Iran oppressed becomes oppressor
“My husband was beaten, robbed and left naked”, “Whether in daylight or under the cover of darkness at night, you are not safe from robbers and thieves”, “We have to be careful and leave our possessions, money, watch, mobile phone at home”, “My wife has a minder now, the second aggression was too much for her”, “My son would not leave his room. He was left naked in a deserted spot on the roadside with a badly smashed face and broken ribs.”
Until last year, emails and tales complaining about general insecurity only trickled out of Iran. Lately their numbers have soared. Personal experiences are often clearly stated in received emails; other times one must read between the lines. Iranian media reflect the Islamic Republic’s view and insecurity is an ugly subject better left ignored. Those from the Iranian diaspora who spend some time in Iran occasionally are no better than the Islamic Republic in covering up facts and, in their eagerness, seeing things through rose-tinted glasses.
In Iran, the population suffers from two distinct forms of violence. One is the brutalities of a dictatorship and its string of human rights violations. This is documented. The second – let’s call it common violence – is the aggressions/crimes among citizens that each government is supposed to prevent and punish. Common violence is motivated by hate, jealousy, greed and often despair; some of these are to be found in the nature of the Islamic Republic as well. As expected, there is overlapping between these two, where the Islamic Republic uses common violence charges to eliminate its opponents as ordinary robbers, murderers and such like; and the entourage of a common criminal, someone that would be anyhow condemned in any court of justice in any country, e.g. an embezzler, will present him as a victim of political opinion, to buy him some respect in his neighborhood.
Once Tehran prided itself on a remarkable conviviality, general security and an easy-going complicity among its dwellers. In provinces friendliness was a way of life and the nearby area to one’s home was an extended grounds to his family’s activities.
Things started to change, or rather aggressions and criminality became noticed, in the 1990s once the wounds from the Iran-Iraq war faded in the excitement for a new social life. Between rumours and facts, and by a general consensus, in the minds of many Iranians, most common criminal acts were attributed to migrants, often Afghans. Iranians can be as xenophobic as any other nation in the world, and the Islamic Republic has rarely missed an opportunity to exploit this weakness.
Opium addiction has been a known concern in many families; for a long time, opium, and later heroin, have been used by those who could afford them, mostly in upper-class families. Today, the galloping rise of drug addiction is a curse. A large variety of products are cheaply and easily available; syringes, burned aluminum foils and sleeping addicts in streets’ crannies and under bridges are part of urban sceneries. The number of care centres for addicts has soared. No particular social class escapes misery and death from overdose. Death in families who can afford the price is recorded and presented to associates as a fatal “natural” illness: heart attacks, lung failure, etc. Others are anonymously buried and no tears are shed. Who or what is to blame? Depending on one’s political sympathies, drug dealers are one’s opponents. The Islamic Republic officially condemns those not in line with its dogmas as traffickers and dealers. The general public is in favour of accusing the ayatollah’s cronies of being pushers and organizers of the illegal drugs market as another means of oppressing people. These are black and white arguments in which grey nuances are forgotten.
Car thefts and house burglaries are nowadays constant worries to their owners. Flats are protected by an additional iron-made double door; to get through, one needs at least 4 or 5 keys and to be taught some tricks for “theft prevention”. A car must be “released” for the drive. Double locks on doors, chained steering wheels and blocking mechanisms for pedals need either keys or code numbers. If a routine step is missed, the car honks and an ear-piercing alarm will sound. For the last two years another nuisance has haunted car owners: theft of petrol. Parking lots have all manner of warnings to patrons to be extra careful. This is happening in a country whose wealth is based on oil.
Since 10–12 years ago, conviviality has slowly left many Iranian towns and been replaced by unwarranted impatience and aggression. The rigged Ahmadinejad election in 2009 fuelled it all. Given the smallest opportunity, many Iranians are now little volcanoes ready to erupt with invective and indecent gestures.
To top it all, carjacking and kidnapping are soaring in Tehran and other large towns. In carjacking, the car is bumped into by the robbers’ vehicle. When the driver gets out to check the damage, an accomplice drives his car away while the victim is dragged into the robbers’ vehicle and taken to some deserted place. He is then left naked or only in underpants, often badly beaten and abandoned with bruises and some cracked bones. One may experience the same fate using taxis driven by crooks.
Iran oppressed becomes oppressor
The Iranian economic situation is going from bad to worse. Since 34 years ago, the rial has been losing ground to other currencies. For decades, the Islamic republic subsidized the rial with foreign currencies from oil revenue and Iranians lived with an inflation rate of 25–30%. Today, the international banking system is under serious pressure to cease Iranian oil transactions; the Islamic Republic is in want of foreign currencies and can no longer sustain the rial. Unwisely, the Islamic Republic brags about its nuclear projects and tests homemade missiles, sends monkeys into space and supports the Syrian dictatorship. This megalomaniacal spending requires massive amounts of money and those involved in the process would not accept the rial as payment, thus necessitating the siphoning off of more foreign currencies. On local markets the prices of food and goods rise almost on a daily basis. Despair at being unable to provide for basic needs is a motive for robbery, theft and burglary: a classic case of the oppressed becoming the oppressor.
Stranded and frustrated, citizens slide into deeper hardship and poverty amid mounting bad feelings and vengeful thoughts, fuelling an inner volcano. Meanwhile, the individualist Iranian diaspora goes on endlessly discussing the latest rows between Ahmadinejad and other officials, fuelling it with hearsay, writing articles on the movie Argo, and seeing Iranophobes and conspirators everywhere.
To change it all, we need to face facts. What we need most are subtle, level-headed politicians, ready for concessions and negotiations: a breed yet unknown in Iranian politics. We could do with citizens who are fearless and resolved in their beliefs in democracy and freedom, away from dogmatic views. We need this combination of unlikely elements before it’s too late and the little volcanoes erupt into social unrest, where weapons find their way into the open and are used. If as a nation we got caught in such a situation, we would taste civil war, with squabbling “opposition groups” running up to dozens in number and destroying each other in the process: an unfortunate and well-rehearsed scenario in the Middle-East and Iran’s history. Our failures to put an end to tyranny come also from our internal weakness and division.