Worker Protest in the Age of Ahmadinejad

by Mohammad Maljoo
published in MER241

In June 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unexpectedly won the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, after an intense campaign in which he exerted great effort to present himself as the defender of the poor and the working class. These classes, badly hurt by neo-liberal economic policies in the period following the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq war, had staged a number of organized and noisy protests in the years preceding Ahmadinejad’s campaign, and they responded in significant numbers to his appeal for votes. The first year and a half of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, however, has seen an erosion of the social contract between working Iranians and the state of a magnitude that may be decisive for the future of democracy in Iran.

Livelihoods Up in Smoke

Tobacco Farming in Turkey

by Ebru Kayaalp
published in MER252

On the streets of Turkish cities, the cigarette packs being traded and tucked into shirt pockets are adorned with the familiar brand names of Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. The ubiquity of foreign brands is remarkable, for Turkey is the world’s leading producer of Oriental tobacco—the sun-cured, small-leaf variety that once filled nearly every cigarette on the planet.

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The Precarious Existence of Dubai's Indian Middle Class

by Neha Vora
published in MER252

Dubai, according to the conventional wisdom, is a bust. The International Monetary Fund predicts that economic growth in the United Arab Emirates as a whole will be lower in 2009 than in the last five years; the Dubai government has borrowed billions of dollars from Abu Dhabi to bail out its banks; the government of the Indian state of Kerala reports over 500,000 return migrants from Dubai due to the crisis; property prices have dropped faster than anywhere else in the world; and hotel rates have been slashed in order to lure tourists.

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Remittances and Development

by Sameera Fazili
published in MER252

The Middle East and North Africa have been hit hard by the global recession. Several of the oil-rich Gulf states are in the midst of an economic contraction, with their famed sovereign wealth funds having lost 27 percent of their value in 2008. The Gulf states, along with the European Union, buy most of the non-oil exports of the Middle East and North Africa, so recessions in the importing countries mean depressed trade throughout the region. According to the World Bank, the average growth rate for the middle-income states of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia, which have little or no oil, is projected to fall to 3.9 percent in 2009, far below the levels of the 2001-2008 boom.

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No Shelter

Migrant Domestics in Jordan

by Rola Abimourched
published in MER253

“Angela” came to Jordan to work as a housekeeper because she is a single mother and needs to save for her children’s schooling. She paid a recruiter in the Philippines 11,000 pesos, about $234, “for the processing of my papers.” An hour before she went to the airport, she says, she signed a contract written in Arabic, a language she does not read. She did not see an English-language copy. Her recruiter told her she would receive $150 per month.

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Locked In, Locked Out of Work

by Jennifer Olmsted
published in MER253

Article VI, Item 2 of the 1993 Oslo accords concluded between Israel and the Palestinians states, “After the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles and the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, with the view to promoting economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, authority will be transferred to the Palestinians in the following spheres: education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism.”