Rise in bread prices sparks alarm at Friday prayers across Iran

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Dozens of Friday prayer imams in Iran have urged the government to solve economic problems, saying people are suffering under the pressure of rising prices.

Some clergy and paramilitary organizations have warned that the sudden rise in the price of items such as bread could spark protests and riots.

Meanwhile, journalists in Tehran tweeted on Friday that the price of bread in Tehran almost quintupled, despite comments from economy officials higher flour prices would not affect traditional bread bought at neighborhood bakeries, and the increase will be limited to baguettes and other Western-style buns.

Tehran Friday prayer imam Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi Fard said in his sermon that the government should focus its efforts on improving the nation’s livelihood. He urged the government to explain the reasons for the recent price hikes and to ensure people understand that the government is keen to offset the higher cost of living by introducing economic reforms.

On Tuesday, other clerics, including Ahmad Khatami, promised in Eid al-Fitr sermons that the economic situation would improve but did not say how. Kazem Seddiqi, another prayer leader in Tehran, had also expressed concern about the consequences of rising prices.

On Friday, imams in cities like Dayyer, Bojnourd, Zahedan, Shar-e Kord, Bushehr, Kermanshah and many other cities warned the government that people are suffering from rising prices for bread and other necessities.

Traditional Iranian flatbreads at a bakery in Tehran.

In Tehran, the commander of the IRGC’s Basij student militia warned President Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday that the situation could lead to a wider riot in the country. Meanwhile, prominent reformist cleric Mohammad Taqi Fazel Maybodi Raisi also warned that “Iran should wait for riots, which are more dangerous than revolution if price rises are not checked.”

Social media users in Iran on Friday switched from complaints about the shortage and high price of noodles to more serious complaints and warnings about the potential impact of rising prices for all breads in Tehran.

Somaye Naghi, a business journalist in Tehran, wrote that they sent someone from the newspaper’s office to buy traditional stone-baked bread called sangak, but were told the price had dropped from 60,000 rials to 250,000 rials (US$1) per loaf had risen. She pointed out that this comes as Raisi’s agriculture minister promised the day before that the price of traditional bread would not go up, impacting “luxury Western-style buns”.

Meanwhile, many Iranian journalists have interpreted Vice President for Executive Affairs Solar Mortazavis’ strong defense of scrapping cheap government dollars to import essential goods, including flour, as a sign that living conditions for workers, teachers, retirees and low-wage earners will have deteriorated dramatically deteriorate.

The government has started rationing bread in some cities and the general perception is that this practice will be rolled out across the country. Journalist Ameneh Mousavi wrote on Twitter that rationing had started in Zanjan.

None of the clerics speaking about soaring bread prices on Friday spoke about the impact of sanctions, apparently because they find it difficult to explain why the country is under sanctions and why Iranian officials are not negotiating with the United States to lift the sanctions be able. They fear this will offend Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is responsible for key decisions including talks with the United States.

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