Wednesday, 03 October 2012
Iranian riot police clashed on Wednesday with demonstrators and exchange dealers in the capital Tehran over the collapse of the rial, which has lost a third of its value against the dollar in a week, witnesses said.
They said riot police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, who included ordinary people.
Hundreds of police in anti-riot gear stormed the capital’s currency exchange district of Ferdowsi, arresting illegal money changers and ordering licensed bureaux and other shops closed, witnesses told AFP.
Several arrests were seen, carried out by uniformed police or plain-clothes security officers.
Smoke was seen in two places in the area.
Some appeared to come from a dumpster set on fire near the British embassy — evacuated last year after pro-government demonstrators stormed it.
The source of the other smoke could not be determined, with police directing pedestrians and vehicles away.
Individuals threw stones at police officers and a police car before running away, witnesses said.
A protest in Tehran’s historic Grand Bazaar — a maze-like complex of shops vital to the city — also took place but was quickly put down by police.
“We closed because we don’t know what is going to happen” in terms of the currency market, one shopkeeper said.
The crackdown on the money changing district was an apparent bid to halt a dramatic plunge in the value of Iran’s currency this week.
On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Western sanctions were mostly to blame. But rivals said his mismanagement of the economy was the main cause.