Iran bans 1,300 imports as economic protest shuts shops in Tehran

June 25, 2018 - Iran is to ban the import of more than 1,300 products amid fears about the impact of US sanctions. The announcement came as traders in Tehran staged a rare protest against rising prices and the fall of the currency to a record low.

Police patrolled the Grand Bazaar in the capital on Monday after security forces struggled to restore order after clashes with protesters, witnesses said. Many in the country are angry about the rial’s collapse, which is disrupting business by driving up the cost of imports.

Traders from the bazaar, whose merchants supported Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, said most shops remained closed.

“Police have dispersed the protesters. We are all angry with the economic situation: we cannot continue our businesses like this. But we are not against the regime,” said a merchant, who asked not to be identified.

Industries and the trade minister, Mohammad Shariatmadari, banned the import of 1,339 goods that could instead be produced in the country, Iran’s Financial Tribune reported, quoting an official document.

Prohibited imports include home appliances, textile products, footwear and leather items, as well as furniture, healthcare goods and some machinery, according to the Tehran Times.

The order suggests the threat of US sanctions is pushing Tehran back towards a “resistance economy” in an attempt to conserve foreign exchange reserves and become as self-sufficient as possible.

The rial sank to 90,000 against the dollar in the unofficial market on Monday, from 87,000 on Sunday and about 75,500 on Thursday, according to the foreign exchange website Bonbast. At the end of last year, it stood at 42,890.

Now that the US has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, some sanctions are to be reimposed in August and November.

This could reduce Iran’s hard currency earnings from oil exports and the prospect is triggering a panicked flight of Iranians’ savings from the rial into dollars.

Hundreds of merchants gathered outside the parliament building in Tehran, witnesses said. In the Grand Bazaar, hundreds staged a similar protest, videos posted on social media show.

A larger, sustained series of demonstrations could put pressure on the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who has come under fire from hardliners over his economic record.

State TV quoted Tehran’s deputy governor, Abdolazim Rezaie, as saying there had been no arrests during the protests and all shops would be open as normal on Tuesday.

Source: The Guardian