In the Tajrish market, in the upscale neighborhoods of northern Tehran, the stalls display the usual bright colors, the deep red of sumac, the bright green of fresh herbs, the fuchsia pink of hyacinths which traditionally adorn the “haft-sin”. , the table that Iranians set at home as the Persian New Year approaches, “Nowrooz”, celebrated in the evening from Monday 20 to Tuesday 21 March. On the market, you can also see a few women pass by completely unveiled. But what catches the eye are above all the prices displayed for basic foodstuffs at this time of year, when everyone usually supplies for the festivities. Prices that dissuade buyers from conforming to the traditional menu, to fall back on dishes without meat or without fish, which have become too expensive.
“Before, I didn’t look at the receipt when I went shopping, but now I check every time because I don’t understand how it is possible to have less each time for the same expenses”, says Negar, a young mother who goes out shopping without a veil every day in Tehran. Iran is experiencing a 50% rise in inflation and a historic devaluation of its currency, the rial, against the euro and the dollar. “The pressure of international sanctions, the impact of protests and the uncertain nature of the future are all seriously weakening the Iranian economy, underlines Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East program at Chatham House and specialist in the Iranian economy. All of this has a huge impact on the lives of ordinary citizens.”
“Our country is in bad shape”
“Iran has become a hell on a daily basis. Everyone is very depressed, with very gloomy thoughts”, despairs Nasrine, retired, who nevertheless says she is well off: “There are only two of us, me and my husband. My children have all gone abroad. But when I see these families who have many children to support, it breaks my heart.”
“We are doing well, but our country is doing badly, tempers Hossein, a father in his forties. All prices, especially food prices, have increased enormously in recent months: we can say that they have tripled, especially red meat. As for every New Year, he will leave for the north, “chomal” as the Iranians say, to spend a few days of rest on the edge of the Caspian. But it is certain that “this year people will find themselves at home, but there will undoubtedly be less travel and expenses. It is simply not possible.”
Raisi’s government finds itself under fire for its economic management. Some moderate newspapers even took a stand in editorials to criticize the disastrous management of affairs. In the daily Etemad, journalist Ali Mojtahedzadeh regrets the arbitrary suspension of the newspaper Sazandegi, who had published an article on the exorbitant prices of meat: “It is not the fault of the media if the prices reached a record rate under the government of Ebrahim Raïsi [le président élu en juin dernier].”
“There is very bad economic management, which adds to the other factors,” explains researcher Sanam Vakil. And it is not the agreement signed a few days ago with Saudi Arabia, under the aegis of China, which should quickly bear fruit, contrary to what was affirmed by the Saudi Minister of Finance. But according to the British researcher, “there is a lot of mistrust between the two countries. Trust will have to be rebuilt before the Saudis invest massively in Iran.”
Added to this are the protests which resumed on the occasion of “Tchaharshanbé-souri”, the fire festival, celebrated on Tuesday 14 March. On social networks, images of women burning their veils or young people shouting anti-regime slogans have circulated. “People are under so much pressure, they are already having trouble with their races, and this story of restrictions on freedoms, it becomes intolerable. We cannot be under pressure from all sides,” adds Darakheh, an elderly artist. around fifty years old.
Authorities claim to have released more than 82,000 detainees, 22,600 of whom “were linked to the riots”, according to the head of the judicial authority, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei. But arrests of dissidents and summary executions continue. Iran notably executed on March 17 a Kurd considered a political prisoner for his membership of a party banned by Tehran, according to human rights organizations.
“I go out without a veil every day, I don’t even take it with me in my bag anymore, says the young Negar. But it’s difficult to live constantly with fear in your stomach. How long can a human being put up with that?”