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What Iranians seek under sanction and suppression

In the middle of December last year, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warned of the expectation of mass protests and responded by dispatching special patrols of Basij forces in order to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation across the country to prevent any expression of popular dissent.

But popular protests erupted later that month and turned rapidly into a nationwide uprising that tore down the wall of oppression. The Iranian President said recently that he believes these protests encouraged the US President to pull his country out of the nuclear deal.

Many Iranians interviewed inside the country said what they believe and have shown are completely different with what some newspapers in the west such as the Guardian and New York Times print regarding the domestic situation and public opinion over the causes and effects of the severe sanctions.

“The ruling regime has security forces here and apologists in abroad”, says Zohreh, a blogger who previously worked for some reformist newspapers in Tehran. Her last name is not provided because of security reason.

She believes the western media do not reflect the reality on the ground in Iran. “While Iranians are protesting and daily executions are a part of our life, a golden opportunity like Khashoggi crisis helps the apologists to deflect mounting criticism over regime’s domestic oppression and spending Iran's wealth to support terrorists across the Middle East”.

Her comments refer to the Guardian’s Iran correspondent Saeed Kamali Dehghan who claimed in a tweet that Saudi journalist was killed because of speaking to him on the phone. However, Mr Kamali deleted his tweet hours later.

Holding theocracy to account

As President Trump has shifted the US Iran policy to hold the theocracy to account for its behavior by imposing tough sanctions, the Channel 4 in the UK and Al Jazeera echo president Rouhani’s words claiming that Trump’s goal is regime change by supporting the opposition and that all imposed sanctions are in this regard.

In contrast, Iran’s society shows something different during the recent years. “It doesn’t matter who takes office in the White House or Élysée Palace but what is evident is people want to get rid of this regime”. However, Zohreh acknowledges that policy of appeasement provides the regime with opportunity to prolong its grip on power.

When asked about his situation before and after the sanctions were imposed, Reza, a 67 homeless man living in the east of Isfahan province, said, “Because of my mother’s illness, I sold my lands and even a kidney to cope the cost of medical operations, but it wasn't enough and she passed away”.

He has been homeless since 2016 when Rouhani and his European counterparts claimed sanction relief would improve the living standards in Iran. “Sanctions do not matter. We have been poor, our water, gold, oil and etc are stolen, this country is riddled with corruption”.

Reza, who worked as a farmer, says he has nothing to lose and always participate in protests. “The authorities are responsible for our difficulties, not the foreigners.”

Last Friday, the First Deputy Speaker of Iran’s Parliament Masoud Pezeshkian admitted that the regime is responsible for the social problems. “What have we done that people hate us”, he asked his colleagues during a ceremony held by Parliament.

Amid all suppressions, Iranian workers joined the protests of the poor class citizens across the country. Workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry in Khuzestan Province in the southwest of Iran have been protesting for four weeks for their unpaid salary.

In a video clip on social media, a protester said: “Would the kids of authorities tolerate two days without food, no clothes? Let’s emphasize, two days without their luxury cars?”

Fouad, an unemployed young Iranian Arab, says that the human rights situation has been deteriorating. “More executions, more arbitrary arrested of people”.

Human rights organizations reported last month that the regime had secretly executed 22 Iranian Arabs for their political beliefs. He says the Arab minorities are viewed as second-class citizens. “When the world doesn’t care about you, executed friends are buried in secret graves, remaining silent is not an option”.