A year of the Iranian woman in the shadow of US and Covid-19 sanctions

The double blow especially injured ordinary Iranians, such as Mahnaz Parhizkari, a 35-year-old Iranian living in Tehran.

Since her divorce five years ago, Ms. Parhizkari has struggled to support her two sons, ages 8 and 13.

After breaking up with her husband, she worked as a cleaning agent, a job that paid the rent of a small apartment in a tall building in a working-class neighborhood of Tehran.

It also allowed Ms. Parhizkari to allocate enough money to buy a used car in installments and get a job as a driver for Snapp, an Iranian travel service.

Then, in 2018, the US withdrew from a 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear activity and imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran, a punishment for what the Trump administration said was Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. The measures reduced the country’s exports and eliminated Iranian banks from the international financial system.

“We lacked little pleasure in sanctions.”

“I used to take my children to the park on the weekends. But now I have to work. “

“By the end of the month, I have no savings.”

“The children have school expenses and we are very worried. I can no longer buy very good quality bags for my sons. “

“I have to save and get something that will last at least a year.”

The sanctions have dealt a severe blow to an already struggling economy, exacerbating unemployment and sending the Iranian rial into a downturn. The currency has lost 80% of its value against the dollar, pushing up inflation and hurting working-class Iranians the hardest.

“One of the fun things the kids enjoyed was going to the supermarket. They could buy toys and other things. But now I can’t take them anymore. I’m very ashamed that I can’t please them “.

Keeping the job behind the wheel has become more and more expensive this year as her car has needed more frequent repairs and inflation has risen in the price of spare parts.

“The car is old, a pride from 2009. It breaks down more often now. “

Several problems arose late last year, when the Iranian government tried to consolidate its finances by reducing fuel subsidies, sending gasoline prices rising overnight. Rising prices have sparked nationwide protests, which have been violently rejected by security forces. Hundreds of protesters have been killed in clashes that have been the deadliest state crackdown in decades.

Ms Parhizkari did not take part in the protests, but the price increase profoundly reduced her earnings, tripling the price of a full tank of petrol. “But travel fares have not tripled,” she said.

“I have to start thinking about another job.”

“People started taking the subway and buses more often.”

Higher gasoline prices have passed through the Iranian economy, causing the price of a range of goods to rise in turn.

“I calculate everything like an abacus,” she says. “Write down all the expenses to get to the end of the month.”

“I can’t afford to buy the fruit I used to buy for my children.”

Although she took an extra full-time job as a cleaning agent at a petrochemical company, she had to find a cheaper apartment that would be cramped even for her small family.

“I cook dishes with soy products and fortunately my kids don’t like them.”

When it hit Covid-19, Iran was one of the hardest hit countries in the region, with more than 3,000 cases a day by spring, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The government encouraged people to stay at home, and schools for Ms. Parhizkari’s sons were closed. As a result, her leadership income declined. He started looking for a new job, but to no avail.

“I am very scared of this virus and I have two children at home,” she says. “I can’t endanger their lives.”

With the schools closed, Ms. Parhizkari stayed home to look after her children and supervise their schoolwork. As a result, he could drive very few hours, leaving her barely able to cover her expenses.

In the summer, Ms. Parhizkari was forced to move her two children to the neighboring province of Ghazvin so that she could live with her ex-husband, whom she says was drug addicted and largely absent from their married life. The father lives with his parents and started giving Mrs. Parhizkari small sums of money to help with the children’s expenses.

“It’s a long trip to Ghazvin and sometimes I’m so tired I don’t go to see the kids on the weekends,” she said. “But I don’t want my children to be hungry. I couldn’t afford to keep them. “

In October, Ms Parhizkari contracted Covid-19, possibly from her co-workers, several of whom had fallen ill. She soon recovered, but was left shaken.

“When I heard I was infected, I got dizzy,” she says. “I got really scared. The first thing that came to mind was my sons. What will happen to them if they die of the virus? I really complained to God. ‘Why me?’ With all the trouble I’ve been through this year, it’s not fair. I didn’t deserve to get sick. “

Recently, Ms. Parhizkari’s income has risen again. He occasionally takes up Snapp’s job to supplement his salary from the petrochemical company’s cleaning service.

Now, she has based her hopes on getting an apartment in a government-subsidized housing project on the outskirts of Tehran.

“It may take a year or more to get it,” she says. “Then I can bring the children back to me.”

Write to Sune Engel Rasmussen at [email protected]

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