The latest coronavirus outbreak in Tehran has prompted the Iranian government to impose fresh restrictions on residents, who can now be fined a million tomans ($39.92) for leaving the city.
The National Coronavirus Taskforce announced on Sunday that only key workers can continue to operate under the new lockdown. These include pharmacists, public transport operatives, the military, grocers, health workers, and take-away kitchen staff. But reports indicate that plenty of other workers are defying the latest lockdown.
Sadegh, a young man who sells clothes in a mall in western Tehran, told IranWire: "In previous lockdowns, the managers did not open the mall doors; this time, however, because of our protests, they said we can open up our shops."
He added that Iranians might take the new lockdown seriously if they believed the government was making progress on curbing the spread of the virus. "If we knew they were importing vaccines, for instance, we would agree to the restrictions. But there is no prospect of that. They do nothing until a new waves comes, then they shut everything down.”
Tehran Guilds Chief Demands End to Coronavirus Restrictions on Businesses
"We had to seek compensation for closing," said Khosro, another shopkeeper in east Tehran. "When the lockdowns don’t reduce our taxes and the government does not help us in the slightest way, why should we follow its instructions? Does the government pay the rent for our homes or shops?" He paused, then added: "It’s become so bad that even the Chamber has written a letter of protest.”
Khosro was referring to a recent open letter of protest by Ghassem Nodeh Farahani, the head of Tehran Chamber of Guilds, to Mohseni Bandpay, the governor of Tehran. "The economic situation of shop owners and their families has become critical and it is no longer possible for them to close their premises," Farahani wrote. He emphasized that, along with the guilds, institutions such as banks and tax offices should also be forced to close during the lockdown.
“The authorities close our shops,” Khosro added, “but the banks are still open, and our payments to creditors are cleared. We will go bankrupt."
Niloufar, who owns a clothing store in a mall in north Tehran, has other ideas. "The lockdown belongs in countries where governments are thinking of solutions," she said. “All of our shops are open, although power outages during the day cause us to [sporadically] close. We are doing our jobs and we are compelled to ignore the decrees of the National Coronavirus Taskforce – which does not fight coronavirus at all."
Iranian Mall Workers Working Straight Through Power Outages
Shops in Tehran’s main bazaar are also open and trading. "This coronavirus holiday [the lockdown] has made us miserable," said one shopkeeper. "As soon as our businesses come back to life, a new wave of coronavirus comes and they shut everything down... Our capital is running out of steam, day by day. Now the power outages have added to our misfortunes. Where else in the world do people suffer as much as we do?"
"We closed once or twice due to the coronavirus outbreak," said a merchant in Lalehzar Street named Sadegh. “[The government] tells everyone to stay at home to curb mortality... when everything reopens, the next wave begins. We are dying of disease. We are being crushed under the burden of poverty and misery. Since the outbreak of coronavirus and the lockdowns, do you know how many traders here suffered from heart attacks and strokes? Believe me, some of our colleagues did not die from Covid-19 but suffered a stroke due to the stress of running out of capital... and they went to sleep in the cemetery."
Samiar, who works in a mall in western Tehran, said that within the halls of the city’s guilds, everyone is talking about civil disobedience. "We open our shops and do not close them, even when the electricity is cut off. We must unite to show they can’t do anything to us. This past year, through its own ignorance, the government has brought misery to many.”
He added that he received a text message on Monday, a day after the new restriction orders were issued. "They wrote: ‘Go to the VAT website by midnight on July 6 and pay the relevant taxes and duties’. Yes, they shut us down, but we have to pay taxes and cash our cheques on time. We are exhausted."
This article was written by a citizen journalist in Tehran under a pseudonym.