Women in IranOn 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 Iran
Iran, one of the largest countries in the Middle East, has a population of just more than 82 million. Although 92% of the population has access to clean drinking water and 90% 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 the consumption of contaminated food or water. The most common symptom is a sustained high fever, and if untreated, the mortality rate can be 20%. 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.

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 are 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% 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 an “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. There is a proxy war being 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.

Factors Contributing to the Crisis

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, 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 that, “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 airstrikes. 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

Ten Facts About Refugees in Iran
Due to over three decades of war, the Islamic Republic of Iran has become host to millions of Afghan refugees. There are a total number of 979,410 documented refugees in Iran and an estimated 1.5 million undocumented. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported 951,142 of those documented refugees have come from Afghanistan and 28,268, from Iraq.

Discussed below are pertinent facts and statistics about refugees in Iran and what the international community is doing to help

Top 10 Facts about Refugees in Iran

  1. Until recently, the UNHCR reports that Iran was the fourth largest refugee-hosting country in the world. Urban areas accommodate 97% of the refugees; the remaining three percent reside in settlement dwellings.
  2. For more than 30 years, Afghan refugees in Iran have been assisted and safeguarded by the government. Tremendous efforts have been made to offer them healthcare, education and prospects for finding employment. Recently, the government included refugees in a universal national health insurance program.
  3. In 2016, the UNHCR along with the Iranian government focused primarily on programs in health, education and economic enhancements intended to encourage refugees to assist in rebuilding Afghanistan.
  4. The UNHCR is supporting the implementation of the Iran Portfolio of Projects, which includes: voluntary repatriation, sustainable reintegration and assistance to host countries.
  5. The EU has been funding humanitarian projects to help Afghan refugees in Iran since 2000 and has recently been directing assistance to the 1.5 million undocumented refugees. In 2016, 2.5 million euros was allocated to address education for out of school Afghan refugee children.
  6. Undocumented Afghans usually face increased difficulties with respect to economic opportunities, healthcare, access to education and other vital services. Typically, because they have no legal status, they are not eligible for humanitarian assistance.
  7. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing humanitarian food assistance in Iran since 1987. The WFP works to distribute food to vulnerable Afghan and Iraqi refugees living in settlements.
  8. Technical training and educational assistance provided by the WFP helps young refugees improve their future economic opportunities and assists in reintegration to their respective countries.
  9. The WFP also provides enriched vegetable oil to the youth in settlements as an incentive for school attendance. Consequently, there has been increased regular primary and secondary attendance in schools, particularly girls’ attendance.
  10. The WFP and the UNHCR have also collaborated on a far-reaching Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) to calculate the food and non-food requirements of refugees. The organizations are gauging the practicability of exclusively relying on cash-based transfers.

Heidi Grossman

Photo: Flickr

 Nauru Refugees
Here are 10 facts about Nauru refugees:

  1.  Nauru refugees are not in Nauru by choice. Nauru refugees originally sought refuge in Australia. However, Australia was unwilling to provide them with care and forced 1,200 asylum seekers into a detainment center in Nauru. Nauru is only eight square miles, no larger than an international airport and already has a population of 10,000 people.
  2. The native Nauruans do not want the Nauru refugees there. The Nauru refugees are targeted by locals. Physical assaults against refugees happen regularly. What little property the Nauru refugees have is frequently broken or vandalized. Even refugee children are subject to these torments, making it difficult for them to concentrate or attend school.
  3. There are no legal services for the Nauru refugees. None of the Nauru refugees will become residents of either Nauru or Australia. The Nauru refugees are seeking refuge in fear of persecution in their home countries. However, the travel documents they have been issued confine them to Nauru for five years.
  4. The Nauru refugee crisis is being covered up. Nauru has banned foreign journalists in order to hide the poor treatment of refugees. The Australian government passed a law making it illegal for any employees, former or current, to disclose information on the conditions of the refugees. Despite these efforts, reporters find ways to interview refugees and former workers continue to come forward with their experiences.
  5. Nauru refugees came in search of liberty, only to become victims. Ali and his wife Khorvas are just one example of many. They left Iran because they believed in democracy. They sought to find a place where they would not be denied their human rights, but they only traded one confinement for another.
  6. The conditions the Nauru refugees live in do not meet U.N. standards. The tents each house 14 refugees and cannot weather the elements. Rain seeps in, heat and humidity are intensified, mold festers and pests easily infiltrate. The water supply is insufficient, resulting in dehydration or the consumption of unsanitary water. Waste management is not secure, allowing for cross-contamination.
  7. Sexual predators target Nauru refugee camps. Hawo, a Somalian, left her home country because of violence and sexual abuse towards women. Unfortunately, sexual exploitation of refugees is widespread. Men, including guards, force themselves onto women or expect them to barter sex for necessities. Reports of these incidents are not taken seriously.
  8. Health care for refugees is minimal. The Nauru hospital is small and lacks basic supplies. The majority of cases must be treated through abrupt transfers to Australia. The majority of medical transfers are due to mental health issues. Many refugees have been promised treatment that never comes. There is no screening of communicable diseases and no pediatric care in Nauru. Roughly 50 percent of the child refugees have latent tuberculosis. Immunization courses are never fully completed.
  9. Child refugees in Nauru are most at risk physically and mentally. There are no safety precautions set forth for children. Within the 2000 leaked records of reported abuse, there are records of sexually abused children, 59 physical assaults on children, 30 instances where a child has self-inflicted harm and 159 accounts of children threatening to self-harm.
  10. Many of the refugees have turned to suicide or self-inflicted harm. Refugees have taken to hunger strikes in hopes to improve their living situations. Omid Masoumali’s death was caught on cellphone video. Masoumali lit himself on fire, in protest to the conditions in where he was held. Benjamin, a 19-year-old who cut his wrists, said the Nauru refugees are a people living without hope.

Although no word has been given to close the Nauru Detainment Center, the second Australian Refugee Detention Center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, is closing operations.

The Australian Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in April 2016. Recently, counselors from Save the Children, a nonprofit previously working on Nauru, bravely reported many of the abuses they witnessed but were bound by confidentiality not to reveal this.

In light of these revelations, it is hoped that the Nauru Detainment Center will also close, allowing the Nauru refugees to receive quality aid elsewhere.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

How Poverty Exacerbates Illegal Organ Trading
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for extremely poor families around the world to go through extreme measures in order to make money. Some households have resorted to the unusual tactic of organ trading on the black market to afford food and other necessities.

The issue also affects the Western world as a 2014 piece in the Sunday Post highlights the prevalence of black market organ selling in the United Kingdom. Though it is highly illegal, those desperate for both money and organs often turn to social media to plan their transactions.

Jeff Powell from the U.K.-based anti-poverty charity aptly named War on Want says, “It is shocking that people are so poor that they would be willing to sell a kidney for cash. This level of desperation is a direct result of governments… and the interests of the rich over the fight against poverty and inequality.” At the time of publication, 10,000 people in the U.K. were in need of an organ transplant, leaving many opportunities for potential sellers.

Multiple instances of illegal organ trades in Iraq have made the news recently. Since over 22 percent of the Iraqi population lives in poverty, families sometimes take desperate measures to make money. In Iraq, gangs offer up to $10,000 for a kidney on the black market.

In Iraq, it is only legal to donate organs to relatives, but illegal traders find ways (ie forging documents or signatures) around this rule. A surgeon in Baghdad explains that healthcare workers are not held responsible for illegal donations because “… in some cases, we have doubts, but this is not enough to stop the surgery because without it people will die.”

An Iraqi human rights lawyer feels sympathy for those who turn to selling organs saying, “Picture this scenario: an unemployed father who does not have any source of income to cater for his children. He sacrifices himself. I consider him a victim and I have to defend him.”

Illegal organ trading is also prevalent in Bangladesh, where many poor citizens are faced with repaying loans from non-governmental organizations that they cannot afford. Some individuals grow tired of dodging debt collectors and see the organ black market as their only option.

A University of Michigan anthropology professor explains that these exchanges are often done under sub-par conditions. “There is no safeguard as to where the organs are coming from and how safe they are, and on the other hand, the seller’s health deteriorates after the operation. That has a huge impact on their earning capacity because they cannot go back to their old physically demanding jobs.”

Although it is not foolproof, Iran seems to have found a possible solution to illegal organ trading: legalization. Iran has the only government-supported program involving trading organs for monetary compensation, but the terms vary by district. However, some Iranian markets favor the recipient, meaning that sellers may not be compensated as much as they would like. Those who do sell their organs also receive a free year of health insurance from the government and are not required to enlist in the usually mandatory military service.

Sigrid Fry-Revere, an American bioethicist is the president of the American Living Organ Donor Network and believes the US and other countries around the world should be following Iran’s example. Their arrangement allows those in poverty to make money and decreases those waiting for much-needed transplants.

Though Iran’s organ transplant programs are far from perfect, they seem to be one step ahead of many countries around the world. A legalized procedure almost guarantees safe surgery conditions for both recipients and sellers, and works to provide a mutually beneficial trade.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

grassroots campaignsIt is difficult to know how many people in Iran are living in poverty. As of January 2016, the World Bank has not listed this information. The CIA World Factbook last estimated in 2007 that 18.7 percent of Iran’s population lived below the poverty line; however, that information is nine years old. Thanks to social media we know two grassroots campaigns, Payane Kartonkhabi and “walls of kindness,” are trying to make life easier for impoverished Iranians.

Payane Kartonkhabi

Ali Heidari, an advertising manager in Tehran, told The Guardian about the tragedy he saw when he delivered meals to the homeless living in Harandi, a neighborhood in south Tehran, with his wife and son in May 2015.

Heidari simply asked friends and neighbors to donate meals for him to deliver, which grew into the formation of Payane Kartonkhabi, which means ending homelessness. The group still delivers meals, but as of October 2015, they began installing refrigerators to make nutritious food more easily accessible.

“The most necessary thing is nutrition,” Heidari said to The Guardian. “If a homeless person is well fed, he or she won’t so easily collapse and die.”

Payane Kartonkhabi took to social media using Facebook, Instagram and Telegram to spread awareness. The group is committed to ending homelessness, providing training workshops to help people find jobs and continuing their efforts to send recovering addicts to private treatment centers and covers the cost according to the Guardian.

“We are not doing anything special. We are just paying our debt to society,” Heidari told The Guardian. “If we have homeless people in Iran, it’s because at one point we were not caring enough toward our people. So now we are trying to compensate.”

Walls of Kindness

The first “wall of kindness” appeared in the north-eastern city of Mashhad with the saying, “If you don’t need it, leave it. If you need it, take it,” according to BBC News.

The man who created the “wall of kindness” in Mashhad wants to remain anonymous according to Hamshahri, a local Iranian newspaper. He told Hamshahri he was inspired by similar acts of kindness throughout the world and in Iran, like Payane Kartonkhabi’s refrigerator installations.

The creator of Mashhad’s wall of kindness has asked people on social media to continue giving, according to Hamshahri. “I’ve told them to bring clothes in small quantities so that those who come here know that clothes are always available,” the man told Hamshahri.

At least three more “walls of kindness” have sprung up across Iran since December according to Radio Free Europe.

Grassroots campaigns like these, with social media bringing people together, are helping to meet the immediate needs of the impoverished and homeless around the world.

Summer Jackson

Sources: BBC, CIA, World Bank, The Guardian, Instagram, RFERL
Photo: Real Iran

How Their 1979 Revolution Brought Iran Into Poverty-TBPRevolutions spin nations into a whirlwind of anxiousness, confusion and often economic changes. The changes that ensued after the 1979 Iranian Revolution sent the nation into economic troubles for a multitude of reasons.

After the revolution, the new government federalized businesses, which has ended up further hurting the economy. With the new sanctions and laws regarding the businesses, families have experienced a more difficult time to provide for themselves.

To add to the shift in government and adjusting to the new laws, a baby boom occurred in Iran following the 1979 revolution. Following the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini asked women of the new Iran to have a substantial amount of babies that could one day protect their nation and faith.

After his call for children, the population came close to doubling from 34 million citizens to 62 million, according to The United States Institute of Peace: The Iran Primer.

With such a drastic jump in population, the Islamic Republic soon came to realize that they could not “feed, clothe, house, educate and eventually employ the growing numbers.” Without the ability, space or resources necessary, many families fell into poverty at a significant rate.

As more families sought refuge and aid in any form available, the option of terrorism became more tempting. Not because they desired terroristic actions, but often terrorist groups will travel through impoverished areas promising to pay considerable amounts to those who join their groups.

When in desperate need of money to care for one’s family, the willingness to join radical alternatives becomes a considerable option. With the insecurity of families and nations placed upon them, the feeling of hopelessness only grows.

However, after the dramatic increase in population, a progressive family planning program was enacted in an attempt to slow the population growth and allow the government to provide for those already born.

The program was advanced, especially for the time. Billboards went up across the nation encouraging smaller family sizes, volunteers were sent door-to-door to advocate for why fewer children were the better option, family planning classes were required before marriage and health centers began distributing free birth control and condoms all in an effort to slow the birth rate and end the baby boom.

With the new program in place, birth rates soon began to decline at what was a comforting rate. In 1988, women were averaging 5.5 births. By 2006, the average had decreased to 1.9 births per woman and was continuing to drop.

Though the birth rate had declined like intended, with the continually dropping rate, a new concern arose. There was now an exceedingly large generation of baby boomers being followed by a generation that would not even replace their parents.

The abrupt decline in births has, and still is, causing problems regarding their ability to support the immense aging population.

With this vast difference in situations and problems, the Iranian government and population are continuing to feel a struggle in the prolonged wake of the 1979 revolution.

Between the excessive number of babies and then the sudden drop in births, the population fluctuation is one of Iran’s numerous economic issues that they as a nation and separate communities are having to deal with.

– Katherine Wyant

Sources: Iran Primer, International Affairs Review, Iran Primer
Photo: Iran News Update