Riot police armed with batons and tear gas confronted money lenders and shopkeepers in Tehran today as worries about the failing rial have lead to anger and street protests. The Iranian currency has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar in the last week, hammering businesses and traders who are finding it impossible to maintain prices. Things have gotten so bad that cross-border trade with Turkey has come to a standstill.
On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to currency crisis by vowing to crack down on illegal money changing and speculators, further angering the rather sizable number of traders (legitimate and black market) who rely on the exchanges to do business. On Wednesday morning, about 100 traders and money lenders gathered in front of Iran's central bank to demand greater action on the struggling economy, and many of the shopkeepers at one of Tehran's largest bazaars closed their stores in solidarity. Riot police quickly dispersed the group, while other officers swarmed on a popular black market district, rounding up money changers in a series of "cat-and-mouse" chases. Protesters responded with larger marches and burning tires.