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.