Society

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010
Next time you casually take out your Mastercard or Visa card spare a thought for people in Iran. The new sanctions have reduced them to being useless plastic. Before the June sanctions many merchants with know how would accept credit cards from their customers by using bank accounts in the Gulf Countries. But those bank accounts are now being targeted and shut down. Getting foreign currency to Iran has become a...
Wednesday, October 06th, 2010
Recent reports suggest the court prosecuting Hossein Derakhshan for allegedly spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic has demanded the death sentence. So the executioner’s shadow hovers over the man Iranians regard as being the father of blogging. Derakhshan (35), who has both Canadian and Iranian citizenship, developed a blog platform for Persian characters that was widely copied: hence the title ‘...
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
On Thursday 15th July, two Sunnis blew themselves up among worshippers celebrating the birth of Imam Hussein at a large Shia mosque in in Zahedan, the capital Baluchistan. The second bomber waited till a crowd had gathered round the mayhem of the first blast before detonating himself to maximise casualties. They now stand at 27 dead and over 200 injured.             This is the cruel wheel of revenge for the...
Thursday, July 08th, 2010
The Central Bank of Iran has issued a new 100,000 Rial note (worth about $10). Before now, the largest bill has been the 50,000 one. More than ten million of these new notes have been printed so far. Some quickly concluded that the new bill was about dealing with inflation, a familiar scourge for Iranians. However the inflation rate this summer has dipped down to under 10%. So the new note has been printed probably...
Tuesday, June 08th, 2010
June 12th is the anniversary of last year’s disputed presidential election result. The government have made it clear they will not tolerate any disturbances. Given that hundreds were put in prison and at least two have been executed it is likely that those inclined to protest will stay at home. For the church this is better. A calmer atmosphere will mean more normal activities can continue. Another season of...
Friday, May 28th, 2010
President Ahmadinejad likes to travel the country making speeches to the faithful. Usually he gets a good hearing. But in Khorramshahr this Monday (24th May 2010) where he was speaking on the anniversary of the city’s liberation from the Iraqis, the crowd started chanting, ‘Bi Kari, Bi Kari!’ (The unemployed, the unemployed). The official figure for the number of jobless is 12.1% of the population. Others say it is...
Thursday, May 20th, 2010
Iranians love cinema. They watch about eleven films a month. It’s their entertainment of choice. So with one of the country’s most celebrated directors Jafar Panahi in prison for allegedly trying to make a film about last summer’s post election demonstrations, there is a certain amount of pain in the air. This tension among the film-makers is underlined by the fact that Abbas Kiarostami, probably Iran’s most famous...
Tuesday, May 04th, 2010
The statement by Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi that women ‘who do not dress modestly…increase earthquakes’ has caught the attention of the world as a rather odd explanation for the rumblings of our planet. For Iranian women it is a rather shocking reminder that they need to dress conservatively. Underlying that is the much more serious – and indeed stressful – issue of the place of women in society. Obliged to be under...
Monday, April 26th, 2010
The government is not happy with the birth rate being just above 1%. More babies are needed, and President Ahmadinejad is offering $1,000 for every one born. Given the unemployment today’s young are facing, some might query this enthusiasm to increase the birth rate. Others are wondering about where the money will come from. However, President Ahmadinejad argues it is right not to worry too much about the...
Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
There’s plenty for the average Iranian to worry about: inflation, unemployment, political fragility, arbitrary arrest, crippling sanctions, and worst of all, war. And if you are one of the ten million who live in Tehran, there are earthquakes to worry about as well. The city is built on two major fault lines and just this week President Ahmadinejad has announced incentives to try and get people to move to other...
Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
This week parliament passed the President’s budget which included cutting the state’s generous subsidies for food and energy, subsidies that have long kept the price of a litre of petrol at ten cents for limited amounts. This budget is trying to balance the books, but commentators are saying it could send Iran’s inflation rate up to 30%. This will hurt all wage earners, especially those who work for the massive...
Thursday, February 25th, 2010
According to the Health Minister, Marziyeh Vahid-Dastjerdi, the number of people being diagnosed with cancer is set to triple over the next ten years. She mainly puts the expected increase down to people’s diet and lack of physical exercise. Given the impressive expansion of the nation’s health care in recent years cancer patients can expect reasonable treatment. There is a network of clinics across the country, and...
Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
Iran has serious health issues, mainly related to smoking and diet and drugs, but as the revolution comes to its 31st birthday party, the men and women at the frontline of health care deserve praise. For overall Iran’s health in the last two decades has improved, especially in the area of infant mortality. In 1970 it was 122 per thousand, now it is just 28. This is still more than Europe and America, usually under 5...
Tuesday, February 02nd, 2010
Last week yet another old Russian Tupolov plane got into trouble. Its rear end burst into flames as it landed at Mashad airport. There were 147 passengers on board, with thirteen crew. Thankfully nobody was killed, but at least 46 people were injured. The news will make Iranian flyers nervous. Last summer a plane crash landed, again in Mashad, and killed 17 people; and a few weeks earlier another of these Tupolovs...
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
According to the Mehr News agency the government has closed down fifteen major pyramid selling schemes in the last three months. With their ‘get rich quick’ promises these unsustainable schemes are a sign of the times in Iran. Unemployment runs at about 12%, inflation at around 13% and house prices are rising far more steeply than wages. Pyramid schemes are illegal in Iran, as they are in most countries. They are...
Friday, January 15th, 2010
It’s not a good season for marriage. There should be about 1.65 marriages being registered each year in Iran, appropriate to the number of eligible people. But it’s about half that. Since celibacy has never been much of an option in Iranian culture – nearly everyone marries – this must mean there are lots of people who want to marry, but can’t afford to. And that’s not surprising since property values in Tehran and...
Friday, January 08th, 2010
The head of Iran’s Drugs Control Headquarters, General Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam has told a news agency that the death rate for the country’s estimated six million addicts has improved from twelve (2007-8) to nine a day (2008-9). He called addiction the country’s worst social problem. The main drugs used are heroin and opium which pour in from Afghanistan despite the government’s efforts to stem the flow. Addicts are...
Saturday, December 05th, 2009
Heart disease is a big killer in Iran. It is quite normal to hear of men in their forties suddenly keeling over with a heart attack, the cruel price tag for the constant delight of eating Iran’s national favourite high in fat dish, rice and kebab. Smoking doesn’t help. Recently ex-health minister and paediatrician Al-Akbar Savari told the Mehr News Agency that a staggering 25 million Iranians were overweight, and so...
Saturday, December 05th, 2009
Getting around Tehran used to be stressful as grid-lock was the norm. But then in 1999 the long awaited Metro opened and is now used by over a million passengers a day travelling on five lines. The service is clean, efficient, and it has had a major impact on lessening traffic congestion. At present the Tehran Metro is operated by the municipal council, but President Ahmadinejad wants it to come under the central...
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
A desolate landscape of desert and scrubland, Iran’s largest province is poor. Life expectancy for the nearly two million people is ten years less than the rest of the country. The annual income per head is less than a quarter of the average. Unemployment is widespread – as is crime and drug trafficking. It is Iran’s wild East. And since 2003, when Jundullah’ (The Soldiers of God) began a Sunni terrorist campaign...

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