Iranian Demonstrations Spread to Oil Workers

Iranian Demonstrations Spread to Oil Workers

by Barkey Rosser

 The death of a Kuidish-Iranian woman not wearing a hijab to cover her hair has led to weeks of demonstrations led by mostly young women especially in the Kurdish parts of Iran.  However, they have gained the support of young men as well, despite a severe crackdown by the authorities that has now killed over 100 of the protestors. 

The latest development that marks this becoming a more serious threat to the regime is that apparently the demonstrations have spread to at least some oil workers.  The oil industry is concentrated in the Khuzestan part of Iran on the Gulf, with a substantial number of the workers ethnically Arabs and Sunni Muslims in contrast to the majority Shia population, which both Persians and Azeris largely are, the two most populous ethnic groups in the nation, who together constitute over 90%. The Kurds are apparently mixed, some Sunni and some Shia.

Traditionally prior to the Islamic revolution, most oil workers belonged to the Communist Tudeh Party. They participated in the anti-Shah movement that led to the Islamic revolution. But in its aftermath, they were suppressed as was their party.  This has left them somewhat alienated.  Obviously given the importance of the oil industry to the Iranian economy, this appearance of them supporting the women demonstrators raises the ante.

In any case, the US should still negotiate a revival of the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, which would allow an increase in oil production and exports from Iran.  A deal has seemed very close for some time. But somehow when it looks to be almost ready to be agreed to, one side of the other comes up with some demand that looks unacceptable to the other. But maybe this can be overcome.

Barkley Rosser