Shops closed at the Tehran bazaar during protests last week (AP)

By Firaz Safai

July 3, 2018

Iranian local and foreign media reported on the week-long protests eroding in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, throwing hints at them being a reaction from disgruntled vendors and traders whose businesses are suffering against a deteriorating economy.

Matters have only gotten worse as the dollar exchange rate shot up against the national currency, the Iranian Riyal.

Although economic reasons played a major role in triggering what is labeled as a “bazaar strike,” it was echoed by protesters that it is a strong complaint against their government’s economic policies.

It is worth noting that the nation’s shopping bazaar has been a historic supporter for the ruling regime.

Opposition media sought to take advantage of the bazaar’s status in economic and political literature.

Iran’s political history has seen the 1979 revolution protests come to fruition after protests were backed by the bazaar.

More so, opposition media outlets reported on the rising demonstrations using “market strike,” a naming which evokes memories of the ending days of the Shah’s regime.

Analysts believe that Iranian media slapping such a definition on current protests translates into the current cleric-led regime system reaching its final station and is on the brink of facing unconstrained public rage.

Iran’s ruling regime ruled off the December protests, along with the new “strike” as directed against national economic performance.

Bringing out the difference in public tone and review of the protests, media outlets said that it was the ‘average consumer’ taking to street last December, adding that is not the case today.

Away from debated interpretations of protests, a point comes as striking in understanding the true nature of such a “market strike.”

In a controversial announcement, Minister of Communications Mohammad-Javad Jahromi revealed the government allocating about $256 million to 40 mobile phone importers, in a government effort to prevent consumers being affected by increasing prices of devices.

But practically, the mobile phone market has seen prices rise by as much as 70 percent.

More so, official statistics show Iran’s regulated revenue from mobile phone imports did not exceed $70 million during the last three months, meaning that about $200 million units sold at government price, but found their way to unregulated markets for quick profits.

There is talk of profits in billions of Iranian riyals being swept away to personal interests.

This market-changing government support reveals a split between the Bazaar people who benefited off government measures as opposed to those who protested the collapse of the currency.

Some Bazaar traders had sweeping profits made off government support combined with currency market tension.

But that’s not the case for those who represent the weak link in the market, mostly owners of small shops, and retailers who straddle at the corners of the bazaar to sell goods.

All those affected by inflation are the ones to always protest.

Asharq Al-Awsat

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.