Bitcoin and more privacy powerful cryptocurrencies are flexing their muscles during the current round of uprisings in Iran in what may become the first recorded political disruption where cryptocurrencies end up playing a major role. Among other stated reasons, many claim frustration with current economic conditions as one of the main drivers of the protests that have spread across multiple cities around Iran.
Recently, more and more Iranians have turned to cryptocurrencies as not only a hedge against instability in the Iranian Rial, but also as silent protest against the current hardline government in Tehran. According to Coindance, the transactional volume of Bitcoin inside Iran has increased at an astronomical rate of over 1000% since early November 2017. The Rial has lost more than half of its value since since 2014, and is now worth approximately $ 0.000030 USD. This, along with factors related to the consequences of of international sanctions, have led to high unemployment, spiking prices of foodstuffs, and increasing housing costs.
While Bitcoin is by far the most used cryptocurrency in Iran, Ziya Sadr, a Tehran based blockchain researcher, told the media he prefers using more security-centric coins like Monero. The continued primacy of Bitcoin may end if the government ever chooses to enact bans on coin usage, which is a real possibility due to the recent government crackdowns on popular internet chat programs like Signal and Telegram. The fact is, if the hardliners in Tehran decide the crypto transactions are having a negative impact on the their ability to maintain control, they won’t hesitate to try to stomp them out of use.
It will be fascinating to watch and see if the usage of cryptocurrencies continues to rise amid the tensions, and the impact it may have on the grip of the ruling class in Iran. This unfolding situation may end up being a harbinger of the future where localized instability is met with further embracing of decentralized currency.