March 1, 2013
Last October, after the Iranian rial lost half its value against the dollar in the space of a week, hundreds of Tehran’s “bazaaris,” or small merchants, took to the streets chanting, “Death to this hypocrite government!”
Police dispersed them, but with surprising reserve, arresting a mere 16 people, while state media downplayed the incident. And for good reason: The bazaaris make up one of the Iranian regime’s main constituencies, and if they’re turning against the government, then something is rotten in the Islamic republic.
The bazaaris’ main gripe in October had to do with the plummeting currency, which sent the prices of imported goods through the roof, hurting businesses nationwide. But this was only one item on a lengthy list of economic hardships that have hit Iranians with increasing intensity since the latest batch of international sanctions in 2011.
Merchants at a Tehran market
With presidential polls set for June 14, less than four months away, the million-dollar question is whether large-scale dissent will spill into the open as it did in 2009-2010, when Iran saw its biggest street protests in 30 years, triggered by allegations of foul play in the previous presidential race.
Those rallies – ruthlessly suppressed by the authorities – were driven by justice-seeking urbanites; this year, if “economic” protesters like the bazaaris start demonstrating en masse, the situation could spiral out of control – at least, the control of the clerical regime.
Whether it does or not, Iranians’ deteriorating living standards are sure to figure prominently in the coming battle for the presidency.
This article was posted: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 6:51 am