Iran's power struggle plays out in Tehran's Grand Bazaar

A group of protesters chant slogans at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran on Monday.

Tehran (CNN)A series of largely economic protests have unsettled Iran's capital Tehran, mostly focused around traders in the Grand Bazaar and their fury over the collapse of the country's currency in recent months.

In the past several days, social media footage appeared to show crowds of protesters reaching the gates of Iranian parliament, and other images have shown a strong police crackdown.
There was a heavy police presence in the central Tehran bazaar Wednesday after days of protests. Traders appeared confused as to who had initiated the disturbances, but several told CNN that the decline in the value of the rial had forced them to stop trading.
"There's no incentive to do business," said cloth merchant Fakhredin Fakhrzadegan. "Right now, when a merchant sells his goods he has to pay more to restock the same merchandise." All of the goods in the bazaar were pegged to the dollar in its value, Fakhrzadegan explained, so a fluctuating exchange rate damaged their businesses.
    Iranian protesters gather during a demonstration in central Tehran on June 25, 2018.
    "It was not clear who was behind" the protests, said china salesman Reza Radravesh, adding that merchants were not involved in the disturbances of the past few days.
    "I am a shopkeeper here. Can I go out and chant slogans or set things on fire? No. I have my own troubles -- debts and rent to pay -- and I like to keep my shop open every day."

    Why is this happening now?

    The short answer is that the rial has crashed. It took 42,000 rials to buy one US dollar at the end of last year, but it now requires 90,000. In fact it is crashing fast -- rising from 87,000 as recently as Sunday. Partially in response, the government has banned the import of about 1,300 foreign goods, including household appliances and technology.
    Both economic moves have directly impacted the traders of Tehran's central bazaar, who are often stalwart supporters of the conservative government and the 1979 revolution that put them in power.

    What's behind it?

    The main driver is the genuine economic grievances felt by a growing number of Iranians. There are suggestions that hardline opponents of the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani might -- as they did at the end of last year -- be fomenting some of the uproar. But the anger is real and palpable, and about a crashing currency causing the quality of life to deteriorate. Food prices and a drought, together with corruption, are also angering many Iranians.

    How much of this is to do with the Iran deal?