Reporting by PMOI/MEK
Iran, May 16, 2021—Sunday marked another round of protests by retirees and pensioners of the Social Security Organization, who took to the streets and held protest rallies in spite of a growing wave of repressive measures by the Iranian regime. The protest rallies, which are the latest in a series of events coordinated and organized on social media, took place in front of the offices of the Social Security Organizations in several cities, including Tehran, Karaj, Kermanshah, Khorram Abad, and Mashhad.
“We will not rest until we get our rights,” the protesters chanted, reflecting their frustration at a government that continued to fail to uphold its promises to address the problems of many communities that have been struggling with economic problems over the past years.
Protest rally in Kermanshah
In the past months, retirees have been regularly organizing protests in various cities. But regime officials refuse to answer the pensioners’ demands. The protesters complain that their meager pensions are not nearly enough to cover their most basic expenses and are often delayed for several months. Sunday protests by pensioners have become a regular scene across Iran as the living conditions of this deprived segment of the society continue to become worse.
A significant change in the protests is the political nature of the demands. Previous rallies focused on high inflation rates and prices and low pensions. But since the beginning of April, the slogans of the rallies are becoming political with protesters calling for a boycott of the elections.
“We’ve heard so many lies that we won’t vote anymore,” the protesters chanted on Sunday. This slogan is significant since the Iranian regime’s presidential elections, scheduled for June, are fast closing in. Like many other communities in Iran, the pensioners have come to realize that the regime’s political lineup will bring no change to their lives, and as long as the mullahs are in power, poverty, overdue wages, and skyrocketing prices will be the staples of their lives.
In the past months, pensioners have grown into a nationwide movement that continues to spread to more and more cities. The number of people participating in such rallies are increasing with each passing week of these pre-announced gatherings.
May 16 - #Iran— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) May 16, 2021
Pensioners seen rallying in Tehran and Kermanshah demanding higher pensions as inflation continues to rise. Price of bread and other daily necessities are skyrocketing in Iran.#IranProtests pic.twitter.com/dRlI80gE2Q
The decline in Iran’s economy, spurred by government corruption and destructive policies, has plunged the lives of many pensioners and retired government workers into utter poverty. The rial, Iran’s national currency, has seen a huge dip in the past few years, losing more than 80 percent of its value. This has caused a spike in the prices of basic goods. Meanwhile, pensions and salaries have not been adjusted to this fundamental shift in the economical dynamics of the society. Under the current rates, most pensioners live under the poverty line.
This is against the government’s own policies to adjust pensions based on changes in inflation rates. According to a 2020 census, there are 18 million pensioners in Iran. These are part of Iran’s impoverished masses, who account for 96 percent of the population and live under the poverty line. According to the regime’s own statistics, more than 75 percent of pensioners are struggling to procure their needs.
Pensioners receive on average 25 million rials per month while the poverty line in some parts of Iran has reached 100 million rials in the past year. Along with pensioners, workers are also suffering from the regime’s destructive policies and its refusal to increase the minimum wage based on inflation and price rises. More recently, the Iranian regime is moving toward further depriving workers and pensioners from their most basic rights. According to a May 13 report by the state-run ILNA, the Majlis (parliament) is entertaining a legislation to setting pensions based on the average of the last 20 years of workers’ income. Currently, pensions are supposed to be paid out based on salaries from the last two years of a worker’s professional career. Given the growing inflation and depreciation of the national currency, the 20-year average salary will not be enough to provide the most basic needs of workers once they go into retirement.
May 16 - Khorramabad, western #Iran— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) May 16, 2021
Pensioners protesting harsh economic conditions and demanding higher pensions.
Pensioners are taking to the streets in dozens of cities across the country every Sunday.#IranProtestspic.twitter.com/K7mUSfKmvX
And the regime’s continued negligence to the declining state of the livelihood conditions of retirees and pensioners is why they continue to come to the streets and hold protest rallies. Meanwhile, the regime is faced with a deadlock regarding protests by pensioners and other communities in Iran. On the one hand, the regime knows that if it continues to remain silent on the pensioners’ protests, they will expand to other parts of Iran’s largely dissatisfied society. But on the other, the regime knows that cracking down on protests can have a reverse effect and further enrage the already outraged society. The regime has tried to curb the protests through half-measures such as hollow promises and threats.
However, unfazed by the regime’s threats and knowing that they will not get their rights in any other way, the retirees and pensioners have proven to be steadfast in their protests.
And they are using social media networks and online platforms to organize their rallies and spread the word about their protests. The regime is extremely terrified of the organized nature of these and other protest movements. Senior regime officials, including the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, have called for a clampdown on social media networks to prevent the spread of protests. But continued protests prove the futility of their measures.