Iran Sanctions Block Needed Medical Care, Marginalize Political Dissidents

As politicians and Washington policy wonks talk glibly of the “dual track” policy towards Iran, in which we dangle the prospect of substantive diplomacy in front of Tehran as it is crippled by harsh economic sanctions, ordinary Iranians continue to suffer.

Over at Jadaliyya, Mina Khanlarzadeh has an essay based on survey data arguing that, among other things, the U.S.-led sanctions regime blocks access to vital medical care for ordinary Iranians and even has the effect of marginalizing political dissidents (something the neo-cons constantly say they want to encourage in Iran).

Medical care:

Another area that the economic sanctions threaten the lives of Iranians is through a scarcity of medicine. Although the sanctions enacted by the US and the European Union claim to not impose a shortage on humanitarian trades, in reality, they have immensely affected the delivery and availability of medical supplies. The sanctions against Iran’s banking infrastructure and the exclusion of Iran from the global financial system and SWIFT have forced Iranian medical companies to use the old system of hawala (money transfer) for its transactions, causing the process to become significantly longer and more expensive. The depreciation of Iran’s currency has also contributed to shortages and skyrocketing prices of medicine, and advanced medical technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines and other nuclear medical devices are banned from entering Iran. The devastation of those in need of medical care is illustrated by the image of an ill elder woman on a bed who had recently protested the high costs of healthcare and shortages of medicine in front of the presidential building in Iran.

The material and equipment used by dentists have become seven to eight times more expensive over the past year. As a result, dental care has become a privilege inaccessible to the working and middle classes. The overall outcome of these conditions has been the, “inability of pharmaceutical companies to purchase and import basic life saving medicines, ranging from Tylenol to cancer medicine and even prenatal vitamins.” The import of medicines containing antibiotics (of types that are not produced inside Iran) have been decreased by20.7 percent and the price have been increased by 308 percent. The estimated twenty thousand patients of Thalassemia throughout the country receive only a few days of their monthly medicinal needs, and several patients with Thalassemia have died. Chemical weapon survivors, a side-effect of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, in need of medicine and equipment, including cornea transplants and inhalers, similarly suffer from ashortage or lack of medicine. In essence, the medicines used to treat Hemophilia, cancer, Thalassemia, Multiple Sclerosis and transplant and kidney dialysis are either not produced domestically, or are produced, but are not as effective as those imported from Europe and North America. The shortage of medicine for suchchronic diseases often leads to death. Hence, a wave of deterioration of living conditions and destruction has been imposed on Iran by the economic sanctions, and when this wave reaches the country, it is unequally distributed among citizens, i.e. those living in poverty and the marginalized areas, and outside of the popular base of the government suffer the effects of sanctions more.

Marginalizing political dissidents:

The violence resulting from economic sanctions against targeted people is falsely framed as a force that politicizes and revolutionizes them against their state…economic sanctions make the criticism of domestic economic policies and corruption harder. Having become economically more vulnerable by sanctions and threats of war, the demands of considerable sections of the society have been narrowed to the reduction, or preferably removal, of the economic sanctions and a stop to the threats of war, i.e. the right of the world powers’ invasion of Iran.

…The notion of foreign intervention, i.e. the economic sanctions and the threats of war against Iran, has assisted the government to articulate a discourse of national reconciliation without enacting any meaningful recognition of alternative political voices and demands. The threats of war and deteriorating living conditions, due to economic sanctions, have marginalized the voices that demand structural econo-political changes and reform of laws. It is impossible to lead a good life under the economic sanctions, hence the state does not need to negotiate with political dissidents or recognize their citizen rights and a political space for political dissidence. Rather, it needs only to refer to the imposed economic sanctions and threats of war to solidify its discourse of national reconciliation and the necessity for the political activists to postpone their criticism of domestic affairs.

For more on the Iran sanctions see here, here, and here.

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