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Causes of Poverty in IranWith a population of more than 79 million people, Iran is a large country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkmenistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Armenia. Sadly, of the millions of citizens in this country, 18.7 percent live below the poverty line. There are many causes of poverty in Iran, but two major causes have caused a crisis in the country during the last several years.

Unemployment
Iran’s economy began to struggle in 2014 when a subsidy program adjusted the prices of fuel, the country’s largest export. In 2015, the economy somewhat improved in the first half of the calendar year and the oil and fuel sector prospered. Meanwhile, unemployment in other job sectors increased. By 2016, the unemployment rate reached a three-year high of 12.7 percent, though labor participation increased from around 35 percent to about 40 percent since 2014. An unemployment gender gap was noted in 2016 as well, as unemployment rates for men and women were 21.8 and 10.4 percent respectively.

In 2014, however, Iran saw the height of the unemployment crisis when the rate of unemployed women was estimated to be 46 percent and youth unemployment was twice that of general unemployment.

Additionally, the standard monthly income for families averaging five people per household is about $600, which is considered significantly below the poverty line. In 2014, Parliament’s Plan and Budget Committee announced that 15 million Iranians were living below the poverty line, or 20 percent of the population, and seven million of those people did not have access to any services that might offer them support or assistance.

Internal Corruption
In 2014, news broke that a merchant with close ties to the Iranian government facilitated many oil and gold transactions through the Turkish People’s Bank and embezzled a significant amount of money, putting the country into serious debt. Later, many other fraudulent investors were reported to be active in the oil industry, and though over $1 billion in debt was reported, the guilty were not punished. Between 2013 and 2014, 4,000 cases of embezzlement and theft were reported, most of them being cases of illegally importing luxury cars, hidden monopolies and smuggling, to name a few, but no names of the guilty parties were ever disclosed.

In 2014, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani took office with the determination to develop an effective strategy to reduce poverty for Iranians. Rouhani established a three-part policy to assist the most vulnerable populations and curb inflation, which ended two years of negative growth. Officials under the Rouhani administration provided food aid to about seven million citizens in poverty. Though many aid projects under the administration were criticized for potentially adding to the budget deficit, such policies and programs seek to give immediate help to those living in absolute poverty, and the administration continues to fight for the poor and make food security its number one priority.

These causes of poverty in Iran have led to justified tension and fear among the public and the government that conditions and employment rates will deteriorate further if changes to the subsidy program do not go into effect, and if eliminating government corruption is not made a higher priority. Those changes are key to improving Iranian lives.

Olivia Cyr

Photo: Flickr

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, it is a theocratic state and a heavily sanctioned international pariah ruled by a supreme Ayatollah. On the other, it is the heart of the former Persian Empire, and has been a trading hub between the East and West for millennia. Because it is the second largest economy in the Middle East with growing ambitions, infrastructure in Iran has become a major point of focus for the country’s public and private sectors.

The 2015 nuclear deal that was reached between Iran, the U.S., and several European nations including Britain, France and Germany lifted crippling economic sanctions against Iran. In return, Iran has agreed to reduce its centrifuges and enriched uranium and render its nuclear program useless for producing weapons. The lifting of sanctions has sparked the interest of foreign investors and companies looking to do business in Iran. In turn, this has also presented new challenges and opportunities for infrastructure in Iran.

China, in particular, has designs on Iran. Chinese workers have been working in eastern Iran to build up its rail infrastructure, modernizing railroads and standardizing track gauges. This will connect Iran by rail to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. To the west, Iran is doing the same thing to its railroads, which will be connected to Turkey, and ultimately Europe. China has also been busy building factories, mines, and highways in Iran as part of its increasing investment in the country.

The government of reformist president Hassan Rouhani has been just as involved in ramping up infrastructure in Iran. In addition to the rail projects linking Iran to its eastern and western neighbors, Iran is also in the process of building railways linking its five provincial capitals and its southern port cities to the national capital, Tehran. The Iranian private sector has spent 11 billion dollars in domestic development projects, while the government has spent 9.6 billion dollars on infrastructure in Iran since Rouhani took office in 2013.

Infrastructure in Iran will still need to be developed further to meet the increased foreign investment demands that have been brought on. Yet overall, things are looking bright for Iran, a country known as an ancient crossroads of trade.

– Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in Iran
Iran has made notable progress in women’s education and health, including an increased ratio of literate women and girls. Women make up more than half of all university students, as reflected in the 2009 Gender Development Index of 0.770. The Iranian Parliament has adopted “The Charter on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities”, which emphasizes the use of social insurance to provide support to female-headed households and bring about women’s empowerment in Iran.

Unfortunately, the participation of women in community and social development programs is very low. Women lack any social decision-making power and suffer from low confidence and self-esteem. Iran has not yet acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women due to opposition from its Guardian Council, who believe that the convention is incompatible with sharia law.

Women’s empowerment in Iran does not have much-needed support from its government, and social barriers continue to restrict women at every step. This is lack of support is partly due to the political ideology that demands women do not stray from their roles as mothers and wives.

Iranian law considers the husband as the head of the household with complete control over his wife’s choices. For example, a husband can prevent his wife from working (some employers even ask for the husband’s written consent) and can even forbid her from traveling abroad and from obtaining a passport. Women’s rights are obstructed to the point that they are not allowed to watch men’s sports in stadiums. An Iranian woman can even be killed by her husband for adultery, according to Iranian law.

Women are not allowed to hold leadership offices like the Presidency or the Supreme Leadership. In fact, according to the 2010 Freedom House report, current laws are more conservative and discriminating than customary practices.

Under the Gender Inequality Index, empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women and by attainment of primary and secondary education by each gender, whereas economic activity is measured by labor market participation. Women’s empowerment in Iran can thus be understood by looking at simple statistics. Only 3.1 percent of women hold seats in Parliament and only 66 percent have gone through secondary education. As for economic activity, female participation in the labor market is a meager 16.2 percent.

UNDP, along with the government of Iran, introduced the Carbon Sequestration Project to help achieve women’s empowerment in Iran. Thanks to the project, women are able to showcase their work and talents, which include handicrafts and traditional culinary skills, at exhibitions.

The government has also implemented projects to enhance Iranian women’s knowledge of information and communication technology (ICT):

  • Establishing a specialized women’s digital library
  • Providing ICT training for women, especially housewives
  • Designing the Presidential Center for the Participation of Women (CPW) website to disseminate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official information
  • Training the staff of the CPW
  • Establishing the Iranian Genius Women’s Bank for identifying scientifically superior women within professor, assistant professor and lecturer ranks, instant access to necessary information and better usage of outstanding women’s work and providing better-quality services for the country’s scientific and educational geniuses.

Education is a vital part of women’s empowerment in Iran, which the government has recognized. To continue what it has started, changes need to happen on a cultural level, including the elimination of gender stereotypes in textbooks and seeking men’s participation in protecting women’s rights. Continued work can ensure that all women have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

– Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Iran
In 2016, about 80 percent of people in Iran were impoverished. Poverty in Iran can lead to a variety of other issues, including negative effects on the mental health of the country’s youth. Mental health issues in Iranians are found to be linked to a plethora of factors, economic pressure being one of them. Due to the poverty faced by many, suicide is becoming a more common issue.

In addition to affecting the mental health of young people in Iran, the country’s high poverty rate also impacts people’s physical health. With how negatively poverty has affected the people of Iran, it is essential to consider what the causes of poverty in Iran are.

 

Top Causes of Poverty in Iran

 

  1. Sanctions in Iran are cited as a cause of the country’s high poverty rate. These sanctions have affected multiple groups, one of which is Iran’s millions of Afghan refugees. Statistics have demonstrated that Afghans who are able to find work are self-sufficient and actually better the economy of Iran.
  2. Inflation is another cause of poverty in Iran. In early 2013, Iran’s inflation rate stood at nearly 40 percent. The depreciation of the country’s money has lead to an increase in the unemployment rate, which has driven many Iranians into poverty. A solution to this issue that the government of Iran has sought in the past was rationing, which prevented the country’s impoverished populations from being as affected by inflation.
  3. Besides sanctions and inflation, another cause of poverty in Iran is high medical costs. Each year, 7.5 percent of Iranians are driven into poverty because of their medical expenses. Among the top three most common illnesses to affect Iranians is cancer. Many times, the cost of treatment for families is so high that those affected by illness are not able to complete their treatment.

The high poverty rate in Iran has affected millions of Iranian citizens and has taken a toll on the mental health of the country’s youth. Among the most prominent causes of poverty in Iran are sanctions, inflation and medical expenses. As of mid-2017, the government of Iran is working toward implementing a reform agenda, which aims to help businesses and labor markets. The reform agenda is targeted at Iran’s overall goal of reducing its poverty rate. Though they face hard times as a result of their medical and economic status, children and families remain hopeful for the future.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Medical Education in IraqSince the conclusion of the Iraq War, the relationship between border countries Iran and Iraq shifted into a new era of close diplomatic and economic relations. In a recent press release, Iran agreed to construct Iraq’s first foreign University of Medical Sciences after nearly two decades of destruction.

The relationship between the two countries has not always been cordial. Turmoil severely increased during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 – 1988. During the Bush administration, United States Special Operations Forces conducted cross-border operations within southern Iraq. The demise of Saddam Hussein in 2003 created civil conflict and political unrest, severely affecting the medical education in Iraq and causing conflict between neighboring countries.

The tension between Iraq and Iran further increased in 2007, when the U.S. Congress agreed to fund up to $400 million for increased covert operations designed to destabilize Iran’s religious leadership and gather information about the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Iraq was unintentionally caught in the dispute between the US and Iran.

The Iraqi government depended on the 140,000 US troops stationed throughout the country, but its Kurdish and Shia leaders had strong alliances with Iran. Frequent threats and deadly attacks caused a mass departure of senior medical professors from Iraq. The exodus of Iraq’s healthcare workforce adversely impacted the medical training programs, leadership, and mainly, educational system. By the end of 2011, U.S. military forces were completely withdrawn from Iraq, officially ending the Iraq War.

Seven months after U.S. influence declined, Syria, Iraq and Iran signed a natural gas agreement which allowed for the construction of a $10 billion pipeline connecting Iraq and Syria directly to Iraq’s natural gas fields. The pipeline took six years to build and was officially completed in 2016.

Recently, Iran publicly announced its agreement to begin exporting natural gas to Iraq for $3.7 billion per year. The relationship between the two countries continues to strengthen as U.S. involvement decreases.

On Thursday, the Iranian Deputy Health Minister Dr. Bagher Larijani and Iraqi medical officials met in Tehran to discuss joint projects. The group achieved initial agreements to collaborate on various educational and scientific programs, This includes the establishment of Iraq’s first foreign University of Medical Sciences. Iran’s Ministry of Health will supervise the project. The Tehran University of Medical Sciences, the largest medical university in Iran, will construct it.

“This project is being pursued in earnest by the educational department of Iran’s Ministry of Health,” Dr. Larijani stated, “(and it is) in line with the development of medical science education in Iraq.”

The Deputy Health Minister also mentioned that the two countries discussed collaborative teacher/student transfer programs and the creation of “joint scientific networks” in medical research and scientific production. The unification between border countries has propelled Iraq into a positive direction after nearly two decades of civil destruction. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), during the Iraq War “approximately 61 universities and college buildings were war damaged and 101 college buildings were looted.”

Currently, there are 24 certified medical colleges in Iraq, all of which are governmental and operate under the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education. The medical education in Iraq faces numerous challenges. Both the curriculum and teaching methods are outdated, and there is a lack of suitable facilities. The colleges are focused on increasing student attendance rather than updating old curriculum and forming universal guidelines between medical schools.

Beyond the partnership with Iran, Iraq’s strategic plan to reconstruct and progress the medical education in Iraq is unclear. The Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education has not released a project proposal or curriculum plans yet.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Google

Women in Iran
On May 19th this year, Iranians held presidential and local elections in their country. This particular election saw an increase in registered women candidates, along with the number of elected women officials, bringing hope and giving voice to women in Iran at both the national and local level.

In some parts of the country, there was a 34 percent decrease in the number of women elected compared to 2013; however, although the number decreased in 16 provincial capitals, 3 remained the same, while 11, including Tehran, saw increases in women being elected to councils. Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province—an underdeveloped and impoverished area in the southeast of Iran with the highest percentage of illiterate girls and women in the country—saw a total of 415 women elected to office. In a village called Afzalabad located in the province’s Khash district, all of the 10 elected candidates were women.

Some of the concerns that women in Iran campaigned on included women’s civic engagement, citizens’ rights, employment, education, health and social security and welfare.

Recently, Iran’s newly reelected president Hassan Rouhani has been under pressure to appoint female ministers to his cabinet. During his last term, his all-male list of ministers disappointed his followers, even though he appointed a number of women to vice-president positions. Despite this, Shahindokht Molaverdi, Rouhani’s vice-president for women and family affairs, has won support among women’s rights advocates in Iran.

Ghonchech Ghavami, a leading women’s rights activist based out of Tehran, has said that “this structure has eliminated women on the excuse of meritocracy and experience but it looks like that main criteria for them is being male. That’s why appointing female ministers is symbolically important and would send a powerful signal in a country where politics still originates from men.”

One may find it surprising, though, that Iran as a whole has near-universal female literacy: women make up the majority (60 percent) of university students, as well as the majority of graduates earning degrees in science (68 percent). Furthermore, women in Iran are consistently outperforming their male counterparts.

Workplace biases in general are very much alive for women in Iran, and these biases often compel employers to hire male workers that are of identical or even lesser qualifications than their female counterparts. Although women in Iran have been as whole increasing their political participation within their government, they clearly still have a long way to go before achieving true gender equality.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr/span>

Common Diseases in IranIran, one of the largest countries in the Middle East, has a population of just more than 82 million. Although 92 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water and 90 percent of the population has access to sanitation facilities, Iran suffers from a number of common and prevalent diseases. Common diseases in Iran are transmitted through mosquitos or contaminated food or water.

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is the most widespread tick-borne viral disease of humans throughout the world, according to research done at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The first case of a human diagnosis was discovered in 1999. Since then it has been classified as a “viral zoonotic disease” which is endemic in Iran. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever can be transmitted through the bite of a tick or contact with infected animal blood or tissues.

The disease is most commonly found among agricultural and slaughterhouse workers. Early onset symptoms can include sudden fever, headache and muscle aches. As the disease progresses patients display hemorrhaging in the bowels, urine, nose and gums. The mortality rate for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is approximately 30 percent.

Typhoid fever
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 26 million cases of typhoid fever are reported annually worldwide. Human contact is the sole source of the infectious bacteria, transmitting the disease through contact with fecal matter through consumption of contaminated food or water. The most common symptom is a sustained high fever, and if untreated, mortality rate can be 20 percent. Typhoid fever has caused major public health problems over the course of the last five decades in Iran. Luckily, as a result of development throughout the country, the number of cases has drastically declined.

Tuberculosis
In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated there had been 13,000 cases of tuberculosis throughout Iran. The tuberculosis-specific bacteria most commonly affect the lungs but is known to spread throughout the body to areas such as the kidneys, spine and brain. The disease is spread through air contact with an infected individual. People near the infected person may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. Often the bacteria will lay dormant, not showing any signs or symptoms within the infected person but will still be able to spread to those around them.

Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends being vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B before traveling to the Middle East, due to it being one of the most common diseases in Iran. Hepatitis A, a liver disease, spread by consuming contaminated food or water, can cause fever, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and yellowing of the eyes. Hepatitis B is a contagious virus, transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. Similar symptoms are seen as with hepatitis A.

In research conducted in 2009, in mid-endemic areas, such as Iran, the lifetime risk of hepatitis B infection is 20-60 percent across all age-groups. A vaccine was introduced in Iran through a National Immunization Program in 1993, required for all individuals under 18 years old. Despite efforts, hepatitis A and hepatitis B remain common diseases in Iran.

Iran’s population is categorized in the CIA World Factbook of having “intermediate risk” of contracting an infectious disease. With focused programs from government and international organizations, some of this risk can be mitigated and the population can move toward universal prosperity.

Riley Bunch

Photo: Flickr

Can Re-Elected President Hassan Rouhani Help Fix the Poverty in Iran?
During Iran’s recent presidential election, one issue was on the minds of most citizens: how is the new president going to end poverty in Iran?

In 2016, Iran’s unemployment rates reached 70 percent in at least 1,200 towns. Fifteen million Iranians are deprived of even the most basic social services. Much of this unemployment and consequent poverty suggests that the assets gained from the suspension of economic sanctions from the 2015 nuclear deal did not reach the population. The new president has the power to dictate whether Iran becomes a bigger part of the global economy. This led to the deal which passed, rather than pursuing the traditional economic isolation that the country previously had.

With all this going on in Iran, poverty was on the minds of many during this election. Candidates Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf both pledged to tackle corruption and poverty in Iran should they be elected. Qalibaf criticized the former Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, on his economic performances. “There are many poor people with low incomes in a country rich in both natural and human resources,” Qalibaf said in an interview with PressTV. “We have made plans to salvage the economy by the agency of the very people. The country has the capacity, but this cannot come about through traditional, conservative and rent-seeking-based management styles.”

In the elections, held on May 19, Hassan Rouhani won re-election by a landslide with 57 percent of the vote. Despite poor economic conditions, the people of Iran have decided to give Rouhani a second chance to deliver on his promises of alleviating poverty and reforming the government. Iran’s current government is run by a religious leader, with the president playing a big role in foreign affairs and other political decisions.

However, many Iranians want a government that supports more human rights and social freedoms. While Iran now has more access to social media and the internet, activists and journalists are still being jailed for speaking out against the government.

With Rouhani in office, the people of Iran hope that he will take the uphill climb to help Iran’s economy and social situations.

Kelsey Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Iran Describes Education 2030
Iran’s government criticized the “western-influenced” U.N. global education plan known as Education 2030, claiming that it contradicts all of Islam’s principles.

“In this country, the basis is Islam and the Koran. This is not a place where the faulty, corrupt and destructive Western lifestyle will be allowed to spread its influence,” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on his website.

The Education 2030 plan emphasizes five principles that the U.N. perceives as most important, also known as the Five Ps: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.

Education 2030 is one of 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), exemplifying the importance of education for all.

The U.N.’s plan outlines how to take promises made by a nation and turn their words into actions at a regional, national, and global level while providing guidelines on how to do so properly.

This plan has support from the U.N. Development Programme, the U.N. Populations Fund, the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNICEF, U.N. Women and the World Bank.

The heart of the Education 2030 plan lies within the support of the country and governments, promoting the change the plan is hoping to see over the next 15 years.

Khamenei has openly opposed the Education 2030 plan and blames the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution for being careless. He claims that “signing that document (Education 2030) and its silent implementation is certainly not allowed, and this have been announced to the organizations in charge.”

He then stressed that Iran is not a place for the infiltration of the flawed, devastating and corrupt Western lifestyle and that an international organization under the influence of large powers has no right to make decisions of other nations of differing histories, cultures and civilizations.

He did not give specific details on the opposition of the plan, however, commentators in Iran believe the promotion of gender equality in education contravened Islam.

At other times, Khamenei has promoted education in Iran and applauded educators for the significance and importance of education, explaining things such as the power of vocational programs for hiring skilled workers who are “national assets.”

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Yemen
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is reaching new heights. The war is a proxy war fought between the Sunni Muslim state of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Muslim state of Iran. More than 10,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed and roughly 2.1 million have been displaced.

According to the U.N., 80 percent of the population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid. There is a water shortage that may completely deteriorate in 2017. There are now 21 million people dependent on international aid to survive.

The Houthi uprising began in the wake of the Tunisian civil war in 2011. This was a major security concern for the Saudi government, as it shares its southern border with Yemen. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was backed by Saudi Arabia and the U.S., was forced to resign from office in 2011. This occurred after widespread protests were held in opposition to his illegal business dealing and his amassed $60 billion. A U.N. expert panel stated in a report than“Many have argued that the country’s spiraling debt and economic problems would be alleviated with a repatriation of these alleged stolen assets.”

Power was ceded to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in February 2012. Houthi rebels then took control of Sana’a, the capital city, through a string of terrorist attacks. Hadi fled the country.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen continued to worsen with a growing food deficit, increasing drought and terrorism concerns. Half of Yemen’s population was living below the poverty line, and almost half of the population was under the age of 18 and unemployed. Saudi Arabia led a U.S., U.K., and France-backed coalition in support of Hadi’s internationally recognized government against the Houthi rebels.

Former secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon announced that the U.N. had documentation of widespread violations of children’s rights in Syria that were committed as part of the Houthi child soldier recruitment efforts, as well as the child casualties from the Saudi air strikes. Saudi Arabia threatened that if it were not removed from the report, they would cut off its funding to the U.N. and incredulously, the threat succeeded. This miscarriage of justice has hurt the U.N.’s reputation as an impartial mediator in the conflict.

War crimes are being committed on both sides as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen carries on. Unfortunately, these crimes will likely continue without reprimand or sanctions as Saudi allies, like the U.S., have vetoed the U.N.’s independent international investigation into these war crimes. This effectively kills any charges against the Saudi’s or Houthi rebels, endangering countless more children’s lives.

Joshua Ward

Photo: Flickr