iran protest 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Amid Wednesday's street protests marking the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the US embassy in Teheran by radical students, Iranians are voicing angry criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the regime for exacerbating economic hardships in the country.
In telephone interviews from Teheran, several citizens accused the government of placing ever-heavier economic burdens on what one interviewee called "the shoulders of the hardworking masses."
"We have all suffered a great deal," said one Teherani who, like all those interviewed, insisted on anonymity. "Not only are we deprived politically" - a reference to the contested June presidential election results - "but now we are barely putting food on the table."
Watch Iranian Basij forces hit protestors
Two interviewees spoke of cases of workers' wages being withheld for months, new complications over the distribution of monthly pensions, soaring food prices and other financial hardships which, they said, were alienating even many low-income families who had hitherto supported Ahmadinejad.
"Not only is there unemployment, but if you do have a job you are not getting paid," said one woman. "My husband is an engineer and constructs public buildings - libraries and government offices. He has not received any money in six months. No matter how many times we call, the government does not respond. He is giving up on getting compensated, because it is not too wise to push the government."
Another interviewee added, "My mother is an old woman and, since her husband died six years ago, she has relied on his pension - delivered to her door every month. But now the government has implemented a complex process to get the money. They have made it so difficult for usâ€¦. We must get papers signed, letters stamped, and visit various offices for personal verification. And even then we cannot get all of the money."
"Food has become very expensive," said another resident of the capital. "And now supermarkets are selling rotten fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy produce for a cheaper price. But some people can't even afford that... If the government doesn't do something soon, it won't just be facing angry protesters, but the entire nation."
Aware of the disquiet, state-run Iranian news networks have been reporting that revenues from a planned gradual reduction in subsidies over the next five years - on food items such as wheat, rice, oil, milk and sugar as well as on postal and transportation services - will be reallocated to low-income families.
The writer is affiliated with Newscore (Fox News/New Corporation branch)