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Protests triggered by rising food prices spread in Iran

Published : Sunday, 15 May, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 43

May 14: Protests against the government spread to at least six provinces in Iran on Friday following several days of sporadic unrest sparked by rising food prices, according to witnesses and videos posted on social media.
Security forces attacked protesters with batons and tear gas and shot bullets in the air in several cities, according to activists, videos shared online and Persian news channels.
The number of casualties and arrests was unclear. Iran's state media called the protesters "provocateurs" and accused them of burning shops, and said at least 22 people had been arrested.
The protests came after the government announced a plan Monday to adjust prices for some basic food items by cutting their subsidies. Earlier, the government had said wheat and flour would be sold at varying prices depending on the products made with them, triggering a sharp price hike for bread and pasta, staples of Iranian cuisine.
As soon as the new plan was announced, prices for cooking oil quadrupled and prices for chicken and eggs doubled. The price of flat bread increased fivefold this month, and that of baguettes and sandwich rolls as much as tenfold.
Iranians fearing even more price increases rushed to stock food items, forming long lines stretching for more than a mile at grocery stores and supermarket chains across the country, videos and photos showed.
Iran's economy is strained by tough US sanctions banning oil sales and access to the global financial market. But sanctions are not the only cause of economic woes. Decades of corruption, mismanagement and populist economic policies have contributed to 40% inflation, a currency free fall and a budget deficit of nearly $21 billion, according to a report by the Parliament's research centre. The minister of agriculture, Seyyed Javad Sadatinejad, this week blamed the price hikes on the war in Ukraine and the disruption of the global food supply that it has caused. He also accused smugglers of shipping food supplies from within Iran to neighbouring countries.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February, the United Nations has warned of a looming global crisis related to surging food prices and food insecurity. Ukraine and Russia provide about 30% of the world's supply of wheat and 62% of its sunflower oil.
As thousands of Iranians, already fed up with inflation and unemployment, took to the streets this week, their protests quickly moved from airing their food grievances to their discontent with the ruling establishment.
"They have no hope, they have no trust in the government and they can't tolerate the status quo any more," said Omid Memarian, an Iran expert at Democracy for the Arab World Now, a nonprofit based in the United States. "This triangle in any country would create a powder keg ready to explode."
Nationwide demonstrations against the government rocked Iran in 2017, 2019 and 2021. In each case, a specific issue like collapsed investment funds, rising gas prices or shortages of water triggered the unrest, which then morphed into calls for the downfall of the Islamic Republic system. The government crushed the protests with brutal crackdowns, killing, injuring and arresting hundreds of people.    -The New York Times



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