by Hassan Mahmoudi
Once called the most beautiful capital city of the Middle East, Beirut self-sacrificed in a huge explosion that exposed the hidden face of the evil Iranian regime and its proxies inside Lebanon. Going forward, the Iranian regime will lose its strategic defense embankments at an accelerated rate. The August 4th explosion had regional aftershocks and its first fragments landed in Iran. Protests and strikes in Iran are erupting from a rift that is likely stronger than the Beirut blast and is sweeping across the country. The nationwide protest by workers in Iran’s oil, gas, petrochemical and power plants is like the ammonium nitrate left over from 41 years of the reign of the Islamic Republic in Iran, being ignited.
Fearing the consequences of these strikes, contractors and site officials are trying to get the workers to return to their jobs by making promises, but so far, they have not been successful.
The strikes were initially started by North Azadegan oil field workers. They went on strike to protest the low wages given to them by Iran Ofogh company.
The voices of the workers on strike from the North Azadegan oil fields were quickly heard by other workers in the industry. Since Saturday, August 1st, workers at the Qeshm heavy oil refineries, Abadan refinery, Parsian refinery, and Lamerd petrochemical have all gone on strike to protest the non-payment of wages and benefits that were once promised to them. Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemical strikes that are taking place now are reminiscent of the nationwide strikes by Iranian oil workers near the end of Shah’s rule in 1979, which brought the government to its knees.
Any regime with this degree of political and economic stalemate thinks about maintaining their assets at all costs. For the Iranian regime, the biggest assets outside its borders are its proxy forces. Inside Iran, it is the repressive apparatus that it uses to maintain its system, but this apparatus is extremely fragile and ineffective.
The owners of contracting oil companies are mostly IRGC retirees. They have always been in line with the Iranian regime’s goals of looting oil and violating workers’ rights in the oil and gas sector.
A video has emerged on social media showing a worker protesting the manner in which workers are treated. It has attracted attention on many online platforms. In it, he says, “A worker who is hungry will return to the streets no matter how much he is flogged.”
On June 11th, 2020 Omran Roshani Moghadam, an employee in the oil industry, hanged himself in the yard of an oil well in the Hoveyzeh oil field in western Khuzestan after failing to receive his wages.
The news of his death was met with numerous reactions from workers on social media. Many saying “How is it that we are sitting on an ocean of oil and gas, but one of us under pressure and hungry has to hang himself.”
The Khabar online news site reported on February 12th, 2019: “Iran has sold about $1337 billion in oil over the past 40 years, about half of which was realized in a single government era (Ahmadinejad’s 2 terms).
To save his system, Khamenei has repeatedly put his hand in the pockets of the Iranian people by raising the price of bread, electricity, gasoline, and diesel in order to cover his own expenses. At the same time as he resorts to selling Iran to foreign parties though unpatriotic agreements that don’t benefit the Iranian people.
Among the solutions that Khamenei has is to wait until the American Presidential election, hoping that the policy of giving concessions to his regime would be revived if Joe Biden defeats President Trump. So it does its best not to ignite riots and uprisings by suppressing them and focuses all its efforts to keep the society frozen until the end of the US election.
However, the workers resisted and did not budge. They raised their voices in protest and thwarted Khamenei’s entire plan.
The international community has also came out in support of the protesting workers throughout Iran.
The Industrial Global Union, representing 50 million workers and employees, expressed its solidarity with the striking Iranian workers and called for the continuation of these strikes and protests.
The Confederation of Australian Trade Unions also issued a statement expressing its support for the striking Iranian workers and called for an end to the dismissal of workers, the immediate payment of their deserved salaries, and the unconditional release of imprisoned workers.
The continuous and extreme erosion of the economic, social, and political foundations of the Mullahs’ regime has caused the conditions in Iran to be so dire that other levers such as Joe Biden, even if elected, cannot save the regime from its vortex of misery.
Hassan Mahmoudi is a Europe-based social analyst, researcher, independent observer, and commentator of Middle Eastern and Iranian Politics. He tweets under @hassan_mahmou1.