Bread price hike sparks riots in Iran

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Rising bread prices triggered protests in Iran in which some shops were set on fire, prompting police to arrest dozens of “provocateurs”, the official IRNA news agency said on Friday.

The protests were triggered by a cut in government subsidies for imported wheat caused price increases of up to 300% for a variety of flour-based staples.

Iran’s official inflation rate is around 40% and some estimate that it exceeds 50%. Nearly half of Iran’s 82 million people are now below the poverty line.

The government plans to offer digital coupons in the coming months for limited amounts of bread at subsidized prices. The rest will be offered at market prices. Other foods will be added later.

There were scattered protests in several cities, according to IRNA, in which the crowd shouted slogans against price gouging and some shops were set on fire. In total, 22 people were arrested.

“Despite the provocateurs’ attempts to incite the demonstrators, the marches ended with the intervention of the security forces,” IRNA said, adding that calm had been restored.

The largest protest was in Dezful, in the oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan, where IRNA said some 300 people were dispersed by security forces. The report stated that 15 people were arrested for “trying to create chaos” in the city. About 200 people demonstrated Thursday in Shahr-e Kord in western Iran’s Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, IRNA said.

“The demonstration ended at the request of law enforcement to prevent looters from taking advantage of the situation,” IRNA said.

In the first signs of discontent over price hikes, Iranian media reported last week the interruption of internet services, an apparent attempt to stop the use of social networks to organize rallies and spread videos.

While Friday’s IRNA report was the first acknowledgment of the protests by Iran’s official media, Videos uploaded by social media users this week show protests in Dezful and other cities chanting slogans against price hikes and the country’s leaders.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the videos. Wheat prices have risen sharply globally since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, which adds to the cost of subsidies in Iran.

With information from Reuters

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