Iran: austerity bill advances, repression continues

Iran’s parliament this week moved ahead with a bill to sharply slash energy and food subsidies. State radio said one article of a draft law approved by lawmakers would gradually cut energy subsidies over five years, bringing the heavily discounted fuel prices more in line with international prices. “The plan would prevent an important part of excessive consumption” in Iranian society, state-run Press TV quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (AP, Oct. 12)

Meanwhile, Iran’s judiciary shut down three opposition newspapers—days after the appointment of two hard-line military leaders to security-related positions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Mohammad Reza Naqdi to lead the Basij militia force. The former commander of the Basij, Hussein Taeb, was moved to a position in the intelligence section of the Revolutionary Guards. The timing may reflect official concerns about student protests as the school year begins. Students staged at least two protests at universities in Tehran last week, forcing Ahmadinejad to cancel a visit to one of them. (NYT, Oct. 6)

The opposition website also reports that an Iranian man arrested in the post-election unrest has been sentenced to death. Muhammad-Reza Ali-Zamani is identified as a member of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran, which seeks restoration of the monarchy and is considered a terrorist organization by the regime. (NYT, Oct. 9)

See our last post on Iran.

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  1. Ahmadinejad: Iranian poverty a “hoax”
    From Iranian Progressives in Translation, Oct. 13:

    At a recent press conference in Tehran, fraudulently elected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that customary approaches used by economists to determine the poverty line are a “hoax” and cannot be used as a measure to prove that there is poverty in Iran. Existing facts, however, contradict Ahmadinejad’s statement.

    According to a World Bank study done in 2005 and published in 2008, over 8% of Iran’s population of 72 million live under the severe poverty line of $2 per day or $240 per month for a family of four. Based on a study done by the Central Bank of Iran in 2006, the general poverty line is currently no less than $400 per month for a family of four. Another study done by the Iranian economist Hussein Raghfar, and endorsed by the Iranian newspaper, Capital, states that the poverty line in Tehran is around $800 per month for a family of four. This study also claims that given the large number of Iranian city dwellers, around 30% of the population fall below the poverty line. Raghfar’s study emphasizes that an increasing percentage of the following groups have fallen below the poverty line: 1. Laid off and unemployed workers. 2. Farmers who cannot compete with the cheaper prices of imported agricultural goods. 3. Civil servants whose salaries cannot pay for living expenses, given the current 26% inflation rate. While a minority of Iranian economists claim that poverty has declined during the past ten years, most Iranian economists think otherwise. The following report from the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) responds to Ahmadinejad’s latest claim that there is no poverty in Iran. ILNA was launched in February 2003. It belongs to the Workers House, a labor union set up by the Iranian government. However, it is considered close to the Iranian reform movement. ILNA was banned in the Summer of 2007 and was reinstated a year later after much pressure from workers’ organizations, students and journalists.

    An ILNA reporter, Tara Bonyad, visited a poor district of Tehran and spoke to residents—including a Kurdish woman whose husband was laid off from a clothing factory after it scaled back operations due to the importation of Chinese clothes products four years ago:

    According to the Iranian Labor News Agency, between the years 1992 and 2007, family incomes in Iran have increased by 71%. At the same time, family expenses have increased by 1,840%… In his aforementioned press conference, the president claimed that the addition of 200,000 people to the rolls of the unemployed in one year is not very large, but in fact normal. He claimed that the labor market continuously involves job loss for some and job gains for others. This means that those who are laid off today, may regain employment after a while. Therefore, the labor market is constantly engaged in the exchange of human labor power.

    This woman’s husband has not “regained employment” after four years. However, based on the above [Ahmadinejad’s statement about the poverty line—tr] her family does not live below the poverty line. They have food and clothing and a dwelling, in the worst possible way. . .

    According to the president, having barely enough food to survive, enough clothing to cover yourself, and a roof to protect you from the rain, constitutes the satisfaction of minimal needs. Thank God we all have that. Therefore, no one lives under the poverty line in Iran.

    See our last post on the labor struggle in Iran.