For Iranian Regime, Tehran Bazaar Protest Could Be A Game-Changer
|October 18, 2012|
Bazaaries, the Farsi name for Iran’s traditional merchants, are typically a conservative, wealthy bunch reluctant to involve themselves in politics. But their displeasure with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who they believe is responsible for bungling the economy, has changed that.
On Oct. 2, in a unique confrontation between the Bazaaries and the government, the merchants closed the Bazaar and protested against Ahmadinejad, the government, and, more specifically, the sharp decline of Iran’s currency. This time last year, the U.S. dollar bought 11,500 rials; now, a dollar is worth 39,500 rials -- a 70 percent increase.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the Bazaaries’ decision to shed their apolitical posture is that historically when Iranian merchants protest against government activities, revolutions quickly follow. That’s not good news for the present Iranian administration.
The last time the merchants from Iran’s Grand Bazaar entered the political fray, the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution ensued. And the time before that, the 1905-1907 Constitutional Revolution was the outcome.
“Bazaaries don’t like an unsteady situation or a sudden change in Iran because it is bad for their business,” Iranian journalist and political expert Roozbeh Mirebrahimi said. “It interrupts normal life routines.”
Indeed, during the 2009 protests, known as the Green Movement, that attempted to topple the newly reelected Ahmadinejad regime, the Bazzaries stood on the sidelines because there seemed to be little economic gain to what the anti-administration advocates were offering.
“But now, their wealth, the reason that kept them away from protests, is in jeopardy,” Mirebrahimi added.
BBC News reported from the Iranian-Turkish border that, usually, in good economic times, queues of trucks would be waiting at the border to enter Iran. But now the trucks have stopped coming. It’s obvious from this that the Iranian economy is barely afloat and the Bazzaries’ business is taking the hit.
Bazaaries still have the capital to purchase new products but are struggling to determine a fair selling price due to the falling value of the rial. In addition, inflation decreases the average citizen’s buying power, further restricting the Bazaaries’ profits.
“Economic problems in Iran can unite many people for protest because not everyone in Iran is looking for freedom and democracy, but everyone is worried to fill their shopping cart,” said Arash Hasannia, an economics reporter for Radio Farda.
Of course, national and international events can increase or decrease the dollar’s value, but the drastic fall of the rial came just one day after the United States issued sanctions against Iran this summer -- a move quickly mimicked by the European Union.
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