Bazaar merchants protest against government in Iran
3 July 2018
Hundreds of traders in Tehran’s bazaar closed their shops for three days last week protesting the government’s economic measures and the plunging value of the Iranian rial, which has lost almost half its value in recent months. The strikes and protests spread to other cities.
Protesters demonstrated outside the parliament shouting, “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Khamenei and Rouhani,” as they did six months ago. But unlike the wave of anti-government protests by unemployed youth and impoverished workers that swept across Iran beginning December 28, these recent and smaller protests were organised by the bazaaris—the wealthy merchant class that brought the bourgeois Islamic clerics to power and have been their main support base since 1979.
The regime has responded thus far with kid gloves, making few arrests. This is in sharp contrast to the earlier strikes when the regime mounted a brutal crackdown, killing more than 20 people and arresting hundreds more. Dozens of those arrested are still awaiting trial, while others have received heavy sentences.
The latest strikes reflect sharp tensions and divisions within the regime due to the developing economic crisis inside Iran. President Hassan Rouhani, re-elected for a second term in May of last year on the basis of building relations with the US and Europe via the nuclear accord, faces furious opposition from the conservative faction of the ruling elite who had opposed the nuclear deal with the US.
His “reformist” supporters are no less frustrated with his failure to deliver the much-vaunted economic reforms and the promised prosperity after signing the nuclear deal in 2015 and releasing opposition leaders Mir Hossein…