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Goodbye Oral-B: An Iranian Woman's Struggle with Sanctions


26 Aug 2011 01:23Comments

Everyday consequences for ordinary people.

41787_39418597071_2737315_n.jpg[ comment ] Who feels the pain of sanctions? ME.

I am a good Iranian citizen and when the president of my country and other authorities say enemy sanctions are ineffective and that we will turn them into opportunities, I want to believe them. It should also be very reassuring when people continuously dismiss the sanctions and say, "We have suffered sanctions before and we will pull through again. Anything you want you can find in Tehran, maybe just a bit more expensive."

But they are all lying.

Let me tell you the truth. Sanctions mean no more Oral-B toothbrushes, dental floss, or mouthwash. Sanctions mean no more Crest toothpaste. Sanctions mean I have to buy a Chinese toothbrush that is more suitable for use on your nails -- the bristles on these brushes make your gums bleed.

Sanctions mean I have to buy low-quality Chinese toothpaste for a mind-boggling price. While I am sure China has high-quality products, they are not being sold in Tehran. What I'm being offered is green-tea-and-salt toothpaste. Call me intolerant, but as much as I may love green tea, I would rather feel minty fresh after brushing my teeth than salty green.

Sanctions also mean that I can no longer buy Venus razors or razor heads because Chinese knockoffs in Venus-style packaging called something like Close Shave have taken the place of Gillette. On one occasion, I am ashamed to say, I found myself making a backroom deal with my neighborhood pharmacist, who sold me one of the two last Venus razors he had in stock. As he hurriedly wrapped my Venus in newspaper, lest the other customers discover that he wasn't really out of them like he'd said and vandalize his store, he told me, "You have been a loyal customer and so I'm giving you this...it has three extra razor heads and that should keep you for a while."

Sanctions also mean you can't even find Revlon shampoo and when you do it's $14 a bottle -- if not more -- and you don't have the option of choosing the kind suitable for your hair. If they have anti-dandruff shampoo and you don't have dandruff, you either buy what is in stock or you can start using Sedr Sehat shampoo, which causes hair loss. Maybe someone reading this has used Sedr Sehat shampoo and had a happy experience, but for me the outcome is matted hair that eventually comes out in chunks like I'm on chemo.

Among the other global brands that can no longer be found in Iran are Always sanitary napkins. Of course, you guessed why: Sanctions! Now women must turn to My Lady, which are chunky and give rashes to those with sensitive skin. I'm not speaking from personal experience in this case, because I shamelessly ask anyone going abroad, whether for business or pleasure, to bring me sanitary napkins. Other unhappy consumers have told me they do exactly the same thing.

Sanctions have taken "I'm telling you khanoom [lady], if you don't buy this now I can't guarantee you will find it anywhere else" to a completely new level. Just today, one of the many pharmacists whose acquaintance I've had the pleasure of making told me that Nivea has not sent any products to Iran for the past nine months. I suggest stocking up on any product you can find and chances are one day not too far off it can be bartered with another person for a product you want but are unable to find.

Perhaps I'm supposed to blame Iranian authorities for these sanctions but, I find myself angry with the United States, because if they are using these sanctions to stop the Iranian government's nuclear ambitions, how is destroying our health bringing you closer to your objective? Frankly, the rich and powerful go abroad and buy what they need, but we are normal people with below-world-standard incomes. How are we supposed to bypass the sanctions?

If anyone is turning the sanctions into opportunities, it is the Chinese. For us the only opportunity we're finding is the ruin of our dental and mental health, as well as saying goodbye to our hygiene.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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