Iranian merchants in the capital’s Grand Bazaar held a rare protest Monday against the plummeting value of Iran’s currency, the rial, as other demonstrators also took to the streets.
Most shop owners closed their stores Monday in Tehran’s main bazaar as thousands of people gathered in the streets. Video posted to social media showed protesters heckling those shopkeepers who refused to close their stores, shouting “cowards.”
Demonstrators later gathered in front of parliament, about 2 kilometers from the Grand Bazaar, leading to a confrontation with police in which authorities fired tear gas at the protesters.
Iran’s semi-official news agencies described the protests at the Grand Bazaar as erupting due to the fall of the Iranian rial.
Iran’s currency has plunged almost 50 percent in value in the past six months, with the U.S. dollar now buying around 90,000 rials on the black market, despite government attempts to control the currency rate.
Earlier this year, Iran’s government set an exchange rate of 42,000 rials to $1, but this action only generated a vibrant black market.
Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said Grand Bazaar merchants returned to work Monday after the government promised to help them access hard currency for their imports.
Iran’s government has been struggling with a range of economic problems, including high unemployment and growing fears about the impact of the reinstatement of U.S. sanctions after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal with Iran.
Similar economic protests roiled Iran this past December and January, spreading to around 75 cities and towns. However, those protests largely were focused in Iran’s provinces as opposed to Tehran itself.