Price protests turn political in Iran as rallies spread

An Iranian man carries a quantity of bread as he walks along a street in Tehran, Iran, May 1, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 May 2022

Price protests turn political in Iran as rallies spread

  • Protests began in some cities last week sparked by the government’s subsidy cut decision that caused price hikes by as much as 300% for a variety of flour-based staples
  • Protesters have expanded their demands, calling for more political freedom, an end to the Islamic Republic and the downfall of its leaders, according to social media posts

DUBAI: Spreading protests across Iran over a cut in state subsidies on food have turned political with slogans calling for top leaders to step down, according to posts on social media, and unconfirmed reports said at least four protesters were killed.
Protests began in some cities last week sparked by the government’s subsidy cut decision that caused price hikes in Iran by as much as 300 percent for a variety of flour-based staples.
The government also raised prices of some basic goods such as cooking oil and dairy products in Iran, where almost half of its 85 million population is under the poverty line, according to official figures.
Now protesters have expanded their demands, calling for more political freedom, an end to the Islamic Republic and the downfall of its leaders, according to witnesses and social media posts.
Videos posted online showed demonstrators burned images of Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and called for the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the toppled Shah of Iran.
Footage on Twitter showed protests in dozens of provinces such as Ardabil, Khuzestan, Lorestan and Razavi Khorasan. Some state-affiliated media, meanwhile, said calm had been restored in the country.
However, Protests continued on early Sunday in at least 40 cities and towns across Iran, including in the town of Quchan near the Turkmen border, the northern city of Rasht and the western city of Hamedan, according to videos posted on social media.
Reuters could not independently confirm authenticity of social media posts and videos. Iran’s state news agency IRNA said on Friday that some shops were “set on fire in some cities,” prompting police to arrest scores of “provocateurs.”
The semi-official ILNA news agency on Saturday, citing a lawmaker, said one protester was killed in Dezful, a city in the oil producing southwestern province of Khuzestan. But videos on Twitter showed at least four demonstrators were killed by security forces.
Residents of the capital, contacted by Reuters on Sunday, reported a heavy presence of security forces across Tehran.
Global Internet monitor NetBlocks on Saturday reported a disruption lasting hours in Iran amid protests, a potential move by the authorities to prevent protesters from communicating with each other and sharing video on social media.
The latest unrest adds to mounting pressure on Iran’s rulers, who are struggling to keep the crippled economy afloat under US sanctions, reimposed since 2018 when Washington ditched Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers. Talks to revive the pact have stalled since March.
Fearing a revival of protests in recent years that seemed to shed light on the establishment’s vulnerability to popular anger over the economy, the government has described its decision as “fair redistribution” of subsidies to lower-income people.
In 2019, what began as scattered protests over a surprise increase in fuel prices, quickly spread into one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s rulers, sparking the bloodiest crackdown in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic.
The reported death toll in 2019 has varied between a Reuters account of 1,500 dead and an Amnesty International figure of more than 300. Both have been dismissed by Iranian authorities.


United Arab Emirates cuts red tape to attract digital businesses

Updated 06 July 2022

United Arab Emirates cuts red tape to attract digital businesses

  • UAE aims to make it easier for digital companies to incorporate
  • Sets a target for 300 digital companies to incorporate within a year

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates is cutting red tape to make it easier and quicker for digital companies to incorporate, the latest economic policy announcement as the government seeks to further diversify the economy away from oil revenues.

Trade minister Thani Al Zeyoudi, flanked by executives from many state-linked entities, on Wednesday announced the changes that include better access to the financial and banking system.

“We want to show digitally enabled companies from Europe, Asia, the Americas, that the UAE is the world’s best place to live, work, invest and scale,” the minister told reporters, setting a target for 300 digital companies to incorporate within a year.

Those setting up in the UAE, home to financial center Dubai and oil-rich Abu Dhabi, would have visas issued sooner and be offered attractive commercial and residential leases, he said.

As other governments step up national efforts to increase renewable energy sources and move away from fossil fuels, the UAE is rolling out a series of initiatives to double the economy to $816 billion by 2030.

“We want to show that we are here to help; from commercial licenses and work visas, to opening bank accounts, finding office space and the perfect place to live,” Al Zeyoudi said.

United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Al Zeyoudi gestures during an interview with Reuters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 30, 2022. (REUTERS)

Some company executives complain about the bureaucracy involved in setting up a business, including in hiring international staff in a country where citizens are a minority.

Still, the UAE’s Dubai has established itself as the region’s premier business hub and is already home to many multinational corporations and international businesses.

But regional competition has intensified as Saudi Arabia takes steps to re-mold itself as a leading financial and tourism center under the leadership of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“We’re moving from a regional hub to a global hub,” Al Zeyoudi said. “We’re competing with the big, big boys now.”


Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

Updated 06 July 2022

Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

  • Army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition

CAIRO: Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan issued a decree relieving the five civilian members of the sovereign council from their duties, a statement on the council’s telegram account said on Wednesday.
Burhan said on Monday the army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition, and urged political and revolutionary groups to start talks to form a transitional government.


Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

  • At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian man was killed by the Israeli military during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Rafiq Riyad Ghannem, 20, was “shot by the occupation (Israeli army)” near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the ministry said in a statement, adding that he was killed in the town of Jaba.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Sunday, a 17-year-old Palestinian died after being shot a day earlier in another Israeli army raid in the same town.
At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank, among them suspected militants and non-combatants.
Israeli security forces have launched near-daily raids in the West Bank following a spate of attacks in Israel in recent months.
Nineteen people — mostly Israeli civilians inside Israel — have been killed mainly in attacks carried out by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Three Arab Israeli attackers have also been killed.


Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

ALGIERS: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met publicly for the first time in over five years, on the sidelines of Algerian independence anniversary celebrations.
Algeria’s state broadcaster reported late Tuesday that representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Hamas movement also attended this meeting, which it called “historic.”
The pair, who officially last met face-to-face in Doha in October 2016, were brought together in a meeting with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, whose country marked the 60th anniversary of independence from France.
Abbas’ secular Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority that rules the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has been at loggerheads with Hamas since elections in 2007, when the Islamists took control of Gaza.
Tebboune and Abbas also signed a document to name a street “Algeria” in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
As well as Abbas and Haniyeh, Tebboune on Tuesday hosted several foreign dignitaries, who watched a huge military parade to mark independence in 1962 when Algeria broke free from 132 years of French occupation.


Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

Updated 05 July 2022

Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

  • "We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15," said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune
  • He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied

ALGIERS: Algeria said Tuesday it would reopen its land border with Tunisia later this month, more than two years after it was shut at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15,” said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied, who was leaving the country after attending a huge parade marking 60 years since Algeria’s independence from France.
Passengers had been blocked from crossing the border since March 2020 to stop the Covid-19 illness spreading, although cargo traffic had continued.
Being cut off from a neighbor of some 44 million people has dealt a serious blow to Tunisia’s tourism industry.
More than three million Algerians usually visit the country every year, according to local media.
Air and sea links between the two countries were restored in June 2021.