10/04/2012, 00.00
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The population of Tehran protests against Ahmadinejad and the collapse of the rial

Clashes with the police have taken place in the city's commercial districts and in front of the headquarters of the central bank. The population accuses the president of having no idea how to deal with the monetary crisis. In less than a week, the rial has lost almost 40% of its value. For Iranians meat has become a luxury.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The people of Iran have taken to the streets against the collapse of the rial, which in seven days has lost 40% of its value, driving prices through the roof. As of yesterday, the capital was the scene of several protests stopped by force by police and plainclothes agents. After the wave of protests by the youth of the Green Wave were stopped with bloodshed by police, protests of a certain size have no longer been occurring in Tehran.  In June 2009, thousands of young people took to the streets to challenge the election results.  In recent years the government has increased security measures, suppressing any nascent form of dissent. To prevent the spread of images and information, the Iranian authorities have obscured satellite communications. The amateur videos diffused via web show hundreds of people marching to the central bank and slogans against President Ajmadinejad and the government who blame the crisis on the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union to thwart its nuclear program. Some banners read, "Forget about Syria. Think of us."  According to local media violent clashes between police and demonstrators took place in the Grand Baazar of Tehran. Many retailers closed their premises in sympathy with the event. The police clashed with demonstrators also in the neighborhood of the money changers of Ferdowsi, where hundreds of police in riot gear blocked the illegal exchange of money and forced shopkeepers to open their shops.

"We closed because we do not know what will happen in the next few days," said a merchant in Tehran, who emphasized that it is impossible for them to cope with prices doubling every day.  Behrouz Medani, 42, owner of a butcher shop in the northwest of the capital, said that meat has become a luxury item. "Many of my clients stop just to look in the windows and then go on to the nearby bakery. Bread has become the only thing able to feed the population." The block on transactions with foreign countries has blocked imports and is preventing the population from receiving and sending money to and from other countries. The only goods imported are medicines, meat and wheat, but once in the country they are also affected by inflation. "People are nervous", says Daryani Mostafa, 52, who runs a small supermarket chain, "customers are buying only what they need for everyday meals and are avoiding buying unnecessary goods. Some fear a further rise in prices and are stocking up on milk and bread." According to Yahya Ebrahimi, owner of an electronics store, some stores are speculating on the crisis, reducing the availability of goods purchased at still accessible prices and want to be paid in dollars.

The anger against the government, accused of not knowing how to handle the situation, is also reflected in Iranian newspapers.

Today, the value of the currency has dropped again.  One dollar is worth 36,400 rials. According to economists the currency could fall to the minimum level of 40,000. To try to cope with the fall of its currency, on 24 September Tehran created a center for the exchange of foreign currencies. In recent days, the governor of the central bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, said that the country has a strong supply of foreign currency for which "change will come", because the center will "decrease the pressure of the market." In concrete terms, it will offer an exchange rate 2% lower than that of the black market. To supply the center with currency, Bahmani said the government plans to use 14.5% of its oil revenues and revenues in the petrochemical industry. However, Iran's reserves at the end of last year were valued at approximately 6 billion, enough, according to the International Monetary Fund, to ensure imports for just 13 months. Now these have fallen to 50-70 billion.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany have sent a letter to the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) in which they seek new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. According to the European leaders, the embargo policy is working and could force Iran's leaders to take a step back in their ambitions for nuclear power. According to EU data, several EU countries have continued to trade with Iran despite sanctions. Between January and July, Germany exported goods worth 1.4 billion euro, Italy's exports amounted to 550 million euro in the period from January to May. Some European diplomats, however, emphasize the need to think about restrictions that would affect the political establishment and not the people, who - because of the ambitions of its leaders - are paying the highest price.



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