TOUGH LIFE ‘An­gry with Trump’

Ira­ni­ans feel strain of tur­moil and sanc­tions

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

On a crisp win­ter's day the snow glis­tens on the moun­tains above Tehran, but the mood is as heavy as the pall of pol­lu­tion that of­ten shrouds Iran's capital.

In a coun­try weighed down by sanc­tions, shaken by protests and stressed by mil­i­tary ten­sions with the United States, many Tehra­nis strug­gle to hide their pes­simism.

"Life is re­ally hard right now. The sit­u­a­tion here is un­pre­dictable," said Rana, a 20 year old bi­ol­ogy stu­dent walk­ing in the up­mar­ket dis­trict of Ta­jr­ish.

It is a part of the city where young women sub­tly thwart the Is­lamic re­pub­lic's con­ser­va­tive dress codes, opt­ing for short coats, stylish make-up and scarves re­veal­ing ever more hair.

But, de­spite such rel­a­tive lib­er­ties, Rana said she feels trapped.

"The qual­ity of life isn't good at all - we have pol­lu­tion, an­gry peo­ple, high prices," she said, point­ing also to a "huge class gap" and Iran's deep­en­ing "iso­la­tion".

Iran's econ­omy has been bat­tered since US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in 2018 aban­doned an in­ter­na­tional nu­clear deal and reim­posed sanc­tions and a "max­i­mum pres­sure" cam­paign.

When Iran hiked petrol prices in Novem­ber, na­tion­wide protests erupted and turned vi­o­lent be­fore se­cu­rity forces put them down amid a near-to­tal In­ter­net black­out.

Ten­sions with Washington es­ca­lated in early Jan­uary when a US drone strike killed pow­er­ful Ira­nian gen­eral Qasem Soleimani in Bagh­dad.

Iran re­tal­i­ated by tar­get­ing US forces but then ac­ci­den­tally shot down a Ukrainian air­liner, killing all 176 peo­ple on board, in a tragedy that sparked anger at home and abroad.

Rana said she still feels "sad" about the dis­as­ter that claimed the lives of many young peo­ple who had left Iran to study abroad.

One young Ira­nian who has cho­sen to stay in her coun­try is Pe­gah Go­lami, a 25 year old en­gi­neer who was shop­ping three days ahead of her wed­ding.

"The coun­try's eco­nomic con­di­tion is now re­ally dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially for youths," she said, dressed in a chic coat and suede boots.

"I feel very bad... my friends have de­cided to leave. But I, as an Ira­nian, de­cided to stay and build my coun­try."

The strains of a vi­o­lin filled the air as a busker tried to make him­self heard above the noise of the heavy traf­fic.

An Ira­nian man plays the vi­o­lin in a com­mer­cial area in north­ern Tehran

It is in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to make a liv­ing, said Bahram Sob­hani, a 47 year old elec­tri­cian who was un­shaven, ner­vous and al­most com­pletely tooth­less.

"It's a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to find work these days, but it is out there," he said.

"The sanc­tions have of course af­fected us, but we have to tol­er­ate it be­cause we can't do any­thing else. We live in Iran, not some­where else."

The eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion is also hurt­ing

Mo­ham­madreza Khademi, vice-pres­i­dent of the Del­ham Tabesh com­pany that sells smart tech­nol­ogy de­vices from Italy for lux­ury homes.

His com­pany took a hit af­ter the re­newed sanc­tions trip­pled costs, forc­ing it to lay off 20 of its 30 em­ploy­ees.

"The end of 2018 was aw­ful and all of 2019 was not good at all," said Khademi.

"I will con­tinue to run my busi­ness. I will try to have that line of pro­duc­tion in

Iran lo­cally, but it is su­per dif­fi­cult to change," he said, adding that "I am an­gry with Mr Trump".

‘We feel hope­less’

If the mood is glum in Tehran's mid­dle and up­per class dis­tricts, it's even worse in the poorer ar­eas of the sprawl­ing city of 8mn peo­ple.

In the south­ern dis­trict of Molavi, a melange of ar­chi­tec­tural styles gives

Life is re­ally hard right now. The sit­u­a­tion here is un­pre­dictable Rana

way to a maze of al­ley­ways and shops where crafts­men prac­tice time-hon­oured trades.

Only a few women are seen on the streets, most of them dressed in chadors and many car­ry­ing freshly baked flat­bread.

Me­hdi Golzadeh, a busi­ness­man who im­ports goods from Asia, looked ex­hausted as he walked out of a gro­cery store.

"Liv­ing in Iran has be­come very hard. With this eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, one can't im­port any­thing, and Iran doesn't have the ma­te­ri­als" needed to make such prod­ucts, he said.

"I am sin­gle... One can't start a fam­ily on this mea­gre in­come. We feel hope­less."

Ak­bar Gharib­vand, a 50 year old shopowner and fa­ther of five, said his in­come is "just enough to eat and sur­vive".

"These sanc­tions of course do af­fect things... It's the lower class that has come un­der pres­sure."

But, de­spite the hard­ships, he said Iran "is not a bad coun­try" and that he con­sid­ers him­self lucky com­pared with peo­ple liv­ing in strife-torn neigh­bour­ing nations.

"We aren't like Iraq, Afghanista­n or Pak­istan, or other coun­tries where there are killings ev­ery day," he said. "We are bet­ter off be­cause we have se­cu­rity."

(AFP pho­tos)

An Ira­nian man pushes a veg­etable cart in the south­ern Tehran dis­trict of Molavi on Fe­bru­ary 9, 2020

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