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String 'Em Up: Iranian Cleric Wants Money Changers Executed Amid Currency Crisis

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi
Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi

A senior hard-line Iranian cleric has called for the execution of "several key money changers" to help end the country's currency crisis.

Iran's rial hit a record low earlier this week, losing 35 percent of its value against the dollar amid fears of U.S. actions that could cripple Iran's economy.

The currency decline led to panic, with some Iranians rushing to exchange offices to buy foreign currencies.

In a bid to stop the slide, the government announced a unified rate of 42,000 rials to the dollar, which was reportedly fetching 60,000 rials on the black market.

Authorities also shut down several unauthorized money-exchange offices and arrested a dozen individuals who were accused of attempting "to disrupt the foreign-exchange market."

For Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, the measures were apparently insufficient.

Speaking in the religious city of Qom, where he is based, Makarem Shirazi suggested that money changers, whom he accused of stoking "unrest," should be executed.

"Several key money changers should be put on trial for spreading corruption on earth and executed according to Islamic principles," Makarem Shirazi was quoted as saying on April 11 by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

"The recent events regarding foreign currency demonstrate that a new plot is under way where hypocrites inside the country are working hand in hand with their foreign masters to plunge the country into chaos and paralyze the economy," he added.

"Proposed Solution Of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi To Deal With Currency Market Main Disruptors: Execute [Them]," read the front page of the reformist daily Etemad, which also featured a photo of the cleric.

Many currency-exchange offices operate with an official license from the Iranian Central Bank, but there is also a segment of unlicensed traders that has long fed a black market for hard currencies.

Exchanges are routinely used by businesspeople and ordinary Iranians, including by many who travel overseas or by parents whose children go abroad to study.

The currency crisis comes with rising tensions in the region and concerns that President Donald Trump will pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal under which Tehran limited sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. In addition to Tehran and Washington, the deal was signed by UN Security Council permanent members China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, plus Germany and the European Union.

The latest battering of the Iranian currency also comes after Iranians took to the streets in dozens of cities in December and January to register their anger over rising prices and other economic woes, with some demonstrators calling for the demise of Iran's clerically dominated political leadership.

Senior officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed that unrest on foreign enemies.

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