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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat