Protesters in Tehran: 'Death to the dictator'

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"But we are not against the regime", said a merchant in the bazaar, who asked not to be identified.

During late December and early January, peaceful protests over rising prices and economic problems broke out in some Iranian cities, but the unauthorized gatherings turned violent after a number of opportunists, some of them armed, vandalized public property and launched attacks on police stations and government buildings.

The unplanned demonstrations come a day after Tehran's two major shopping malls dedicated to mobiles and electronics shut down in protest over alleged rent-seeking by official importers, and refused to sell their products using the government's reduced rial rate of IRR42,000 to the dollar.

Protesters angered by Iran's cratering economy confronted police in front of Parliament on Monday, with security forces firing tear gas, according to online videos, the first such confrontation after similar demonstrations rocked the country at the start of the year.

Video clips verified by VOA Persian and sent by Tehran residents showed hundreds of striking shopkeepers and other protesters marching through the streets of central Tehran near the bazaar and chanting anti-government slogans.

In what appears to be a stunning turn away from Iran's generally anti-Semitic stance, which is replete with chants of "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" - both long considered the "little Satan" and "great Satan" by the regime - Iranian protesters were chanting "Death to Palestine!".

Iran's latest economic troubles come against the backdrop of global firms pulling away from the country after President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

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Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA said the dollar had climbed to 87,000 rials on Sunday from about 74,000 before the weekend on the black market, and several Iranian websites carried similar reports.

A government-set exchange rate of 42,000 rials to $1.00 has quickly been surpassed in the black market.

Iranian state news agency Tasnim quoted Ali Fazeli, the head of Iran's Chamber of Guilds business association, as saying that the protest at the Grand Bazaar had fizzled out later Monday.

Holly Dagres, an Iranian-American analyst, told The National that the Grand Bazaar's traders have a history of association with such protests.

Iran's economy is in difficulty as US sanctions loom and threaten to reduce part of its oil exports.

"Their demands are delivered through the chamber to the government, and these are being pursued by us".

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