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Sanctions Dull Tehran's Image

by FARSHID ALYAN in Tehran

23 Jan 2011 06:17Comments

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[ dispatch ] When Turkish reporters asked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently what impact international sanctions were having on Iran, he replied, "What sanctions are you talking about? If you come to Iran today, people will tell you that sanctions have had no impact on their lives or on their country's development."

Yet even to the casual observer, the effect of sanctions on the Iranian economy is made only too obvious by the distinct lack of commercial advertising around the capital.

Only a few years ago, billboards across the city advertised Swiss watches and other luxury goods from Europe and beyond. It was all part of a drive by the mayor's office in the early 1990s to earn revenues from the newly-allowed import market, and also to brighten the city up after the gloom of the eight-year war with Iraq.

These days, much of the advertising space along major thoroughfares is empty. As further sanctions were added last year, many foreign investors began pulling out, even if the measures did not directly affect their business.

In recent months, recession has caused many Iranian firms to go bankrupt.

Companies that are finding it hard to meet their wage-bill are naturally in no position to afford the USD $20,000 to 80,000 monthly cost of a billboard. With the owners of advertising space unwilling to lower their prices, the mayor's office has come up with a new scheme -- banners, which are a lot cheaper.

If some billboards stand forlorn, others have been taken over by government agencies, which have reverted to political slogans and religious exhortations. One noteworthy innovation is the use of pictures of women in this public-service advertising.

At the other end of the advertising scale, the proliferation of home-made flyers also tells a story of hardship.

Even the outer walls of hospitals feature handwritten offers of bodily organs, including kidneys at $10,000 or 20,000 at a time.

Farshid Alyan is the pseudonym of a Tehran-based journalist and photographer. Click here for Mianeh's photo essay.

Copyright © 2011 Mianeh

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