LATEST: Central Bank Halves Official Value of Currency
PHOTO: Lawyers, film directors, and artists at a reception for attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh after her prison furlough
One of the many notable examples of repression after the disputed 2009 Presidential election is the regime’s imprisonment of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, arrested in September 2010 — nominally for propaganda against the regime and threatening national security — and sentenced in December 2010 to 11 years in prison and a 20-year ban on practicing law.
The sentence was later reduced to six years by an appeals court, but authorities continued to harass Sotoudeh, blocking of limiting her visits with her husband and children. In autumn 2012, she protested with a 49-day hunger strike.
Soon after the victory of Hassan Rouhani in last month’s Presidential election, Sotoudeh was granted a four-day furlough. In what may be a sign of the loosening regime grip amid Rouhani’s post-election declarations, Sotoudeh has not been summoned back to Evin Prison after two weeks.
Sotoudeh with Mohamed Maleki, the former President of Tehran University who was also imprisoned after the 2009 Presidential election:
Sotoudeh with journalist Jila Bani Baghoub as both were freed from Evin Prison last month:
The Central Bank has halved the official value of the Rial, lowered it from 12260:1 vs. the US dollar to 24779:1.
The move goes some way to close the gap with the open-market rate of the Rial, which lost 70% of its value last year and is now about 33000:1.
The step will make imports at the official rate far more expensive; however, the Central Bank had already been reducing the list of goods that received the subsidised currency. It had also been operating an “exchange center” that provided foreign exchange at a rate above the official rate but discounted vs. the open market — in the case of the US dollar at 25000:1.
The step is almost likely to have been taken to ease pressure on Iran’s foreign reserves. These were estimated at about $80 billion at the end of 2011. Figures have been unavailable since them, but the reserves are likely to have diminished significantly amid a halving of Iran’s oil exports since the start of 2012.
President-elect Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that Iran should make use of the country’s biotechnology infrastructures to develop products domestically rather than import them.
Speaking at a biotech conference, Rouhani said that Iran should have the courage to change this situation by using its expertise.
While other leaders — both political and military — have made a point of pushing for the development of local scientific expertise and of domestic production, the terminology Rouhani used in his speech is somewhat different. Rather than stressing concepts like the “resistance economy” and how that can be used to combat sanctions, the President-elect emphasizes local expertise, and says that Iranians should have the self-confidence to rely on that skill, rather than on foreign imports.