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Hundreds Protest Currency Slump in Central Iran's Isfahan


In this image shared on social media, hundreds of Iranians march in the central city of Isfahan’s New Shapur district, July 31, 2018, to denounce the government’s handling of the rial’s recent slump to record lows against the dollar.

Hundreds of Iranians joined a street protest Tuesday in the central city of Isfahan to denounce the government's handling of economic problems, including the record low value of Iran's currency.

Images verified by VOA Persian and sent by Isfahan residents showed protesters marching and chanting anti-government slogans in the city's New Shapur district.

Residents said they were protesting the rial's slump to a record low against the U.S. dollar in unofficial trading this week, a decline that has raised prices for many imported products. They said the demonstration also was an expression of anger about electricity outages plaguing Isfahan in the middle of the hot summer season.

In one video clip, marchers in the New Shapur district chanted: "No to Gaza, No to Lebanon — I give my life to Iran," a common refrain of many anti-government protests across Iran this year. It is a reference to many Iranians' disapproval of the country's Islamist rulers devoting public funds to supporting Islamist militant groups across the region rather than spending those funds to tackle domestic problems.

In another clip, a man said truck drivers were among those participating in the New Shapur protest.

Other images shared on social media showed demonstrators chanting: "Reza Shah, may your soul be blessed," a reference to the late monarch whom Iran's current rulers overthrew in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Praise for the shah also has been a regular feature of recent protests in Iran.

Residents said many New Shapur retailers shuttered their stores and joined the protest as well.

In an interview with state-controlled news agency ISNA published on Tuesday, the head of Isfahan's chamber of commerce expressed sympathy with the protesting merchants, saying most of their demands were legitimate.

Rasoul Jahangiri also called on the Iranian government to stabilize currency fluctuations so that merchants and manufacturers can plan their business activities for the coming six months.

But Jahangiri also tried to downplay the significance of Tuesday's protest, saying most of the participants were concerned with their businesses and should not be considered as part of an anti-government opposition movement. He also said his business association did not support street protests and urged merchants to present their demands through what he called legal channels.

Since December, Iran has seen frequent public protests against local and national authorities and business owners accused of mismanagement, corruption and suppressing freedoms.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian service.

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