Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction
Mayor of Tehran Pirouz Hanachi speaks during an interview with AFP in Tehran. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction
  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”

Massive funeral for slain Palestinian teenager

Members of Israeli security forces deploy amid clashes with Palestinian protesters following a demonstration against the expansion of settlements in the town of Salfit, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on December 4, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 57 sec ago

Massive funeral for slain Palestinian teenager

Massive funeral for slain Palestinian teenager
  • UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Friday he was “appalled by the killing” and also called on Israel to investigate the death of Abu Aliya calling it an “unacceptable incident”

RAMALLAH: Hundreds of Palestinians attended the funeral on Saturday of a teenager killed in clashes with the Israeli army, defying a curfew imposed on the occupied West Bank to stem the coronavirus.
Ali Ayman Nasr Abu Aliya, 13, died on Friday after he was “shot with live rounds in the stomach” during clashes in the village of Mughayir, north of Ramallah, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The boy, whose death drew Palestinian condemnation and was deplored by the UN and the EU, was hit during a protest against the construction of a Jewish settlement.
A funeral cortege joined by hundreds of mourners took the body from a hospital in Ramallah to Mughayir where Abu Aliya was buried.
His body, draped in the Palestinian flag and a traditional keffiyeh headscarf, was carried shoulder high by mourners, who also waved yellow flags of the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas.
The mourners defied a weekend curfew imposed by Palestinian authorities to stem the rise in coronavirus cases to pay their respects.
The West Bank has recorded 71,703 Covid-19 infections, including 678 deaths, since the first cases emerged earlier this year.
The EU delegation to the Palestinians on Saturday denounced the “shocking” killing of Abu Aliya in a tweet.
“This shocking incident must be swiftly and fully investigated by the Israeli authorities in order to bring the perpetrators to justice,” it said.
“How many more Palestinian children will be subject to the excessive use of lethal force by the Israeli security forces?”
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Friday he was “appalled by the killing” and also called on Israel to investigate the death of Abu Aliya calling it an “unacceptable incident.”
The Israeli army denied live rounds were used during Friday’s protest and clashes, but said dozens of protesters had thrown rocks at security forces.
The Palestinian Authority condemned “the cold-blooded murder” describing it as “the latest episode in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry said on Friday it will file legal proceedings against Israel at the International Criminal Court over Abu Alya’s fatal shooting, the Palestinians’ WAFA news agency said.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967. Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, more than 450,000 Israelis live in settlements in the territory, which is home to more than 2.8 million Palestinians.