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News | Efforts to Shield Essential Imports from Feeble Rial; 'I Am Also an Afghan'

by DAN GEIST and ALI CHENAR

03 Apr 2012 05:00Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

DollarsForeLineRear.jpg5 a.m. IRDT, 15 Farvardin/April 3 The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) is selling foreign currency to importers of qualified "essential goods" at the official exchange rate of 12,260 rials per U.S. dollar, while importers of 180 designated "luxury goods" are compelled to buy foreign currency in the open market, where on Monday afternoon the exchange rate hit 19,080 rials per dollar.

On January 23, the rial hit an open-market low of 21,000 per dollar, then rebounded to 17,000. Coupled with the rial's latest retreat, the new move involving foreign goods, reported by the Shargh daily, suggests that the government does not believe that its efforts to restore stability to the rial -- which included an official devaluation of 8.5 percent in January -- are likely to be successful.

While Shargh reported that Hamid Safdel, director of Iran's Trade Promotion Organization, says the government has temporarily banned an additional roster of approximately 600 goods from being imported to protect domestic industries, the semiofficial Tehran Times Monday touted new benchmarks in international trade:

Iran exported around $43.7 billion worth of non-oil goods in the past calendar year, which ended on March 19, and imported some $61.8 billion worth of goods, to hit the unprecedented mark of $105 billion in annual trade, the Customs Administration head announced on Monday.

Abbas Memarnejad said non-oil exports rose by 28 percent compared to the year before, while imports declined by 4 percent, the Fars news agency reported.

[...] Safdel said Iran's main non-oil exports are gas condensates, petrochemical products and engineering services, amounting to $9 billion, $13 billion, and $4 billion respectively. [...]

China, the UAE, and Iraq were respectively the main destinations for the Iranian goods, while, the UAE, China and South Korea, in order, were the main exporters to Iran during the last calendar year.

***
IAmAlsoAnAfghan.jpgIranian citizens are using Facebook and other social media sites to protest the banning of Afghan residents of Isfahan from the city's Sofeh Park on Sunday, the 13th day of the Nowruz celebration, traditionally observed outdoors. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Golnaz Esfandiari, Isfahan's Committee to Facilitate Travel announced that the ban had been put in place "to ensure citizens' welfare," and a city security official explained that "the extensive presence of Afghans" in the park had caused "insecurities for families" in the past. Esfandiari reports that ordinary Iranians swiftly went online to condemn the move:

"I am also an Afghan," some wrote as their Facebook status update. Others slammed the decision as "racist" and an "insult" to Afghans living in Iran.

There was also a report of a symbolic protest on April 1 at Sofeh Park.

A picture widely shared on Facebook shows three young men holding signs decrying racism, including one that says, "I am also an Afghan."

Reports of discrimination against and outright abuse of Afghan migrants in Iran have increased in recent years. Esfandiari describes a video uploaded to YouTube a month and a half ago that "shows a group of Afghans being mistreated, apparently by Iranian soldiers, who tell the Afghans to hit themselves on the head, perform sit-ups, and say aloud, 'We will never come to Iran anymore.'"

***

Following the decision by Minister of Labor Reza Sheikholeslami to appoint Saeed Mortazavi, the controversial former Tehran prosecutor-general, as head of the Social Security Organization, the Majles has announced that it is launching an investigation into Mortazavi's conduct and qualifications for his new position. Mortazavi has been blamed for sending 147 people charged with involvement in the protests that followed the disputed presidential election of June 2009 to the overcrowded Kahrizak detention center on Tehran's southern edge. The treatment of the detainees at Kahrizak was widely reported to be brutal, and at least three of the arrested protestors died there.

Muhammad Dehghan, a member of the parliament's Legal and Judiciary Commission, speaking with the conservative news outlet Etedaal, said of Mortazavi, "This man is not worthy of any responsibility and should not be appointed to any important position." Reacting to rumors that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to the Majles insisting on his administration's prerogative to appoint Mortazavi, Dehghan said, "One should expect any illegal act from the government; however, these threats do not stop the representatives from carrying out their legal duties."

Immediately after the appointment was made public, several deputies raised the prospect of impeaching Sheikholeslami. Tehran representative Parviz Sarvari told Etedaal that an impeachment article was, in fact, drawn up and has attracted enough signatures to be officially submitted to Majles Speaker Ali Larijani.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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