An address by Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was uploaded on May 9, 2020, to Bonyadbaran.com - the website of the Baran Foundation, of which Khatami is the president. Khatami said that solidarity needs to be a main element in the lives of the Iranian people, particularly following the coronavirus period. He said that Iran has many problems, such as a bad economy, a shrinking middle class, and an increase in expenditures. He added that the resulting despair in society might eventually lead to a cycle of violence as people try to free themselves from despair. Khatami said that now is the time for Iran to use any reserves it has, to preserve the current employment rates, to change its foreign and domestic policies to improve the economy, and to release prisoners permanently in light of the coronavirus pandemic. He added that Iran's problems come from within and that Iran's enemies exploit the split between the people and the regime.
Mohammad Khatami: "Particularly for the post-coronavirus period, we need solidarity to be the main element in our lives and in the continuation of our lives. We have great problems, whether we conceal them or talk about them openly. Our economy is in bad shape. The differences between the classes in our society have grown wider. Our resources have shrunk and our expenses have grown. One of the catastrophes that was created or that has grown worse in recent decades is that our middle class has grown weaker and smaller every day, and we have flung it in the direction of being a weaker and more deprived class. So the middle class, which is supposed to be the engine that powers society, its progress, its production, and its life, keeps shrinking in Iran.
"The pressure on the middle class has increased and the number of people in the lower echelons of society has increased. People have been demoted from the middle class. This was coupled with corruption and other matters. Many people have become very rich. We should know all of this. We cannot hide this, and if we do, reality will take its course. We have all these problems. Our social capital has weakened severely.
"Our elites, our entrepreneurs, our women, and our men are not content, and this generates despair, and when despair is generated, distrust is created, and when you have distrust, society gradually turns to violence, God forbid, in order to express its discontent and in order to free itself from this despair. It is natural for the ruling regime to employ counter-violence [measures], and this is how a cycle is created.
"This cycle increases violence and hatred on both sides. If it continues, it will cause a great problem.
"If we have any reserves, now is the time to use them, so that we can preserve the current employment rates, or decrease the number of jobs lost. This way, [even] the people who have been hurt will be content. Obviously, big companies have their own unique problems, but their perseverance is also greater. In addition, they are less affected in such cases. Obviously, in order for these [companies'] problems to be resolved, our foreign and domestic policies must change, so the market can come back to life, so that investments can be made, and so that we will be able to export goods and maintain ties with the world.
"One good thing has already been done. What harm have we witnessed as a result of the release of our prisoners in light of the coronavirus? Why haven't we released them all? Why aren't we trying to turn this release from temporary to permanent? If amnesty is granted for [dissidents] abroad and domestically, is there a better time than right now to grant this amnesty? Would it not increase solidarity? Would it not bring people together? It is true that we have enemies. The enemy played a role in creating our problems, but most of our problems come from within, and the enemy exploits them. It exploits the split between the people and the government, the split between the people and the regime. We must stop this exploitation.
"Allah willing, we will witness change in the policy and attitudes, both in domestic and foreign matters, and especially with the regard to honor, freedom, and the rights of the people. I hope we can learn from our mistakes, and make the best use of the situation caused by the coronavirus, in order to achieve social solidarity."