Iranians Protest 'Troubled Economy' in Tehran's Grand Bazaar

Published June 25th, 2018 - 02:11 GMT
How long will the Iranian protests continue in Tehran's ancient Grand Bazaar? (AFP/ File Photo)
How long will the Iranian protests continue in Tehran's ancient Grand Bazaar? (AFP/ File Photo)

Protesters have swarmed Tehran’s Grand Bazaar amid nationwide anger over the country’s troubled economy, according to reports.

The ISNA news agency said the protesters were forcing shopkeepers to close their stalls at the market on Monday.

Videos posted to social media showed protesters heckling those who refused to close, shouting in Farsi: “Coward!”

The Iranian rial has fallen to 90,000 to one dollar on the country’s black market, despite government attempts to control the currency rate.

The economic trouble also comes as international firms have pulled away from Iran after US president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, later was quoted by the Tasnim agency as saying the situation at the bazaar is calm.

“Their demands are delivered through the chamber to the government, and these are being pursued by us,” he said.

Tehran’s sprawling Grand Bazaar has long been a centre of conservatism in Iranian politics and remains an economic force within the country – despite the construction of massive malls around the city.

Bazaar families opposed to the Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution that saw him replaced by the Shia theocracy and elected officials.

At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 people arrested by authorities.

However, those protests largely struck Iran’s provinces as opposed to Tehran itself. Analysts believe hard-liners likely encouraged the first protest that took place in Mashhad to weaken the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate cleric within Iranian politics. The protests then spiralled out of control, with people openly criticising both Mr Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mr Rouhani’s government has struggled with the economic problems, which have seen high unemployment. A government-set exchange rate of 42,000 rials to one US dollar has quickly been surpassed in the black market. On Monday, state television quoted Iranian Central Bank chief Valiollah Seif as saying the government plans to create a parallel market next week to combat the black market.

Meanwhile, some hard-liners have called for new elections or for Mr Rouhani’s civilian government to be replaced by a military-led one. The Fars news agency, believed to be close to Iran’s hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, made a point on Monday to publish an article from the Sobh-e No daily newspaper describing the government as being ready to “bow down to foreign threats and sit at the negotiation table”.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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