For many average Iranians, the choice of presidential candidates means voting for one of several rotten apples. Each of the candidates has their own record of various human rights abuses and at least one was active in a massacre of thousands of Iranians in 1988.
President Rouhani, whose presidency has been marked by executions and human rights violations, claims that foreign investment will continue to improve the Iranian economy. Yet, due to many of the U.S. sanctions still in place, companies are wary about risking their relationship with the U.S. to tap the Iranian marketplace, despite the fact that it is the second largest population in the Middle East.
While the economy seemed to be the primary focus of this debate, what wasn’t brought up is how much of the Iranian wealth is being siphoned off to pay for Iran’s military efforts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. They also support Hezbollah in Lebanon, while training teams to capitalize on the instability in other countries, such as Bahrain. Money that would be better spent caring for the Iranian people is instead being used to fuel a power grab by the Iranian mullahs across the region.
Iran’s export of fundamentalism and terrorism have continued unabated, while the critical needs of the Iranian people are ignored. Poverty continues to grow as unemployment remains high at 12%, according to official sources in Iran. Young people find themselves in the position of being educated, but unable to find work.
Families are struggling as businesses and factories are being shut down with no warning. The environmental issues that have been ignored are now leading to larger issues throughout the region, as Iran faces severe dust storms, water shortages, and decreasing farm land. Flooding continues to be a concern, because there is no concentrated effort to mitigate the environmental issues contributing to severe flooding.
In the end, Iran’s people continue to suffer from the rule of a regime that is focused on consolidating power and financial control at their expense. For many of the poorest Iranians, they are living on a monthly stipend that equals less than $15 a month. The growing discord within the country cannot be contained forever. Despite the regime’s attempts to turn the country’s attention to outside issues, the impact of domestic issues has become too great to ignore.
But true solutions were not presented at the debate. Instead, it was more infighting and squabbling. No matter how tight the regime squeezes, including controls on social media and even basic internet access, the people of Iran are finding more ways to get their voices heard by the international community. It is time to acknowledge that the Iranian people deserve better than this fundamentalism and oppression, and instead, should receive support as they strive for a true democracy with real elections, not the sham ones that allow Khamenei to pit various members of his government against each other.