Iran arrests at least 22 people protesting price hike of staple food

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian authorities have arrested at least 22 demonstrators who have been protesting a sudden rise in the price of subsidized staples in two southern cities, state media reported earlier Friday.

Iran announced this week that the cost of cooking oil, chicken, eggs and milk would rise by as much as 300% as food prices in the Middle East surged due to global supply chain disruptions and Russia’s invasion of major food exporter Ukraine. .

The state-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency reported that 15 people were arrested overnight in the city of Dezfur in southwestern Khuzestan province, and in Yasuj in the southern province of Kogiluye-Boyerahmad. 7 people were arrested.

The report also said 200 people gathered in Andimeshk, another city in Khuzestan province, where demonstrators threw rocks at police and firefighters, injuring one firefighter. By Friday, the situation in all regions had calmed down, IRNA added.

Ahead of the demonstrations, advocacy group NetBlocks.org said internet outages had been reported across the country as governments prepared for possible unrest.

Videos widely circulated on social media showed several other protests in Khuzestan, some of which turned violent, with protesters burning tires in the streets and police firing tear gas to disperse them. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the authenticity of the video.

Half of Iran’s cooking oil is imported from Ukraine, where the war has left many farmers unable to farm, and almost half of its wheat comes from Russia. As hunger spreads across the region, Iran’s smuggling of heavily subsidized bread into neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan has surged.

Drought is already ravaging Iran’s economy, and Western sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program have created additional difficulties. Inflation surged to nearly 40 percent, the highest level since 1994. Youth unemployment also remains high. According to the Iranian Statistics Center, about 30 percent of Iranian households live below the poverty line.

Memories of Iran’s November 2019 fuel price hike also remain fresh. Then, widespread protests – the most violent since the Islamic Republic’s founding in 1979 – shook the country.

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