Editor’s Note: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani speaks to Kai Ryssdal on National Public Radio’s “Marketplace” about the economic issues underpinning the ongoing political crisis in Iran. Salehi-Isfahani also spoke to “Marketplace” on June 24, 2009 from Tehran.
Kai Ryssdal: There’s been more violence in the streets of Tehran. This is the end of the mourning period for people killed in the protests that followed Iran’s presidential election last month. And today police fired tear gas to break up crowds reported to be in the thousands. Just after those elections, we spoke with Djavad Salehi-Isfahani. He’s an economics professor at Virginia Tech. He was in Tehran at the time. And we’ve gotten him back on the line to ask how politics might play out in the Iranian economy. Professor, good to speak with you again.
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani: Great to be back with you.
Ryssdal: You’ve been back from your trip what three weeks or so now, yes?
Salehi-Isfahani: Yes, about four weeks.
Ryssdal: What was the mood economically when you left?
Salehi-Isfahani: I think people were not at that time thinking really about the economy because it was at the beginning of the political tensions. I think I left three weeks after the elections. The mood was still focused pretty much on politics. And the economy was the way it had been before, which is high inflation and high unemployment.
Ryssdal: And in terms of their daily lives amid the protests in the streets, people in Tehran could get what they need. They could go to the market, they could buy and sell if they had to.
Salehi-Isfahani: Yes, actually that’s a very good question that you ask me. Because since I’ve been back, and I’m watching the news, I’m beginning to get the feeling that everyone gets up in the morning thinks about where to go to protest. But when I was there, the days when were protests, you actually had to work hard to find out where it was. When you stepped outside your home, the grocery stores were open, the banks were open. The people you talked to were all pretty much concerned about their daily lives, and my impression is that that’s very much the case still.
[T]o sustain an uprising ... [Palestinian protests] have to be driven by political organization. [Instead,] Palestinian politics is in a state of disarray.