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Geopolitics

Protests In Iran Risk Spreading As Ukraine War Triggers Global Food Crisis

After a break in late March, small protests have broken out all over Iran over wages and pensions. A higher cost of living caused by the war in Ukraine may be the final straw for exasperated Iranians.

President Ebrahim Raisi looks at the Iranian flag.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi was elected on August 3, 2021.

In Iran, workers and pensioners have resumed protests over dismal wages and work conditions, after a two-week lull for the Persian new year holidays. Amid dire conditions for many Iranians in an economy that has become perennially dysfunctional, one economist has warned there could be another explosion of public rage against the Islamic Republic within months.

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Iranians have reasons enough to be angry: unemployment, inflation, unpaid or meager wages (when paid) that barely meet bread-and-butter costs, and a regime that persists with a nuclear program that has earned the country little more than sanctions. And now, the regime's sinister ally, Russia, is provoking a spike in food prices after invading Ukraine.


The economist Ibrahim Razzaqi told the Sharq newspaper last week that "unfortunately, everyday society is becoming less tolerant of all its problems," adding that he expected a "popular outburst over critical living conditions" caused by "the wrong policies pursued by governments to this day."

Added to that now is the risk that, like elsewhere, a food crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine could make matters worse.

Rising tensions in Iran


Razzaqi said a "tight" correlation was emerging between harsh economic conditions and criminal activities including, he said, theft, prostitution, fraud and embezzlement, while the government of President Ebrahim Raisi had reached an "economic dead-end."

He cited recent comments by Raisi who had asked 10 million Iranians living under the poverty line to trust his government, and asked, "What if those 10 million people will not trust him nor tolerate these conditions? What will you tell them?"

The Work and Welfare minister, Hojjatollah Abdolmaleki, told ISNA news agency on April 6 that 14 million Iranians did not have "proper jobs" and many did not not earn enough to meet basic costs. Planning was needed, he said, to "build the right culture" for employment.

Protesters in Pardis, Iran.

Protesters gather in Pardis, Iran.

Kayhan London

Economic protests around the country

Oblivious to empty ministerial words, truckers were the first group of discontented workers to stage a two-day nationwide strike on April 3 and 4. On April 4, farmers in the Isfahan province protested outside the judiciary headquarters in the city of Isfahan. They blame the provincial government, including the judiciary, for policies that have dried the Zayanderud river, which flows, or flowed, through the city.

Employees of the Rasht provincial government in northern Iran also gathered outside its offices on April 5 to protest problems including reduced benefits and precarious contracts. The governor was in the building but did not come out.

Pensioners from the telecommunication sector began gathering from April 5 in several cities, including Tehran, Isfahan, Kermanshah and Zanjan. Their complaints include late pension payments. Bojnurd municipal employees closed a city street on April 6 over unpaid wages and work conditions. In Sisakht in south-central Iran, municipal workers have complained they haven't been paid for the 13-month period up to late March 2022.

A group of landowners separately gathered before the country's top administrative court in Tehran on April 6 in protest of being threatened with the expropriation of their plots, reportedly earmarked for the expansion of the Pardis housing estate outside the capital.

In the province of Lorestan, food and feed sector employees protested over precarious contracts, with some clashes reported with senior staff of Kesht o Sanaat Lorestan, the firm's regional brand. The firm is reported to have changed conditions for local workers, against the firm's general norms, and told them to accept them or resign.

Petrochemical sector workers in the district of Ilam were also protesting against unpaid new year bonuses.A lot of small protests are occurring in a short period of time. Even before the new year, the Raisi government had no apparent plans to safeguard wages or purchasing power in an inflationary context. Meanwhile, Iranians were hoping in vain that a nuclear accord with the West would have come through by now to curb pressures on Iran's currency and trade.

Similar to economic protests in other countries like Sri Lanka, Peru and North Africa, will the unforeseen factor of rising food prices due to the war in Ukraine also prove to be the last straw for an exasperated Iranian population?

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dam Attack Adds To Ukraine's Huge Environmental Toll, Already Estimated At $54 Billion

The blowing up of the Nova Kakhovka dam has unleashed massive flooding in southern Ukraine. The damage is sure to be staggering, which will add to the huge toll the government estimated in March that takes into account land, air, and water pollution, burned-down forests, and destroyed natural resources.

Photo of a burnt forest in Kharkiv

Local men dismantle the remains of destroyed Russian military equipment for scrap metal in a burned forest in Kharkiv

Anna Akage

-This article was updated on June 6, 2023 at 2 p.m. local time-

The blowing up of a large Soviet-era dam on the Dnipro river, which has sparked massive flooding, may turn out to be the most environmentally damaging of the Ukraine war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has blamed Russia for the attack on the Nova Kakhovka dam, calling it "ecocide," with the flooding already estimated to affect over 16,000 people in surrounding villages, many of whom have been told to evacuate immediately. So far, eight villages have been flooded completely by water from the dam's reservoirs.

Moscow, meanwhile, says Kyiv is behind the blast in occupied areas of Ukraine. But even before knowing who is to blame, environmental experts note that is just the latest ecological casualty in the 15-month-long conflict.

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In March, for the first time, there was an estimate of the cost of the environmental damage of the war on Ukraine: $54 billion.

Ruslan Strilets, Ukraine’s Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, explained that experts have applied a new methodology based on environmental inspection to tally the cost.

“This includes land, air, and water pollution, burned-down forests, and destroyed natural resources,” he said. “Our main goal is to show these figures to everyone so that they can be seen in Europe and the world so that everyone understands the price of this environmental damage and how to restore it to Ukraine.”

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