Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The unrest in Tehran's main bazaar last week subsided by the weekend when shops began to reopen.
The unrest in Tehran's main bazaar last week subsided by the weekend when shops began to reopen.

Tehran's Grand Bazaar reopens after protests

The resumption of trade suggested authorities had succeeded at least temporarily in containing public discontent over the plunge of the rial, which lost about a third of its value in 10 days.

Tehran's Grand Bazaar reopened under close police supervision yesterday, traders said, days after clashes between riot police and crowds protesting against the collapse of the Iranian currency shut down the market.

The resumption of trade suggested authorities had succeeded at least temporarily in containing public discontent over the plunge of the rial, which lost about a third of its value in 10 days.

But it remained unclear whether the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, would be able to stabilise the currency, which has been undermined by policy missteps by Iranian authorities and western economic sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.

On Wednesday, riot police fired tear gas, fought demonstrators and arrested money changers in and around the bazaar, one of the capital's main shopping areas. Mr Ahmadinejad blames speculators for the rial's slide, which is eating into living standards and destroying jobs in the industrial sector.

The involvement of the Grand Bazaar in the protests was politically significant because merchants from the area were key supporters of Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Some traders said they shut their shops this week as part of the protests, while others cited fears over their safety.

"It is business as usual today. Shops are open and we are serving customers. Of course we are also watching the currency rates to see what is going to happen," one merchant said by telephone yesterday, declining to be named because of the political sensitivity of speaking to foreign media.

Another said, "The dominant thing on every merchant's mind is concern for tomorrow. What really bothers us is the instability of the prices, even more than the high value for the dollar. Merchants need to be able to plan for their business and with instability in currency rates, that is almost impossible." Ghassem Noodeh Farahani, head of a council of business associations, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying all parts of the bazaar had reopened with security forces present to prevent any interference by "disrupters and agitators".

"The merchants have never wanted to cause disruption and have always been friends and collaborators of the revolution," he said.

The sanctions, imposed because of western suspicions that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, have slashed the country's hard currency earnings from oil exports, making it more difficult for the central bank to support the rial.

Ordinary Iranians have rushed to convert their savings into US dollars to escape the rial's depreciation and avoid high inflation, which the government says is running at about 25 per cent but private economists put much higher.

Although staple foods and basic consumer goods produced domestically are still generally available in Iran, the extreme volatility of the currency and prices has in the past couple of weeks begun to make some foreign products unavailable, Tehran residents said.

A seller of imported personal computer equipment said by phone he had halted sales because he could no longer calculate what his products were worth in rials.

In a report to the United Nations General Assembly that was released on Friday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the sanctions were having a "significant" effect on Iran's people and also seemed to be harming humanitarian operations in the country.

"Even companies that have obtained the requisite licence to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions," he said. But unless Tehran allows more international monitoring of its nuclear energy programme, Iran's economic pain looks unlikely to prompt Western governments to ease the sanctions, and may even encourage them to take further steps.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, on the US Senate's banking and foreign relations Committees, said this week he was considering how to expand US sanctions against Iran - including how to freeze an estimated 30 per cent of its foreign currency reserves held in banks outside the country.

Meanwhile, the European Union has begun discussing the possibility of a broad trade embargo against Iran, moving beyond the energy, business and financial restrictions imposed so far, EU diplomats said.

* Reuters

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National