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Iranian press review: Gas shortages hit Tehran and small cities amid cold winter

Meanwhile, former president Rouhani signals return to politics, councillor's daughter resigns in nepotism scandal, and car traders pay millions of rials to rent ID cards
Snow falls in Tehran on 15 January 2023 - the country has suffered an unusually cold winter (AP)
By MEE correspondent in Tehran

Gas cuts in capital and small cities

Iranian authorities have shut down schools and universities and partially closed banks and government offices in the capital Tehran and several other cities across the country due to a severe shortage of gas amid unusually cold weather.

The government's failure to provide gas to industries and households is a significant defeat for President Ebrahim Raisi's administration. In September, members of Raisi's government had warned Europe about a cold winter and made new demands in the talks to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

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Demand for heating fuel has soared as freezing temperatures, not seen in years according to officials, hit most of the country.

Since 15 January, the ISNA news agency has reported a crisis in Torbat-e Jam, in the northeast of the country, where households went without gas for a week.

Iranians affected by the shortages criticised the government's failure on social media, reminding Oil Minister Javad Owji of what he had said about a cold winter in Europe and issues that European countries would face without importing gas from Iran.

"Which one should we believe: the gas shortages in the country or the claim of being able to export gas to Europe? Six months ago, you said Europe would fall at our feet [to buy gas], and now the oil minister suggested shutting down Tehran [due to shortage]," one Iranian wrote on Twitter.

Others reposted images published during the summer by the paramilitary Basij forces when they issued posts mockingly titled "Centres to collect the woods and coals for the cold winter in Europe".

One Twitter user posted one of these images in a tweet that read: "Tell the Basij forces to rapidly call [those who had received the donations] to return the woods."

Rouhani returns to politics

Former president Hassan Rouhani has signalled his return to Iran's political scene by launching a new website, local media reported.

Since August 2021, when he left office, Rouhani has remained silent about all significant incidents in the country, even in the face of accusations made by the supporters of President Raisi about the Rouhani administration's negative impact on Iran's economy and foreign policy during his tenure.

In contrast with his predecessors, Rouhani was not offered a seat on Iran's Expediency Discernment Council, whose members are appointed by the country's supreme leader.

After over 15 months of total absence from politics, the Arman-e Meli daily suggested that Rouhani is making a return by launching his website.

"Rouhani had never been without an official post, and it is very likely that now again, he is planning a return to power or securing a managing post [in the establishment]," the daily wrote.

Daughter of council member forced to resign

A new nepotism scandal has attracted media attention after the daughter of a Tehran city council member resigned from a job in her mother's office.

Fatemeh Mansourli's massive pay cheque had sparked anger among ordinary Iranians who have been suffering from a crushing economic crisis and low incomes.

The scandal began when Mansourli's payslip surfaced on the internet, showing her monthly income of 330,000,000 Iranian rials. The average monthly salary of public sector workers in the current Iranian year is about 80,000,000 rials.

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Mansourli is the daughter of Narges Madanipour, the conservative head of the Cultural and Social Commission of the Islamic Council of Tehran. Local media reported that Madanipour recruited her daughter to her office and as an employee of the city council over a year ago.

According to Farsi media, Mansourli is in her early 20s and is still a university student. 

In the first reaction to the revelation, city council authorities said in a statement that "nothing illegal had happened" and that Mansourli's salary was observing the council's employment regulations. 

After rejecting public demands for her resignation for a week, Mansourli was forced to step down from her position on Monday.

Black market for ID cards 

Iranian car dealers have paid up to 1 billion Iranian rials (over $2,500 on the open currency market) to rent the ID cards of citizens who do not own a vehicle in order to buy cars at a government-subsidised price, economic dailies reported.

Since Ebrahim Raisi's administration ordered the resumption of car imports, a new black market for automobiles has surfaced, with traders and middlemen deploying new methods to benefit from it.

In 2017, importing cars to Iran was banned in an attempt to block capital outflow. However, the ban resulted in a sharp rise in the price of domestically manufactured vehicles.  

Raisi had also ordered the trade of Iranian cars in the country's stock market at a price lower than the open market. Only citizens with no vehicle registered in their names during the past four years would have access to this market.

According to reports, prices between 300 million and 1 billion Iranian rials were offered to rent the ID cards of those eligible to buy a car from the stock market. 

Meanwhile, the ID cards of mothers with two children are in high demand, as the government has ordered that those mothers should be at the top of the list of citizens eligible for the subsidised car market.

*Iranian press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

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