Conflicto social

Paris, 1968: Protesters honoring the memory of Gilles Tautin, a high school student who drowned while fleeing the police during the civil uprising that year.CreditHenri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos

For those of us in the United States who were young and politically progressive in 1968, the protests, strikes and other forms of civil unrest that overtook France in May of that year offered hope. The uprising was not simply a fight against something, like our fight against the Vietnam War. It was a fight for something — for a new way of arranging society, for new forms of economic and social and class relations.

The images of May ’68, which changed my life when I was a teenager watching them on TV, are still burned in my memory: the enormous marches through the streets of France’s major cities; the overflowing crowds of people speechifying and debating in the amphitheater of the Sorbonne; workers occupying factories and flying red flags over the gates; students occupying universities and being beaten by the police.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un grupo de nicaragüenses en Costa Rica se manifestó frente a la embajada de Nicaragua en San José en paralelo a la marcha por la paz en Managua. Credit Ezequiel Becerra/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hace cuarenta años, el 10 de enero de 1978, mi abuelo fue asesinado a escopetazos en Nicaragua. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro fue un periodista y líder de la sociedad civil que se opuso a la dictadura dinástica de la familia Somoza. Los historiadores señalan su asesinato como el detonante principal de la caída del régimen dictatorial. La figura de mi abuelo ha perdurado como un símbolo nacional de las libertades públicas y por esa razón, como su nieto y como historiador de la Revolución sandinista, siento la obligación de alzar mi voz.

Las protestas que están barriendo mi pequeño país centroamericano representan un rechazo nacional contra Daniel Ortega y su ambición descarada de perpetuarse en el poder, junto con su familia, a cualquier costo.…  Seguir leyendo »

May 1968 Riots in Paris

For fifty years, the events of May–June 1968 in France have had a collective hero: the striking students and workers who occupied their factories and universities and high schools. They’ve also had a collective villain, one within the same camp: the French Communist Party (PCF) and its allied labor union organization, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), which together did all they could to put a brake on a potential revolution, blocking the students and workers from uniting or even fraternizing.

This reading of the events is often found in histories, most recently Ludivine Bantigny’s 1968. De Grands soirs en petitsmatins.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesting against the suspended president Dilma Rousseff, in São Paulo, Brazil, in July 2016. Credit Nelson Almeida/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

La historia es así: el gobierno anuncia otro aumento en la tarifa del transporte público, así que unos cuantos brasileños toman las calles, marchan unos kilómetros y después la policía decide que ya fue suficiente. Acto seguido, hay una especie de exhibición pirotécnica, con gas y explosiones. Todos se van a casa; algunos después de una corta estancia en la estación local de policía, otros más con unos moretones de recuerdo.

Unos días después, hay otra manifestación. Y luego otra más. La historia se repite unas cuantas veces hasta que todos están cansados, satanizados o suficientemente intimidados. Las tarifas siguen siendo indignantes y subirán de nuevo el año próximo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesting against the suspended president Dilma Rousseff, in São Paulo, Brazil, in July 2016. Credit Nelson Almeida/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It goes like this: The government announces another increase in the bus fare, so a few Brazilians take to the streets, march for a couple of miles, and then the police decide they’ve had enough. A kind of pyrotechnic exhibition ensues, with gas and explosions. Everybody goes home, some after a short stay at the local police station, others with purple bruises for souvenirs.

A few days later, there’s another demonstration. And then another. Rinse and repeat until everybody gets tired, demonized, traumatized or sufficiently intimidated. The bus fare remains outrageous, and it will rise again next year.

The plot has been the same for many other grievances in the recent years: labor reforms; the reorganization of public schools; an illegitimate, unpopular presidency; a costly, foolish World Cup; a catastrophic Summer Olympics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indians protest the film “Padmaavat” in Sikar, Rajasthan state, on Jan. 25. (AFP/Getty Images)

Children are at the heart of the celebrations that commemorate India’s Republic Day, the day the country officially adopted its  brilliantly progressive Constitution on Jan. 26, 1950. They come freshly scrubbed and brimming with wide-eyed enthusiasm to march in the customary public parade. The bravest among them are given awards by the prime minister. They are usually the most excited attendees in the stands on a misty January morning as India puts her full military might on display.

The events of this week have cast somewhat of a shadow over the celebrations. Millions of otherwise proud Indians felt betrayed, enraged and disappointed as we watched thugs armed with sticks and stones and bottles of petrol turn their fury on children and assault a school bus ferrying toddlers home.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators protest against price hikes in Tunis. Photo: Getty Images.

Civic protests look set to become the theme of this year in a number of Middle Eastern and North African states.

The year began with the Iranian protests in full swing. Then, for the first two weeks of January, thousands of people took part in sporadic protests across a number of Tunisian towns and cities against the apparent indifference of the government towards the impact of austerity. Its citizens have borne the brunt of IMF-backed economic reforms as the country struggles to regain economic balance seven years after the Arab Spring.

The protests continue this week in the southern Tunisian town of Metlaoui over jobs – or rather the lack of them – in the region’s phosphate mines, a main source of work and income.…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent spate of protests in Iran has ebbed — at least for the moment. The unrest caught the regime off guard. Initially it responded in the usual manner: by blaming foreigners and discrediting protesters. But in a pragmatic move, the leadership then acknowledged the protesters’ demands. This is new and significant because it signals a willingness to open up in order to stay in power. But doing too little or too much will jeopardize the system.

The protests began over economic hardship, and rapidly spread to more than 80 cities, leading to 1000 arrests and more than 20 deaths. Protests are not new in Iran, with sit-ins and peaceful protests a regular feature, especially since President Hassan Rouhani took office.…  Seguir leyendo »

Figure 2: Percentage of labor unrest outside of Tehran Province, 2012-16

Beginning on Dec. 28, a wave of protests surged across Iran, with at least 75 cities reportedly experiencing one or more demonstrations in the first week. Soon after they began, commentators rushed to attribute the protests to various grievances, from Ponzi-like banking scheme collapses and budget corruption allegations to soaring prices of eggs and gasoline. However, our research suggests that rather than grievances alone, an underappreciated precursor for the protests was the buildup of demonstrations and rallies by teachers, workers, trade unions and civil society associations.

Before the recent protests, we constructed a data set detailing labor unrest in Iran from 2012 to 2016.…  Seguir leyendo »

The protests in Iran seem to have died down, but if Iranian leaders fail to recognize that the status quo has become untenable and major reforms are unavoidable, they are only buying time until the next uprising, which could lead to greater instability.

It is easy for the leadership in Tehran to dismiss the outpouring of popular ire over economic and political stagnation. The latest protests were leaderless, too amorphous, too scattered, too provincial, and too shallow. Above all, they lacked a unifying objective. Protesters knew what they did not want, but differed on what they wanted. Slogans ranged from “death to inflation” to “death to embezzlers” to “death to the dictator” and “give up on Syria!…  Seguir leyendo »

The protests and rioting that have raged in parts of Tunisia since last week are sometimes branded, both inside the country and abroad, as signs of a new revolutionary moment similar to the 2010-2011 uprising that launched the Arab Spring. The images circulating, after all, give a sense of déjà-vu: young men burning tires at impromptu barricades, throwing stones at police; the army deploying to secure public institutions and banks, etc. This is indeed familiar: it has taken place at regular intervals, especially in winter months, for the last few years. As before, it will most likely die down: protestors are largely driven by specific socio-economic grievances, not a desire to overthrow the regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

La Tunisie connaît un nouvel épisode de contestation et de violence sociale. Le dernier en date, celui de janvier 2016, avait contribué à écourter la durée de vie du gouvernement de Habib Essid, remplacé par l’actuel premier ministre, Youssef Chahed, en août 2016. Si le sentiment diffus est celui d’un bis repetita, le contexte est plus délicat et les aboutissements plus incertains.

L’euphorie révolutionnaire qui a suivi le départ de Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, le 14 janvier 2011, n’est désormais plus qu’un vague souvenir. La realpolitik, l’inertie administrative et le marasme économique ont transformé les espoirs en désillusion, voire en résignation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Demonstrators after Iranian police fired tear gas to disperse protests over Iran’s weak economy, in Tehran last month. Credit Associated Press

The village of Zaras lies in a valley circled by the Zagros Mountains in southwestern Bakhtiari Province of Iran. An hour’s ride from Izeh, the nearest town, Zaras is home to about 60 families, who make a living from farming, pastoral nomadism and working as migrant laborers in Iranian cities.

On a September afternoon in 2014, I sat by the mud wall of a hazelnut garden with Darab, a 50-year-old farmer in Zaras. Darab, a man with a charming face and rough, calloused hands, cultivated potatoes, beans and onions on a plot of land slightly larger than an acre. Yet the harvest wasn’t enough to feed his family — his wife, his six children and his elderly parents.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’Iran bouge à nouveau et, comme en 2009, lors de la réélection contestée de Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, les médias s’agitent : va-t-on voir la fin de ce régime qui a bouleversé le monde musulman et toute la planète depuis bientôt quarante ans ? La crise actuelle est d’abord une crise intérieure, mais sur fond d’un chaos grandissant dans tout le Moyen-Orient.

Le mécontentement économique a entraîné des protestations en différents endroits grâce aux moyens de communication modernes, résultat d’un profond malaise. Même avec une inflation plus réduite, l’emploi des jeunes ne pourra redémarrer que lorsque l’Iran aura retrouvé des relations commerciales plus naturelles, ce que son potentiel pétrolier et gazier devrait permettre.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian riot police prevent university students from joining other protesters in Tehran on Dec. 30, 2017. (AP)

The swift spread of Iran’s protests through socially conservative and traditionally apolitical small cities is perhaps their most notable feature. Participation in anti-government protests in such locations carries potentially high costs. Why did the protests garner such support in these areas?

The protests started with a small rally against Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in Mashhad, a conservative-leaning city. It was staged by conservative activists, who initially blamed Rouhani’s administration for high prices and poor economic performance. But this small demonstration rapidly attracted more people, spread to other cities, and finally, broadened its message to include the entire political establishment.

Protests against government economic policies are not unprecedented.…  Seguir leyendo »

La mejor esperanza del pueblo iraní

Uno de los aspectos más extraordinarios de las protestas que se desarrollan en Irán (las mayores desde el Movimiento Verde de 2009) es que es muy posible que las hayan iniciado los mismos contra quienes están dirigidas. Parece que los teócratas ultraconservadores de Irán creyeron que agitando en sus bastiones políticos el malestar por la economía podrían debilitar al presidente moderado Hassan Rouhani. Pero si es así, no anticiparon hasta qué punto el pueblo iraní está insatisfecho con el statu quo, y en particular, con ellos.

Seamos claros: pese a la gran magnitud de las protestas, es muy improbable que acaben con el régimen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Authorities in Iran are rounding up protesters — and nearly all of them are young adults with degrees. Of all the facts and figures trickling out of the country this past week, one number stood out: According to Iran’s Interior Ministry, more than 90 percent of those detained so far have an average age under 25.

Members of the most educated generation in Iran’s history — more than 70 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in some form of higher education, triple the rate from just 10 years ago — they are also its least employed. Among young Iranians, who make up half the country’s population, 40 percent are without work or steady income.…  Seguir leyendo »

Qué mueve las protestas en Irán

El repentino brote de agitación civil que se extendió por varias ciudades de Irán desde fines de diciembre tomó a casi todos por sorpresa, incluidos el gobierno reformista del presidente Hassan Rouhani, muchos ciudadanos y los observadores. Las protestas, que comenzaron en Mashhad (una importante ciudad religiosa en el noreste del país, bastión de los enemigos conservadores de Rouhani), no tardaron en contagiarse a numerosas ciudades más pequeñas, con una velocidad e intensidad que pocos hubieran podido predecir.

Al principio las protestas eran por el aumento del costo de vida y las crecientes disparidades económicas y sociales, pero pronto se transformaron en un rechazo al régimen mismo; y aunque el descontento apuntó más que nada al aparato religioso comandado por el Líder Supremo iraní (el ayatolá Ali Khamenei), los reformistas tienen tanto en juego como sus rivales conservadores.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian students run from tear gas during a demonstration at the University of Tehran on Dec. 30. (Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The breadth and depth of the protests in Iran, which began on Dec. 28 in response to popular dissatisfaction with the poor economy and political repression in the country, are posing a serious challenge to the Islamic republic. There have been marches and lightning protests in dozens of cities, towns and villages across the country. Businesses have gone on strike to protest regime corruption. A new Twitter hashtag, “if there was no Islamic Republic,” is prompting Iranians to envisage an alternative future without a theocracy.

Not surprisingly, the Iranian regime, initially caught off guard by the wide-ranging protests in traditionally pro-government areas, has cracked down hard.…  Seguir leyendo »

Europe’s silence

It’s tempting to say that Europe’s leaders lack the courage of their convictions. But that would imply that they have convictions. The evidence suggests those days are gone.

In particular, Europe’s leaders have been conspicuously unmoved by the spectacle of Iranians, day after day, taking to the streets in dozens of cities and towns, risking arrest, torture and death to protest their oppression and impoverishment by a religious class that has been Iran’s ruling class for almost two generations.

The theocrats have used the nation’s oil wealth, in addition to the billions of dollars that have filled Iranian coffers thanks to sanctions relief, to support fighters in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza.…  Seguir leyendo »