Who Do Sanctions Truly Target?
A Report from Inside Iran
A Report from Inside Iran:
On July 1, 2010, a few days before the anniversary of America’s independence, Obama approved a new set of sanctions against Iran.
Economic statistics and graphs indicate that, combined with the current social and political problems, sanctions will batter the emaciated body of Iranian society more than they will harm the government.
Omid Malek, an expert in economics, outlines a distressing picture of the effects of these sanctions and argues that they will cripple the life of ordinary citizens in Iran. He tells Gozaar: “Under the present circumstances, the sanctions will clearly affect people’s daily lives and we can gauge the extent and depth of their impact on society in different ways.”
According to Malek, in such conditions, social explosion is a real possibility. It is interesting that the Research Center of Islamic Consultative Assembly has recently published a report on the situation of the Iranian economy. This report, openly and uninhibitedly, reveals the country’s backbreaking problems.
Referring to some economic graphs, Malek asserts: “In this report, the Research Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly has sketched a very deplorable picture of the unemployment rate and quagmire in which various businesses have sunk. The report also confesses to the government’s inability to create a safe and free economic atmosphere.”
The report mentions that the business climate in Iran, in comparison with other countries, is very dismal.
According to the World Bank’s criterion for “Ease of Doing Business” in 2010, Iran was ranked 137 out of 187 countries. Iran’s place in other rankings, which are based on similar criteria, is not very impressive either.
The report by the Research Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly warns that the unsatisfactory conditions for investment and employment, in addition to other drawbacks, are pushing Iran’s economic institutions near bankruptcy. In addition to the scarcity of investment, Malek lists other major problems in the country including the dismissal of employees and job insecurity, bankruptcy of factories and production units, delay in paying salaries, reduced production, absence of independent workers’ organizations, and finally, the government’s extreme repression of guild-organized protests. These are the aftershocks of heavy international sanctions that are inflicted on Iran.
Who violates human rights?
These sanctions also aim to punish the perpetrators of the unprecedented human rights violations that were committed in recent days.
In the bill, which was approved by the U.S. Congress, two groups, Ansar-e Hezbollah and the Basij Resistance Force, are described as “violators of human rights.” Alongside the ninth and tenth governments, these groups have actively participated in the repression of critics and protesters, particularly after last year’s presidential election.
Minoo Naderan, a citizen, says: “International organizations should focus all their efforts on human rights and violations of these rights in Iran.”
Referring to the recent incidents in Iran following the tenth presidential election, she says: “Of course, the current government’s actions have given it a reputation as one of the world’s worst perpetrators of human rights; the Basij and the Iranian government have become virtually indistinguishable from one another.”
Naderan continues: “Although the sanctions can be an effective tool for threatening the government, our major concern is for the people in these difficult times because both economic hardships and ruinous social circumstances are putting a lot of pressure on ordinary citizens.”
Fuel sanctions and the endless rumors
Immediately after Obama signed the Iran sanctions into law, Iranians began to gauge the possible repercussions of this policy by sending out SMS and emails to each other throughout the country. Unlike previous sanctions, news of these new sanctions has rattled ordinary citizens and has spread rapidly to every corner of the country.
As the itinerant reporters who circulate the town’s rumors, taxi drivers seem more anxious than other segments of society.
But what causes people to worry the most are the fuel sanctions because mosafer keshi (giving rides to passengers in private cars for a fare) is a source of income for a large portion of Iran’s population; sometimes as the main job and sometimes as a side job.
The price of gasoline is the most significant factor that affects all other prices on a daily basis.
Speaking about the sanctions, Fariba Sahrayi, a journalist, comments: “Although the U.S. and its allies have always insisted that the sanctions would target the regime and not the people of Iran, I think the people will suffer the most.”
She continues: “The new sanctions that have aimed to stop investments in the oil and gas industry and constrain the activities of banks and insurance companies will worsen the inflation and economic crisis for the Iranian people by increasing unemployment and lowering the rate of investment. The economic atmosphere will become even more calamitous than what it is at the present.”
In Sahrayi’s opinion these sanctions will naturally put more pressure on the core of Iran’s economy. The Iranian government, however, will face the same fate, because the sanctions will create difficulties for the government in carrying out its projects. They will have numerous repercussions in Iranian society.
A journalist who lives inside the country points to the economic crisis in Iran and says: “While the direct and destructive effects of unilateral sanctions against Iran can be strongly felt in the economy and by various social classes, the government, as it has been its habit over the past few years, easily denies these disruptions.”
She adds that these sanctions have presently produced an extreme economic recession in Iran, which has led to the closure of industries and factories. As a result, hundreds of workers who have lost their jobs have staged protests and sit-ins.
According to this economic journalist, the financial tsunami and economic crisis that has swept the world in recent years has now reached Iran. The sanctions have deepened this crisis, and it cannot be overcome by temporary and junctural solutions or the work of a specific group.
Stressing that the announcement of sanctions against Iran by the U.S. President has given momentum to widespread rumors in the country, this journalist adds: “The news of sanctions against Iran, which will be followed by an increase in the price of housing, spare parts, and groceries, is circulated among people through SMS on a broad scope.”
She continues: “After hearing news of the fuel sanctions, mosafer keshan (the drivers who give rides to passengers in private cars for a fare), without supervision from any official body, promptly increased their fares to deal with the financial blow. But this move will have dire consequences. Although Iranians have already experienced the fuel shortages over the last few years, this is the first time in Iranian history that they face the real threat of fuel sanctions.”
She adds: “It is expected that after hearing news of the sanctions, people will rush to gas stations to buy and store as much fuel as possible.”
This economic journalist, who is also an expert on oil, states: “Of course, I do not think that putting a nation under pressure is the best option for the American statesmen who also wish to improve human rights in Iran.”
Elham Bahari, a Tehran resident, says: “Part of the objective of sanctions is to make the people realize that their regime and government is incompetent and has no international credibility. But these sanctions, which target the government’s policies, will also harm the people.”
She adds: “The U.S. wants us to believe that the change of government will put an end to hardships, but these sanctions will only force people to tolerate the double burden of this government and the sanctions.”
This citizen continues: “On the whole, we can argue that the sanctions will primarily hurt the Iranian people, but most officials turn a blind eye to this fact or even deny it.”
Sahar Ghazi Morad, another citizen, expresses her view in this way: “If I try to put my personal experience into words, these sanctions will compel me to pay higher cab fares every morning, because even the rumors about fuel sanctions are enough to make the fares spike.”
She describes the taxis as a place for chatting about political affairs: “You need only sit in a cab one day from morning until night to hear the people’s opinions about the sanctions. A group of people believes that the inefficient tenth government is the main cause of these sanctions; others regard the sanctions as a British plot and are convinced that, if Britain and the U.S. wish to change the Iranian government, the downfall of this regime will be inevitable. They claim that these sanctions are only a political game.”
This Iranian citizen continues: “If we try to sum up the daily conversations that take place inside the taxis, they conclude that sanctions are only a political game and that the Iranian people are the victims of dirty politics.”
But the words of the American President about the objectives behind the sanctions are clear enough. In a speech after signing the bill for imposing new sanctions on Iran, Obama said: “While we are increasing our pressure on the Iranian government, we also send a clear message that the United States is standing by the side of the Iranian people who are demanding their universal human rights.”
If the sanctions do not lead to pressure on the Iranian government from inside, they will not be very effective. Without inciting the people’s dissatisfaction and anger against the government, the sanctions will not be very productive; instead, they will only provide the opportunists and black marketers with a chance to make profits.