Iran protests break out over soaring bread prices

Unrest follows a cut in government subsidies for imported wheat

Iran has abruptly increased prices as much as 300 per cent for many foods made with flour. Photo: AP
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Soaring bread prices have led to protests in Iran, with shops being set on fire and the security forces arresting "provocateurs", the official Irna news agency has said.

It follows a cut in government subsidies for imported wheat that caused price rises as high as 300 per cent for many foods made with flour.

The Iranian government plans to offer digital coupons in the next couple of months for limited amounts of bread at subsidised prices, Reuters reported. The rest will be offered at market rates, with other food items added later.

Almost half of Iran’s 82 million population are now living below the poverty line. Inflation is about 40 per cent — with some estimating it at more than 50 per cent.

There were scattered protests in a number of cities, according to Irna, in which crowds chanted slogans against the price rises and some shops were set on fire. Twenty-two people arrested.

"Despite attempts by provocateurs to incite protesters, the rallies ended with the intervention of security forces,” Irna reported. It said calm had been restored.

The largest protest was in Dezful, a city in the oil-rich south-western province of Khuzestan. Irna said an estimated 300 people were dispersed by the security forces. It said 15 people were arrested for "trying to create chaos" in the city.

About 200 people demonstrated in Shahr-e Kord, the capital of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province in western Iran on Thursday, Irna said.

“The rally ended at the request of law enforcement agents to prevent thugs from exploiting the situation,” it said.

In the first signs of discontent over price rises, Iranian media last week reported disrupted internet services, an apparent attempt to stop the use of social media to organise rallies and disseminate videos.

Although Friday's Irna report was the first acknowledgement of the protests by Iran’s official media, videos uploaded by social media users this week have showed protests in Dezful and other cities, in which people chanted slogans against price rises and the country’s leaders.

Reuters could not independently authenticate the videos.

Wheat prices have drastically increased globally since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, adding to the cost of subsidies in Iran.

Iranian officials have also blamed the price rises on the smuggling of subsidised bread into neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan.

Updated: May 13, 2022, 12:45 PM