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Protests erupted in Iran on Thursday after the government cut food subsidies and hiked prices as authorities braced for more unrest in the coming weeks.
Videos shared on social media show protesters marching through Dezful and Mahshahr in the southwestern province of Khezestan shouting “Death Khamenei! Death Raisi!” shout. Referring to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, he has promised to create jobs, lift sanctions and bail out the economy.
But talks to revive Iran’s ripped-out nuclear deal with world powers have stalled. The purchasing power of Iranian families is rapidly declining.
Iranian state media has not commented publicly on 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 town in Jooneghan County’s Central District.
“Every once in a while we see this type of protest in Iran. Each time they stand under a different premise – the price of eggs, the price of petrol, the price of bread, but the underlining message, supported by the slogans heard throughout the demonstrations, is the same; they are protesting against the whole of a brutal regime,” said Lisa Daftari, Iran expert and editor-in-chief of the Foreign Desk, in a statement.
“It is also reflected in the fact that these protests are no longer limited to Tehran, the capital, and other urban areas. We are seeing protests across the country, in urban and rural areas, and among the very large and diverse Iranian population. “
EXPECT A NUCLEAR DOMINO EFFECT IN THE MIDDLE EAST IF IRAN GAINS WEAPONS, EXPERTS SAY
Iran abruptly hiked prices by as much as 300% on a variety of staples including cooking oil, chicken, eggs and milk on Thursday. Scores of alarmed Iranians waited in long lines to snag bundles of groceries in the hours before the price hike went into effect, emptying supermarket shelves across the country.
Panicked shoppers raided stores and stuffed basic groceries into large plastic bags, according to footage shared widely on social media. Lines in Tehran were snaking out of grocery stores late Wednesday. The Iranian currency fell to a low of 300,000 riyals to the dollar on Thursday.
The scenes not only showed deep domestic concern and frustration with the Iranian leadership, but also underscored the enormous economic and political challenges they face.
WE WILL SHOW LIGHT ON WAR-CREATED FOOD INSECURITY AT TWO UN EVENTS
Food prices in the Middle East have skyrocketed due to global supply chains and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both of which export many essential commodities. Iran imports half of its cooking oil from Ukraine, where fighting has kept many farmers off the fields.
Although Iran produces about half of its own wheat, it imports the rest from Russia. The war has increased inflationary pressures.
The government is trying to act quickly to ease the pain. Authorities have promised to pay every Iranian citizen about $14 a month to offset the price hikes.
As outrage over soaring internet inflation mounts, Iranian authorities appear to be bracing for the worst. Internet surveillance group NetBlocks.org told The Associated Press that it tracks Internet disruptions at a “national level” that are “likely to affect the public’s ability to communicate.”
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Article 19, a global research organization fighting censorship, reported Thursday that authorities appear to have shut down nearly all internet connections in cities across Khuzestan province.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.