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Thousands protest in Iran over failing economy, forcing closure of Tehran's Grand Bazaar

2018-06-27 07:42:01

 Protesters angered by Iran's cratering economy have confronted police in front of Parliament, with security forces firing tear gas at them, according to online videos, the first such confrontation after similar demonstrations rocked the country at the start of the year.

The unplanned demonstration came a day after protests forced two major shopping centres for mobile phones and electronics to close in Tehran and after demonstrators earlier closed its Grand Bazaar.

It signalled widespread unease in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers and restore sanctions on the country.

It wasn't immediately clear who led the protests.

 Large group of protesters chant and raise their arms in the air

PHOTO: Protesters heckled shop owners and clashed with police. (AP: Iranian Labor News Agency )

Iran's semi-official news agencies, Fars, ISNA and Tasnim, described the protests at the Grand Bazaar as erupting after the Iranian rial dropped to 90,000 to the US dollar on the country's black market, despite the Government's attempts to control the currency rate.

Videos posted to social media showed protesters at the bazaar heckling shopkeepers who refused to close, shouting in Farsi: "Coward."

A short time later, about two kilometres from the Grand Bazaar, videos shared by Iranians on social media appeared to show a crowd confronting police at Parliament. The videos show tear gas in the air and protesters screaming: "They attacked us with tear gas."

Another man is heard shouting: "Come back."

State media in Iran did not immediately report the Grand Bazaar demonstration. Only Fars reported on the parliament protest, which it described only as shopkeepers asking politicians to, "stop rising prices".

The head of Iran's Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, was later quoted by Tasnim as saying the situation at the bazaar was calm.

"Their demands are delivered through the chamber to the Government, and these are being pursued by us," he said.

 People lean up against closed shopfront roller doors

PHOTO: People stand in the old grand bazaar where shops are closed after the protest. (AP: Iranian Labor News Agency)

Tehran's sprawling Grand Bazaar has long been a centre of conservatism in Iranian politics and remains an economic force within the country — despite the construction of massive malls around the city.

Bazaar families opposed the Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution that replaced him with a Shiite theocracy and elected officials.

At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election.

The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 arrested.

However, those protests largely struck Iran's provinces as opposed to Tehran itself.

Source: ABC News