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Anxieties Grow in Iranian Kurdish Town as Strike Enters 11th Day

Iranian Kurds keep their stores shut for an 11th day in Baneh, Iran, April 25, 2018, as part of a protest against Tehran's closure of border footpaths used for trade with Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iranian Kurdish shopkeepers have extended a strike in a northwestern border town to an 11th day as they protest Tehran’s policies in the region, causing some distress within the local community.

Residents of Baneh who contacted VOA Persian via social media shared images of stores remaining closed Wednesday, as part of a strike that began April 15.

Shops closed in Baneh for 11th day
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Shop workers are protesting the Iranian government’s monthslong closure of border footpaths that they rely upon for trade with Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Baneh’s economy is dependent on the sale of imported products from Iraq. Residents have said their inability to import has crippled economic activity.

But some locals said the prolonged closure of Baneh’s stores has raised tensions between supporters of the strike and people who want to buy and sell everyday goods. They said groups of strike supporters have searched for store owners who opened for business and pressured them into closing under threat of taking pictures of the open stores and sharing them on social media.

View of Baneh Street from a Car
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Some shopkeepers have complained of losses from food products that have spoiled during the closure.

Other residents said that when people need to buy food, they contact shopkeepers covertly and make purchases at night under cover of darkness. But they said many locals are sympathetic to the strikers.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service. Michael Lipin contributed additional reporting from Washington.