TL;DR: It has been a pet theory for years among enthusiasts, but now the Associated Press (AP) reporting a “bitcoin craze” is in evidence for the distressed people of Iran. While Western nations debate the merits of cryptocurrency, with governments arguing over how to regulate the phenomenon, one use-case appears to be taking hold elsewhere: evading economic sanctions.
Bitcoin Craze in Iran Takes Hold
CoinSpice documented the ongoing struggle between banking concerns within Iran versus those of its street, Iranian people who seem to be very interested in cryptocurrency. In recent weeks, stories from the Islamic nation besieged by international economic sanctions highlighted such tension.
The government last month seized 1,000 bitcoin mining rigs just after reports circulated about an all-out ban on mining. And then a crack seemingly appeared. The Technology Minister explained on his way to urge tighter regulation, “Most of crypto-currency mining operations in the world used to be carried out in China but today, Iran is turning into a new hub in this area. This has turned Iran into an interesting country for crypto-currency miners in the world,” he stressed.
It’s a subtle pivot for those following, but it does leave room for the practice to continue as a new uncomfortable reality, albeit under government controls. Evidently, the Associated Press found similar patterns. From Tehran they insisted, “Iranians feeling the squeeze from U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s ailing economy are increasingly turning to such digital currencies as Bitcoin to make money, prompting alarm in and out of the country.”
Iran, of course, is subject to international economic sanctions at the behest of the United States. The two countries have become increasingly bellicose in their rhetoric, trading personal barbs and dire warnings. But at the domestic everyday level ordinary Iranians, ever-strangled by the practical effects of politicians decision-making, are taking matters into their own hands.
“The Bitcoin craze,” AP continued, “has made the front pages of Iranian newspapers and has been discussed by some of the country’s top ayatollahs, and there have been televised police raids on hidden computer farms set up to bring in money by ‘mining’ the currency.” Crackdowns can be viewed at least two ways: bad news for those caught, obviously, but they can also signal more to the story by way of trends.
Simply put, the government must keep up appearances to make sure it doesn’t lose complete control of its fiat currency. At the same time, they understand cryptocurrency could be a solid workaround to getting out from under crushing devaluation as “they acknowledge they do this to make some money at a time when Iran’s currency, the rial, tumbled from 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal, to around 120,000 rials to $1 now,” AP explained.
Political realities in the country have also come up against religious practices. Some ayatollahs pronounced cryptocurrency “haram,” forbidden, and Islamic teaching has strict prohibitions when it comes to certain aspects of finance such as gambling and interest. Reports last year from inside Iran claimed, however, more than $2 billion “left” the country through digital means, cryptocurrency or otherwise.
DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.
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