Iranian women call on world leaders to lift sanctions
Sanctions against Iran are harming women and giving conservatives increased ground to restrict their rights, campaigners have claimed.
Far from challenging its nuclear ambitions, sanctions have allowed the Iranian government to exploit the current “state of emergency” to justify the repression of dissent and allow more conservative leaders to pursue an agenda to restrict women’s entry into higher education and employment, a new report claims.
One women’s rights activist is quoted saying: “the international community’s sole focus on the nuclear issue has resulted in the adoption of policies that inflict great damage on the Iranian people, civil society and women.
“Militarization of the environment will prompt repressive state policies and the possibility of promoting reform in Iran will diminish.”
Spiralling food prices and unemployment as a result of the sanctions against Iran’s oil, gas banking and finance sectors, have already led to girls being pulled out of education, with many being married off early by families who can no longer afford to feed them.
The number of women entering into sex work is growing and there has been an increase in the trafficking of women.
“Reduction in family income inevitably is forcing women to find new sources of income,” the report says.
“Their coping strategies will likely include cutting back on their own health, wellbeing and dietary needs to provide for their dependents.
“As in other countries, for the most vulnerable, poverty will likely lead to risky survival strategies including child labor and sex work- informal sectors which have expanded in Iran in recent years.”
Iran’s women’s movement has been under increasing pressure since the pro-democracy protests of 2009. Now activists fear that sanctions could have a long term impact on their position in Iranian society while destroying the lives of ordinary people in the same way that Iraq experienced during 13 years of sanctions that began in 1990.
“We have already seen in Iraq that sanctions aren’t really effective and that they impose the greatest harm on the civilian population, especially the most vulnerable,” said Sussan Tahmasebi, co-founder of the International Civil Society Action Network who co-authored the report.
“What the women we spoke to told us suggests that what’s happening in Iran mirrors events in Iraq.”
The report also raises questions about the potential hypocrisy of the United States, the European Union carrying out a “silent war” that is harming Iranian women at the same time as they are “heralding their national action plans on women, peace and security that highlight the need for women’s protection in times of crisis and their participation in conflict prevention and peacemaking”.
Women who contributed to the report told the authors that their lives are being affected in a wide variety of ways, including food scarcity, domestic violence, a lack of medicines and sanitary products and increasing isolation as a result of restrictions on the sale of computers that have affected internet access.
The report echoes a statement issued by women’s rights activists on International Women’s Day this year opposing war and urging Iranian and Western leaders to engage in peace talks.
“We have seen that sanctions don’t work, they don’t prevent war,” said Tahmasebi. “Far from harming the government, they weaken society in a way that women have described as inhumane and immoral.”