05/17/2022, 11.06
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5 dead and dozens arrested in Iranian protests over subsidy cuts

Tehran violently represses new wave of popular discontent over price escalation and the drastic reduction in subsidies. The demonstrations promoted by young people and citizens, without political affiliations. Ayatollah Khamenei and President Raisi target of criticism. 


Tehran (AsiaNews) - Iranian authorities have violently repressed street protests in several cities, with at least five victims (only one officially recognised), wounded and dozens of arrests. The cut in subsidies decided by the government in Tehran has triggered a new wave of demonstrations of popular discontent, in this case too - as in the past - quelled by police and security agents with an iron fist.

Since the beginning of May, the citizens of the Islamic Republic have been expressing their anger on social networks and the Internet against the price increases, which have particularly affected cooking oil, bread and everyday foodstuffs. In some cases, the cost has risen by more than 300%. 

In recent days, President Ebrahim Raisi has also intervened. During a meeting with ministers, economists and government officials, he promised that instead of subsidies for foodstuffs, there will be an allocation of funds directly to the accounts of the most needy families.

Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber added that 'within the next few days' the cost of oil, poultry and eggs 'will return to normal levels'. As for bread and flour, he added, 'speculation will not be tolerated' and if someone has manipulated prices 'they will answer to the courts'.  

However, the reassurances provided by the authorities on price containment have not helped to calm the spirits of a population struggling with a protracted crisis situation. In 2019, protests against high fuel prices were widely echoed, repressed with extreme violence by the government then led by moderate Hassan Rouhani. And last year, the Islamic Republic recorded more than 2,300 demonstrations (most of them related to workers' rights), to which was added the arrest of around 1,700 pro-human rights activists and opponents. 

Returning to the demonstrations in recent days, a popular social account showed a march in Tehran with blurred images of the protesters to 'protect' their identity. Those present are loudly denouncing the collapse of salaries or non-payment of wages. In other parts of the country, demonstrators even targeted the supreme leader, the ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, with slogans and chants including 'Death to Khamenei! Death to Raisi!". Harsh accusations were also levelled at the Islamic Republic's institutional and judicial system. 

In the past, at least before this latest wave of discontent related to the subsidy cut, protests in Iran were often promoted by one side and organised by specific groups with political aspirations in the national scene. In this case, the subsidy marches seem to be mostly attended by disgruntled youth without any political affiliation, although they do not have an organic and organised vision of the nation's future. 

Analysts and experts point out that the continued violent suppression of protests will cost Iran in the future. To date, there are no political leaders to put under arrest or specific demands around which to bargain. For now, the only strategy is to forcibly disperse public demonstrations of discontent (which have received the support of the US State Department), even at the cost of deaths and injuries.  

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