- Cheesta was born in Tehran just two months ago. When she is not having a colic, she is enjoying her parents' loving care for their first born, her
black eyes darting here and there trying to embrace the world around her. Cheesta
has no notion of Iran's problems, its nuclear programme, the suspicions about
its potential weaponisation or the economic and political sanctions imposed on her
country. Yet, she is one of their victims.
weeks after her birth, her parents noticed that she could not tolerate her
mother's milk and had to take powdered milk. The problem is that powder milk is
not easily available in Iran because of sanctions on financial transactions. Fearing
that they might not be paid, foreign producers have stopped supplying it.
After a week
of headaches and worries, the baby's father, Karim, found a solution. Having worked in Dubai, he contacted a former colleague
in the Arab emirate, who is now sending him on a weekly basis the amount of
powdered milk little Cheesta needs to grow.
"Thank God I
have friends outside of Iran and my economic situation allows me to cope with
the cost," Karim told me. "However,
there are so many people who do not have my chance; for them, it is painful to
see their children sentenced by the embargo."
States imposed sanctions on Iran in 1979 after
the seizure of its embassy in
international community and the United Nations
followed suit in 2000 with a series of sanctions in response to Tehran's lack of cooperation with the UN Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Suspected of developing a nuclear weapons programme, Iran stopped UN inspections, and refused
to halt uranium enrichment.
In turn, sanctions
were increased in 2006 and 2012. Although their primary targets were nuclear
technology, weapons exports, bank accounts of
people and agencies involved with Iran's nuclear programme, their consequences have
been disastrous for the civilian population, leading
some to speak of a virtual "humanitarian crisis."
economy has been hard hit by the latest sanctions on the oil sales (which the
European Union adopted as well), container transport, maritime insurance, not
to mention financial and banking transactions. Ordinary Iranians find
themselves facing shortages of food as well as hard-to-get medical drugs and
equipment and other goods. Even though UN, EU, and US sanctions do not formally
touch humanitarian items, medical drugs and equipment as well as supplies of
goods like coal gas have been directly hit.
Cheesta cannot find powdered milk, other people cannot, for example, find drugs
for Parkinson's disease, or haemophilia. For all but the very few, immunosuppressive
drugs (used for transplant patients) are a pipe dream. X-ray machines and
nuclear medical equipment (which fall under the embargo on nuclear weapons related
products) are equally affected. Only people with relatives or friends abroad, can
try to help, but for most Iranians, the lack of drugs is a virtual death
is another critical problem related to sanctions. The European Union has banned
the exports of natural gas extraction and processing technology. The United
States has prohibited investments in Iran's oil and gas sector.
the authorities decided to deal with the problem by using gas made from hydrocarbons
in lieu of coal gas (which cannot be imported or produced locally). But such gases
are highly poisonous. Every year in Tehran alone, at least 22,000 people die from
led to a rise in asthma levels. After a few days in Tehran, I too had problems breathing
and my eyes are still red.
winter, because we had little rain, the air in the capital was unbreathable,"
said Karim. "Old people and children have been advised not to leave their home,
not even to go to school, because of the high rate of pollution.
to some immunology centres, asthma kills about 250,000 people per year. About 7.5
million Iranians suffer from it and in Tehran, the level of the disease has
been reported to be around 35 per cent. The rate is 13 per cent for children
and 5-10 for adults (Source: 'The Impact of Sanctions on the Iranian People's
Healthcare System ", September 2013, IIPJHR).
are largely due to pollution, high food prices and lack of drugs. According to Professor
Nasser Parsa, a member of the American Cancer Society, Iran will face a cancer
tsunami in 2015. About 85,000 cancer cases are reported in the country each
year. Between 2000 and 2011, the rate rose by 181 per cent. According to World
Health Organisation, Iran has the highest cancer rate in the Middle East.
do not only affect health, but also hope. Many people, young and old, are
losing their job. Darius, who was employed by an import-export company was
fired a few months ago.
there are no financial transactions outside of the country, no one dares to do
business with us," he said. "The volume of business and trade has dropped as
never before and people, especially the young, cannot find jobs."
because of the embargo on financial transactions, Iranians cannot open foreign bank
accounts or transfer money abroad. This has created problems for young Iranians
of this, the international community has to ask itself if sanctions are the
best way since they affect indiscriminately so many innocent people, undermining
the UN's claim that it protects the rights of children, the sick and the young.
window of opportunity has opened up with Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani,
and even Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is open to UN inspections of Iran's
round of talks between Iran and the 5 +1 group (United States, Russia, China,
Britain, France, plus Germany) is set to start tomorrow in Vienna on a
comprehensive nuclear deal.
point is upbeat and Tehran's overtures have been rewarded with an easing of
sanctions. However, the country's disastrous economic situation needs an end to
all sanctions, especially financial restrictions.
considerations were not enough, there are also political considerations. Since anti-Western
radicals are the ones who profit from the embargo by smuggling into the country
what is normally unavailable, and are doing all they can to bring down Rouhani
and end talks with the West, a permanent end to the sanctions would undermine their
hold on power, which is centred in the Guardians of the revolution and Ahmadinejad's
ago, Rouhani's opponents held a meeting titled 'We are concerned' to criticise
the government for buckling to Western demands in nuclear talks. As if to
emphasise symbolically their position, they gathered at the former US embassy, site
of the 1979 hostage crisis.
to Darius, "To continue the embargo means undermining Rouhani and all
hopes of dialogue". This would lead to new tensions and conflicts, causing more
suffering to the Iranian people.