On August 2nd, Iranians went to the streets for the third day in a row to protest over the dramatic drop of the country’s currency and other economic problems ahead of the imposition of the renewed US sanctions on August 6, as reported by Iran’s state IRNA news agency.
CBN News reports that protesters chanted “death to the dictator” and “Khamenei, shame on you! Let go of your rule” as the people’s anger against Iran’s government and religious leaders.
IRNA news agency reported that about 100 people protested in the city of Sari and an unspecified number of people protested in the cities of Shiraz, Ahavz and Mashhad. The state-run news agency also reported that all protests had taken place without an official permission and they were dispersed by police.
Also reported by IRNA on July 31st and August 1st, approximately 200 people protested in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran. The news agency also cited police in saying that protesters attempted to damage public buildings, however they were unable to do so, not providing any further details regarding the matter.
According to VOA News, the protests spread to 10 major cities in what is the biggest challenge to Iran’s Islamist rulers since December 2017 – January 2018’s nationwide demonstrations. Images and reports sent by citizen journalists in Iran and verified by VOA Persian confirmed that street protests took place on August 2nd in the capital, Tehran, and nine other cities: Ahvaz, Hamedan, Isfahan, Karaj, Kermanshah, Mashhad, Shiraz, Urmia and Varamin. VOA also reports that the July 31st and August 1st protests were limited to Isfahan and Karaj.
Shop keepers, stall vendors, farmers and even truck drivers are demonstrating today in the Amir-Kabir industrial complex of Isfahan, central Iran, protesting against high prices as the value of Tehran’s currency, the rial, plummets. Iran also suffers from falling salaries set against an increased cost of living in addition to tower shortages and power outages. As reported by the Express, at least 40 percent of drinking water in urban areas is being compromised because of failing pipelines that have not had required maintenance over the past few years.
Supposedly the biggest reason for the protests is that on July 29th, Iran’s currency, the Rial, fell to a record low. It dropped past 100,000 rials to the US dollar, which is a historic low. This came just before US reimpose the first lot of sanctions on the Iranian economy on August 6th. The sanctions were reimposed on Iran by the US after Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal on May 8th.
The sanctions that are to be imposed on August 6th, however are currently to be followed by another batch of sanctions that are due to come into force in November. The November US sanctions are targeting Iranian oil exports, which, as a result, are expected to decrease.
However, the Express cites Shahin Gobadi, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who claims that the key factors in the poor economy are internal factors such as the government and affiliating mafia groups have the heaviest influence of all.
The rial lost about half of its value since April due to Iran’s vulnerable economy and the financial difficulties of local banks, on top of the heavy demand for dollars due to fear of the sanctions that are to be imposed on July 6th. This, in turn, led to an increase in export, specifically in the raw materials for plastic products sector in Iran. The increase in exports is leading to the bankruptcy of many producers who depend on the Iranian produced petrochemicals.
All of these stem from the withdrawal of the US from the Iran Nuclear Deal on May 8th and the following incoming sanctions. However, even before the withdrawal there were protests. Between December 27, 2017 and January 3rd, 2018 Iranians went to the streets protesting over the rising cost of living, the high unemployment and the alleged state corruption, as well as the, even at that moment, currency volatility. Furthermore, a month ago there was a three-day wave of protests that started on June 25th. The protests were caused by the collapsing of the rial, there were even clashes with the police outside the parliament in Tehran. Despite Iran’s Central Bank’s attempts to normalize the currency by limiting foreign currency transactions the rial continued falling to the historical low.