The Week in Review: Feb.1st-Feb.8th

By Natasha Phillips

FEB. 8 – Iranian officials reacted with disappointment this week to Europe’s latest financial proposal for sanctions relief — in the form of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called INSTEX. The terms of use for the SPV mean that it will only involve business related to food and medicine. Iran’s top judge and judiciary chief said Monday that Tehran would not accept the “humiliating conditions” set by the EU. 

As the Islamic Republic ushers in its 40th anniversary, the country’s economy continues to struggle, with single-income households bearing the brunt of fiscal mismanagement, corruption and sanctions. New research on Iran’s economy over the last 40 years sheds light on the Islamic Republic’s inability to tap into Iran’s vast economic potential

  • Long queues for frozen meat rations made the headlines, with a fight erupting in a line in Tehran as frustration over a lack of food reached an all-time high. According to posters in a chat forum on Iran Sports Press (IPS), some Iranians have been selling their rations for profit. The government has clamped down on the practice, creating a website where the head of each household must sign up to receive their monthly food package. The scheme was outlined on Iranian media outlet Fararu in an article published in January.  Bache Tehroon, a moderator and staff member on the forum at IPS, criticized the lack of clarity around the scheme: ”If you move to a new address, you can’t transfer your meat. You have to go to your previous address and beg the new residents to give you your meat. If they refuse, you’re not allowed to throw rocks at their windows.” 
  • Masih Alinejad, the founder of My Stealthy Freedom, a campaign to remove compulsory hijab laws in Iran, met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the start of the week. The meeting is believed to be the first of its kind. Secretary Pompeo had not previously held a private discussion with an Iranian activist. Alinejad shared details of the meeting with her Twitter followers on 5 February, including telling Pompeo that opposition voices need to be heard, that the international community should focus on the Islamic Republic’s human rights violations and that the travel ban should be lifted to allow activists freedom of movement. Ms. Alinejad’s meeting received mixed reactions from social media users, with some calling the meeting a brave move and others criticizing her for visiting the State Department. After speaking with Pompeo, Alinejad spoke in more detail about the meeting to Kayhan London.
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  • An increase in attempted suicides in Iran from 2016 to 2017 has been confirmed by the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization. Emergency services inside the country prevented 7,000 people from dying in 2017 after attempted suicides. Of the 4,627 recorded suicides that year, 3,262 were men and 1,365 were women. The law in Iran does not require hospitals to record suicides in a separate category, making it difficult to get a clear picture of suicide rates in Iran. 
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  • Despite a sharp increase in rainfall over the last 11 months, Iran’s water crisis is still ongoing with 97 percent of the urban, rural, and nomadic populations of Iran continuing to experience drought and water shortage. Isa Kalantari, director of Iran’s Department of Environment, asked the Ministry of Energy to find a solution that would help distribute water evenly to every province. Kalantari blamed the department for Iran’s water shortage: “I cannot say what the Department of Environment has achieved in the last 40 years. Should we consider water scarcity, pollution in our major cities, depletion of the country’s energy resources and desertification and deforestation of our land as our achievements?” Unlicensed wells have heavily depleted several reservoirs, further worsening the water crisis.
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