JEDDAH: Angry Iranians protested throughout the country on Wednesday as a series of daily power cuts hit homes and businesses in summer temperatures of over 50˚C.
President Hassan Rouhani, who leaves office next month, was forced to apologize for the second day in a row as demonstrations took place in Shiraz and Kazeroun in the south, Amol and Kordkuy in the north, and Tehran.
“We regret the problems the people have had in the past few days,” Rouhani said. “On the one hand, our output has dropped due to the condition of hydroelectric power plants, and on the other consumption has gone up.”
He attributed the surge in demand to “industrial growth and extreme heat,” along with energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining operations.
On Tuesday, Rouhani said: “I apologize to our dear people who have faced problems and suffering in the past few days and I urge them to cooperate (by curbing power use). People complain about power outages and they are right,” Rouhani said in remarks carried by state TV.
“The Energy Ministry is not at fault... but the minister should come and explain to the people what the problem is and we have to find a solution.”
Rouhani urged the Energy Ministry to prevent any cuts outside of the scheduled blackouts of at least two hours a day. He also blamed US sanctions for blocking investment in energy infrastructure.
“The result is having no capital, and then big projects cannot be done,” said Rouhani. “Who would want to invest when the country’s risk goes up?”The Energy Ministry has published schedules for rolling blackouts but many homes and businesses have lost power unexpectedly in recent days.
Azam, a hairdresser in Tehran, blamed the government for failing to “provide the basics” such as electricity. “It’s not like we’re asking for much,” she said, “but all they do ask the people to be patient and endure.”
Hamid, a private company employee, said: “All our business requires electricity, and this has disrupted our life.”Angry residents gathered in several cities to protest against the outages, which often did not follow blackout schedules announced by the state-run electricity companies, according to Iranian news outlets and postings on social media.
Protests turned political is some areas, with people chanting “Death to the dictator” and “Death to (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei” and other slogans during blackouts, according to videos posted on social media.
Reuters could not independently verify the videos’ authenticity.
“Protesters said the frequent power outages had caused many problems, including water cuts in apartments, spoilage of meat and poultry and other items in refrigerators, and damage to household appliances,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported from the northeastern town of Kordkuy.