Iran: Major Electricity Blackouts During Hot Summer Lead To Growing Anti-Regime Protests

Widespread power outages in Iran which have continued this week have plunged entire cities into darkness and is fueling growing anti-government protests less than a month before hardline judiciary cleric Ebrahim Raisi enters office as president. Frequent power cuts have also high neighboring Iraq, given it’s currently reliant for much of its electrical supply on Iran’s infrastructure. 

Multiple social media videos have spread across the internet which show Iranians chanting “death to the dictator” and other anti-Ayatollah slogans, though the footage can’t be verified. 

Iranians have over the past months come to expect such disruptions, but starting late Saturday unusually long power outages impacted large swathes of Tehran and nearby Karaj, among others. 

The weekend Tehran outage had been unannounced (after for months the country has implemented scheduled power cuts over a severe supply shortage and rising demand), and sparked widespread anger. It went from 11pm Saturday night through early the next morning in the middle of a hot summer.

Iran hawks in the West are seizing upon the protests in an attempt to argue against restoring the JCPOA nuclear deal…

The regional news source Iran International explained that the country’s power consumption this summer “has topped 60,000 megawatts per day, a more than ten percent increase compared with last year, while electricity generation has remained the same at 50,000-56,000 megawatts.” And further the report notes:

As electricity remains subsidized and cheap, there is no incentive for people to limit its use. It also makes Iran a magnate for cryptocurrency mining by huge computer farms that are consume perhaps up to ten percent of electricity supplies in the country.

In recent months authorities have vowed to disrupt all illegal crypto mining, despite it once being a key way for the country to offset the severe US sanctions blow under the past Trump administration. 

The hotter temperatures and growing broad-level frustration has resulted in rare acts of self-criticism by the government, starting with speaker of the parliament Mohammad Qalibaf, who began this week with a written statement acknowledging the “frequent power outages throughout the country and disruption of people’s lives and businesses require planning and management.

“If the increase in consumption and excess demand is not compensated in the short term for any reason, at least stick to the announced blackout schedule so that people can plan for problems,” he continued in unusually blunt recognition of the crisis.

And this was followed Tuesday with an unprecedented apology from outgoing president Hassan Rouhani:

In a government meeting broadcast live on state TV, Rouhani acknowledged that chronic power outages over the past week have caused Iranians “plenty of pain” and expressed contrition in an unusually personal speech.

“My apologies to dear people who have faced these problems and pain,” he said.

Some Iranian towns are actually experiencing water supply cut offs to boot, given in some places it relies on power to pipe supply.