Bitcoin has far surpassed its all time high in Iranian money, with one BTC now trading above 7.6 billion Iranian Rial (IRR).
That’s significantly higher than the official rate of 42,000 IRR to the dollar, with the market rate falling further by more than 10% to cross 360,000.
That’s up from 300,000 in September, making it a loss of another 20% as the Iranian economy is gripped by a depression.
The official Iranian rate is stuck at 42,000 with bitcoin reaching 2.7 billion IRR at that rate last November.
Few have access to that official rate however, with the market rate plunging to an all time low amid inflation running at 50%.
Growth has been negative to the point this can now be called a depression, with the economy contracting every quarter since late 2018.
The Iranian economy was $644 billion in 2012. A decade later, it is 60% smaller at $230 billion for a population of 85 million.
That makes this one of the poorest country in the world despite its rich oil and gas reserves with this economic calamity painting a grim background to the fierce protests that have erupted nationwide.
The spark was an increase in oppression just as the economy gotten worse and worse, with reports in 2019 stating Iran was to hire more religious police to more strictly enforce puritanism.
A snitch on your neighbors app was also launched around that time just as their economy contracted 10%.
This contributed to the bloody November of that same year when Iran imposed a complete internet blackout and mowed down protesters.
A confidence shock came a few months later, January 2020, when the government of Iran was forced to admit they “accidentally” shot down a Ukrainian plane full of Canadian-Iranians just days after they had denied such suggestions, with Canada latter claiming the plane was shot down intentionally.
Sporadic protests have continued since, but the students have now risen in the biggest and most prolonged challenge to the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979.
Those students joined the calls by women for equality, with workers then joining too as there are suggestions strikes are spreading with some indicating even gold miners are going on strike.
Amid footages of battlescenes where the far outnumbered police is pushed back by stone throwing protesters, the theocracy has given no concession whatever even as the young demand change amid a collapsing economy.
There are some suggestions that there are some debates going on among the elite. Neither the army nor the Revolutionary Guards have been brought out, presumably because such decision would be extremely dangerous considering the background to these protests – a strict morality police and a Great Depression.
There are rumors some of the elite has sent their family abroad, a luxury not afforded to many Iranians who are often out of work.
Bitcoin has gained grounds in this context, both by the government that has allowed its use for the payment of imports, and by the general population.
“Crypto is reasonably popular and people have been using it a fair bit to store their savings as a hedge against the hyperinflation that we’ve been experiencing for decades,” says an Iranian.
It isn’t used for payments by the ordinary citizens however, in part because public blockchains currently lack the capacity for country level usage.
Most Iranians therefore keep seeing their living standards fall and fall as their fiat money keeps losing value.
In this situation, the rigidity shown by the theocracy is facing the anger of the people, with some suggesting a critical mass has not been reached, but once (if) such mass is reached that would presumably be the very last day of the theocracy.
The rest are just watching. The UN has not held one meeting on the matter, even though 300 protesters have been killed, many of them children, and 14,000 have been arrested.
The United States does not want to be seen as interfering. The German civil society showed its support by 100,000 protesting in Berlin last month in solidarity.
The best thing ordinary civilians in the west can do right now is to run Tor Snowflake. That’s a browser extension that acts as a proxy for the Tor network which has been under a state-level DDoS attack for months.
Running this proxy mitigates the attack, allowing for connection to the network which currently is difficult as more nodes are needed.
The rest is then up to the Iranian people themself, including the elite, which has seen the theocracy deliver a calamity economically for three years running with no respite in sight.