Long-time GSBTB volunteer Sanaz Azimi reflects on Iran’s nuclear deal and the sanctions her fellow Iranians live under.
1. Although I was born four years after the Iran-Iraq war, the fear of war has always been there: in people’s jokes, when there was thunder and lightning, that “America is coming”. In pictures I saw from neighbouring countries’ wars on television. In our basement, filled with rolls of toilet paper, oil and water. I did not have a sense of what war means. I was just thinking, “why should America even want to go to war with Iran? On the one hand, half the people I knew, plus the friends and families of the people I knew, were living in America. On the other hand, there was this constant fear. I somehow had to match this picture of America – the destination of “success” for literally half the people I had known in my life – with the pictures of war and tanks and blood. I could not understand the paradox.
2. Imagine you have a broken phone\laptop\other electronic device. You want to fix it, but it’s not possible. Either because you are technically not even allowed to be using it or, if you are, the pieces you need are not available. Because they can’t be imported. Because of the sanctions. That is what life with sanctions look like. You can live without being able to use normal things like the Appstore or Airbnb or Netflix or … but you cannot live without medication when you have cancer. So you have to wait in line at 4am, because the medications are not there. Because of the sanctions. And yet, when somebody asks you about a nuclear weapon, you still don’t know what that is.
3. When I came to Germany – with enough cash to live on for one year, as there are no international relations between Iran and international banks, so you actually have to carry the money with you – I wanted to open a bank account, just like everybody else. But I could not. Most of the banks in Germany still won’t open an account for an Iranian. It took me almost three months to find a bank that would let me open an account.
4. One week before the World Cup, Nike said it would not provide shoes for Iran’s national football team because of new US sanctions. They had to try to find new shoes for themselves one week before their first game. Over the last few months, almost all of their friendly matches were cancelled. For me it’s a metaphor of what happens on an everyday basis in Iran: your daily life is influenced by politics you don’t have any impact on. There is a new challenge everyday, both from inside and outside.
5. As I write this, the exchange rate is changing. Between the Iran-Spain game on Friday and the Iran-Portugal game on Monday, the Euro got 15 percent more expensive and Iranians got 15 percent poorer. As I write each word, everything gets a little bit more expensive. Three months ago, the last time I was home, one Euro cost 5,200 Toman. You could buy one kilo of tomatoes with one Euro. But three months later, one Euro costs 10,000 Toman. That means that today one kilo of tomatoes costs two Euro – double the price. If you pay with Iranian Toman, you are 50 percent poorer thanyou were three months ago.
For me this means I will not visit my family or any of my friends there. It means more and more of the people I know will leave Iran and those who stay will get more and more frustrated with this economic war. It means that everyday you wake up hoping that your car/cellphone/laptop/shoes will not break, that nobody will get sick, that nobody will lose more hope, and that nothing will get worse.
Image: Protesters demonstrate against US sanctions on Iran by Elvert Barnes CC 2.0