Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) addressing the workers of Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane complex on April 27, 2023

Iran's President Snubbed And Slammed During Visit To Khuzestan

Saturday, 04/29/2023

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's visit to the Khuzestan province was mired with a lackluster welcome at Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane complex and condemnation by mother of a child killed during protests.

Raisi, who arrived in the province on Thursday,tried to use his trip to Khuzestan as a publicity stunt but popular anger at the government's poor economic performance and repression led to a backlash.

According to media channels affiliated with the Haft-Tappeh complex, Raisi was snubbed by the workers who are among thousands who are on strikes across the country.

Strikes by Iranian energy, petrochemicals and steel workers as well as other sectors are gaining momentum with new plants joining the nationwide industrial action this week.

Strikes are nothing new for the Haft-Tappeh workers as they have staged numerous rounds of action after the privatization of the complex in 2015. Workers have been protesting for deteriorating working conditions and late payments of wages since 2017, leading to periodic weeks-long strikes in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 over unfulfilled promises by officials.

Workers at the once thriving sugar mill reportedly boycotted Raisi's visit. Turnout for his reception ceremony was so low that authorities had to transfer security forces and members of Basij – a paramilitary volunteer force working under the Revolutionary Guards – from the nearby cities such as Shush to create a crowd for the president, journalist Roozbeh Bolhari cited a channel of Haft-Tappeh workers.

The efforts turned out to be ultimately in vain as the city’s officials could not gather enough people to be able to take wide angle shots from the ceremony and were forced to use closeup images at the end.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) at the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane complex on April 27, 2023

The company has at least 5,700 formal and contract staff but in the photos and videos of Raisi’s speech among the workers there are hardly more than 50 people apart from the security forces and the president’s entourage, which included more than 10 ministers of his cabinet as well as several deputies. According to the worker' social media channel, about 20 young people who were not employed in the company were lured into the crowd with promises of employment.

State media tried to portray the visit to Khuzestan as Raisi’s response to letters by the workers of the company who had called for better work conditions and salaries at par with the rising prices.

The aim of the visit was obviously propaganda as Raisi toured industrial centers in the province, telling people that he is there to see whether or not his orders given during the previous visits have been implemented. It was the seventh time that Raisi visited the province since he took office in 2021, and he said during his speeches in the provincial capital Ahvaz that “If necessary, I will travel to the province 70 times to solve its problems.”

Addressing the people of Andimeshk, he said, “Today, you people should know that despite all the sanctions and threats by the enemy, with your help, the movement towards progress and independence of the country, especially economic independence, continues.”

However, a large number of the province’s citizens criticized the visit on social media, trending a hashtag that is roughly translated as the province is thirsty for action, implying that they are fed up with propagandistic gestures.

The grievances of the people include lack of drinking water in the province, suffocating air pollution, projects that have been inaugurated but never fully implemented, and general poverty in a province that produces almost all of Iran's oil.

Kian Pirfalak (left) and his family

A large number of users sarcastically tweeted that “Mr. President, welcome to the most polluted city of the world!”

In reaction to Raisi’s visit, Zaynab Molaei-Rad, the mother of ten-year-old Kian Pirfalak, who was shot dead by plainclothesmen during protests on November 16, 2022, in one of the cities of the province, slammed the president. "This is the land of the brave. It takes a big heart to step here. Lest a vulture enter here on false pretext and promise, we will clip its wings," she said on Instagram.

The family car carrying Kian, his parents, and three-year-old brother Radin was targeted by plainclothesmen in Izeh, a town of around 100,000 in the east of the oil-rich province. Kian’s father was also seriously wounded in the shooting and is still in hospital. Authorities claim the family car was attacked by “terrorists”.

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