First Published: 2012-09-10

 

SMS containing ‘dollar’ suppressed in Iran

 

Iran tries to obscure its currency's new record plunge against US dollar through mobile, website censorship.

 

Middle East Online

Dropping to new record low

TEHRAN - Iran's currency plunged nearly eight percent to a new record low against the dollar on Monday, but the dramatic drop was being suppressed within the country on mobile phone text services and some exchange websites.

One money changer said by telephone that the street rate around midday (0730 GMT) was 26,400 rials to the dollar, sharply lower than the 24,000 rate late on Sunday.

The Mehr news agency reported a rate of around 26,000.

Mobile telephone text messages that included the word "dollar" in English or in Farsi were censored, with the message not being received, AFP noted. The Farsi word for "foreign money" was also blocked.

But text messages containing the words "USD", "euro" or the $ symbol were all transmitted and received normally.

Such text blocks on the word "dollar" were implemented before in Iran, on January 10, when the rial also dived precipitously. The country's two main mobile phone service providers, MCI and Irancell, claimed at the time they were not filtering messages.

Several Iranian websites that usually give real-time foreign exchange rates had the dollar rate blanked out on Monday. One website, mesghal.ir, did give a dollar rate, but at 25,650 it was lower than that reported by money-changers.

Visitors to the money-exchanging district in central Tehran saw many of the shops half-shuttered, and none displayed a rate for dollars in their windows.

Monday's plunge deepened a sharp slide of five percent recorded on Sunday.

Separate from the floating street exchange rate, Iran maintains a fixed official rate of 12,260 rials to the dollar, but that is reserved for the government and a few privileged businesses.

The rest of the country relies on the street rate, with the result that the price of imported goods have sharply risen in recent months.

The head of Iran's parliamentary budget commission, Gholam Reza Mesbahi-Moghadam, told the Fars news agency that "the government has committed its biggest historic mistake by not responding to the demands in the forex market."

He was quoted as saying that the dollar's sharp rise against the dollar was because the central bank "has not injected dollars (into the market) in the past three weeks."

Compared to the rate in December last year, the value of the rial against the dollar has halved under the impact of draconian Western economic sanctions. The measures are aimed at crippling Iran's all-important oil exports to punish Tehran over its disputed nuclear programme.

Iranian authorities have tried several times in recent months to stop the currency's slide -- even briefly at one point trying to impose a cap on the rate -- but the rial has returned to shedding value.

"The central bank cannot systematically lower the exchange rate, but we have attempted to control it," Central Bank chief Mahmoud Bahmani told reporters on Sunday, the ISNA news agency reported.

"Our situation is one of war. We are fighting an economic war with the world," he said.

Market uncertainty has been exacerbated by bellicose rhetoric from Israel, the Middle East's sole though undeclared nuclear weapons state, which has threatened air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iran's authorities have vowed not to cede to the sanctions pressure, saying they will maintain their nuclear activities, which they insist are purely civilian in nature.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Cyprus on the weekend said they were considering imposing further sanctions on Iran.

 

Libya loses control of Tripoli to Islamist-led militias

Iraq presses fightback against jihadist-led militants

Thousands of Huthis defy UN in new show of strength

Britain to go tougher on jihadist suspects

Saudi religious police at heart of new scandal

Algeria hosts new round of Mali peace talks

US launches new round of air strikes around Iraq dam

Turkey summons US charge d'affaires over Snowden claims

Turkey new PM promises peace with Kurds

Will UN Human Rights Council investigate IS abuses?

Iran convicts Ahmadinejad's vice president for embezzlement

Fierce clashes shatter uneasy calm near armistice line in Golan Heights

Turkey detains dozens of police in new nationwide raids

Wounded Gazans need long-term care

Libyan Islamist militiamen control US embassy compound

Israel shoots down drone over occupied Golan Heights

Yemen army suffers heavy losses in new wave of Qaeda attacks

Turkish army breaks silence on Kurdish peace talks

Islamic State offers grim inspiration to African extremists

Shebab target intelligence HQ in Somalia

Israel expropriates 988 acres of Palestinian land in West Bank

Iraq recaptures Amerli from Islamic State in biggest success so far

Saudi King calls for ‘strong and rapid action’ against jihadists

Jihadists distribute Yazidi women as spoils of war to fighters

Gulf countries resolve six-month dispute with Qatar

Egypt reduces Badie death sentence to life in prison

AU forces liberate former Shebab stronghold in Somalia

Philippines enters war in Syria!

Kurds put aside old rivalries to battle jihadists in Iraq

Iran says new sanctions cast doubt on US sincerity

US imposes new sanctions on Iran

US supplies arms to Lebanon to fight jihadists

Britain terror threat level raised to ‘severe’

Libya conflict takes its toll on migrants

UN chief lashes out at 'brutal' IS killings in Iraq

Over three million Syrian refugees have fled war

Libya's troubled interim government steps down

Obama admits 'no strategy yet' to fight IS

Israel counts losses and gains in Gaza: Heavy cost for 50 days of war

Saudi Crown Prince flies to France next week: Jihadist threat tops agenda

UN confirms capture of UN peacekeepers in Syria Golan

Islamic State executes dozens of Syria soldiers in new atrocity

'Jihad recruiters' arrested in Netherlands, Germany

Saudi Grand Mufti warns youth against ‘perverted’ calls for jihad

Neo-Ottomanism scores new victory in Turkey: From Ataturk to Erdogan