12/14/2004

The State of Iran

The Economist is the best damn magazine on the planet, and the latest evidence of this is their excellent piece on Iran entitled "Still Failing, Still Defiant". Anyone looking for a concise and informative briefing on the current state of affairs in Iran need look no further. It covers the media...

The sole remaining liberal daily newspaper of any weight, Shargh, feels obliged to censor itself more rigorously than before for fear of being closed down, as so many of its like-minded counterparts have been. The so-called “red lines” that fence off sensitive issues from discussion are being drawn more tightly. Freedom of expression is diminishing again.
Human rights...
Not that mass repression is needed to keep the media, or the Iranian people in general, in line. According to a respected human-rights campaigner, between 2,000 and 4,000 Iranians, including about 30 journalists, are behind bars for political reasons. The reason for the overall figure's vagueness is that many of those incarcerated are in “unofficial” prisons: even their relatives are not told they are there.
Economy and demographics...
In a population of around 70m, one-third are reckoned to be under 14 and two-thirds under 35. Though the economy grew by about 6% last year, it is not expanding fast enough to keep unemployment down. Around 16% are officially jobless, though the real figure may be higher. At about 17%, inflation is rising faster than wages. Though the necessities of life, such as bread and potatoes, are hugely subsidised, the lot of the urban poor, whose minimum wage is around $12 a month, is dire.
...and several other topics as well. This article is a five- to ten-minute read that will give anyone a reasonably informed context within which to digest developments in Iraq. Highly recommended reading.