Iranians’ economic woes dampen Nowruz celebrations
Iranians famously say that the New Year would not reach their door if they did not clean their homes before spring’s arrival. Nowruz, or the ancient Persian New Year’s celebration, requires a deep household clean, new clothes and for the family to prepare colorful pastries and nuts, tea and fruits to serve visitors. It is no secret that, this particular year, many Iranian families are suffering from financial hardship.
Iran has the world’s most famous pistachios and is one of the biggest exporters of the nut, but today they are considered a luxury good that even middle-class families cannot afford. They used to be an extremely popular “must-have” delicacy for Nowruz. However, everything is extremely expensive for Iranians as the New Year of 1398, which begins on March 21 on the Gregorian calendar, approaches. Many are so frustrated that all they can hope and pray for is that the situation won’t be so bad next year.
With no guarantee that US President Donald Trump will give another exemption to the limited number of Iranian oil customers, the financial crisis could get worse straight after the public holidays. Such concerns make millions of Iranians hesitant about spending what little savings they have on the New Year celebrations, as the political and financial climate doesn’t promise them positive change.
The hardships this Nowruz are a reminder of the war with Iraq back in the 1980s, when the regime declared a national emergency and public expectations were thus reduced to match the circumstances. There was a shortage of everything, from school stationery to soap and shampoos all the way to beef, milk, bread and even fuel. I remember well my mother asking me to hold a spot in the bread queue at the bakery on my way back home after school. The distribution of bread was limited to just a few pieces for each person, so a couple of family members needed to stay in line in order to be able to buy enough for the household.
Economic disaster, combined with an oppressive ruling regime that presses the people politically and ideologically, makes life so difficult for most Iranians that their best alternative is to emigrate
Today, without war, the people of this beautiful nation, which is considered one of the richest in the world with its huge reserves of oil and gas, do not know why they have to face such economic hardship. Economic disaster, combined with an oppressive ruling regime that presses the people politically and ideologically, makes life so difficult for most Iranians that their best alternative is to emigrate.
While the regime is engaged with an endless power struggle with the US and attempts to export its ideology, the forecasts don’t show Iran having many bright days this year. The regime in Tehran still claims to know how to break the sanctions and to resist America but, with high levels of corruption in the system, the sanctions only create opportunities for more corruption and draw the nation toward poverty.
There are a couple of famous cases of people associated with the regime fleeing the country with huge amounts of stolen public money. These embezzlers transferred the money to Canada and, with extradition unlikely due to there being no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Islamic Republic cannot chase or charge the accused. This is another example of the regime hurting its own people by isolating the country from the international community.
Iranians deserve to live a comfortable and peaceful life. Despite all of the frustration and sorrow, the people truly believe that cruelty will not persist forever.
• Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of ‘Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth’ (Seven Stories Press, 2008) Twitter: @CameliaFard