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Dispatch from Tehran: Blackouts Leading to Bankruptcy

June 1, 2021
Shaya Sobhani
4 min read
Ice creams melting in the Tehran Bazaar after hours-long blackouts knocked out the freezers
Ice creams melting in the Tehran Bazaar after hours-long blackouts knocked out the freezers
Butchers complained of having to throw out meat after a few hours with no working refrigerator
Butchers complained of having to throw out meat after a few hours with no working refrigerator

The present continuous power outages have alarmed Iranian citizens ahead of the start of the energy use-intensive summer season. In hotter parts of the country, life is very difficult in summer without air conditioning. The blackouts are all the more complicated now that in many high-rise apartment blocks, water needs electricity to reach homes, and is simultaneously cut off when the power goes out.

These incidents also see most people lose access to the internet on their laptops and other devices: a major issue during Covid-19 when so much day-to-day interaction and business has shifted online. Major internet service providers Irancell and Hamrah-e Aval have said in statements that their transmission to cellphones will be cut off in blackouts.

Many Iranians have sharply criticized the government and other state institutions, calling them "useless" and "traitors" as well as other choice insults on social media. For this report, an IranWire citizen journalist covertly visited Tehran Bazaar and talked to citizens about these latest trials.


"You can see that the electricity is off now," says the owner of a poultry shop, indicating his forlorn store. “We work with electricity and if there is none, our work is shut down as well. The scales don’t work.

“This blackout has also caused us to throw away 20 kilos of mutton at 120,000 tomans per kilo. If the fridge is off for an hour, we have to throw away all the meat. Electricity is only provided two to three times a day, each time for two to three hours. Who pays for our losses? Who’s responsible?"

Kambiz, a dairy shop owner, agrees. "If the electricity goes out, dairy products spoil quickly. We have to bring in fewer goods to make fewer losses, and that keeps our income at a minimum. Now we really might not be able to pay the rent.”

Another shopowner, Mr. Shamshiri, spoke in embittered tones. "May we sacrifice ourselves for the Leader... Look at these ice cream cones melting. We can’t pay the rent. Ice creams can no longer be used after they melt, and in this heat, the carrot juice is being spoiled and we have to throw it away.”

I then went to a park in the east of Tehran and found that people had taken refuge there to escape the heat of their homes, with air conditioners constantly shutting off during the day. One such refugee, Mr. Morteza, showed me a copy of the electricity cut-off schedule that had been provided to people in his area.

“It doesn’t correspond to reality,” he said. “For example, our electricity was only meant to be cut off once today, but it went out three times. Our appliances are damaged and many others have students or cared-for patients in their homes, who need electricity and the internet.

"My daughter had a math test at 1pm today. However, due to a power outage, the exam was postponed: first to 3pm and then to 6pm at night. My daughter was so stressed her body is still shaking. It can't go on like this."

Other parents said it was a “joke” that their children couldn’t so much as access TV or the internet. The next person I talked to, Mr. Jalal, said that in his block the power was being cut off for two hours at a time, twice a day.

“The apartments are on four to five floors, so the power outage prevents water from reaching the top floors,” he said. “Many people cannot use the stairs due to old age and without electricity, the elevator does not work. So they’re locked up at home."

The outages have been attributed to Iran’s decaying power infrastructure and the amount of electricity being lost to the network as a result, together with water shortages that compound the issue by forcing agricultural companies to pump water for longer. 

"Any country that does not care about its own industry is finished," said one young man, who was out exercising. “Electricity is a necessity for workshops and factories. For whatever reason, if the power goes out, it means bread is ripped off the tables of thousands of workers. The loss and destruction doesn’t seem to bother them at all.”

This article was written by a citizen journalist in Tehran under a pseudonym.



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