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
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
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

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam