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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Shop owners join truckers in Iran strikes

Economic grievances see shops closed in cities across the country

A number of shopkeepers in Iran are thought to have refused to open their doors in protest about the country's economic conditions. AFP
A number of shopkeepers in Iran are thought to have refused to open their doors in protest about the country's economic conditions. AFP

Shop owners in Iran have joined truck drivers in a strike across dozens of cities in protest against deteriorating living conditions amid widespread economic woes.

Sources told The National that a number of shopkeepers refused to open their shops in a second day of strikes.

Truck drivers began the strike more than two weeks ago in cities across Iran, including major cities such as Tabriz. According to Arabic newspaper Al Hayat, at least 320 cities have been affected.

Iran News Wire, an opposition news agency based in San Diego, posted a video of stationary trucks supposedly parked in protest in the city of Dorud in Lorestan Province.

No reports were made on local newspapers regarding the strikes, but special courts in Iran set up to deal with financial crimes sentenced three suspects to death over corruption earlier this month, the official Irna news agency reported.

According to the deputy chief of the judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, the three were among 35 suspects recently brought to trial. Ms Ejehi said the rest were handed prison terms of up to 20 years.

The Special Islamic Revolutionary Courts were set up last month to try suspects quickly after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for "swift and just" action as part of the government's campaign against corruption.

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Since US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out from the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, Iran's economy has plunged into a downward spiral with the national currency hitting record lows.

“At its heart, it’s the socio-economic situation that is largely driving the recent discontent, with strikes serving as a means to voice these grievances – poverty, unemployment, low wages, lack of economic growth, and depreciating currency, rising prices,” said Kierat Ranautta-Sambhi, a regional security analyst at Le Beck International.

The International Monetary Fund predicted last May that the US administration’s announcement of their withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, would shrink the Iranian economy by 1.5 per cent this year and 3.6 per cent in 2019.

Meanwhile, trading in foreign currency and gold coins has increased. In July, Iran arrested a man who had allegedly amassed two tonnes of gold coins.

BBC Persian listeners posted pictures of shops closed in Shahreza in the province of Isfahan.

In recent months, truck drivers in various cities of Iran have been striking in protest over the trade issues.

The strikes began in June this year over modified pension policies, complaints over hard labour, and increased prices for tires and spare parts.

Al Hayat newspaper said that shopkeepers in Shiraz, Karaj, Ardabil, Qazvin, Qeshm, Isfahan, Sanandaj and Kermanshah closed their establishments protest against poverty, inflation, unemployment and the collapse of the local currency exchange rate.

The strikes are taking place despite the Iranian regime threatening to persecute those taking part.

“Authorities and particularly the IRGC, are cracking down on strikes with the aim of preventing such incidents from escalating, and there is no indication that this response will change,” Ms Ranautta-Sambhi said.

Last week, 153 lawmakers urged President Hassan Rouhani to proceed with his plan to help meet the needs of truck drivers, including access to new tyres and spare parts. In recent months, prices of tyres have tripled in Iran.

Authorities have warned against strikes by truck drivers. There are nearly one million heavy vehicle drivers in Iran, working both in cargo and passenger transportation.