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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Deteriorating Economy and Future Uncertainty Exasperate Young Iranians


7Dnews London

Tue, 21 May 2019 07:47 GMT

A state of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty reigns over Iranians. They see their economy deteriorating day by day and there is no light at the end of the dark tunnel because of the ruling regime’s policies.

Across Iran's capital, the talk always seems to come back to how things may get worse. Battered by US sanctions and its depreciating rial currency, Iran's 80 million people struggle to buy meat, medicine and other staples of daily life, according to a report by AP. 

Now they wonder aloud about America's intentions as it rushes an aircraft carrier and other forces to the region over a threat it perceives from Iran. 

A variety of people on Tehran's streets, ranging from young and old, those in traditional dress and others in modern garb, expressed to AP that they are worried about the future but still believe a war will not come to the region.  

Most say they think Iran should try to talk to the US to help its anaemic economy, even as they see President Donald Trump as an erratic and untrustworthy adversary. 

"Trump is not predictable at all and one doesn't know how to react to him and what is the right thing to do against him," said Afra Hamedzadeh, a 20-year-old civil servant and university student. "Since he controls the global economy we are somehow left with few options." 

But opinions vary across Iran's capital, Tehran, depending on whether you speak to someone coming out of Friday prayers, in the back of a shared taxi cab, or exiting the coffee shops popular with young people. 

A young nation, many people you talk to across Iran were alive for its bloody 1980s 8-year war with Iraq; a conflict that began when dictator Saddam Hussein invaded, resulting in the death of 1 million Iranians.

Since Trump withdrew the US from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, last year, state television increasingly has focused attention on that war's wounded. 

In Tehran's southern Javadieh neighbourhood, veteran Mohammad Ali Moghaddam said he was ready to fight again. "I would encourage my three sons and grandsons to go to defend Iran too," said Moghaddam, a 58-year-old welder. 

Arezou Mirzaei, a 37-year-old mother of two in central Tehran, is more worried.

"I think the government should do something to avoid war," Mirzaei said. "If war was good, then Afghanistan and Iraq would not be in the mess that we see on TV."

Taxi driver, Jafar Hadavand, 34, agrees, by saying, "I think both sides will be losers if they fight each other". Hadavand added, "I think there are wise people on both sides to advocate peace, not war."

Still, many pointed to the economy, not the possible outbreak of war, as Iran's major concern. Iran's rial currency traded at 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal. Now it is at 148,000, and many have seen their life's savings wiped out.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 12%. For the youth of the country it is worse, with a quarter of all young people unemployed, according to Iran's statistic centre.

"The economic situation is very bad, very bad. Unemployment is very high, and those who had jobs have lost theirs," said Sadeghi, a housewife. "Young people can't find good jobs, or get married, or become independent."

Sores Maleki, a 62-year-old retired accountant, said talks with the US to loosen sanctions would help jumpstart Iran's economy.

"We should go and talk to America with courage and strength. We are able to do that, others have done it," Maleki said. "We can make concessions and win concessions. We have no other choice." 

It is not only the US sanctions that have hit the Iranian economy, but also the polices of the regime since the Iraq-Iran war. These have enabled the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to control the country’s resources.  

According to a report published by Rand Corporation, the IRGC controls everything in Iran from laser eye surgery and construction to automobile manufacturing and real estate. The IRGC has extended its influence into virtually every sector of the Iranian market. Perhaps more than any other area of its domestic involvement, its business activities represent the multidimensional nature of the institution. 

The report, entitled “Economic Expansion: The IRGC’s Business Conglomerate and Public Works”, explains how the IRGC controls Iran’s shadow economy; the illicit smuggling networks, kickbacks, no-bid contracts, and the accumulation of wealth by its senior officials that remains largely unseen by the Iranian population. 

The report also said this dominance provokes dissent but it remains unseen because of backlash fears.

Yet for Iran's youth, many of whom celebrated the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal in the streets, the situation now feels more akin to a funeral. Many openly discuss their options to obtain a visa - any visa - to get abroad. 

"Young people have a lot of stress and the future is unknown," said Hamedzadeh, a 20-year-old civil servant. "The future is so unknown that you can't plan. The only thing you can do is to somehow leave Iran and build a life abroad." 

Middle East