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Iran’s president meets with political activists

In a rare move, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi met with a group of activists to discuss their political and economic concerns. 
ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

In a rare moment of political outreach, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi met with a group of political activists from a diverse group of views for an iftar gathering.

According to the activists at the May 1 gathering, those in attendance were able to discuss various topics and issues in an open atmosphere. Mohsen Hashemi, the head of the Executives of Construction Party, told Tasnim News Agency that he wished the conversations had focused more on the various political groups and their activities and most conversations concerned the country’s economic situation. 

Some of the most discussed topics was the question of inflation and the negotiations with the West to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Inflation in Iran hit 43% in 2021 and is a major source of concern for many Iranians. Raisi also said that the talks to revive the JCPOA “have not been suspended” but that Iran is going to approach the negotiations “from a position of strength.” Those talks are currently at a stalemate over the United States' continuing designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as the foreign terrorist organization

Hashemi said that one of the issues Iran’s political class is dealing with currently is that the climate in Iran has changed drastically in 43 years since the Islamic Revolution. He said that today Iranians are “more practical” and less bound by customs and norms. Hashemi argued that their needs and expectations must also be met. Hashemi also described the atmosphere in the meeting as “more calm” than in previous meetings with former President Hassan Rouhani. He said that many in attendance remain hopeful and are keeping their feedback constructive, suggesting that in the final years of Rouhani’s administration such meetings had become heated because many attendees were frustrated with the lack of progress on issues of concern.  

The meeting comes at a time where conservatives hold all the levers of power. The election of Raisi, essentially through election engineering via the vetting of candidates with diverse political views, consolidated conservatives' power over the three branches of government. With Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as parliament speaker and Chief Justice Gholam Hossein Mohnseni Ejei, who is selected by the supreme leader, and Raisi as president, there is essentially no room for Reformist or even independent voices in Iran’s political landscape. 

Only moderate political activists were present at the meeting, with the most outspoken Reformist being Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the Khatami-era vice president. Regarding the fate of Reformists and space for political activism, political activist Mostafa Tajzadeh tweeted today that the intelligence arm of the IRGC still will not permit former President Mohammad Khatami to attend large gatherings. Khatami fell out of favor for supporting the 2009 Green Movement and has been under unofficial restrictions since. Tajzadeh questioned the move, asking what laws permit the IRGC to arbitrarily enforce their own rules. 

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