Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Day 193 – Batons and tear gas. (Iran)

We’ve been in Tehran for the last couple of days, and we are loving it. It’s crowded and dirty as expected, and the ongoing stares directed especially towards me do get a bit tedious, but it is a lively and exciting city and the people are on the whole amongst the most generous and genuinely friendly that we’ve come across.

Things have gotten a bit sketchy today though which we first realised as we were walking to the train station (yes, even we are catching public transport in this hectic city). The square that we were about to walk through was packed and the shouting voices didn’t sound like happy ones. A helpful man spotted us hovering around trying to figure out what was going on and explained that the people unhappy because of the economic situation.

The official rate is $1 = 12,600 Rial and hasn’t changed, but when we arrived in Iran we were given 24,000 Rial for every $1 on the black market. Four days later we were given 27,400 Rial which we were stoked about, but when we found out another two days later that the going rate was now 32,500 Rial, alarm bells started ringing. Today $1 is worth 36,000 Rial.

All day we have had to change routes to avoid armed police waiting ready with their riot shields. A group of 100 or more police on motorbikes that I can only describe as a “gang” has been riding around the city. We have heard discontent on many street corners and witnessed a group of civilians riding behind the police holding flags and banners, one of which was written in English and read “We Resist”.

We’ve arrived back at our accommodation this evening and after reading some news have discovered that although we didn’t see anything remotely violent, police have been using tear gas and warding of protestors with batons and shields. The street where we ate lunch at 2pm was the centre of the protesting this morning, and the taxi rank near our hotel which we noticed was peculiarly quiet this afternoon was closed for the same reason. The vibrant bazaar which we spent yesterday exploring is closed because of the crisis, and most shops in town pulled down their shutters to avoid broken windows. Apart from the groups of protestors, the hustling hive of activity that is usually Tehran was completely gone and the streets were eerily quiet. Most shops were closed in the afternoon and there were hardly any people roaming the streets. It feels disturbingly like the calm before a storm.

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