RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
Iranian authorities have arrested at least 22 demonstrators protesting against price hikes in subsidized food staples in two cities in the southwest of the country.
President Ebrahim Raisi this week announced a series of economic measures, including cutting subsidies and increasing the prices of several staples, such as flour and cooking oil.
Iranians reacted to the expected price hikes by taking to the streets in several cities in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, the official government news agency IRNA reported on May 13, where the government has reportedly imposed a near-total shutdown of mobile Internet for the past week.
Amateur videos posted on social media showed protests in Dezful and Mahshahr, where protesters chanted against Raisi and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Some reports suggested that security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Street protests were also reported in Andimeshk, the capital city of the western province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari.
IRNA said 15 people were arrested overnight in Dezful in Khuzestan, as well as seven others in the city of Yasuj in Kohgiluyeh-Boyerahmad Province in the south.
Demonstrators in the southern city of Izeh attacked shops and tried to set fire to a mosque, the report claimed.
Rallies also took place in other cities and in the Fashapuyeh district of Tehran Province, it added.
Speaking on May 9 on state television, Raisi pledged that the price of traditional bread, gasoline, and medicine would remain unchanged.
In order to compensate for the rise in prices, Raisi said direct payments equivalent to approximately $10 or $13 would be disbursed for two months for each family member of low-income households. Later, he said Iranians will be offered electronic coupons that would allow them to access a limited amount of subsidized bread.
Reports suggested that the price of cooking oil had almost quadrupled since Raisi's announcement, while the price of eggs and chicken nearly doubled.
Many Iranians are struggling to make ends meet amid a poor economy crushed by U.S. sanctions and years of mismanagement.
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