August 2, 2021

The temptation of abstention among minorities in Iran, the electoral base of reformers

The discriminated and marginalized religious and ethnic minorities in Iran have always been one of the electoral bases of reformist and moderate candidates, who promise them more equal access to employment and the possibility of freely practicing their faith. While no survey exists on the participation of Sunnis (the largest religious minority, around 10%, in a predominantly Shiite country), they will, in all likelihood, like many of their fellow citizens, be numerous in do not go to the polls on June 18 to elect the next president.

Afshin (first name has been changed), a Sunni, will not vote on Friday. Since 1997, this 38-year-old graphic designer, from the Kurdish ethnic minority, who lives in a small town in the west of the country, has always voted for the one who was most likely to end discrimination against his community. The first time he voted for reformer Mohammad Khatami who spoke of ” civil society “ and a “Iran for all”. “Since then, nothing has really changed”, he slips. In June 2009, the Kurdish voted for the former head of parliament, reformer Mehdi Karoubi, who emphasized respect for minorities. When the official results were announced, along with millions of Iranians, Afshin took to the streets to protest the controversial re-election of the ultraconservative ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Their protest was repressed in the blood. “After that, our frustration was at its height”, he said.

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Yet he went to the polls again in 2013. This time he voted ” by default “. “I voted for Rouhani so that the other candidates, worse than him, are not elected”, he blurted out. The same four years later, when Afshin again voted for President Rouhani, to prevent the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi, now favorite in the ballot, from taking the presidency.

Border smuggling

In November 2019, when many Iranians took to the streets to protest against rising fuel prices, Afshin witnessed the mobilization “Pacifist” and “Silent” of the inhabitants of his city. The police responded with a murderous crackdown. “The cobblestones are covered in blood. People have been killed. The arrests were numerous ”, he remembers. For him, the Iranians have tried everything. “A reformer like Khatami, a reenter like Karoubi and a moderate like Rouhani. It did not work. There are a lot of things the government has no control over. As long as there is no freedom, I will not vote ”, he concludes.

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