Sunday, January 29, 2023

A public suicide in Iran highlights the suffering on the economy

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Ruhollah Parzideh, 38, with a thick mustache and gray hair, was desperate for a job. The father of three in southern Iran walked into a local office of a foundation that helps war veterans and their families, pleading for assistance.

Local media reported that Parzideh told officials that he would throw himself off the roof if they could not help. They tried to reason with him promising me a small loan, but he remained unsatisfied.

He soon returned to the building gates, poured petrol on himself, and put a lit match around his neck. He died of burns two days later, on 21 October.

Parzideh’s suicide in the city of Yasuz shocked many in Iran, and not just because he was the son of Golmohammed Parzideh, a major provincial hero of the country’s 1980–88 war with Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands. Were.

It highlighted the growing public anger and frustration at the sinking of Iran’s economy, rising unemployment and skyrocketing food prices.

He died outside the local office of the Foundation for Martyrs and War-Disabled People, a wealthy and powerful government agency that helps families of those killed and wounded in Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and subsequent wars .

“I was shocked when I heard the news,” said Mina Ahmadi, a student at Beheshti University in the north of Tehran. “I thought the families of the (war) victims got generous support from the government.”

Iran ends its war by conflict with Iraq, which is known in Tehran as the “Holy Defense”, and the foundation plays a large role in that. After the Revolution established a clerical-run system, the Foundation began providing pensions, loans, housing, education and even some high-ranking government jobs.

Local media reported that following Parzideh’s suicide, the foundation fired two of its top provincial officials and demanded the dismissal of a social worker as well as a senior affairs advisor to the governor. .

The result reached the highest level of government. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s adviser, Ayatollah Sharfeddin Malakhosaini, called the case a warning that authorities must “get rid of unemployment, poverty and disruption of social ties.”

In 2014, Parliament launched an investigation into one of the main banks affiliated with the foundation for alleged embezzlement of $5 million. Its conclusions never came to fruition.

The foundation is known for providing financial assistance to Islamic terrorist organizations in the region, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to Hamas in Gaza, to support terrorism it was approved by the US in 2007.

Parzideh’s suicide was one of several in recent years that appear to be driven by economic difficulties.

At least two other veterans have died and the wife of a disabled veteran has been injured in recent years by self-immolations outside the foundation’s branches in Tehran, Kermanshah and Qom.

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaked economic havoc, suicides in Iran rose by more than 4%, according to a government study cited by the reformist daily Etemad.

For many in the Middle East, the act of self-immolation – a protest used in Tunisia by a fruit seller named Mohamed Bouazi who became the catalyst for the 2011 Arab Spring uprising – exposed widespread discontent with the economic crisis and lack of opportunity. does.

“I don’t know where we are headed because of poverty,” says Reza Hashmi, a literature teacher at Tehran High School.

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Tehran’s historic nuclear deal with world powers and rolled back sanctions on Iran, leaving an oil-dependent economy already plagued by inefficiencies. The pandemic has exacerbated the economic gloom. Nearly one million Iranians have lost their jobs, and unemployment has exceeded 10% – a rate that is nearly double that among youth.

Capital flight has reached $30 billion, chasing foreign investors.

Negotiations to revive the nuclear deal stalled in the five months since radical President Ibrahim Raisi took office, allowing Tehran to advance its nuclear program. On Wednesday, the European Union announced that talks between world powers and Iran to revive the deal would resume in Vienna on November 29. The announcement raised modest hopes that the Biden administration could renegotiate the deal.

“It is impossible to hide people’s dissatisfaction with the economy,” said Mohammad Qasim Usmani, an official with the government watchdog Audit Organization Services. “The structure of the country is faulty and ill-advised. We need an economic revolution.”

Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost less than 50% of its value since 2018. Wages have not risen to make up for the loss, and the labor ministry reported that more than a third of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The head of the parliamentary budget committee, MP Hamid Raza Hajbabai, said in a televised debate last week, “Nearly 40 million people in the country need immediate and immediate help – referring to almost half the population.

Deepening poverty goes beyond mere numbers, becomes a visible part of daily life. On the streets of Tehran, more and more people are seen searching for something salable in the rubbish. Children sell trinkets and tissues. Panhandlers beg for change at most intersections – a rare sight a decade ago.

Petty thefts have increased, testing an already strict justice system. Last week, a Tehran court sentenced a 45-year-old father to three to 10 months in prison and 40 lashes for pocketing some peanut packets.

Tehran’s chief police detective, General Ali Reza Lotfi, blamed the economy for the rise in crime, noting that last year more than half of all detainees were first-time offenders.

It has fallen on Raisi to handle the economic pressures. He reiterates the campaign promise of creating 10 lakh jobs through construction and tourism projects.

But many low-wage workers bearing the brunt of Iran’s crisis have no hope.

Last month, in another case that attracted massive attention, a 32-year-old teacher hanged himself in the southern city of Gurash after a bank facing debt refused a request for a $200 loan.


Associated Press writer Isabel Debre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.


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