Iran’s currency crisis shakes Rouhani’s middle-class base

Al Monitor | : Barely over a month after economic grievances, mainly among the working class, sparked deadly protests across the country, fluctuations in the value of the Iranian currency — the rial — have generated grave disappointment with another key constituency. This time, the grievance chiefly stems from the pillar of President Hassan Rouhani’s voter base — namely, the middle class, which has been pinning its hopes and pursuit of greater freedoms on the ballot box.

Since last summer, the rial has dramatically lost value, reaching all-time lows against the euro and the dollar on Feb. 4 and Feb. 13, respectively. After a crackdown on speculators and the Central Bank of Iran’s (CBI) announcement of measures to absorb liquidity on Feb. 15, the rial has posted considerable gains, currently trading for some 44,800 against the greenback, up from a low of 50,000. Yet these fluctuations have been a cause of serious concern for many, including young Iranians who seek to study abroad.

“It feels like my plans have been getting ruined on a daily basis as the euro continued its gains [against the rial],” Sepideh Farvardin, a 25-year-old professional photographer in Tehran, told Al-Monitor. “I need to pay 9,500 euros for a graduate photography course in Belgium. Now, thanks to our currency’s devaluation, I need to save 15-20% more than the maximum amount of cash I had planned to save. And this is happening while my income remains the same. Now I’m not really sure whether or not I can increase my savings to the needed amount by the application deadline.” A weakened rial also tends to directly hit the middle class by virtue of driving up prices of preferred imported consumer goods and foods.

On the morning of May 20, 2017, Farvardin posted an Instagram story to her 30,000 followers that showed a simple illustration of a golden semicircle, resembling the rising sun, against a dark purple sky that bore the words “Sunrise of Hope.” Celebrations of President Hassan Rouhani’s landslide win against his main hard-line rival, Ebrahim Raisi, in the election held a day before had officially begun.


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