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COVID-19 Emergency in Iran: the reality on the ground and the role of U.S. sanctions
Wed April 22, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm EDT
Sponsored by the Mass. Peace Action Middle East Working Group. Register to receive video and phone access codes.
Dr. Amin Feizpour is the founder and manager of the Iran Circle in Boston, a session series focused on hosting academic scholars to present their Iran-related research in Farsi to the Iranian general public for long-term cultural development for Iranian society. Among his degrees are a PhD in physical chemisty from B.U., a Masters degree in biomedical engineering from Tehran Polytechnic and a postdoctoral fellowship in medical imaging at Mass. General Hospital.
Donna Farvard is the daughter of Iranian immigrants and currently serves as the National Organizing Director for the National Iranian American Council, overseeing the organization’s national grassroots field program. She has spent the past three years working to organize and empower Iranian Americans across the country to promote peace and diplomacy with Iran, advocate for equitable immigration policy, and protect the civil rights of all Americans. Prior to working with NIAC, Donna spent six years organizing campaigns to protect the environment, protect consumers, and mobilize voters.
Donna Farvard and Dr. Feizpour will speak to the role played by U.S. sanctions in the dire crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic now ravaging Iran’s people. Recent research studies indicate that the infection and death rates in Iran are many times higher than the reported rates. Besides the government’s mismanagement of the early phase of the pandemic, the major reason for such a drastic difference between the formal and actual statistics of COVID-19 spread in Iran has been the low capacity for testing the infected and dead individuals. With Iran’s health system overwhelmed by a growing population of infected people, some studies now predict the death of 50 thousand to 100 thousand Iranians from the virus during the next several months.
The Iranian healthcare system’s extremely low capacity for testing and inability to import vital medical technologies is directly caused by the US-imposed sanctions on the country’s financial activities. In addition, the unprecedented economic pressure on the government has left people with no hope for financial support and, hence, closing the non-essential businesses and implementation of the social distancing policies are not practically possible. Therefore, an immediate alleviation of the sanctions, in any possible capacity, is essential for preventing the death of many thousands of ordinary (especially lower class) citizens of Iran in the next few months.
While the Treasury Department has decided to exempt humanitarian sanctions on Iran during the coronavirus pandemic, this was only a half-step measure to allow humanitarian trade into the country. In reality, sanctions that impact Iran’s civilian industries, such as banking, still make it difficult for health care providers and humanitarian organizations to equip Iranians with enough medical and hygienic supplies to combat the pandemic. Additionally, the additional sanctions imposed on March 18 and the U.S.’ intent to block an IMF loan show the Trump administration’s total disregard to the serious nature of the coronavirus pandemic not just to the Iranian people, but to the global community. NIAC and more than 40 civil society organizations have been calling on the administration to issue a 120 day suspension of Iran sanctions and a grassroots campaign to #endCOVIDsanctions has risen in response to this crisis. As a result, over 40 Members of Congress and several world leaders have called on the administration to suspend sanctions during this time. Conversations between advocates and Members of Congress are now underway to determine next-step policy actions.