Iranians Protest Prices in Key Cities Ahead of Sanctions Return

(Bloomberg) -- Scattered protests over economic hardship appeared to have been held in several of Iran’s major cities, days before the return of U.S. financial sanctions.

About 200 people took to the streets in the southern city of Shiraz on Thursday after a call for rallies circulated on social media this week, the state-run Iranian Students News Agency reported. Protesters initially expressed their discontent over the state of the economy though slogans later turned more political, it said. Police asked shopkeepers in the area to close their stores and dispersed the demonstrators, according to ISNA.

Recordings posted on social media purported to also show demonstrations in the central city of Esfahan, Mashhad in the northeast, and in Karaj, close to the capital Tehran. The timing and location of the videos could not be independently verified.

One showed a dozen men hurling stones in an Esfahan street and shouting “death to the dictator.” The other -- from the same city -- featured a larger group walking along a street with their fists in the air.

Frustration is rising in Iran as the nation’s confrontation with the Trump administration has triggered a plunge in the value of the rial against major currencies and subsequent price rises. American sanctions lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal -- which the U.S. exited in May -- are being restored in two stages, with the first due to come into effect Aug. 6. The vital oil industry will face restrictions from November.

The currency has lost about 15 percent of its value against the dollar on the widely used black market in the past week.

In a Thursday report in the Tehran-based Shargh newspaper, the deputy governor of Esfahan province, Hamidreza Tabatabai, said a gathering of union members earlier this week over the high cost of some items had been hijacked and transformed into street protests where people chanted radical slogans.

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