Sanctions profoundly affected lives of Iranians: UN Special Rapporteur

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EHRAN – Alena Douhan, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur, who recently visited Iran, spoke about the effects of sanctions on Iran, especially the lives of ordinary Iranians. 

“Sanctions have had a profound effect on the lives of Iranians in many ways,” she said in an interview with the French weekly Le Point, which was republished by the Iranian foreign ministry.

She added, “The first impact is economic, because Iran is not able to do business. The economic situation of the country has deteriorated, especially for those working in the field of foreign trade. Therefore, all employees of foreign-invested companies have been affected by sanctions. Thus, some industries have been forced to reduce the number of their employees up to ten times. For example, in the handicrafts sector, which used to export many products abroad and has nothing to do with oil or the government. These jobs are mostly family-run, with five to twenty people but now only one person is hired. In the same way, many translators have lost their jobs because tourism and trade have stopped in this country.”

Douhan traveled to Iran from May 7 to 18, 2022, to assess US sanctions against Iran. She is the first UN special rapporteur to visit Iran after 17 years. Douhan is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council to examine the impacts of US unilateral coercive measures on Iran. During her 12-day visit to Iran, Douhan met with Iranian government officials, as well as representatives of civil society organizations, health experts, and financial institutions.

Responding to a question on whether the sanctions affected people’s daily lives, the UN official said, “Yes. I will give you a specific example in this regard. First of all, when we talk about people’s lives, we have to keep in mind that a lot of people are affected by economic conditions. As a result, the poor people are falling below the poverty line, and the situation of many middle-class people has deteriorated. In the past, people had the opportunity to pay to private institutions to receive better health and educational services for their children. But as the economic situation worsens, their wages have dropped to such an extent that they now use only public services. Subsequently, the workload of public hospitals has increased significantly and in addition, there are tens of thousands of additional refugees that Iran receives daily and thus you will find that an incredible pressure is imposed on Iran’s hospitals and educational system, especially since the country does not receive any new income for building hospitals and hiring staff.”

Douhan said the sanctions negatively affected the Iranian government’s ability to pay subsidies and aid. “It is natural that since the government is not able to earn as much as in the past, all government aid paid to the people, such as food subsidies, essential goods or medicine, is now reduced. This means that the people who depend on these aid and subsidies and who are the poorest strata of the population, suffer the most. It should be added that some patients with serious illnesses have been able to receive free medicines from the government. But because these patients have no income, they have resold these drugs on the black market,” she said. 
According to the UN official, the “very wide and heavy” sanctions imposed on Iran have affected Iran’s economy and intensified inflation.

Douhan also said that the sanctions have contributed to killing Iranian people during the Corona pandemic. “Sanctions have killed people and there are several cases in my report. The most convincing reason is the lack of access to medicine. Yes, Iran produces more than 90% of its medicines, but unfortunately for doing so, they need to provide raw materials from abroad. This is difficult because we know that it is very difficult for this country to obtain, pay for and receive these materials. Especially since the quality of raw materials is not always good and these materials are very expensive. The simplest example is insulin,” She said, adding, “There are many people with diabetes in Iran, and when I talked about this problem in Iran, I was told that this country was able to produce a standard product of insulin but with the significant difference because this drug does not cure certain types of diabetes, therefore certain patients cannot be treated in Iran and thus in Iran, the patients with this special diabetes die.” 

Douhan also touched on the protests in Iran over the elimination of government subsidies and said the reason for those protests was in part the U.S. sanctions.  

She said, “First of all, let me tell you that I cannot talk about protest and demonstrations that go beyond my duties. I can now tell you two things: The first is that when I was in Iran, the demonstrations took place after the reduction of basic food subsidies, and I asked the government about this decision that would most affect the deprived strata of the population. And the answer that was given to me is the answer that I have seen in other countries under sanctions, that is, with the reduction of government revenue due to sanctions, the government is no longer able to pursue its social programs for the people. So when you make less money, you cannot keep commodity prices down. I was also told that a review of the government aid system would make it possible to provide direct assistance to the poorest strata of the population.”

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