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Protests broke out in Iran Thursday after the government cut subsidies for food, sending prices through the roof as authorities brace for more unrest in the following weeks.
In videos shared on social media, protesters can be seen marching through Dezful and Mahshahr in the southwestern province of Khezestan, chanting “Death to Khamenei! Death to Raisi!” referring to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has promised to create jobs, lift sanctions, and rescue the economy.
But talks to revive Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers has remained deadlocked. Iranian families have seen their purchasing power rapidly diminish.
Iranian state media has not publicly addressed the protests, but they have been covered by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group. Footage shared by the NCRI shows protesters setting fire to a Basij military base in Jooneghan, a city in the Central District of Jooneghan county.
“Every so often we see these types of protests in Iran. Each time it is under a different premise – the price of eggs, the price of gas, the price of bread, but the underlining message which is supported by the slogans heard throughout the demonstrations is the same; they are protesting the entirety of a brutal regime,” Lisa Daftari, Iran expert and editor-in-chief of the Foreign Desk, said in a statement.
“It is also evident in the fact that these protests are no longer just contained to Tehran, the capital city, and other urban areas. We are seeing protests throughout the country in urban and rural areas and throughout the very vast and diverse Iranian population.”
EXPECT A NUCLEAR DOMINO EFFECT IN MIDDLE EAST IF IRAN OBTAINS WEAPON CAPABILITIES, EXPERTS SAY
Iran abruptly raised prices as much as 300% for a variety of staples such as cooking oil, chicken, eggs and milk on Thursday. Scores of alarmed Iranians waited in long lines to snatch up bundles of food and emptied supermarket shelves across the country in the hours before the price hike took effect.
Bakery worker Mojtaba Motallebi put bread packs in shelves at a bakery in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Panicked shoppers raided stores and stuffed basic goods into large plastic bags, according to footage shared widely on social media. Lines in Tehran snaked out of grocery stores late Wednesday. On Thursday, Iran’s currency dropped to a low of 300,000 rial to the dollar.
The scenes revealed not only deep anxiety gripping the country and frustration with Iran’s leaders, but also underscored the staggering economic and political challenges facing them.
US TO SPOTLIGHT WAR-CAUSED FOOD INSECURITY AT 2 UN EVENTS
Food prices across the Middle East have surged due to global supply chain snarls and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which both export many essentials. Iran imports half of its cooking oil from Ukraine, where fighting has kept many farmers from the fields.
A customer buys bread in a bakery in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Although Iran produces roughly half of its own wheat, it imports much of the rest from Russia. The war has added to inflationary pressures.
The government is trying to act swiftly to blunt the pain. Authorities have promised to pay every Iranian citizen some $14 a month to compensate for the price hikes.
As outrage over rising inflation surges online, Iranian authorities appear to be bracing for the worst. Internet monitoring group NetBlocks.org told The Associated Press that it was tracking internet disruptions at a “national scale” that “are likely to impact the public’s ability to communicate.”
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Article 19, a global research organization that fights censorship, reported on Thursday that authorities appeared to have shut down almost all internet connectivity in cities across Khuzestan province.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.