It is no secret that the lives of ordinary Iranians, the wage earners and the poor, have been adversely affected in recent months by the soaring prices of staple goods. The country is now facing a currency crisis, as the Rial has plunged by nearly 60 percent over the past three months. Popular disaffection with the worsening economic conditions has even led to a rare eruption of protests and merchant strikes in the capital. What are the reasons for the collapse of the Rial and accompanying soaring inflation? Is this solely due to United States and European Union sanctions reducing Iran’s ability to export petroleum while increasing the cost of financial transactions for the country? Or have certain Iranian government economic policies also played a major role in the current crisis? Shahram Aghamir spoke about these topics with Hamid Zangeneh, who is a professor of economics at Widener University in Pensylvania. He also spoke with Mohammad Moeini, who teaches economics at Bard College at Simon`s Rock.
Last year, on 9 and 10 October, thirty Egyptians,almost all Coptic Christians, were murdered by government police as they marched in a protest in front of the Maspero Building in central Cairo. What started as a peaceful march by both Copts and Muslim Egyptians to protest the government`s lack of legal protections for the Christian minority, promptly degenerated into a major new trauma that is now seared into the memory of Egyptian Copts. Khalil Bendib spoke with Middle East historian Paul Sedra about the plight of the minority Christian Copts in a country now officially governed by an Islamist government.