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A woman stands in a currency exchange shop in northern Tehran on January 3.
The value of Iran's currency, the rial, has dropped again against the U.S. dollar. One U.S. dollar was being traded on the open market at up to 17,000 rials, according to reports by official Iranian news agencies.

Last week, the rial fell to its lowest value against the dollar in the past two decades, with a dollar being sold by money traders for 18,000 rials. (The official rate fluctuates around 11,000-12,000.)

The value of the Iranian currency began its rollercoaster ride after U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law sanctions on Iran's Central Bank on December 31.

Iranian officials say they are working on measures to stabilize the rial. The head of Iran's Central Bank, Mahmud Bahmani, said last week Iran had some plans to bring the foreign-currency market under control, while adding that it was not in the country's interest to announce them publicly.

Meanwhile, Tehran has done what it knows best: censoring and disrupting the free flow of information.

Mesghal.ir, a website that provides up-to-the-minute rates for foreign currency and gold, was blocked in Iran last week.

The semi-official news agency ISNA reported that the blocking of the website had led to an increase in the number of people in front of some of the main exchange centers in the Iranian capital.

On top of that, according to the "Shargh" daily and other Iranian news sources, all text messages containing the word "dollar" in Persian were also being blocked.

Let's hope for the sake of worried citizens who have their savings in rials that the Iranian government is taking some real measures to counter its sliding currency.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
The Mothers of Laleh Park (previously known as the Mourning Mothers of Iran) -- a group of women whose children were killed or detained during Iran’s 2009 postelection crackdown -- have issued the names of seven members or supporters who have in recent months been sentenced to prison over their activism.

Two of them are currently serving jail terms.

The group has come under pressure by the authorities over its silent public protests in Tehran’s Laleh Park and other locations and for bringing attention to the plight of political prisoners.

In a statement, the group says that while those behind the torture and the killing of activists are free to continue their crimes, women and mothers who have refused to be silent while fighting for their basic rights and defending the rights of their children are being repeatedly harassed and threatened.

Activist Kouhyar Goudarzi
Activist Kouhyar Goudarzi
The statement adds that the mothers and their supporters are being put on trial and convicted on “baseless” charges, including acting against national security.

"Persian Letters" reported last week on the jail sentence handed down to Parvin Mokhtare, the mother of human rights activist Kouhyar Goudarzi. Both mother and son have been in prison for the past five months.

The Mothers of Laleh Park reports that Jila Mahdavian, the mother of another young man who was arrested in 2009, has been sentenced to five years in prison, including a two-year suspended sentence.

Poet Jila Karamzadeh, who wrote a poem for the group, has been sentenced to four years in prison, two of which are suspended, according to the statement.

Mansoureh Behkish, Fatemeh Alvandi, and Nader Ahsani are the other members and supporters of the group who have been either, harassed, detained, or sentenced to jail.

In addition, a number of other relatives and mothers of prisoners of conscience have been interrogated, threatened, and detained, according to the statement.

“Which of our demands and actions have been illegal and threatened Iran’s national security?" the mothers ask in their statement. “[Iran’s rulers] consider national security the security of torturers, murderers, and thugs. Therefore, they have been terrorized by the actions of the mothers harassing and persecuting them in different ways.”

The Mothers of Laleh Park say they will stand by their call for the release of all political prisoners, the abolition of the death sentence, and putting on trial those who ordered the killings of intellectuals and prisoners of conscience in the past 30 years.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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