The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on Iran by Bushra Tahir

Since the 1979 Revolution in Iran, an era of the unprecedented rift of shared tensions, has made a unique situation in the region. The country is blamed by the international community of retaining its poor human rights records. [1] Currently Iran is facing sanctions on Arms embargoes, Asset freeze, Export and import restrictions, financial prohibitions, and technical prohibitions. [2] “Almost all the resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, making most of the provisions of the resolutions legally binding on Iran, or all UN member states.” [3] Some of the key resolutions are adopted under Article (40) and Article (41) of the United Nation’s Charter in relation to international peace and security. [4]

There are astonishing evidences, which has been causing rippling effects of sanctions in the country. Some of the clear evidence of sanctions is showing the worst kind of impact on the Iranian women. The paper will specifically cover the impact of sanctions on the Iranian women. It will also argue that the civilians have to pay off the price of the most costly political decisions. The decisions at the political and international level shows least presentation of women from either side.

This begs two questions: Can big powers be able to put more pressure on Iran through tightening sanctions? And how Iran will be able to retaliate in the given situation? 

The sanctions on Iran in 1980s were only limited to the military equipment and the people were living[5] “under a strict ration policy”.[6] The impacts of earliest sanction were also limited, as of what Iran is going through today. How the Iranian society generally copes with a set of all these sanctions? Businesses are down, currency restrictions, poor health sector, expensive living standards, and soaring of food prices are few out of many problems. The living standard for people in Iran has been going down with time. Many believe that diplomacy and negotiations with West is the last hope. [7]

The sanctions of the Clinton administration in 1995 and afterwards has shown direct impact on the public health.[8] There are people who have respiratory complications, cardiac, and headaches due to the cheap domestic production of gasoline – this has been damaging the air quality in the country.[9]

Iran is impacted by three different types of sanctions: United Nations’ sanctions, European Union multilateral sanctions, and United States unilateral sanctions. [10] As these sanctions are continue for decades, girls have been unable to continue their education and their parents want them to marry their daughters of early ages. This has promoted child marriages, as the lower income parents are unable to feed their family. Conversely, this situation also has given an upper hand in the conservative minds in the country to enhance their ‘Social Agenda’ and dominate the women. Men are unemployed, as the job market is down; sanctions are unable to create lucrative job industry and Iranian men are unable to meet up the social expectations. This has significantly increased domestic violence in the country. [11]

There are female headed households in Iran due to the Iran-Iraq war death among men. Those who had suffered due to the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussain have severe medical problems – among them are women of child bearing ages too.[12]  Previous medications are no longer available in the market due to tougher sanctions. Patients are suffering from “leukemia, Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB, a type of disease that causes fragile, blistering skin), epilepsy, and chronic eye injuries”.[13] The United Nations Food Programme called sanctions as a ‘brutal instrument’ affecting basic human rights.[14]

What is coming next? Will Iranian population be convinced to rise up altogether and demand a change in the behaviour of their government? Surely, it is the responsibility of the Iranian regime to avoid repressive actions against its own citizens and fulfil the international norms. The Iranian government should take all possible measures and cooperate with the international community to commit peace and security. This could be the only way to lift sanctions on Iran.

The killing of the top Iranian general Qasem Suleimani[15] and shot down of the Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 people on the board, including 57 Canadians will surely put fuel on fire. [16]  

[1] Ashish Kumar Sen, “A brief History of Sanctions on Iran,” Last modified on 8 May, 2018 

[2]Government of Canada, 

[3] Arms Control Association, “UN Security Council Resolutions on Iran,” Last modified on Aug 2017,

[4] Arms Control, “UN Security Council”.

[5] International Civil Society Action Network, “What the Women Say Killing them Softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the Lives of the Ordinary Iranians,” Last modified on July 2012 file:///C:/Users/Bushra/Desktop/Sanctions/What-the-Women-Say-Iran-Brief-Summer-2012-1.pdf 

[6] International, “What the Women Say,”2.  

[7] Bahar Makoi, “My Salary Can’t Keep Up: Iranians Brace as Trump Threatens Most Severe Sanctions Ever,” France24, Last modified on Sep 23, 2019.

[8] International, “What the Women Say,” 1.

[9] International, 3.

[10] Jessica Lasky,“Human Rights Double Standard: Iranian Sanctions Impact the Most Vulnerable”, Jurist, Last modified on Jan 26, 2019,

[11] International, 4 -5.

[12] International, 2.

[13] Human Rights Watch, “Iran Sanctions Threatening Health,” Last modified on 29 Oct, 2019,

[14]Jessica,” Human Rights Double,” 16.

[15] Zachary B. Wolf and Veronica Stracqualursi, “The Evolving US Justification for Killing Iran’s Top General,” CNN Politics, 8 Jan 2020,

[16] Steven Chase and Mark Mackinnon, “Canadian Government May Offer Interim Compensation to Families of Flight 752 Victims,” The Globe and Mail, 15 Jan, 2020,