© Reuters. A photo of the Iranian Kurdish young woman, Mahsa Amini, who was killed after being arrested for wearing what was considered inappropriate clothing in a photo from the West Asian News Agency.
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s currency on Friday approached a historic low against the US dollar in the unofficial foreign exchange market, with renewed street protests in the country’s restive southeast, where an opposition Sunni cleric denounced the bloody crackdown.
The protests erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurd, on September 16, after she was arrested for wearing what was considered inappropriate clothing.
Iranians of all walks of life participated in the protests and demanded the fall of the ruling clerical regime. These protests posed one of the biggest challenges to the Shiite-ruled Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
And the website of the Sunni cleric Abd al-Hamid Ismail Zahi, who is openly critical of the ruling regime, quoted him as saying in a Friday prayer sermon in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province, “My advice is not to hit citizens. There is no government that shoots at its citizens like this government… Soldiers must be kept.” in their barracks.”
The government has blamed the unrest on protesters bent on destroying public property and says they have been trained and armed by enemies including the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The impoverished province of Sistan-Baluchestan is home to an estimated two million Baluch minority, who human rights groups say have faced discrimination and oppression for decades.
Some of the worst unrest in the past few months has occurred in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities who have long complained of injustice, including Sistan and Baluchistan and the Kurdish regions.
After the Friday sermon, protesters went out in Zahedan, chanting “Release the political prisoners” and “Death to the Islamic Republic,” according to video clips that circulated on social media. Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.
Meanwhile, facing an official inflation rate of around 50 percent, Iranians are aggressively trying to buy dollars or other hard currencies or gold, looking for a safe haven for their savings.
In the informal foreign exchange market, US dollars were selling for as much as 400,500 riyals on Friday, down slightly from an all-time high of 401,000 on Thursday, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com.
“If the dollar penetrates the psychological resistance level (400,000 riyals) and settles above it, the situation will become more difficult and the price of the dollar should be expected to rise more,” the electronic daily newspaper (Faraz) quoted analyst Muhammad Ali Taha as saying.
The riyal has lost nearly 21 percent of its value since the nationwide protests erupted more than three months ago. In May 2018, the currency was trading at about 65,000 rials to the dollar – before the United States withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (Hrana), 506 protesters had been killed as of Thursday, including 69 minors. Also, 66 members of the security forces were killed. She added that it is estimated that about 18,480 people have been arrested.
Government officials said up to 300 were killed, including security personnel.
(Prepared by Muhammad Harfoush for the Arabic Bulletin – Edited by Mustafa Saleh)