protesters in Ahvaz chanting.
Iran has witnessed protests, strikes, and instability in many areas across the country since early May when the government stopped a food import subsidy and prices soared out of control.
Meanwhile, wholesalers of the bazaar in Esfahan on Saturday refused to open their shops in protest to what many bazaar merchants across the country say is an unprecedented hike in their tax bills.
Merchants of the Grand Bazaar of Tabriz, capital of northwestern East Azarbaijan Province, were the first to go on strike earlier this month. Strikes have since then spread to several other large and small cities including Tehran and Shiraz.
Bazaar or traditional retail market strikes have a deep historical root in Iran and signal a serios political and economic crisis. The bazaar strikes played a major role both in the Constitutional Revolution of the early 20th century and the 1979 revolution against the monarchy.
Hundreds of striking and protesting workers and labor activists have been arrested since 2017, many spending months in prison. Some are still detained without trial.