What Lifting Iran’s Sanctions Means for the Creative Community

Iranian photographer Mohammadreza Khajavi shares his personal account of what the new agreement means for him and his peers.

Sanctions imposed on Iran for the past 36 years, restricting trade and investment with other countries, are due to be relieved under a historic agreement. Previously, Iran had refused to give up its uranium enrichment program, which led to the sanctions being gradually increased to stifling effects on its economy.

Over the years there has been a lot of debate over the impact the sanctions, which were increased in 2006 by USA, UK, Germany, France, China and Russia, has had on Iran’s economy. Under the previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who served from 2005 until 2013, inflation rose over 40% while the GDP fell. Basic necessities like food or gas became increasingly unaffordable for the average Iranian, and therefore art and creativity in all its forms have become a rare luxury.

As a photographer born and raised in Iran, recent years (as sanctions got broader) have been quite a challenge. The lifting of these sanctions has the ability to revive the Iranian economy which will gradually lead to a boom in creative industry in Iran.

Photograph by Mohammadreza Khajavi

My main source of income comes from providing advertising agencies with photographic services. The clients that these agencies hope to attract are business owners, whether they produce something or maintain a type of service. They need to be seen in order to be able to grow day by day and survive in the market they are working in. So they contact an advertising agency and the agency contacts me. They ask for my pro-forma invoice, I send it to them. They add an extra percentage to the price and send it to their client and the business owner — who has been paralyzed by the lack of currency caused by the sanctions — and they cannot afford to pay the real price and cancel the project. Completion of the nuclear deal’s terms will free Iran from U.S. trade restrictions as well as European Union sanctions that froze the assets of Iran’s central bank and businessmen with ties to the nuclear program, banned interaction with the Iranian banking system and prevented EU members from the purchase or transport of Iranian oil. Some reports suggest that the lifting of sanctions could allow Iran to recover over $100 billion in frozen oil profits and expand the nation’s economy by five to eight percent a year. The banks would be allowed to do business with Europe once more and oil could be exported worldwide. As a result, businessmen will have more purchasing power than before and can afford to pay the price for advertising.

Difficulties in providing the tools for professional photographers who live and work in Iran is another devastating effect of the sanctions. For each project in industrial or advertising photography ordered to a photographer, the photographer needs to upgrade their equipment to a higher level. Providing the necessary tools and equipment for a special project is one of the major challenges in achieving high-quality and even standard results. As a result of sanctions, many tools and equipment for professional photography are either not imported in Iran or if imported, due to being smuggled, are expensive and do not include guarantee. With the lifting of sanctions, re-importing of goods to Iran will flourish and photographic equipment manufacturers will have their official representatives in Iran. As a result, the variety of goods available for purchase in Iran will rise, they will have better prices and goods with warranty will be available for purchase.

With the lifting of sanctions, the creative industry will be revived as a result of the increase in people’s level of income. When a society starts to recover in all aspects, art will not be considered a luxury anymore. By lifting the sanctions, Iranian people will start living their normal everyday lives.

Words: Mohammadreza Khajavi

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