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.

 

Horse-trading begins as Tunisia awaits formation of new government

Jihadists flock to fight on ‘unprecedented scale’

UK court says Libyan Abdul-Hakim Belhaj can sue over rendition

Syria accuses Turkey of ‘flagrant violation of sovereignty’

Global campaign to end female genital mutilation kicks off

US to examine troops exposed to chemicals in Iraq

African Union hits back at Somalia rape claims

New scare in Turkey as ‘suspect packages’ found

‘Insults against Netanyahu’ cause embarrassment to US

Kuwait online activist gets four years in jail for insulting judges

Heavy fighting in South Sudan sparks fears of humanitarian catastrophe

Sweden officially recognises State of Palestine

Egypt jails retired general for damaging national security

Israel closes al-Aqsa mosque to worshipers in rare move

Gaza civil servants receive delayed salaries

After US criticism, Israel vows no concessions to Palestinians

Libya internationally recognised PM opens doors of dialogue with rivals

Huthi rebels seize stronghold of Muslim Brotherhood in central Yemen

Will Nidaa Tounes shun Islamists in Tunisia government formation?

Egypt starts work on buffer zone along border with Gaza

Turkey Sultan unveils new palace: Another break with symbols of secular state

Heavy toll as ‘Islamic State’ fights for control of Syria oil field

Iran President suffers fresh setback with rejection of Science Minister

Nuclear deal or no deal: ‘Red lines’ lay bare internal divisions in Iran

Heavy security in Mogadishu as UN chief meets Somalia president

Fighters from Free Syrian Army leave Turkey to join Kobane battle

Israel denies banning Palestinians sharing buses

Kurd fighters leave northern Iraq base for Syria deployment

Jordan requests UN emergency meeting over Israel settler expansion

Jerusalem Mayor visits Al-Aqsa mosque prompting anger

Tunisia reinforces commitment to democracy with ‘transparent’ elections

Turkey ‘decides’ for Kobane future: No Kurds, no Assad... Only Free Syrian Army!

Bahrain suspends Al-Wefaq weeks before parliamentary elections

Huge game changer in Tunisia: ‘In-credible’ failure of Islamist Ennahda Party

Libya PM in Khartoum for talks with Bashir

PKK hijack truck seizing explosive substance

Saudi lawyers get jail time for offensive tweets

Ennahda concedes defeat in Tunisia parliamentary elections

Syria rebels launch assault on regime-held city of Idlib

Iraq peshmerga wait for Turkey stance to depart for Syria

Sisi enacts military trials decree to cover ‘existential threat’

US calls for online war against ‘Islamic State’

Donors pledge $8 billion for Horn of Africa

Acid attacks in Iran: Deputy of Judiciary Chief to lead investigation

Lebanon army enters Islamist stronghold in Tripoli