Saturday, July 20, 2013

Behind the Iranian Refugee Exodus 1

The real story behind the comparatively large number of Iranians lately heading to these shores has never been told in Australia's mainstream media. The nearest you're liable to get is something like this, buried deep in the text of a news report: "Mr Jahangir admits that financial problems in Iran's struggling sanctions-beset economy are the 'first' reason why many of these people have fled." (It isn't all about money for marginalised Iranians, Michael Bachelard, The Age, 3/7/13)

Iranian asylum seekers like Mr Jahangir, of course, have cause to be guarded on this matter lest they be dismissed out of hand as merely 'economic refugees'. But what's to stop the Australian mainstream media from seriously examining the link between Iran's struggling sanctions-beset economy and our Iranian refugee influx?

Well plenty, actually. Any examination of just why it is that the Iranian economy is currently being hammered by the wrecking ball of international sanctions would inevitably lead to discussion of a nuclear-armed Israel, which hypocritically insists that Iran must never have such weapons and uses its AIPAC-engineered stranglehold over the US Congress to ensure uncritical American backing for its stance. (This is not to concede, of course, that Iran is out to acquire nuclear weapons, although it would be hypocritical in the extreme, with a nuclear-armed, apartheid state regularly throwing its weight around in the area, to claim that it should not have this right.)  And so, in a highly Zionised and cowardly media culture such as Australia's, with our own mini AIPAC ready to pounce at any sign of deviation from the Likud Party line, it is only natural that mainstream media analysts would shy away from such a discussion.

Given that a) the implementation of multilateral sanctions against Iran in 2012 is ruining the Iranian economy and helping fuel a refugee exodus; b) these sanctions have been imposed at the behest of Israel simply to enable it to maintain its top-dog status in the Middle East; and c) Australia, whose PM has declared that support for Israel is in his DNA, has been an enthusiastic party to the imposition of sanctions on Iran, I can only conclude that we are complicit in the destruction of Iran's economy and hence the acute distress of its people, and that the very least we can do under the circumstances we ourselves have helped bring about is a) pull out of the Israeli-instigated, US-backed blockade of Iran; and b) welcome those Iranians that make it to these shores, as opposed to bribing Papua New Guinea to take them, as PM Krudd is doing to shore up the racist, bogan, white-pride vote. Nothing less than our reputation as a civilised nation is at stake here.

The ms media's cowardice (and, it has to be said, cluelessness on this issue) is largely responsible for Australians having simply no idea what life is like in a sanctions-beset economy.

The following extended quote, from a 2013 study by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, gives us some appreciation of just why it is that Iranians are on the move:

"Moving any goods into or out of the country has become prohibitively expensive due to substantially increased transaction and operating costs arising from the sanctions' banking, financial, and insurance prohibitions. Critically, this includes foods, medicines, and other humanitarian items - either because the payment channels have been cut off as a result of the banking prohibitions, or because firms have become reluctant to do business with the Islamic Republic for fear of running foul of the sanctions. As a result, it has become difficult for the country to maintain the requisite level of essential imports, which include not only foods and medicines, but the inputs and raw materials that Iran's industries depend on as well.

"Meanwhile, the sanctions have halved Iran's oil revenues. This has contributed significantly to the precipitous decline in the value of the rial. With its foreign exchange earnings halved and unable to transfer its oil earnings back to Iran, the Iranian government has found it difficult to supply the requisite funds to support its currency. As a result, inflation has sharply increased, to at least 50% by some estimates, and higher in some sectors. The standard of living of all wage earners has plummeted and a rising number of unemployed individuals and their families living in the country's urban centers are being pushed into poverty and malnutrition. The decline in the nation's manufacturing sector, and with it, the condition of Iran's roughly 15 million workers and their dependents, has been particularly pronounced. The sanctions have reduced access to and substantially raised the cost of the hard currency that manufacturers require for the purchase of indispensable inputs, raw materials, spare parts, machinery and capital goods. At the same time, by imposing restrictions on and increasing financial, transportation, and insurance costs, sanctions have increased operating costs. Since 2012, the number of bankruptcies, layoffs, and plant closures has substantially increased. The rapid depletion of the country's foreign currency reserves will increasingly choke off the capital goods and inputs that Iran's industrial sector requires in order to sustain operations. This will result in the closure of more plants and operations, and the impoverishment of ever-larger segments of the working population. Indeed, some two-thirds of the nation's manufacturing units are on the verge of closure, and employed workers are now being paid in an irregular and infrequent manner.

"Millions of Iranians from the lower and middle echelons of society are struggling to meet the rising costs of rent and food; the growing ranks of the unemployed now face dispossession and hunger. The crisis in the country's healthcare system has become particularly severe. Iran is critically dependent on imports in this sector: its stock of medical equipment is almost entirely imported, and its pharmaceutical industry depends on imports for 80% of the raw materials they utilize to manufacture their products. Advanced drugs used to treat life-threatening diseases (which afflict some 6 million Iranians) are all imported. Yet due to the banking sanctions and Iran's expulsion from SWIFT, there are no viable channels to make payments to Western suppliers. The Iranian government has greatly exacerbated the situation by not allocating the requisite hard currency to the medical sector. As a result there are acute shortfalls in medicines and equipment, and long delays in transporting medicines to Iran. The most vital drugs for cancer and other severe diseases are now unavailable. Shortages, and the devaluation of the rial, have produced a 350% inflation rate in medical costs, making what is available increasingly out of reach for most Iranians. The nutritional value and balance of the consumption basket of the majority of Iranians has also plummeted. The nation is dependent on imports for about a quarter of its food requirements. With the plunge in the value of the Iranian currency, the rise in the cost of imports, and the growing ranks of the unemployed, increasing numbers of Iranians are no longer able to afford meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and dairy, relying instead on a diet largely comprised of carbohydrates. Significant increases in the rate of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition engender other negative repercussions, especially for women and children. The most pernicious of these are the withdrawal of children from school and child labor, with the brunt of these practices being borne by women and girls. Women are more likely to lose their jobs, and economic and social dislocations may well lead to increased domestic violence." (From Executive Summary, A Growing Crisis: The Impact of Sanctions & Regime Policies on Iranian Social & Economic Rights)

Sorry that was so long, but I need to rub it in. Whatever other problems individual Iranian asylum seekers may have with the current regime in Iran, one thing is sure: the Iranians appearing on our doorstep are the casualties of an economic war waged by the 'friends' of Israel, including Australia, against their homeland. Decency and morality dictate that if we insist on assisting USrael destroy their country, we owe these people a debt, just as we did (and still do) with the Iraqis whose lives we also helped destroy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sanctions against Iran have little to do with the "nucular" threat. Iran is punished for its arrogance and defiance of the masters of the world. Australia fancies that she belongs to the "punishers club".