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What the Saravan protests says about the social conditions in Iran

Protests in Saravan, Sistan and Baluchestan province, after the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) killed fuel porters at a nearby border crossing
Protests in Saravan, Sistan and Baluchestan province, after the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) killed fuel porters at a nearby border crossing

Analyzing by PMOI/MEK

Iran, February 24, 2021—Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province has been in turmoil since Monday, after the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) resorted to repressive measures against a group of impoverished fuel porters near the city of Saravan. IRGC forces dug large ditches to prevent the fuel porters from crossing the border. When the porters, whose only means of living is selling small amounts of fuel across the border, protested to this measure, the IRGC forces opened fire on them and killed many of them.

This chain of events triggered bigger protests in Saravan on Tuesday. The people of the city closed their shops and held demonstrations, protesting the killing of their fellow citizens. Despite the heavy presence of IRGC and other security forces, the people continued their demonstrations and surrounded the governorate building. The IRGC opened fire on the demonstrators again, and according to reports obtained by the Iranian resistance, at least 40 civilians have been killed and 100 others have been wounded by security forces. The staff at the Razi hospital in Saravan are reporting a severe shortage of blood. The regime is preventing the injured from receiving medical support. The regime has also blocked internet access in the region to prevent reports of the protests and the crimes of its security forces from being sent across Iran and the world.

But despite the regime’s repressive pushback, the people held their ground and defended themselves with bare hands. In reaction to the regime’s brutality, the demonstrators overturned police vehicles, blocked the roads that led to an IRGC base in Saravan, and occupied the governorate building. Clashes between the people and security forces continued late into the night.

The protests also propagated to other counties in the Sistan and Baluchestan province, where the people are constantly under the pressure of the regime’s repressive measures. At Bam Posht, a border village, the people surrounded an IRGC outpost in protest to the regime’s brutality. The IRGC tried to disperse the protesters by opening fire, to no avail. The protesters pushed back with bare hands and broke the windows of the IRGC base with rocks.

Corruption and thievery at the highest levels

The regime claims that, by shooting and killing the fuel porters of Sistan and Baluchestan, it is clamping down on the smuggling of fuel. For the impoverished people of the province, transferring small amounts of fuel across the border and selling it to customers has become the only means of earning their keep and supporting their families. The reason they live this way is more than four decades of regime corruption and discrimination against the Baluch minority.

But while the regime accuses the fuel porters of smuggling fuel, its own officials and leaders are deeply engaged in smuggling fuel at scales that dwarf what is crossing the Sistan and Baluchestan border. According to Ehsan Hooshmand, a regime analyst, “In the smuggling operations of mafia gangs, 100 trucks cross the border with official warrants.” According to Hooshmand, the regime’s own smuggling gangs smuggle 10-15 million liters of fuel every day, the value of which is so great that “if 50 percent of it is curtailed, it would give the county’s economy a yearly $6 billion boost.

And security forces open fire on the impoverished and deprived people of Sistan and Baluchestan while even the regime’s own MPs accuse the government of “remaining silent in face of the fuel mafia.”

Sistan and Baluchestan is just one example. Corruption, repression, and the economic gap has reached the point that, according to the regime’s own officials, 96 percent of the people are living in utter hunger and under the poverty line while the ruling four percent are enjoying billions of dollars in wealth and are living luxurious lives.

As Shahriar Mandanipour, a regime-linked political analyst, warned in December, “[Government-led] rent-seeking activities; unbridled inflation; the lavish lifestyle of the children of officials; corruption and embezzlement; the gradual dissipation of the middle class; poverty and the deep gap between the poor and the wealthy; and the existence of stunning palaces next to slums; all of these have brought the tolerance of the impoverished citizens to its lowest level.”

The explosive state of the society

The brave uprising of the people of Saravan is taking place while the regime’s newspapers are warning about the explosive state of Iran’s society. On its Tuesday edition, Etemad daily warned, “The society will always stand up against tyranny” and added that repression will no longer stop the fed-up and explosive society of Iran. This state-run publication futilely suggested that the people must be informed that “they won’t reach prosperity, justice, and dignity through another revolution and rebellion.”

But the people of Saravan showed that they know that the only way they can achieve freedom is in fact by standing up against this repressive regime.

The Saravan uprising is not an isolated event. It is the manifestation of the state of Iran’s society, which is fed up from 42 years of tyranny and corruption.