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Iranian Artist's 'Pill Protest' Highlights Harmful Side Effects Of Sanctions

"I'm really hopeful that this project will raise awareness among people, and also that [it will fill] an empty part of the puzzle of the sanctions -- which is only a word but it involves people's actual lives," says Sanaz Sohrabi, shown here protesting in front of the UN.
"I'm really hopeful that this project will raise awareness among people, and also that [it will fill] an empty part of the puzzle of the sanctions -- which is only a word but it involves people's actual lives," says Sanaz Sohrabi, shown here protesting in front of the UN.

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UNITED NATIONS -- Young Iranian artist Sanaz Sohrabi has a mission: to raise awareness of the impact crippling international sanctions are having on ordinary Iranians, especially those living with illnesses.

She took the first step this week, setting up a small performance-art protest across the street from UN headquarters in New York.

Sohrabi, 24, sat silently before thousands of pill capsules filled with strips of paper telling the stories of 40 Iranians who say they have not been able to attain medicine or medical help as a result of the sanctions. The aim is to show that each drug shortage affects a large number of people.

Speaking before the protest, Sohrabi said her sister, who works as a pharmacist in Tehran and sees the medicine shortage firsthand, inspired her to raise awareness of the problem.

"I'm really hopeful that this project will raise awareness among people, and also that [it will fill] an empty part of the puzzle of the sanctions -- which is only a word but it involves people's actual lives," Sohrabi says. "I wanted to fill that empty place in the puzzle of the sanctions, because that was a very, very empty part, because no one knows what happens in the daily life of people who have to go to drugstores, have to go to the hospitals."

Feeling The Effects

Western-made medicines and medical supplies are reportedly increasingly difficult to find as a result of international sanctions over Iran's refusal to halt its uranium-enrichment program, a process that can be directed toward the creation of nuclear weapons.

Sohrabi says she eventually hopes to fill 26,000 capsules.Sohrabi says she eventually hopes to fill 26,000 capsules.
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Sohrabi says she eventually hopes to fill 26,000 capsules.
Sohrabi says she eventually hopes to fill 26,000 capsules.
In October, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said ordinary Iranians are feeling the effects of the sanctions, including rising inflation and unemployment, as well as a shortage of life-saving medicines.

"Tejaratnews," an Iranian trade publication, published a list in October of 50 imported drugs it says have become rare as a result of financial sanctions.

Patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer have also reportedly been stockpiling medicine, worsening the shortage of locally produced drugs, as well as those that are imported.

Sohrabi grew up in Tehran and has been living in Chicago for the last five months, working toward earning a master's degree in fine arts.

Her friends in Iran collected many of the stories for her at pharmacies and hospitals. She also posted a video on her blog asking for Iranians to share their struggles.

'A Week Later, I Died'

Sohrabi acknowledged that it had not been possible to verify the accuracy of the tales but said that "the stories speak for themselves." One reads:

"I am Manouchehr Esmaili. I was a 15-year-old from the southern city of Dezful in Iran. I was suffering from hemophilia. Due to U.S.-led sanctions against Iran, my family failed to find the vital medicine which was desperately needed for my disease. Last month, in November 2012, I was taken to a hospital. A week later, I died."

Esmaili's death was reported widely after it was announced by the director of Iran's hemophilia society. RFE/RL, however, was not able to independently verify the director's claims.

Sohrabi said other stories she found particularly striking included those of a mother who couldn't get lactose-free milk powder for her lactose-intolerant baby, a father and daughter who couldn't find the medication for a serious gastrointestinal illness, and a disabled photographer who sold his camera in an attempt to pay for a new prosthesis.

Sohrabi hopes to eventually fill 26,000 pill capsules with the stories, a number chosen to match the estimated 26,000 Iranians with blood disorders.

"[These people] have suffered a pain from the illness, and [then] also suffered a pain from not having the medicine for that illness," she said.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
December 22, 2012 13:52
as in the case of castro and cuba, now with iran, some u.s politicians like to punish the people of certain nations rather than take actions against the representatives of certain governments.
as in cuba's case it took more than just a decade to bring the cuban regime to its knees. not even sure whether this effect was brought about by the embargo or by a change in perceptions.

just imagine in some remote future, some powerful emerging nations taking action against the u.s., european and israeli citizens for policies implemented by their respective governments.
are these sanctions (and the pending war which might be of disastrous consequences) the only viable solution to the conflict?
In Response

by: yippee K from: usa
December 31, 2012 18:57
Nations and people groups get the leaders they deserve. Merely eliminating an oppressive leader or government structure is not enough to cause freedom to really take hold in a society. The former Soviet Union is a great example. Some nations enslaved by the Russians in the 20th century have flourished since their liberation because freedom was in the hearts and minds of the people (Czech, Slovak, Hungary, etc). Others, like Russia itself, continue to languish under corruption and tyranny and coercion because the people are themselves corrupt and tyrannical by nature, with no moral anchor to guide their self-government. Freedom can only last in any nation so long as the people understand and cherish it. So many people are too ignorant, too cowardly or too corrupt to be the foundation of a free society. Even America today is sliding towards tyranny because of the declining quality of the character of its people (too many ignorant immigrants from oppressed regions, too many communist tools in main stream academia, recalcitrant, mentally petrified throwbacks to the 20th century, too many entrenched corrupt interest groups who relish the "possibilities" for them inherent in "command economics"... imo).

I suspect that this "Anonymous" writer is of an islamo-fascist bent because of his or her view that the oppressive governments of the world are found in America, Europe and Israel. That is the sort of lying rubbish that has always been characteristic of militant extremist Marxism or of militant extremist Islam (the two ideologies seem to co-exist very well). I'd expect to hear that sort of nonsense from some leftist extremist or from a deranged faculty member of Al-Azhar. Honest people who have seen the world know how stupidly wrong this perspective is and has always been. One can pretend that everything is relative but reality and truth will not be denied in the end.

by: sara from: cali
December 22, 2012 14:57
You have my support Sanaz Jan, As an Iranian the sanctions that hurt Iranians are criminals and I can't believe America is doing this to Iranians.
In Response

by: Richard from: SR
December 22, 2012 23:55
Mullahs with AB is dangerous for us... sorry for you persian.

by: Smith from: Diamond Planet
December 22, 2012 16:10
Instead of this gimmickry, go and start manufacturing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API). Such gimmickry does not have any effect on global policy making. If Iran wants to avoid the fate of Iraq and Cuba, it must start its own manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 23, 2012 04:19
Sanaz is a young artist. She is not a pharmacist; she is trying to raise awareness with her most ability which is actually very brave, innovative and humanitarian. Much better than others sitting at their home doing nothing!

by: Anonymous
December 23, 2012 00:22
on youtube and u.s. media, mrs madeleine albright, former secretary of state, (97-2001), u.s. ambassador (93-97)
reflects her 'belief that the deaths of thousands of innocents are a price worth paying to achieve one's political ends'.

with respect to very unfortunate consequences for Iranians, some u.s. politicians apparently don't care about the death of innocent victims to achieve their political objectives.

some u.s. politicians should hope that Iranians have a bad memory.
in the case of many Arab and Muslim nations, it seems not to be the case. irresponsible and callous realpoltik doesn't pay off always.
Accepting financial aid and economic collaboration doesn't entail the same long-term strategic goals.
hopefully, Obama changes his mind. now, after being elected for a second term, he has the chance to hold sway over certain delicate decisions.

by: anna from: cali
December 26, 2012 08:33
Get the pills from India

by: In Disbelief
December 26, 2012 16:40
Unbelievable. 1. If Iran had its way you wouldn't be studying in the west for one... Where's your Hijab?? 2. Better to allow an unstable country to build nukes to kill a couple hundred million people and raise the whole world's temperature bringing us closer to annihilation as human beings instead of a few thousand suffering now and potentially putting pressure on their government to quit enriching uranium, they already have enough for medical purposes, what else are they making it for... I wonder... In case you're wondering, that was sarcasm. 3. The west was where 80%+ of all new medicines have been developed, so allow them to be bombed so everyone can go back to the stone age. These people would've already died long ago if the west hadn't developed them. 4. Why are you not forced into being married and beaten five or more times a day... possibly due to western influence?? Let's allow more nukes and get rid of that freedom too. 5. Yes, my father was in the middle east and had no freedoms as did many of its inhabitants... yes! let's get more of that.... the only way to become more controlled is to allow China to take over and put in absolute controls on media and throw you in jail for your public protest unless its about Japan... 6. Yeah, I applaud humanism but this is either propaganda or Sohrabi is really clueless and is just another stone in an empty bucket...

by: w from: us
December 28, 2012 20:57
you can read plenty of stories on the internet about children dying including the US, Syria, Iran, Iraq etc etc etc...Iranians need to rise up and demand their government reform...that would = no more sanctions.

by: Ax from: NYC
December 28, 2012 21:31
I understand you are a typical new york artist, good intentioned brilliant perhaps with your art skills, but you possess a severe lack of understanding of world issues. Sanaz Sohrabi surely you don't support the Iranian regime after being able to live here in NYC the epicenter of freedom and culture a true melting pot and international city. Do not fall for this nonsense, US sanctions and embargoes are the fault of no one but the Iranian regime. The Iranian government loves the ability to paint the US as its great enemy but sacrifices its own people's well being in the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Let us not forget the Iranian armed forces are stated in the Iranian constitution as the arm of Jihad a very scary proponent of an extreme Islamist world view that seeks to destroy all who oppose their views. I 100% percent support these embargoes even if they are limited in effect. The important thing is that the US, Israel are not in open conflict with Iran right now. This is unfortunately the only peaceful way the civilized world can keep Iran in check. What else would you have the world do? Let a mad regime hold onto a weapon of mass destruction, the same regime that holds a view that all Jews are vermin and the US is the great Satan. These Islamist are not rational, they would wish to destroy the US and Israel despite the fact that muslims who live their enjoy the highest quality of life in the world. Stick to art Sanaz for you are just playing into the hands of the greatest enemy to democracy and humanity.

by: Anonymous
December 28, 2012 22:19
how is she being financed ?

by: Ben
January 09, 2013 17:51
It`s terribly "harmful" trying to stop the mass distruction weapon.
The well paid author knows her job.

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