Up close and personal: New articles detail the impact of sanctions on everyday life

As the US sanctions against Iran steadily erode living standards for ordinary Iranians, threatening the health and futures of millions of people, some excellent new investigative reporting is shedding light on just how the sanctions wreak their havoc. Two new articles look at the disproportionate effects on women, the sick and the poor. “When I Ran Out of Birth Control in Iran“, by Narges Bajoghli, provides a close-up look at the crisis in women’s reproductive health. “The Effects of The Economic Sanctions Against Iran“, by Mina Khanlarzadeh, combines first-hand accounts of life under the current sanctions regime with a history and analysis of sanctions as a form of slow violence and collective punishment.


The 2013 Iranian Presidential Elections

Solidarity with the democratic movement in Iran!

Lift U.S. sanctions against Iran! End collective punishment of the Iranian people!

Along with millions of people both inside and outside of Iran, we are deeply inspired by the determination of the Iranian people to use the June 14th elections to press the realization of their own democratic aspirations. Hassan Rouhani won a decisive victory over five other candidates in the first round of voting, securing 50.7 percent of the more than 36 million votes cast in a massive turnout, with 72.7 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots. Rouhani describes himself as a “moderate,” and he has not challenged the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic. Nor does his election change the fact the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard continue to control the most important levers of power. Nonetheless in the course of the election campaign Rouhani took several stands that encouraged people who are dissatisfied with the Iranian government to vote for him: for example, he criticized the morality police, called for lifting restrictions on the Internet, lamented the fact of widespread unemployment, and declared that, “in consensus with higher officials,” political prisoners would be freed.

Despite relentless political repression and massive economic instability, medical shortages, inflation, unemployment, etc., exacerbated by U.S. sanctions, the popular democratic movement in Iran has shown itself to be remarkably resilient: tens of thousands of Iranians marched in cities across the country on June 15th to celebrate the election results, and their chants and slogans such as the following showed the enduring momentum for change and a desire to keep alive the memory of those who lost their lives during 2009’s post election uprisings:

  • Green movement! Happy Birthday!
  • This is the remembrance of 2009 protests
  • Hassan (Rouhani)! bring the key, and open the Evin prison
  • June 14th gets our stolen votes back
  • Green movement/reform has not died, it has brought Rouhani
  • Rouhani do not forget, Mousavi must be released

In response to the Iranian elections, the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry praised the “courage” of the Iranian people, attempting to position the United States on their side against their government. But the administration’s tribute is blatantly hypocritical: U.S.-led sanctions are directly contributing to the suffering of these “courageous” people, particularly most recently. In the run up to the elections, the U.S. escalated sanctions against the petro-chemical industry, the car industry and the Iranian currency itself, greatly exacerbating the difficulties Iranians already encounter in meeting the needs of everyday life. Instead of offering empty phrases of admiration for the Iranian people, the U.S. should lift sanctions now and stop the collective punishment and intimidation of ordinary Iranians.

As the Iranian people continue to resist from below the many sources of oppression they face, both internally and from U.S./Israeli aggression, we in Havaar call on the Obama administration to lift all sanctions on Iran immediately and stop the devastation of millions of Iranians’ lives. For example, there is an urgent and proliferating health care crisis caused directly by sanctions on “dual use” goods and on hard currency needed to buy medicine and medical supplies. As Iranian hospitals run out of essential medications and the parts to fix medical equipment, more patients will die prematurely of easily preventable deaths. Havaar has launched a campaign to enforce the exemption for humanitarian goods, including medicine, and we urge the Obama administration to issue an unequivocal statement to banks that they will not be penalized for facilitating the purchase of items that fall under the exemption clause and to provide a clear exemption from banking sanctions for humanitarian transactions. This can be a first step towards alleviating the harsh effects of the U.S. sanctions program.

We congratulate the millions of Iranians who seized this electoral moment to show yet again the political force they are. And we call on President Rouhani and the new Iranian government to live up to the hopes of the people who voted for change. We call for the freeing of Green movement leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and all political prisoners, and for an end, at last, to state repression in Iran. Movements for women’s rights, labor rights, and all human rights need the freedom to organize without fear of governmental punishment.

We furthermore call on our government here in the United States to stop adding to the burdens Iranians face and lift the sanctions and end the war threats now!



Havaar’s campaign against sanctions on Iran is gaining steam

A few weeks ago Havaar launched our campaign calling on major bank CEOs to allow financial transactions for purchases of medicine and medical supplies for Iranians.

We feel very encouraged and empowered by the responses we have received from some of the people who signed the petition:

Sanctions, “smart” or comprehensive, are a form of warfare and a blunt weapon of aggression on the most vulnerable citizens, including infants, children and the aged. When the Health Sector is endangered as in Iran today, loss of life results – demonstrating how Sanctions constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Sanctions do not destroy governments, they destroy the basic human rights of human beings.

Denis J. Halliday
United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq from 1 September 1997 until 1998.

Campaigners dedicated to ending economic sanctions against Iraq learned from Iraqi mothers and children about how lethally punitive economic sanctions could be.  The pediatrics wards of Iraqi hospitals were like death rows for infants.  Now, ordinary Iranians with minimal capacity to control their government are nevertheless being punished by economic sanctions which forbid them access to life saving medicines.  The Havaar campaign needs and deserves support from civil society around the world.

Kathy Kelly
Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and a co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, a campaign to end economic sanctions against Iraq.

The U.S.-imposed sanctions regime has inflicted great suffering upon the Iranian people.  As people of conscience, have to speak out and act decisively to end the sanctions and to ensure that Iranians have adequate access to life saving medicine and other necessities.

Azadeh Shahshahani
President, National Lawyers Guild.

We cannot condone the use of sanctions that are causing untold suffering to the Iranian people, as they deprive them of the most basic necessities in life, and are directed against a country that does not pose a danger to the United States. it is important then that we support the campaign HAVAAR is organizing.

Silvia Federici
Professor emerita and Teaching Fellow at Hofstra University, where she was a social science professor.

Other prominent signers include Anthony Alessandrini, Tariq Ali, Stanley Aronowitz, Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Arun Gupta, Chris Hedges, Zachary Lockman, David McReynolds, Molly Nolan, Vijay Prashad, Chris Toensing, Adaner Usmani and Julia Wrigley.

Sanctions as a Tool of War: A Comparative Look at Iraq and Iran

A Havaar forum hosted by the Center for Place, Culture and Politics.

The Graduate Center at the City University of New York
Skylight Room (Room 9100)
365 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10016

April 29, 7PM-9PM

Sanctions are still presented in mainstream political discussion as a peaceful alternative to military intervention. But the experience of Iraqis, whose society was devastated by over ten years of harsh economic sanctions, shows us that sanctions against countries that defy Washington are a form of collective punishment used to augment the effects of war and/or lay the groundwork for war. While sanctions against Iran have yet to reach the levels and effects experienced in Iraq, there is much to be learned by placing these two different cases in a common frame. How are sanctions used by the US as part of its efforts to dominate the Middle East? What are the effects they have on everyday life and on social movements? And how have activists attempted to organize transnational solidarity to oppose sanctions? This event will look at previous campaigns against sanctions in Iraq and help launch a new campaign against the medical shortages caused by sanctions against Iran.


Dr. Joy Gordon is a philosophy professor at Fairfield University, JD from Boston University School of Law, PhD from Yale. Published extensively on the UN sanctions on Iraq, including “Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions” (Harvard University Press 2010). Currently completing a book on the ethical aspects of economic sanctions. Recent work on the Iran sanctions includes “UN Sanctions on Iran: The Dance of Mutual Deniability

Denis J. Halliday worked for the UN for 34 years – first as junior officer in Iran (1964-66), and finally as UN Assistant Secretary-General 1994-98. He volunteered to be the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in 1997 and remained in his post until 1998 when he resigned in protest of the sanctions.

Hadi Kahalzadeh served as an economist for Iran’s Social Security Organization from 2003 to 2011. He was a member of the Iranian Students Office for Consolidating Unity (Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat), the only democratically elected student body across the country. After graduating, he joined the progressive political party, the Iranian Alumni Organization, which was a strong ally of student, women’s rights, and labor movements. In 2006, Hadi was elected as a member of board of directors of Iran Parties House (IPH). He currently serves as a visiting scholar at the department of political science at Valdosta State University in Georgia.

Bitta Mostofi currently is a nonprofit, immigrant rights attorney (you can see it here on ḥow she works). She has also worked as a civil rights attorney and served on the board of directors of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Bitta has participated in anti-war and anti-sanctions campaigns, and was a co-coordinator for the Voices in the Wilderness; Iraq Peace Team from 2002-2003. In recent years Bitta has co-founded and worked with Where is my Vote, New York, which formed in the after math of the highly disputed 2009 Iranian presidential elections. WIMV-NY strives to raise the level of international solidarity with the citizens of Iran in their movement towards social justice and democratic change and to speak out against the Iranian state’s human rights violations.

Sina is a founding member of Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression and an organizer with Havaar’s campaign to alleviate sanctions-related medical shortages in Iran.

Co-sponsored by Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression, Raha Iranian Feminist Collective, the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and the War Resisters League.

Please RSVP to our event posting on Facebook and help us spread the word.

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.