Iran fires minister as sanctions start to bite
Arab News: Iran’s labor minister was fired on Wednesday as the fall-out grew over the country’s economic meltdown in the face of new US sanctions.
Ali Rabiei, a close political ally of President Hassan Rouhani, lost a parliamentary motion calling for his removal from office by 129 votes to 111.
The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment, a plunging rial that has lost half its value since April, and a series of nationwide protests against government corruption, economic mismanagement and the squandering of national resources on military intervention in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
Analysts doubt whether Rouhani can respond effectively, given his failure to address long-standing economic problems. “The economic section of Rouhani’s team is the weakest part of the government. Everyone knows this, but he never changed his direction because they are his allies,” said Mohammed Reza Behzadian, a former head of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce.
Protests began last December, spreading to more than 80 cities and towns and resulting in 25 deaths. Sporadic demonstrations led by truck drivers, farmers and merchants in Tehran’s bazaar have continued regularly since then and have resulted in violent confrontations with security forces.
They have intensified in the past week, with a fresh wave of demonstrations in cities including Isfahan, Karaj, Rasht and Tehran, resulting in what Amnesty International described as a “wave of mass arrests.”
Amnesty called on Tehran on Wednesday to release peaceful protesters and to conduct a “prompt, impartial and independent” investigation into the killing of a protester in Karaj, northwest of Tehran, on Aug. 3.
“Amnesty International is also urging the authorities to protect all detainees from torture and other ill-treatment and to reveal the fate and whereabouts of dozens of detainees whose families have not heard from them since their arrests,” the rights group said.