Claimed footage of Wednesday's protests near the Tehran Bazaar: "Bazaaris, support, support, support us!"
After Wednesday's eye-catching developments --- from the suspension of trading and news of Iranian Rials for US dollars, the closure of the Tehran Bazaar, and nearby protests --- a summary....
Some Iranian media posted brief reports of events --- Mehr, for example, wrote about closure of the Bazaar and clashes with police, with arrests around the Bazaar and nearby streets and squares. Further confirmation came, even as outlets offered contradictory signals about how to cope with the events. "Hard-line" sites such as Raja News played up the threat of "hooligans". Initially, the head of the Bazaar's guilds tried to play down the incident of "closed shops because of unknown elements" and said that most merchants had operated as normal; a later declaration, however, a later declaration gave up trying to minimise the situation: "Despite criticism of the government and President Ahmadinejad, we will defend the nezam (system) and the country with our lives."
As for the Government, already besieged by the economic situation and the collapsing currency, it issued the statement that a Cabinet meeting had agreed steps to control the currency market. No details were offered, however. Minister of Economy Shamseddin Hosseini simply asserted that foreign exchange would not be rationed, and the illegal market would be eliminated.
Instead, authorities concentrated on immediate measures to limit any spread of protest. In addition to the mobilisation of security forces, officials appeared to be paying close attention to limiting information --- US-backed Radio Farda reported on its Facebook page that its programmes had been jammed. It is unclear how successful the regime was in blocking other international media, such as France's RFI, which put out the news that all foreign exchange traders were closed while riot police, plainclothesmen, and other uniformed officers attacked protesters and bystanders.
And what of the currency, whose decline started Wednesday's rush of events? While websites were ordered to withhold the Rial-to-dollar rate and some were reportedly blocked, word-of-mouth and a bit of bold reporting ensured that news crept out. Mehr put out a note that, if dollars could be bought, the rate was 36100:1, a further fall in the Rial's value of 1.6%.
Other reports indicated, however, that dollars were much more expensive when they could be obtained. An EA reader offered this information from Iran:
There is no real rate today....Today really everything was stopped. We called exchange companies and almost all were refusing to give any figures. A few would mention random numbers, but there was [no] basis to them.
I have a close family relation in the exchange company in a different city (not Tehran) and I called him regularly but he said there was no buying and selling from their side. But if our company wanted an urgent transfer to Dubai, they could move it to us...They wouldn't actually give us the [Emirati] dirhams in Iran, but we pay in Iran and they deposit the money in our bank in Dubai in dirhams.
The random figures I've heard today were from 3600 to 5200 [for the Rial-to-dollar rate], but I put no stock in either the lower figure or the higher one. (The higher one was heard in one case, when my colleague was in the bazaar, where a man was shouting 5200! 5200! to find buyers, but they told me no actual purchase was made.)