Workers on strike at Esfahan Steel Company on early hours of February 26, 2023

Iran Experiencing New Strikes, Protests As Rial Keeps Falling

Sunday, 02/26/2023

Iran witnessed another wave of daily protests and strikes Sunday, as its currency sank leaving ordinary people to wonder how they can afford minimum necessities. 

Groups of pensioners and workers from the bakery union, steel companies and sugar factories among others continued their strikes, that started during the week as bad news about rising prices daily jolted ordinary people. 

Bakers held a gathering in Tehran, while workers of Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane complex in the southwestern Khuzestan province, the Esfahan Steel Company in central Iran, and workers in several southern cities, where most of oil and gas companies are located, were on strike. 

The steel company’s strike, which started Saturday, went through the night while security forces used water cannons to disperse the protesting workers, but they gathered again and stopped the work of more sectors, as well as the night shift in the sprawling complex, a protester told Iran Interntional. According to him, parts of the Esfahan Steel Company are closed, and the governor of the city has visited the steel mill. He added that no cameras are allowed in the company and the place is swarming with security forces. The company, called Zob Ahan in Persian, is directly controlled by the country’s Ministry of Industries and Mines, and is Iran's third largest steel producer and is the largest factory producing steel for construction.

A section of Esfahan Steel Company

Some of the retirees of the company also gathered in front of the company’s pensioners fund building on Sunday to protest against their conditions. In videos released to social media of the rally in provincial capital Ahvaz, people are heard chanting slogans such as “Leave Syria, solve our problems!”

In some other cities of the oil-rich province such as Shush, Shushtar, and Dezful as well as the central city of Kerman, pensioners held rallies and chanted slogans. 

Even the veterans of the Iraq-Iran war held a gathering on Sunday and asked for their overdue pensions. 

On an accelerating freefall in recent days, the rial lost value on Sunday to touch over 600,000 against the US dollar but bounced back a little to retreat again. The rial’s plunge to 575,000 Saturday exacerbated chaos in several of Iran's major markets and brought many businesses to near standstill. 

The government’s official rate of over 420,000 for the dollar on Saturday meant very little. Availability of foreign currency at that rate is very limited, which drives buyers to the black market, leading to speculations that the Central Bank of Iran injected a vast amount on Sunday to slow the devaluation. 

However, the government is also incapable of major changes in the market as is itself strapped for cash, sending Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to neighboring countries to find ways for funneling foreign currency through them. 

An informed Iraqi source told Iran International on Thursday that the recent trip by Amir-Abdollahian to Baghdad was focused on ways to retain the flow of foreign currency from the neighboring country. Washington has imposed new restrictions on dollar transfers to Iraq as the Arab country’s banking officials believe there is widespread money laundering sending funds to Iran and Syria.

According to Iran International sources, the IRGC’s Quds (Qods) force is laundering money for the regime with cooperation from the Islamic Republic’s embassy and several cover companies to take revenues from oil and gas exports back to Iran. The laundering network is managed under the supervision of Hamed Abdollahi, the commander of the Quds Force Unit 400 of the IRGC, which directs terrorist operations abroad. Some of the members of his family and a former IRGC official Mahmoud Hassani-Zadeh work in the operations. 

Earlier in the month, Iran International obtained information that the Islamic Republic is suffering from heavy financial losses because such a large amount of its money is blocked in Iraq by US banking sanctions.

The rial fell from 35,000 to more than 600,000 against the US dollar in exactly five years. This led to very high inflation, officially at more than 50 percent, which has impoverished tens of millions of Iranians. An Iranian economist says the role of US sanctions in causing economic chaos in Iran has been significant.

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