A Friday announcement by the government in Tehran that fuel prices will be hiked by as much as 50 percent and the commodity will be rationed sparked protests across the country that have already claimed at least one victim although footage from the protests suggests there may now be more, with some media reporting that as many as 36 may now be dead.
It didn’t take long before the fuel protests turned political, either, and security forces were called in to handle the situation. Clashes ensued between the protesters and riot police, Reuters reports, with people setting fire to buildings, blocking roads and setting up street fires in several cities.
According to Iranian media, protests have spread to 40 cities already and while state-owned sources are seeking to downplay the seriousness of the events, the escalation may continue.
Iranians have been suffering rising unemployment, galloping inflation, and higher living costs since the United States pulled out of the so-called Iran nuclear pact and imposed severe sanctions on the country’s oil industry, which brings in vital revenues. The eruption of protests was really only a matter of time in such circumstances and fuel price hike are often the last straw, as similar events in Brazil and Mexico in recent years have shown.
The spark that ignited the protests was a price hike of 5,000 rials ($0.12) per liter of gasoline to 15,000 rials ($0.36) and the ration of 60 liters per month. Once the limit is exceeded, a liter of the fuel would cost double that. To compare, before drivers could buy up to 120 liters of gasoline per month, at a price of 10,000 rials ($0.24).
A lot of people in Iran, the AP notes, make a living as taxi drivers, so a price hike this sharp will no doubt be a severe blow to many households. Still, according to media reports most of the protesters are peaceful, despite the footage of burning buildings and clashes with the police.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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