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Iran Traders and Merchants at Work After Protests Over Rial

Foreign-currency traders and bazaar merchants in Tehran opened their shops today following last week’s protests over the tumbling national currency, which led to the deployment of police in the capital’s streets.

In the first day of the Iranian week, there were no reports of a police presence in Tehran’s main area for currency traders, Ferdowsi and Manouchehri streets, though not all exchange houses in the neighborhood displayed rates in their windows.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar resumed activity, the state-run Fars news agency said. Still, some merchants concerned about possible price hikes, avoided giving prices or selling their merchandise, it said.

On Oct. 3, Iranian riot police sealed off parts of downtown Tehran, fired tear gas and broke up groups of passers-by amid protests triggered by a drop of about 32 percent in the rial’s value over a week. Police were also sent to the city’s merchant bazaar after some shopkeepers failed to open for business and garbage cans were set on fire. Security forces arrested 16 people accused of fueling unrest.

The rial fell to a record low of 35,000 per dollar on Oct. 1, an 18 percent drop, on the unofficial market. The currency traded at 13,200 November and has since plummeted due to tighter U.S. and European financial sanctions to pressure the Persian Gulf country to curb its nuclear program.

The currency gained in value after last week, trading today at 29,000 per dollar on the open market, according to the state-run Mehr News Agency. Some traders are willing to sell the greenback for 27,000 rials, though they refuse to purchase dollars, Fars said.

While gold-shop owners in the bazaar opened following an agreement with the police, many avoided conducting business, telling those inquiring about prices to come back later, Fars said.

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