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July 08 2021

Policy Briefs

Blackouts in Iran: What’s Happening?

What is Happening: 

Iran is currently experiencing a series of power outages that have impacted the everyday lives of Iranains and have effectively shut down businesses, schools, hospitals, and a handful of other necessary establishments as well as disrupted phone networks and important home appliances. The regime has blamed the outages on recent drought and high demands on the power system due to the extremely high summer temperatures. There are a few other primary causes: Iran is increasing its annual energy production by less than half of what is needed in order to keep up with growing demand, energy is highly subsidized which makes it cheap and consumable, and the obvious manipulation of the power grid by the Islamic Republic. Iranians have reacted by taking to the streets, demanding solutions and calling for the end of the current regime. 

Why it Matters:

The blackouts affect the lives of everyday Iranians in a variety of  ways. Businesses shut down, hospital emergency rooms without backup generators lose life-saving machines causing patients to die, the young and elderly are left in the sweltering heat without air conditioning. Attached is a link showing harrowing footage of patients dying amidst the blackouts. Here a healthcare worker discusses how power outages have interrupted refrigerator systems in the morgue — one statement recalls, “The temperature of the refrigerator is about 45 degrees. The body has rotted after three days and swelled, it no longer fits in our vehicle.” Additionally, traffic lights go dark creating dangerous situations on major thoroughfares and phone networks are shut down without back-up batteries powerful enough to withstand outages that last for hours. 

Others in Iran complain that necessary appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioning are breaking, which are vital amenities in Iran’s record-breaking summer heat. Mohsen Naghashi, Secretary of the Food Industries Federation, discusses how food has been rotting and production has been disrupted due to the power outages across the country. Poultry producers have reported a low output of white meat and eggs due to the power shortages and trout farmers have similarly reported dying crops. The outages have also been impacting education as students have not been able to take exams and teachers have not been able to conduct online classes.  Electricity in Iran is subsidized and accessible at very low costs, but that does little to keep the people happy when their lives are effectively shut down due to poor-management and corruption. The unexpected and prolonged power outages are causing political rife between members of the Islamic Republic. The Speaker of Parliament overtly criticised the regime’s mismanagement of public goods which caused incumbent President Rouhani to issue a rare apology to Iranians. This has also caused the regime’s clock counting down to Israel’s destruction to stop working– something that hasn’t happened since its creation in 2017.

What Iranians are Saying:

In Tehran, in the midst of the outages, people chanted “Death to Khamenei”, “Death to the dictator”, and “Death to the Islamic Republic”. They took to the streets to demand an end to the dangerous midsummer blackouts. Many people inside the country feel that the disruption and disorder will continue and there is no end in sight. As Iran undergoes an administration change, Rouhani seems to have left his leadership position awaiting the official transition by Raisi, leaving the country with no clear direction or solutions. Most Iranians sense the misery will continue as long as the regime does.

Image courtesy of Iran International.