Iranian demonstrators purportedly took to the streets in a rare act of public defiance last week, but not over corruption, unemployment, or social and political reform.
The protests were reportedly over chicken, which has become the latest symbol for Iran’s deepening economic malaise.
Videos circulating on social media websites purported to show demonstrators marching in Neishabour, a city located about 500 miles northeast of Iran’s capital, Tehran. In one YouTube video, a number of people could be seen lining a street in Neishabour chanting slogans critical of the nation’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Others chanted against the rise in prices. Photos posted to blogs in iran appeared to show similar scenes from the northeastern province, though, the videos and pictures could not be independently verified.
Recent discontent in Iran has focused on rising prices of food staples, such as poultry. Many Iranians blame the government and tightening international sanctions over the country’s controversial nuclear program for the economic decline and rising inflation.
The price of chicken in Iran has increased nearly threefold in the past two months. Chicken now sells for around 80,000 rials a kilogram, roughly $6.15.
Earlier this month, one senior government official caused a stir when he urged Iranian state television to avoid broadcasting images of people eating chicken. Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, chief of Iran’s national police forces, announced at a press conference that pictures of poultry could spark social unrest, with potentially unforeseen consequences.
“They show chicken being eaten in movies while somebody might not be able to buy it,” said Ahmadi Moghaddam in mid July. “Films are now the windows of society and some people observing this class gap might say that we will take knives and take our rights from the rich.”
Meanwhile, one of Iran’s top-ranking conservative clerics has been doing his part to quell concerns over what some are calling Iran’s “chicken crisis.”