June 15, 2020
Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Iranian Central Bank’s headquarters in Tehran mid-day Sunday June 14 protesting about the losses they incurred as a result of a special rate of exchange the bank has devised for businesses.
The protesters blamed inherent “inefficiency and embezzlement” in the NIMA system [Persian acronym for Consolidated System of Forex Transactions] for their losses. The system was supposed to regulate transactions between Iranian importers and authorized money changing offices.
After a sharp fall in the value of Iran’s rial, in March 2018 the Iranian banking system introduced at least three rates for foreign exchange based on the US dollar. The official rate of 42,00o rials per dollar, as well as the NIMA rate which is around 150,000 rials per US dollar and the free [black] market rate which fluctuates but currently is around 180,000 rials per dollar.
Several videos and pictures circulating on social media show protesters chanting slogans demanding the resignation of Abdolnasser Hemmati, the Governor of Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and the disbanding of the NIMA rate of exchange.
Meanwhile, reports from Tehran say security forces have been deployed to the part of Tehran where the CBI headquarters is located.
Some of the slogans chanted during the protests were “Hemmati, Resign! Resign!”; “You shut down factories and tied up our hands”; and “hard working workers have been victimized.”
A tweet under alias Twitter handle @Jimi_r0 posted a picture of the protest and commented: “Who would have thought that inefficiency and embezzlement in the special rate system would cause losses to traders?” and added the hashtag Stock Exchange.
Another tweet by the Human Rights in Iran Organization @humanrightsir1 broke the news about the protest gathering with the hashtags Central Bank, Nationwide Protests, Protest, and Human Rights. This tweet explained that the protest took place because the bank refused to sell foreign currency at the special rate.
The Central Bank of Iran claims to have introduced the special rate (NIMA) in order to create a secure atmosphere for transactions between importers and authorized money changers.
There were reports about embezzlement in this system. The protesters on Sunday said that they have not received any foreign currency at the special rate although they have deposited the equivalent in Iranian currency rial several months ago.
Nevertheless, IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim and several conservative news websites defended Central Bank Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati and said the gathering on Sunday was suspicious. Meanwhile, within an hour of the gathering, the Central bank released a new list of those who have received foreign currency at the official and NIMA rates.
Financial problems as well as widespread discrimination and corruption have led to many protest gatherings in various cities of Iran during the past two years.
Various groups of people such as farmers, workers, Bazaar traders and owners of small businesses have been among those who protested the situation but every time, security forces violently suppressed the protests and arrested some protesters.
Protests were against rising prices in January 2018 and against a sudden hike in the price of fuel in November 2019. More than 50 protesters were killed in 2018 and as many of 8,000 were arrested. In 2019, at many as 1,500 might have been killed based on a Reuters report, but the Iranian government rejects these figures.
Recently, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said implicitly that some 200 to 225 protesters were killed in November 2019 and claimed only 80 percent of them were killed by security forces.