Author: Shay Khatiri

The Erdoğanization of Hungary

Earlier this week, ostensibly in light of the COVID-19 crisis, the Hungarian parliament granted the country’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, rule by decree. With fewer than 500 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of this writing, Hungary has not yet been badly hit by the pandemic, so this draconian measure was almost certainly unnecessary. Followers of European politics, however, are not surprised. Next month, Orbán will complete an uninterrupted decade in office (having previously served from 1998 to 2002), and his tenure has been marked by a series of moves to scale back post-Cold War liberalism hitherto embraced by Hungarians. In 1956, as the second decade of the Cold War got underway, an anti-communist revolution erupted in Budapest. Stalin had died a few years previously and been replaced by Nikita Khrushchev from the pro-reform faction of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. Khrushchev’s speech before the Soviet congress, in which he had condemned Stalin, led commentators and analysts across the West to wonder if tensions might be easing. In the winter of that year, encouraged …

How Iran’s Dictators Laid the Foundation for the Country’s Coronavirus Crisis

The severity of the coronavirus pandemic in Iran seems surprising on the surface: The country has suffered nearly 20,000 cases—far more than any country outside Europe or East Asia. While the disease itself is, of course, an apolitical phenomenon, Iran’s repressive, theocratic political system has played a role in the especially high toll that coronavirus is taking on the Iranian people. There is a direct chain of causality linking last year’s protests in Iran to the heightened severity of this year’s pandemic. Many of those protestors were disillusioned youth who’d come to realize that the promise of gradual political “reform” was empty. The regime succeeded in suppressing the protestors, but only until the regime’s destruction of a Ukrainian civilian airliner (and botched response to the tragedy) brought protestors back out onto the streets. Parliamentary elections took place in February. Having struggled in recent years to bring Iranians to the polls, leaders were unsettled by indications that this would be the lowest turnout in the regime’s 41-year history. They also were eager to get a pro-regime …

Iran Protests: It’s not about Gas Prices

Iran is a different country today than it was just two weeks ago. An overnight tripling of gas prices precipitated an avalanche of protests, unprecedented in the country’s modern history. Protesters in cities nationwide have torched hundreds of banks, as well as the offices of Friday prayer imams, police stations, and seminaries. Gas stations were initially popular targets, but not anymore. The regime has disconnected the internet across the country. Some reports from the inside suggest that soldiers performing mandatory military service were forbidden from contacting their families, and were mobilized to confront the protesters as law enforcement and career service-members struggled unsuccessfully to re-establish order. The number of killed protestors might be as high as 500. Over the past ten years, gas prices have risen 30 times as the government has cut subsidies in Iranian currency. The currency’s value, during the same period, has dropped 12 times against the U.S. Dollar. The youth unemployment rate stands at 30 percent, to which we must add those who have left the labor force in despair of finding …