Protests in Iran erupt across the country amid soaring food prices

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Protests erupted in Iran on Thursday after the government cut food subsidies, sending prices skyrocketing as authorities brace for further unrest in the coming weeks.

In videos shared on social media, protesters can be seen marching through Dezful and Mahshahr in the southwestern province of Khezestan, chanting “Death to Khamenei! Death to Raisi!” referring to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi promised to create jobs, lift sanctions and save the economy.

But talks to revive Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers have remained deadlocked. Iranian families have seen their purchasing power decline rapidly.

Iranian state media did not publicly address the protests, but they were covered by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group. Footage shared by the NCRI shows protesters burning down a Basij military base in Jooneghan, a town in the central district of Jooneghan County.

“Once in a while we see these kinds of protests in Iran. Each time it’s under a different premise – the price of eggs, the price of gas, the price of bread, but the underlying message that’s supported by the slogans heard throughout the protests are the same; they are protesting the entirety of a brutal regime,” Lisa Daftari, Iran expert and Foreign Desk editor, said in a statement.

β€œIt is also evident that these protests are no longer confined to Tehran, the capital, and other urban areas. We are seeing protests across the country, in urban and rural areas and among Iran’s very large and diverse.”

EXPECT A NUCLEAR DOMINO EFFECT IN THE MIDDLE EAST IF IRAN GETS WEAPON CAPABILITIES, EXPERTS SAY

Iran sharply hiked prices by up to 300% for a variety of staples such as cooking oil, chicken, eggs and milk on Thursday. Dozens of alarmed Iranians lined up to collect food packets and emptied supermarket shelves across the country in the hours before the price hike took effect.

Bakery worker Mojtaba Motallebi puts bread packages on the shelves of a bakery in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Panicked shoppers raided stores and stuffed basic goods into large plastic bags, according to images widely shared on social media. Queues in Tehran disappeared from grocery stores on Wednesday evening. On Thursday, the Iranian currency fell to a low of 300,000 rials to the dollar.

The scenes not only revealed a deep anxiety gripping the country and frustration with Iran’s leadership, but also underscored the staggering economic and political challenges they face.

US TO HIGHLIGHT WAR-CAUSED FOOD INSECURITY AT 2 UN EVENTS

Food prices in the Middle East have risen due to global supply chain issues and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, both of which export many essential commodities. Iran imports half of its cooking oil from Ukraine, where fighting has driven many farmers away from fields.

A customer buys bread at a bakery in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

A customer buys bread at a bakery in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Although Iran produces about half of its own wheat, it imports much of the rest from Russia. The war added to inflationary pressures.

The government is trying to act quickly to ease the pain. Authorities have promised to pay each Iranian citizen about $14 a month to offset the price hike.

As outrage over rising inflation mounts online, Iranian authorities appear to be preparing for the worst. Internet monitoring group NetBlocks.org told The Associated Press that it tracks “nationwide” internet outages that “are likely to impact the public’s ability to communicate.”

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Article 19, a global research organization that fights censorship, reported on Thursday that authorities appeared to have cut off nearly all internet connectivity in cities in Khuzestan province.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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