Residents of Iranian capital and other cities protest economic hardship

Security forces clashed with protesters in Tehran on Sunday while several other cities saw protests over Iran’s dire economic situation.

Videos surfaced on social media on Sunday showing security forces beating striking shopkeepers and smashing shop windows in Tehran while images from other cities such as Isfahan, Shiraz, and Arak show the merchants rallying to protest against the brutal and irregular increase in taxes for private companies.

Earlier in the day, crowds in Tehran gathered outside the office of the city’s electricity distribution company in eastern Tehran to protest against regular power cuts, which have increased in recent weeks as the summer heat begins and the use of air conditioning increases, pushing consumption to its maximum. The country faces a deficit of about 14,000 megawatts in the production of electricity.

Shop owners protesting in various cities chanted slogans against the government and against the authorities’ corruption and mismanagement, threatening to escalate their protests. The Iranian rial hits new lows daily against the US dollar amid runaway inflation and economic chaos, with the US dollar exceeding 333,000 rials on Sunday. This represents a drop of more than 25% since the end of March and a 10x drop since 2017. ()

Strikes in bazaars or traditional retail markets have deep historical roots in Iran and signal a serious political and economic crisis. The bazaar strikes played a major roleboth in the constitutional revolution of the early 20th century and the 1979 revolution against the monarchy.

In the central city of Isfahan, people, mostly pensioners, chanted “Death to Russia” and “The Russian Embassy is the den of espionage”, alluding to a phrase used by the former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini and other Islamic Republic officials to designate the former US Embassy.

In the city of Shiraz in southwestern Fars province, security forces detained pensioners planning to hold their protest in front of the office of the Friday Prayer Imam of Shiraz, who is the representative of the Supreme Leader in the province.

Videos of the protest of pensioners in Shiraz show people chanting slogans in support of the Pahlavi dynasty which ruled the country before the Islamic revolution, saying “God bless your soul Reza Shah”, the father of the last shah of Iran who reigned until forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941 and grandfather of exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi living in the United States.

Sunday’s strikes and protests came amid a series of protests and marches since early May, when the government scrapped a food import subsidy. Pensioners and teachers in particular have organized to demand higher pensions and salaries as incomes rapidly lose their purchasing power.

A workers’ union said security forces attacked a gathering of pensioners outside the Planning and Budget Organization in Tehran and arrested several, using force to disperse others.

The Coordinating Council of Professional Associations of Iranian Teachers recently issued a statement announcing the next series of national eventsscheduled for Thursday, calling on teachers across the country to take to the streets and demand their legal rights.

Teachers have often staged protests for nearly a year, but the political situation in Iran has deteriorated in recent months, with a growing sense that social chaos and political insurgency could ensue.