Surge in petrol prices triggers protests in Iran

People refuelling their cars at a petrol station in Tehran

IRNA said "scattered" protests also broke out in other cities including Mashhad, Birjand, Ahvaz, Gachsaran, Abadan, Khoramshahr, Mahshahr, Shiraz and Bandar Abbas.

Protesters also gathered in a dozen other cities.

"People are still very much angry, saying this is absolutely unacceptable given the current economic status of the country", she said.

The decision came following months of speculations about possible rationing.

Iranian authorities have allocated a limit of 60 litres per month for every private vehicle at about 13 cents per litre, and beyond that quota, the price jumps to 26 cents per litre, according to state TV's reports. Each additional litre will be charged at 30,000 rials. Inflation is at 40% and the economy is expected to contract 9% this year.

Smuggling has intensified as the rial has plummeted against the dollar since Washington unilaterally abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed crippling sanctions past year.

Speaking with The Associated Press at a gas station in downtown Tehran, several people said they were shocked to discover the price rise after going to refuel their cars.

Protests require prior approval from Iran's interior ministry, though authorities routinely allow small-scale demonstrations over economic issues, especially as the country has struggled with currency devaluation.

President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday Iran in recent months has faced its "the most difficult" time in decades.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told advisors that the move was meant to put money in its citizens' pockets and that the government has earmarked all funds to be used on subsidies for poor families.

Iran's state TV quoted Vice-President Mohmmad Bagher Nobakht as saying the revenues from the price hike would fund additional subsidies for millions of poorer families.

A family of five or more will receive 2.05 million rials (around $18).

"As in many countries, tinkering with the price of gas is politically explosive".

Protests have struck several major cities in Iran, including the conservative stronghold of Mashhad, over the government cutting back on gasoline subsidies and increasing costs by 50%.

"The government was clearly attuned to this risk: The latest announcement was made in the middle of the night before a weekend, it took effect immediately, and it was announced without direct consultation with lawmakers".



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