'Meat Rebellion': Price Hike Triggers Public Anger In Iran

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'Meat Rebellion': Price Hike Triggers Public Anger In Iran

By Golnaz Esfandiari February 22, 2023

A sudden hike in the price of red meat has triggered widespread public anger in Iran, where the troubled economy has sunk to new lows.

The authorities have responded to the criticism by playing down the price hike and cracking down on a Tehran newspaper that ran a story critical of the government.

Commodity prices have risen sharply in the Islamic republic amid months of nationwide anti-regime protests, new international sanctions imposed on Tehran, and Iran's growing isolation.

Residents of Tehran on February 17 reported that a kilogram of boneless mutton was being sold for up to around 5,000,000 rials ($10), an almost 10 percent increase over recent weeks.

Iran's semiofficial ILNA news agency recently reported that the price of red meat had increased by up to 90 percent during the past year, which has put it out of reach for many Iranians, who are struggling to make ends meet.

The prices of other food staples, including bread, dairy products, and cooking oil, have also increased in recent weeks as the value of the rial, the national currency, has plunged.

Currency Tumbles To A New Low

The rial plummeted to a new record low of 501,300 against the U.S. dollar on February 20, according to Bonbast.com, which gathers live data from Iranian exchanges.

The Statistical Center of Iran announced on February 22 that the one-year spot inflation rate for food and beverages was around 70 percent for the Persian month of Bahman that ended on February 19.

Many Iranians have expressed anger at the price hikes and blamed the government of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who came to power in 2021 promising to improve an economy devastated by crippling U.S. sanctions and years of mismanagement.

Since Raisi assumed office, protracted talks between Iran and world powers over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal -- which curbed Tehran's sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions -- have stalled. That has worsened the economic situation in Iran and plunged more Iranians into poverty.

Tehran has also become increasingly isolated economically and politically over its deadly crackdown on monthslong anti-regime protests at home and its alleged supply of combat drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine.

Iranian officials have attempted to downplay or dismiss the price hikes.

"What was published about [the price] of red meat is the result of [efforts to create a negative atmosphere] on cyberspace," Masud Amrollahi, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture, said on February 21.

Ayub Fesahat, a municipal official in Tehran, denied that mutton prices had reached 5,000,000 rials. His remarks were refuted by dozens of Iranians who uploaded photos from supermarkets showing the increased price of meat.

Newspaper Shuttered

Amid public anger, the authorities shut down the Sazandegi daily on February 20, the same day it reported on the price hike and ran a front-page headline, "Meat Rebellion." The newspaper, which has previously been critical of the government, was accused of publishing "false content" and "disturbing public opinion."

Akbar Montajabi, the editor in chief of Sazandegi, said the newspaper appeared to be targeted for its eye-catching headline.

"According to what we have heard, the president and the members of the government were angered by the headline, 'Meat Rebellion,' and as a result, the minister of education asked the supervision board to close the newspaper," Montajabi was quoted as saying by local media on February 21.

Another daily, Hammihan, said in an editorial on February 21 that government "anger" was the reason for Sazandegi's closure.

"Since the government has not been able to solve people's problems and even come close to [fulfilling] its promises, it had to find a [scapegoat] to vent its anger at," Hammihan said.

Separately, the Ministry of Agriculture on February 21 announced the launch of a plan to combat the sale of overpriced meat.

Basic Items Out Of Reach

Amrollahi of the Ministry of Agriculture said violators would be punished, without offering details. He said the average price of meat was between 2,800,000 and 2,950,000 rials.

A journalist in Tehran, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told RFE/RL that an increasing number of Iranians have been forced to give up on buying basic food items, including fruit, because of rising prices.

"I went to buy a few things the other day. The prices had increased from the last time I went shopping and I couldn't afford everything I needed. More and more people are facing the same situation," the journalist said.

In recent years, price hikes, rising unemployment, and growing poverty have fueled street protests led by teachers, retirees, bus drivers, and other workers.

Protests over the economy preceded the anti-regime protests that erupted in September following the death of a young woman soon after she was arrested by Iran's morality police for violating the country's dress-code law.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-meat-price-hike-public- anger/32283675.html

Copyright (c) 2023. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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