The recently witnessed public protests in Iran were different from that of 2009 unrest that spurred confidence in the ranks of opposition in exile. The leadership of Iranian revolution seems to be yet again in deep crisis at this point of time. The end of the year 2017 has witnessed Iran's some cities boiling and the nation's top Spiritual leader's banners and effigies burnt. Although the public unrest was contained and apparently brought to a grinding halt in the beginning of the year 2018, consequent to a security crackdown, the aftermath of which is highly feared in Tehran. One of the most influential political leaders, Mehmood Ahmedinijad, the ex-president of Iran, owing to having been vehemently opposed to several policies of the present Government led by Hassan Rouhani, has been shown way to jail. He is accused of being behind the public uprising in the recent past days. The protests emerged from Mashad, the historically famous Iranian city, on 28th December, where clashes with security forces left dozens of people dead and hundreds injured. The unofficial reports have revealed that more than 1000 people were injured and around 4000 arrested. The majority of protesters belonged to the working class and was youth. The protesters apparently had no leadership and there was no social media campaign to organize and arrange the protests, although their sloganeering revealed the severe anti-government sentiments. On 4th January 2018, the chief of the revolutionary army, General Mohammad Ali Jafferi announced that an anti-revolution rebellion was defeated. It was simultaneously supported by pro-government rallies in Kirmanshah, Girgan and Ellam, which supported Ali Khamenai and as usual shouted anti- America slogans. Tehran appears to be enthusiastic in having perceived that the 1996 rebellion against the Islamic revolution was completely crushed today. Iran has a unique democracy since its inception of Islamic revolution in 1979, in the sense that it is on record to have never ever allowed opposition groups or parties to express dissent on any government policy, economic, social or political, openly in the form of public anguish, which is dealt with a an iron fist and bogged down as anti-Islamic revolution. The recent public protest was the biggest after the uprising as seen first in 1996, in favour of political reforms in the country, accosted by several burning issues at present such as declining standard of living, falling economy, corruption and fast escalation in prices. Amidst economic sanctions from the US, the over-engagement of Tehran with the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, both financially and materially has further added to the draining of its feeble economy, the effects of which have started unfolding in the public domain. The unabated military involvement of Iran in Yemen particularly is not only deepening the sectarian strife with the neighboring Arabs but is also said to be responsible for playing havoc with its own economy. The current currency rate of Iranian Rial to Indian Rupee is only 0.0018 where as it is 0.0033 with respect to Pakistani Rupee and equals to 0.0000300 US dollar. Iran stands at 36th in GDP rank in the world with only 33% of the total population employed. Iran is one among the richest nations in terms of natural resources. Tehran enjoys the second and fourth large gas and oil reserves in the world; however the widening gap between the rich and the poor particularly in the post- sanction era is noticeable in the major cities like Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan and rest of the country. It is known to all poor classes in Iran that post-sanction era in Iran has rendered poor, the poorer. The international sanctions have damaged the economy by reducing oil exports by half before recovering in 2016. According to international monetary fund ( IMF) Iran is a transition economy changing from a planned to market economy. Iran has no well developed industry base and is accosted with the issues of pollution. Iran has devalued its currency in 2013. Both Iran and Pakistan have experienced a tough resistance by the US on a joint venture to connect Tehran to the world trade at CPEC through a gas-oil pipe line which is perceived to be even tougher as US troops are stationed in Kabul with a " do more" doctrine for Pakistan. Corruption and falling life standard of citizens in Iran is in a process of catalyzing the internal unrest which has driven people to streets, intermittently. However the narrative on Governmental side is quite different, which as usual leaves no stone unturned to blame the foreign machinations to destabilize the Nation. The spiritual leader Ali Khamenai has again rose to the occasion, accusing foreign hands in the recent protests in Iran where as the General Jaffery has a different story to tell. He maintained that the protesters are the anti-revolution struggling to fetch back traditional Monarchy to Iran. He further said that the revolt was meant to bring about socio-cultural and political instability, for which he did not hesitate to blame even some insiders of the pro-revolution camp, apparently hinting towards Ahmadinijad, who was arrested 3 days later. The political analysts have revealed that the Ex-president Ahmadinijad strongly opposed the present Government policies which were reflected as growing unemployment, economic instability and corruption. Even the industrial component not involved in oil and gas production got badly affected. The oil sanctions on Iran lifted by Obama regime in the past, did not contribute in ameliorating the signs of economic damage. Even though the Government shows the index of unemployment to be at 12.5%, the rate of unemployment is supposed to be much higher and inflation has reached up to 10%. According to an economic research forum in Istanbul, "Al-Sharaq" affiliated Tamir Badawi, what is happening in Iran is a narrative of economic frustration and crisis of hopes. It is said that the protesters where the same lot, who celebrated the historical US-Iran Nuclear deal in the past with the hope that their economic conditions were to improve. The expert opinion around the world is strongly hopeful that the current situation in Iran would force the Hassan Rouhani to bring about the vital economic reforms to douse the fire. He would have to bring basic changes in his economic policies, such as searching for new means of revenue, putting effective measures to end corruption, new and conducive environment for foreign investment and to reduce growing inflation by changing the Iranian Rial exchange rate and most important being revamping military campaign in Yemen. Mahadbad Ummari, the Iranian economist is of the opinion that fight against corruption in Iran would be the most difficult job for Hassan Rouhani's regime, without which he is left with no other option or else it would burst the whole nation into protests, in future. The present Government after having assumed power in Tehran, abruptly abandoned the Ahmadinijad's policy of funding middle and below middle class families with a fixed amount, might also be re-implemented. Trump's trump card of economic boycott of Tehran has proved detrimental for many off shore companies to invest in Iran. According to Mahadbad Ummari five factors were grossly responsible for public unrest in Iran which includes, Nation- wide corruption, Unequal financial spending in various territories of the country, Growing unemployment, escalation in prices that renders many sects of people incapable of purchasing commodities and a weak Iranian Rial. The Iran's northeast has recorded an unemployment rate of 45% during last year. The shocking revelation that an American dollar was exchanged for 36000 Iranian Rial which has even jumped this year to 42900, indicates a virtual economic collapse in Iran. According to Mahadbad Ummari's nationwide survey, the actual cause of the economic debacle was not only the present economic policies but to a greater extent the intervention of revolutionary army in business and trade affairs across the country. It is reported that 60% of the economic reserves of the country are in the custody of revolutionary army and some other departments which do not pay taxes. The generation of new employments is affected as the competition between individual companies in lacking. As of now there is no possibility of a magical change in Rouhani's economic policies, which would have to yield results gradually and till then Mariam Rajawi of Khalaq group the so called opposition in exile would continue to address people of Iran through French television to overthrow the Mullah regime in Tehran and Donald Trump would rejoice while tweeting about Iran's disturbance as the reports are pouring in that unrest continues in Hamadan and other places.
Dr. Muzaffar Shaheen is Senior Associate Professor, SKUAST-K.