What have the sanctions done to Iran’s society after a year?
Despite four decades of being under suppression and humiliation, Iran’s society has never sanctioned the regime of Islamic republic from within. Frequent shows of allegiance, designed by the regime, have seldom been sanctioned. However, as the regime behaves outside its borders as it does within them, other states have left with no choice other than putting embargos on the Iranian regime for their own security.
Trump’s administration has placed some severe sanctions on the Iranian regime and government, but consequently, Iranian society has been directly affected by them. I will try to find out in what ways the Iranian society have been affected. This article focuses only on the social changes due to the sanctions, and will not take into effect the other related domestic or international factors.
To discuss this, I will identify four areas to look into including poverty and unemployment, surge in crime rates, immigration, and finally socio-cultural oppression. The main questions are what sanctions do to a society? What types of societies are prone to be subject to international sanctions? And how the state uses sanctions to engineer the society and opinions?
Poverty and Unemployment
The number of people living below the absolute poverty line has risen from 15 million (about 19 % of the population) to 44 million people (about 55 % of the population) only within a year. Unemployment in some cities is estimated to have reached 60 %. Fifty-three percent of those who were born in the 1980s (the decade right after the Islamic revolution) are with no job. Working children are estimated to make up a three-million cohort.
After thousands of factories were forced to close down and the government cannot afford to offer employment anymore, the unemployment figures are skyrocketing. Foreign investment is completely halted. While the Islamic Republic tries to blackmail the world with its missiles and nuclear programs, the greatest achievement they can have under these circumstances would be to receive food and medicine in exchange for their oil and gas.
There have been reports of hundreds of robberies at an official burial ceremony which is a regular regime’s propaganda. The main stolen item reported to the police was mobile phones (Report by Tabnak, 27 June 2019). According to the communication minister, the copper wire theft has reached a record high which resulted in phone line disconnection in 600 points throughout the country (IRIB news agency, 2 July 2019). The official crime reports have been scarcely revealed recently. The judiciary, however, confirms the surge in crimes. Reports of kidnapping, murder, rape have surpassed headlines of tabloids and become part of the blame game of political factions in the regime.
Displacement and migration
There are no statistics of the number of Iranians immigrating from their country in the last year, but the numbers available by some accessible countries for Iranians (such as Turkey, Georgia, and Serbia) indicate an increase. Iranians have bought thousands of houses in Turkey in the previous year. Only in September 2018, 500 houses in Turkey were bought by Iranian nationals.
Iran has lost in the travel sector too. The travel expenses, including the foreign travel tax, have increased so much that most Iranians cannot afford travel anymore. The number of tourists going to Iran has also shrunk by a third to 7 million tourists in a year. During the Persian New Year holidays, international travel decreased by 50% and domestic travel by 20%. Several international airlines stopped their flights to Iranian cities.
In times of embargo, the suffering state escalates the social oppression and cultural engineering of the society. Pressure by foreign states has always been an excuse for an increasing crackdown on social groups. When the international pressure was mounting on the regime in 1988, the late Ayatollah Khomeini decided to execute thousands of political prisoners. The reason for the international pressure, in the first place, has always been the regimes reckless behaviors, military programs, and terrorism.
These sanctions will drag the regime to its end. Missiles and nuclear programs have used as guarantees for the Islamic regime to remain in power, and they were never intended to be of national interest. This is why the regime wanted to limit the negotiations only to the nuclear program so that they would not become vulnerable in other areas.
The management of the Country at times of embargo
The regime’s managers owe Iranian citizens an explanation. They have to explain what Iranians have achieved in exchange for sanction? What have they done but taking advantage of the privileges for themselves and their families? Zanganeh, the minister for oil, says: “unfortunately the generation of honest managers – like Tondgooyan – is extinct now; those who used to work for people and not filling their own pockets (Fars news, 19 June 2019). What have they really done with the country’s resources, except wasting and corruption?