Violence flares as Iran introduces petrol rationing

Scenes of violence and anger erupted at Iranian petrol stations after the government's surprise announcement that fuel would be rationed from yesterday.

Thousands queued outside petrol stations on Tuesday night, fighting to fill their tanks before a midnight deadline. For several months at least, private cars will be limited to 100 litres of petrol a month.

As frustration mounted, at least eight Tehran petrol stations were torched in impromptu anti-regime protests and scuffles with riot police. There were unconfirmed reports that mobs then attacked shops and banks.

"They rolled a burning tyre into the forecourt and set light to everything," said Shervin Fatahi, surveying the damage at one petrol station yesterday morning. "People were so frustrated because they were fighting for hours to fill their tanks and it added to general feelings of frustration young people have here anyway."

Capping petrol use is a high risk move for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because of his promises to return oil money to the people, but excessive demand is damaging the economy and high imports leave Iran vulnerable to Western pressure.

Economists and political analysts have long urged the government to limit consumption or raise petrol prices, as lavish subsidies encouraged overuse and smuggling. And because Iran lacks refining capacity, about 40 per cent of its petrol is imported at international market prices, far higher than the 5 pence a litre charged at the pumps. Some estimates have put the cost of Iran's fuel subsidy and import policy at more than £5bn.

Reliance on foreign petrol has also grown politically sensitive in the past year as Western countries tried to put economic pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. Two mild sanctions resolutions have been passed, while direct political pressure has discouraged investment. Overhauling refineries has become harder and some policy hawks have argued for a ban on petrol sales to the Islamic republic.

Iran has responded to the confrontation by moving to a virtual war footing, clamping down on domestic dissent and taking steps to inoculate its economy against the effects of a possible embargo or military attack. But for a president whose economic plans have been populist, rationing is a dangerous policy. Many Iranians see cheap, unlimited petrol as proof their government is returning mineral wealth to the people.

"Ahmadinejad? Ahmaqinejad more like," quipped a young man outside a petrol station, punning on the Persian word for "stupid". His friends grumbled only three hours notice had been given - a move apparently designed to thwart hoarding and prevent the a repeat of the long queues when rationing was originally expected in May.

But while many motorists were angered, others accepted it as a long overdue necessity and hoped the state would put cash into public transport instead. "Rationing is actually a good move," said Mr Fatahi. "But it has been handled quite badly. This country is always very good at crisis management but it seems so bad at forward planning."

The effects were already being felt yesterday, as Tehran traffic dipped to holiday levels. Long lines persisted outside petrol stations, as motorists sought to secure as much of their monthly quota as possible. Police supervised the queues in an attempt to prevent any further violence.

"I'm really unhappy, I queued all last night and for over an hour today," said Behnooz Afshar, sitting with her husband and children in a two-kilometre line for petrol. "We're going to have to travel less and it'll be hard taking the kids to school."

Unofficial taxi drivers, who charge each passenger a few pennies along set routes, will be hurt most. Many Tehranis make up inadequate income from other jobs this way but the fuel limits will drive up prices. "I haven't put the fares up yet, but I will have to soon," said one.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor