JERUSALEM- A new series of videos, posted on video sharing website YouTube by an anonymous activist calling himself Freedommessenger20, purports to show massive grassroots protests against the ruling regime of the Islamic Republic due to the depreciation in the Iranian Rial’s value, by as much as a third, against the dollar over the past week. The Rial’s fall has been attributed by analysts to biting international sanctions targeting Tehran.
The Rial’s collapse was precipitated by the the Iranian central bank’s inability to support the nation’s currency in light of falling export earnings from crude oil due to western sanctions.
While the sanctions have not succeeded in curbing or slowing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, they have had a devastating effect on the Iranian economy, which now seems, if the videos prove to be genuine, to have spawned the first massive anti-regime protests since the so-called Green Revolution was put down by Iranian security forces and secret police in 2010 following a contested election widely seen by Iranian voters as fraudulent.
As their money buys less and less, Iranians are taking to the streets to vent their rage. While initial reports indicated that only foreign currency exchange dealers were involved in the protests, the videos released online would indicate the opposite: that the Iranian people are again marching en masse for change.
However, NBC correspondent Ali Arouzi, one of the rare western journalists permitted to report from Tehran, played down the protests, saying that while they were “unusual,” they were also “not likely to spread into wider disorder.”
Arouzi also said that Iranian “authorities…respond very quickly to prevent public disorder. The currency situation here is very difficult for everyone but at the moment this seems to be a dispute between angry currency dealers and the authorities in one part of Tehran.”
“People take their savings to these currency dealers to get them converted into more stable U.S. dollars, which has been one of the factors in the weakening of the rial. The dealers are unhappy that their businesses have been shuttered.”
This has also been the government line, with Tehran claiming that the weakening of the Rial is due to currency speculation.
However, if the videos are to be believed, Arouzi’s assessment of the situation may be far off base. One of the released videos is posted below