Amid gas shortages and blackouts, a harsh winter is fueling discontent in Iran

© Observers

For weeks, Iran has been hit by cold weather. In a country where most households rely on natural gas for heating and hot water, gas shortages in many regions have paralysed the population, leaving people in sub-zero temperatures. In some regions, schools and public facilities have even been closed. The gas shortage itself has led to widespread power outages in several cities, an increase in air pollution and even more protests, on top of the anti-regime protests that have been wracking Iran since September 2022.

Iran has the largest known reserves of natural gas in the world after Russia, but Tehran is unable to supply enough energy for domestic consumption. The Iranian regime rejoiced at the idea of a "harsh winter in Europe" that emerged after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

For months, Iranian authorities hoped that European governments would have no choice but to negotiate with Tehran to exchange Russian gas for Iranian gas to avoid their citizens freezing in their homes. But when winter arrived, it was in fact Iranians who were left out in the cold.

When Iran was hit by a cold snap in January 2023, the authorities initially had to close schools and many public facilities because there was no gas to heat them. Javad Owji, Iran's petroleum minister, said on January 15, "The closure of schools, universities and government offices in Tehran has helped us a lot, we could save up to 2.5 million cubic metres of gas per day."

Reza Gheibi is an Iranian economic journalist based in Turkey: