Strikes Across Iran Lead to Shuttered Shops and Ghost Towns

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Businesses, shops and traditional bazaars in more than 50 cities across Iran were closed for a second day on Tuesday in what appeared to be one of the largest general strikes in decades. country.

On Monday and Tuesday, film material shared online captured scenes of ordinary life ground to a halt. Usually busy trading centers and malls in small towns and big cities resembled ghost towns. Businesses across the spectrum, from medical practices to butchers to supermarkets, closed their doors and told their staff not to come to work, according to residents in Tehran, Isfahan and other cities, and videos posted on social media.

In the narrow alleys and arches that make up the fabled bazaars of Tehran, the capital, as well as Shiraz and Tabriz, row after row of shops, restaurants and other businesses had locked their doors, videos showed.

“This unity among all unions is remarkable,” said Salar, a 40-year-old restaurant owner in Isfahan, who asked that his last name not be published for fear of retaliation. “This gave those of us who don’t go to protests a chance to show our solidarity with the people.”

Salar said he would incur significant financial losses if he closed his restaurant for three days, but it was worth it. He said his employees, who needed their paychecks to survive, had also supported the boycott.

“We all have to make sacrifices,” Ahmad, a 60-year-old taxi driver who took part in the strike, said in a message from Tehran. “Young people have given their blood and their lives for this revolution; I do the minimum.”

Activists called for three days of strikes as the next phase of an uprising that began in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in the custody of the vice squad, who had arrested her on the street in Tehran for allegedly violating the rules of the law. country. strict Islamic dress laws.

The strikes also come days after Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri said the dreaded morality police had been “abolished”, according to state media. The government has neither confirmed nor denied it.

As protests rolled across the country following Ms Amini’s death, protesters demanded a massive overhaul of the Islamic Republic. They raised grievances against political and social repression, such as the mandatory hijab law and censorship, as well as corruption and economic mismanagement, which they believed could only be resolved through regime change.

The government has greeted the protests with brutal crackdown. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the judiciary, Masoud Setayeshi, said five protesters had been sentenced to death on charges of killing a member of the plainclothes Basij militia, Iranian state media reported. He also said 11 other protesters, including three under the age of 18, had been sentenced to long prison terms.

Amid the protests, activists called for nationwide strikes, but until this week they had been scattered and confined to a few cities, and had not materialized on such a scale and scope.

Over the years, protests have occasionally erupted throughout Iran, including in 2009, 2018 and 2019, but were crushed by the government. In the year leading up to the 1979 revolution, powerful merchants in bazaars, businesses, industrial workers and government employees launched widespread strikes, strangling the economy.

In response to this week’s strike action, authorities threatened to revoke permits and arrest entrepreneurs. The head of the judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, said security forces and judicial authorities would identify and punish “rioters” whom he accused of threatening to shut down shopkeepers and businesses, according to state media.

In an apparent intimidation tactic, hate messages and threats were spray-painted on the walls of closed shops in Isfahan. videos showed. On Monday, security forces sealed off a restaurant and jewelry store owned by Iranian soccer star Ali Daei after he announced on social media that he would join the nationwide strikes for three days, the Fars News Agency reported.

In Shiraz, the pharmacy of a well-known infertility clinic was also sealed for refusing to provide service, the Tasnim News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Sealing a company can lead to the revocation of the license and the confiscation of the property.

While the economic effect of the strikes was not immediately apparent, analysts said the move signaled that discontent was deep and widespread.

“Whether or not strikes have taken place has become symbolic of whether the protest movement is reaching a new phase,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, CEO of the Bourse and Bazaar Foundation, a London-based economic research institute focused on Iran. “For now, most of the regime’s economic pressures stem from a fall in consumption. Because of the uncertainty, people buy less and shops close during strikes.”

Mr Batmanghelidj said that to put real pressure on strikes would be needed to address production needs, interrupt industrial facilities and include widespread strikes by workers. But those workers and government employees are at risk of losing their jobs.

The call to action, organized ad hoc by activists and disseminated through social media, included protests and acts of civil disobedience. It also commemorated what is known as University Student Day, December 7. On campuses in several cities, students staged sit-ins and political art performances to mark the occasion. videos showed.

But many Iranians in cities big and small took to the streets chanting: “Death to the dictator” and “For every person you kill, a thousand will rise”, videos showed.

Afshin Hojat, a resident of Rasht, said on Twitter that 90 percent of all businesses in his city were closed. When the heat broke out in his house and he called the plumber, he was told that the plumber was out of work for three days to support the uprising.