Iran: Student Day Protests Highlight Rouhani’s Broken Promises

 

Meanwhile, other activist groups have been even more bold in their defiance of ongoing attempts to suppress demonstrations and dissent. Al Monitor reported on Monday that student protesters interrupted a speech by President Hassan Rouhani on the occasion of Iran’s Student Day, which marks the anniversary of the killing of three students by the government of the Shah in 1953.

The protesters at this year’s Student Day chanted “Independence, freedom, republic of Iran” in an expression of opposition to the Iranian regime. They also called attention to general disappointment with Rouhani’s failure to live up to promises of moderation on this and other issues. Rouhani reportedly attempted to spin the interruptions in his favor, but many of Rouhani’s actions, including his decision not to give his Student Day speech at the especially politically active Tehran University, point to his desire to keep genuine voices of moderation at arm’s length.

Indeed, there are much more important measures than this mere choice of venue. During the course of Rouhani’s time in office, the rate of executions in the country has increased. This is a telling statistic in a country that had already secured its status as the nation with the most executions per capita in the world. Some of these executions are likely indicative of political repression, while some are a result of the Islamic Republic’s extreme, religious-grounded laws, which include the practice of carrying out the death sentence for many non-violent perpetrators of drug offenses.

Fox News reported on Monday that methamphetamine abuse has increased precipitously throughout Iran, partly in response to domestic development and the emergence of faster paced lifestyles. Drug use is reportedly the second leading cause of death in the Islamic Republic after traffic accidents. And the figure certainly increases dramatically if one counts drug crime executions as drug-related deaths.

President Rouhani has simply never signaled moderation on issues like this. But even in instances where his public sentiments seem to challenge the conservative status quo, the president has been roundly criticized for failing to deliver on those sound bites. The regime’s harshest critics maintain that such public statements are only window dressing, hiding fundamental consensus among all persons who remained in politics following the crackdown on the 2009 uprising.

This perception is arguably supported by Rouhani’s comments about corruption in Iranian government on Monday. Business Recorder notes that Transparency International ranks Iran 136th out of 175 countries, meaning it is among the most corrupt in the world. This is a problem that seems to be acknowledged by Rouhani, who blamed the economic influence of monopolies for an increase in corruption. But Rouhani pointedly phrased his criticism in terms of defending against the danger that that corruption poses to “the system and fundamentals of the revolution.”

The National adds that the latest Iranian budget seems to demonstrate that Rouhani is more committed to maintaining the power of the clerical government than he is to improving the lot of ordinary Iranians. That budget is based on decreased revenue in light of the recent 40 percent drop in global oil prices. This promises to contribute to the negative economic effects of international sanctions and general mismanagement, which have helped to cause a 5.8 percent loss of GDP last year and a 50 percent reduction in the value of the rial since June 2012, according to UPI.

In spite of all this, the new budget increases military spending by 33.5 percent – a move that The National interprets as Iran “preparing for more fractious relations in the future,” either because of the failure of nuclear negotiations or to retain its hold on regional power and influence.