Sanctions; Silent War Performance Project Draws Attention to Harmful Effects of Sanctions in Iran


December 20, 2012, New York—Yesterday Iranian artist Sanaz Sohrabi—with the co-sponsorship and help of Havaar and Sanctioned Life—brought a unique performance project to the streets of Manhattan.

Iranian civilians are increasingly feeling the effects of a strict U.S.-led sanctions regime that has severely curtailed economic activity in Iran (the economic mismanagement of the Iranian government is exacerbating the situation). One of the most devastating effects is a lack of access to crucial medicines. Patients suffering from cancer, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments which require drug regimens in order to be treated are finding those medicines increasingly unavailable, either due to shortages or to large price increases that make them unaffordable. The result has been significant suffering, including the recent death of Manouchehr Esmaili, a 15-year-old boy with hemophilia who passed away last month when his parents were unable to find the medicine he required.


To communicate the severity of this situation, Sohrabi engaged in a performative art piece which involved filling thousands of transparent pill capsules with messages from actual Iranians describing how sanctions have had an impact on their health or the health of loved ones. These capsules were then spread out on the streets near the United Nations and also handed out to passersby who were encouraged to read the messages inside.

Said one Iranian whose words were placed inside the capsules: “I am a patient with a liver transplant. To sustain a liver transplant I need to use particular drugs. Unfortunately like all others I am having problems acquiring them.” There are far too many similar situations all over Iran.


“My sister is a pharmacist in Iran and she used to tell me stories about the effect of sanctions on medicine availability and patients,” said Sohrabi. “When I moved to America, I felt that these stories were unknown and invisible to people here, so I decided to make them visible and be a messenger for those in Iran whose voices are not being heard.”

 Sohrabi and members of Havaar and Sanctioned Life are available to discuss the project and the sanctions situation in Iran.

Performance Art in front of UN by Sanaz Sohrabi: “Sanctions: Silent War”

برای وارد کردن روایتِ خود از چگونگی تأثیر تحریم‌ها روی سلامت خود یا عزیزان‌تان، لینک زیر را دنبال کنید

Sanaz Sohrabi:

Manouchehr Esmaili, a 15-year-old boy suffering from hemophilia died last month as a result of sanctions that limit the production and imports of medicine.* These restrictions prevented his family from accessing the necessary treatments for his condition. However, he is not the only victim of sanctions. There are 26,000 patients suffering from coagulation and complex disorders including hemophilia, thalassemia. There are many more patients who cannot afford or access their medicine anymore. Sanctions as the new silent war, have adverse impacts on the availability and price of medicines in Iran and the battlefield is the life of civilians; in particular children, women, chronically ill patients and the elderly. Imposing sanctions without ensuring a safety-net for at-risk civilians is comparable to attacking a hospital during wartime

In “Sanctions; Silent War”, I will fill 26,000 pill capsules with real-life stories of Iranian patients whose lives have been affected by sanctions. I place the capsules in a line on the ground, in front of the UN headquarter in Manhattan, NY.Then I will tape the string of capsules to my body and give them out to people passing by, asking them to open the capsule and read the message inside. The aim of “Sanctions; Silent War” is to deliver this message: that sanctions are holding the health of the Iranian people hostage, specially children, women, chronically ill patients, and the elderly

Sanctions are not an alternative to war, but they are war by other means. While western governments insist that sanctions only target the Iranian government and they are not directed at civilians, reality tells us a different story. The UN Security Council and western governments have to become aware of the damages caused by sanctions and facilitate the import of medicine to Iran, otherwise we will be witnessing catastrophic consequences of a silent war. One of the solutions is the issuance of a General License by western Administrations exempting medicine transactions

The broad, crippling and indiscriminate sanctions mean that humanitarian exemptions, which include medicine, do not stand up. Iranian people in general, and patients in particular, should not pay the price of conflicts between governments

I would like to invite all concerned New Yorkers and residents of cities around to join me on Tuesday December 18th at 11:00 am for this public performance art

In cooperation with
Havaar: Iranian Initiative against War, Sanctions and State Repression

Sanctioned Life

*”Haemophiliac Iranian boy ‘dies after sanctions disrupt medicine supplies”

Havaar honors Nasrin Sotoudeh

On October 17, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh began an indefinite hunger strike. Her simple request, for which she was prepared to give her life, was for the government to allow her family the right to visit her in prison and for her 12 year old daughter to be able to leave the country. After 49 days, the authorities relented, and she ended her fast on December 4th.

For people of conscience everywhere, Nasrin serves as a powerful example. A nonviolent critic of Iranian authorities and a tireless activist on behalf of children and victims of abuse, she was arrested and sentenced to 6 years in prison for her writings and statements.

Union Square in New York City


Havaar members gathered in Union Square shortly after Nasrin ended her hunger strike to spread word of her struggle and stand in solidarity. In the same vein, the members came to raise awareness about the impact that American threats of war and continuing economic sanctions are having on activists like Nasrin and Iranians in general.

Contrary to the stated logic of the Obama administration, sanctions do little to empower Iranians to stand up for their rights. The threat of war, similarly, has created a state of emergency in the country and an environment where criticizing Iranian state repression is far more perilous.

For a number of New Yorkers, whether Iranian or not, seeing Nasrin’s picture and her message on display was an important chance to engage, spread awareness and build a solidarity rooted in the genuine common struggle of American and Iranian people for a more just, representative and humane political order.

NY – Protest Israeli Crimes in Gaza

What? Come to protest Israeli crimes in Gaza as Israel continues to attack Gaza, killing innocent people and destroying infrastructure.

When? Thursday, 11/15/2012 – 5pm to 7pm

Where? In front of the Israeli Consulate (42nd st and 2nd ave)

Media Contacts:

Lamis Deek: 1 917-607-0072 / 1 212-226-3999
Raja Abdulhaq: 1 347-671-9135Endorsers so far:
Al-Awda: Palestine Right to Return Coalition – NY
American Muslims for Palestine – NY
Arab Muslim American Federation – NY
Muslim American Society – NY
International Action Center
New York University- Students for Justice in Palestine
Brooklyn College – Students for Justice in Palestine
Hunter College- Students for Justice in Palestine
Society of American Egyptians
International Socialist Organization
Labor for Palestine
ANSWER Coalition
International League of Peoples Struggle – US
Existence is Resistance
Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
New York City Labor Against the War
John Jay Students for Justice in Palestine
Advocates for Peace and Social Justice
Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY
Rutgers University- Students for Justice in Palestine
Columbia University- Students for Justice in Palestine
Coalition to Defend the Egyptian Revolution
Adalah NY
Havaar: Iranian Initiative against War, Sanctions and State Repression

Havaar at the Free University (report-back)

Havaar’s September 25th protests and their aftermath have left us pretty busy of late, so we’re a bit behind the times here, posting about an event from a couple of weeks ago. But we wanted to give a quick “report back” on the workshop Havaar held at Free University Week in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park on September 20th.

For those unfamiliar with the Free University, its organizers describe it as follows:

The Free University in New York is an experiment in radical education and an attempt to create education as it ought to be. First conceived as a form of educational strike in the run up to May Day, 2012, the Free University has subsequently organized numerous days of free and open education in parks and public spaces in New York City.”

Havaar could not be more down with this “experiment,” and with the idea that education ought to be a “cooperative mission,” so we were happy to be granted a slot for an open-ended workshop relating to Iran. As the event announcement noted, “With crippling sanctions imposed on Iran and constant talk of war, the need for real information about the content, context, and impact of US-Iran policy has never been more urgent.”

Havaar table at the Free University.

Around 25 people showed up to participate in the group conversation, while others stopped by a table Havaar set up to take literature and discuss Iran. A member of Havaar facilitated the group discussion, but we were mainly interested to hear what others in the workshop wanted to talk about and learn.

Among the main issues covered was a question that has been central to Havaar’s organizing—whether or not those of us who do peace movement work should be critical of the Islamic Republic of Iran while that country and its citizens are targeted by U.S. imperialism, through sanctions and the threat of military attack. Havaar’s position is that activists should do exactly that, but others in the workshop argued that it was wrong to be critical of Ahmadinejad, Khameini, and the Iranian government at this point. Rather some felt that the focus should be on opposing American imperialism because that ought to be the primary role of activists in the U.S., but also in part because Iran takes an anti-imperialist stance.

Havaar members argued that, while opposing U.S. imperialism, war, and sanctions is absolutely critical, the anti-imperialist rhetoric from Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders really is just rhetoric—about as meaningful as President Obama’s supposed concern for freedom and democracy in the Middle East. These are difficult issues, and there certainly were differences of opinion, but it was a good conversation and one which will hopefully continue in other forums.

Discussion at the beginning of the workshop.

The workshop also discussed ways to stand in solidarity with Iranians in the face of threats on multiple fronts, the effects sanctions have had on the ability of the Iranian government and average Iranians to perform normal international transactions, and the general situation in Iran, particularly the ways in which sanctions and government mismanagement have had a negative impact on day-to-day life. Members of Havaar stressed that, all too often, the discussion on Iran turns to state politics and rhetoric and lacks any real focus on the experiences and perspectives of average Iranians.

The issue of prisoners of conscience in Iran was also touched on, given that Havaar calls for the release of political prisoners in Iran. One participant asked about prisoners of conscience in the United States, such as Bradley Manning, and a Havaar member wholeheartedly agreed with that concern and remarked that what we really need to be calling for is the release of political prisoners all over the world.

The Free University is a terrific project, and Havaar looks forward to participating in similar educational events in the future. We are dealing with very complex questions and do not claim to have all of the answers, which makes open dialogues like this one all the more important.

Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu, and Obama protested by Havaar in NYC

On September 25, 2012, Havaar was joined by The Illuminator crew and their cargo van to take their message against war, sanctions, and state repression onto the streets and public facades of New York. Projections happened at Union Square, around Washington Square Park, and on the facade of the historic Flatiron Building. Earlier in the day Havaar was joined by friends and allies for a demonstration in midtown New York against Ahmadinejad, Obama, and Netanyahu’s aggression towards the Iranian people. See photos from that demonstration.


UPDATE: Iranian Activists Release Photos and Video of Demonstration and Unannounced Action

 Havaar & The Illuminator Join Forces to Protest Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu and Obama

Photos of the protests can now be found on Havaar’s facebook page.

Video of the Illuminator projections has just now been released here.

September 26, 2012, New York —Today, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression released photographs and a video from a demonstration it held yesterday to protest Ahmadinejad’s crimes against the Iranian people, as well as President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for severe economic sanctions and escalating threats of attacking Iran militarily.

Havaar said, “What Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu and Obama have in common is a complete disregard for the lives and dignity of the Iranian people. Their callousness in pursuit of their own political interests threatens the well being of approximately 75 million Iranians, and moreover creates a bleaker future for us all.”

The demonstration occurred near the Warwick Hotel in midtown Manhattan where Ahmadinejad and his coterie are staying.

Ali Abdi, a student activist who until recently was involved in both the student and women’s movement in Iran said, “It’s impossible to describe the feeling of holding larger than life photographs of Iranian political prisoners in the streets of New York, close to where Iranian officials responsible for their ongoing suffering are staying. I know this will give some heart to their loved ones, and to many other Iranians who want to see the release of all political prisoners.”

After the demonstration, Havaar was joined by The Illuminator crew and their cargo van to take their message against war, sanctions, and state repression onto the streets and public facades of New York. Projections happened at Union Square, around Washington Square Park, and on the facade of the Flatiron Building.

Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression” is a grassroots group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans and allies who have joined together to categorically oppose any military action and sanctions against Iran. Havaar stands in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war and sanctions and against state repression, asserting that all of these forms of violence hurt the lives and aspirations of ordinary Iranians. Visit and




Iranians and Allies Protest Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu, and Obama

During United Nations General Assembly Convening, Havaar Says That Each Government Acts Against the Interests of the Iranian People


September 25, 2012, New York —Today, on the occasion of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s final visit to the United Nations General Assembly, the New York-based group Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression was joined by allies to voice opposition to the Iranian government’s repression of the Iranian people and to call for an end to crippling sanctions and threats of war by the U.S. and Israeli governments.
Protesting outside Ahmadinejad’s Manhattan hotel, members of Havaar and their allies held giant posters bearing images of 24 Iranian political prisoners from all walks of life, including the young human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahahi, and labor leader Reza Shahabi, sentenced to four and six years respectively for their political activities. Havaar members said, “We protest Ahmadinejad and hold up photos of imprisoned Iranians in lieu of all those who can’t. It’s a basic act of solidarity with the disappeared and the broken, and with those who continue to demand accountability and justice at great risk to themselves.”

Simultaneously Havaar protested against the American and Israeli government’s policies of sanctions and threats of war.

“Our primary concern is the welfare of the Iranian people, and of people all over the world struggling against repression and violence, be it foreign or domestic,” said Havaar. “We condemn the violence of the Iranian government against fellow Iranians, just as we condemn the increasingly aggressive U.S. and Israeli policies of sanctions and threats of war. The sanctions imposed on the Iranian people are not an alternative to war, but wage war on the Iranian people by other means. They operate as collective punishment, and must end. We hope that people the world over will stand in solidarity with the Iranian people against all the violent forces that seek to obstruct their dreams for a free and just society. ”

“Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression” is a grassroots group of Iranians, Iranian-Americans and allies who have joined together to categorically oppose any military action and sanctions against Iran. Havaar stands in solidarity with the Iranian people’s struggle against war and sanctions and against state repression, asserting that all of these forms of violence hurt the lives and aspirations of ordinary Iranians. Visit and

What can you do for peace?

1. “Not in my name”

Tell your Senator and your House representative: I oppose sanctions on Iran because they cause suffering for ordinary Iranian people. Sanctions have raised the price of everyday items like food and placed life-saving medicines beyond the reach of many Iranians. They have forced businesses to lay off workers and are leading to the impoverishment of more of the population. I oppose any form of military attack on Iran. Even a “targeted’ attack on nuclear facilities would kill thousands of innocent people and unleash radiation into the air, water and land. I do not support my government invading Iran and do not consent to have my tax dollars used for aggression against innocent people.
Find your congressperson here:
U.S. House of Repersentatives
U.S. Senate

2. “Knowledge is power”

Contact Havaar if you would like to organize an educational forum about Iran on your campus or in your community. Visit our website for articles and downloadable pamphlets you can use to educate yourself and those around you. Make sure you and the people around you have access to information that is not driven by the agendas of governments or media corporations.

3. “The other side of the story”

You can help gather information about the actual impact of sanctions on Iranians. If you or anyone you know has been affected by the sanctions currently imposed on Iran, please send a report to the Sanctioned Life project.

Havaar Protests Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu, Obama & Their Threats to Iranian People


WHAT: Demonstration Against Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu, Obama & Their Threats to Iranian People
WHEN: Tuesday, September 25th @ 5pm-7:30 or 8pm
WHERE: At or near the Warwick Hotel (54th St. and 6th Ave.), New York City

Make sure to check back for updates before the demonstration on our Facebook event page!

The Iranian head of state, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be attending the UN General Assembly in the last week of September. In 2009 Ahmadinejad retained his office through rigged presidential elections that were backed by severe repression of protest, and since that time he has repeatedly denied the existence of political prisoners and grave human rights violations in Iran.

Also present during the General Assembly will be U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama has escalated crippling sanctions against Iran that are already doing grave harm to the lives of average Iranians– and most of all to the poor and vulnerable–while continuing to threaten the possibility of military strikes that would have devastating consequences. Netanyahu has raised his war-mongering to a fever pitch in recent weeks. Netanyahu, Obama, and Ahmadinejad may have different and often conflicting agendas, but these leaders and their governments are all threats to Iranians and to peace in the region.

JOIN Havaar as we raise our voices in protest, in front of Ahmadinejad’s hotel, against the crimes of his government, including the lack of accountability for the torture and killing of dissidents, and the continued unjust detention of Iranian political prisoners — including union organizers, student activists, and advocates for the rights of all Iranians. Join us to simultaneously express opposition to US-led sanctions and American and Israeli threats of war against Iran.

We will voice our strong opposition to Ahmadinejad and the egregious crimes of his government, while doing everything we can to prevent our legitimate grievances from being exploited by political forces in the United States and abroad that seek to advance a belligerent agenda of war and sanctions against Iran. Such belligerent policies–whether advanced by Democrats or Republicans, by Israelis or EU member states, or by violent and deeply anti-democratic political formations like the Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) –are unconscionable and do violence to the lives and aspirations of the Iranian people.

Note that this will be the last time that Ahmadinejad will be addressing the UN, so, let’s make sure we send him off properly!

JOIN US, whether you are an Iranian, Syrian, Palestinian, American, Egyptian, Pakistani, Honduran, Somali, Yemeni, Greek or Spaniard, join us wherever you are from, to stand with the people claiming the commons, and against the torturers and warmongers, wherever they are from! Justice is indivisible!

Join us! Spread the word !!

Visit Havaar’s website and join our announcement list to stay in touch with us:

Email us at with any questions.

Preparing for the anti-Ahmadinejad, anti-sanction and anti-war demonstration on Tuesday! Join us on Sep 25th, 5 pm, in front of Warwick Hotel -- 65 West 54th Street, Manhattan, New York