| 5 March 2024, Tuesday |

Khamenei Acknowledges ‘Labor Protests,’ Warns Against ‘Enemy Plots’

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Monday that the labor protests were “rightful,” but warned against “enemy plots”, after authorities arrested several teachers and workers last week amid public discontent over the worsening living crisis.

Khamenei expressed his support for the government, saying that it had “important plans” in economic matters, and he called on Iranians, and all state agencies, to help the hardline conservative Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.

Raisi’s government has come under sharp criticism, even from its conservative allies.

Khamenei praised the workers’ stand in the face of the “enemy’s plots”. He said that some of the workers’ protests, such as their demonstration against the privatization of some companies, “were rightful.”

“Workers stood at the forefront of the fight against the enemies’ plots to disrupt the country’s production and did not allow conspiracies to materialize. Workers played the pivotal role in this regard,” Khamenei said.

The supreme leader also stressed that laborers have aborted the attempts to exploit their demands as a sign of popular protests and have definitively proven their allegiance to the establishment.

Khamenei described the workers as a “pillar” of society and stressed the need for “increasing employment opportunities,” “promoting fair regulation of labor and capital relations,” and “ensuring job security.”

Khamenei’s support for the government’s plans came in the wake of unprecedented criticism by Iranian Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf against his main ally, Raisi.

Ghalibaf slammed the Raisi administration for hiking the prices of flour and pasta, accusing the government of ignoring the parliament’s legislation and stoking Iranians’ fears. At the same time, Ghalibaf vowed to “restore calm to the lives of Iranians.”

For his part, Raisi vowed to restore calm to the markets and the living situation of Iranians by providing e-coupons to provide food commodities. Even though he offered a solution, Raisi still considered the price increase “unjustified.”

The government decided to scrap the subsidies on imported wheat, flour, and other essential items which drove the prices up.

In a televised interview last Saturday, First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber affirmed that the government will allot a subsidy for conventional bread which will likely be paid by way of digital coupons.

Early in May, Iran witnessed demonstrations organized by teachers and workers across the country on the occasion of “International Workers Day.” Security forces intervened to break up these gatherings and arrested several teachers and workers.

The Coordinating Authority for Teachers’ Unions said that the fate of 11 teachers remains unknown since their arrest last Sunday. In a statement issued on Sunday, the group gave authorities five days to release detained teachers.

Police forces remained on alert in several Iranian cities in anticipation of public unrest resulting from popular dissatisfaction with the wave of high prices that the country is witnessing.

Well-informed Iranian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat last week that the authorities expect severe protests to erupt within the next three months.

The former head of the Central Bank, Abdolnaser Hemmati, issued a short video saying that the Raisi administration can be called “The sultan of printing money.”

Raisi has been claiming that he stopped his predecessor’s practice of generating money for the government by printing more banknotes, but Hemmati said that according to new central bank data the government printed close to $6 billion in additional money from August to March, which fuels inflation.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat