by Nir Boms and Shayan Arya
July 30, 2013 at 3:00 am
The Gatestone Institute
Rouhani’s campaign symbol was a giant golden key, which he waved at rallies to symbolize his ability to open locked doors. To an Iranian electorate all too familiar with locked doors in every aspect of their lives — both domestic and international — even the remote possibility of things getting better was irresistible. But now that Rouhani has been elected, he may find it difficult to deliver on his promise.
Last week, more than 250 Iranian steel workers gathered in front of the Supreme Leader’s residence in protest against unjustified layoffs and unpaid salaries. They were not the only ones. Reports from the past week revealed a dozen other such protests and strikes that range from a tire company, cable workers, the cinema association and even employees of Iran’s Ministry of Youth Affairs.
Protests and demonstrations are not that common in Iran; their last wave was met with harsh repression and violence. Now they have spread again and become more brazen. Signs again read “Down with the dictator,” while police used tear gas in an attempt to scare protesters away.
A combination of international sanctions and domestic mismanagement has resulted in rapidly rising unemployment and restive unemployed youth. The worsening economic conditions were also a key driver for the vote for change which took place in Tehran during the last Presidential election. But change is still a long way off. Continue reading “Iran: Can Rouhani Deliver?”
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The first drops of winter rain reached the Middle East this week, perhaps another reminder of the end of what we have dubbed thus far as the “Arab Spring.” Much has happened since last December when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and triggered a wave of protest that engulfed the entire Middle East. On the one hand, the “spring” can be seen as a resounding success: Protests have brought about a change in leadership in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and significant reforms in Morocco, Jordan, Qatar, and elsewhere in the region. Moreover, Tunisia has just declared Oct 23rd as the election date for its parliament and Saudi Arabia just announced that women will be able to vote in the next municipal elections (though only for half of the seats there – but progress nevertheless). Elections are also expected in Egypt and, later, in Libya and Morocco.
By Nir Boms & Elliot Chodoff
The demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt caught most of us by surprise. Revolutions often do. Sir Anthony Parsons, the British ambassador in Tehran, declared in 1978 that “there has been little or no evidence of unrest among the urban poor.” Shortly after, Iranians poured into the streets and deposed the Shah.
A decade later, the U.S. was shocked by the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union, another revolution from within. In October 2000, several hundred thousand people protested against Slobodan Milosevic, who was arrested by Serbian police six months later and eventually prosecuted for war crimes. In 2003, Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze attempted to steal an election, and the people prevented him from opening a new session of parliament in what came to be known as the Rose Revolution. The Ukrainian Orange Revolution followed a year later, with half a million people marching to protest election fraud, corruption, and repression.
But not all marches end successfully. In 1989, the People’s Republic of China had little tolerance for the 100,000 demonstrators gathered in Tiananmen Square following the funeral of Hu Yaobang, a popular Communist leader who believed in political and economic reforms. Lebanon is still held hostage despite its million-man freedom march in 2005. Iran has learned its lesson: Repeated attempts at revolution — including that of the students in 1999 and the Green Movement of 2009 — have been crushed with high casualties. In Egypt, Syria, Libya, and even Morocco, popular protests have been quickly crushed.