By Professor Hisae Nakanishi

Economic sanctions and novel coronavirus: What is humanity today?

May 4, 2020 - 0:21

Iran has faced dual and unprecedented challenges now. One is a large number of citizens infected with the novel coronavirus. The shortage of medicine and medical equipment is profound. The other challenge is how to tackle the impacts of prolonged economic sanctions.

 Iran's novel coronavirus cases reached 97, 424, and its death toll has passed 6,000. While the government has already reported the gradual decline of the new infectors, the challenge continues to take care of the existing patients. 

It is indeed hard for us to imagine how Iranian people have been leading their life in this harsh reality of the continuous economic sanctions today. The pandemic also hit the oil economy severely, as the price of oil declined sharply recently due to the dramatic fall of the demand. Iran's economic pressure has thus increased today. 

The novel coronavirus situation has imposed us a new and universal rule: taking social distance. The WHO, the governments, and health specialists strongly suggest that we keep a distance from each other to prevent overshooting. Distancing each other with two meters apart is a standardized guideline these days globally. I wonder how Muslims in the world are leading their Ramadan, now being discouraged from celebrating Iftar collectively. 

As Socrates said, we, human beings, are social animals. Human development has presupposed active human interactions. Human mobility and direct communications are keys for better trade and to share knowledge. Face-to-face engagement among people is indispensable for the betterment of our growth and development.  

However, the idea and practice of social distance is the opposite. The pandemic has caused the closure of businesses and forced us not to see each other directly, and we are obliged to accept economic and social isolation. In this sense, we are living in a new reality that requires us to live very differently from the past. A new paradigm is to emerge. What is the alternative to seeking economic betterment? 

Healthcare seems to come first today. How to survive safely and live with health is the ultimate objective of our life to secure. To pursue this grand value, basic human needs are necessary: food, water, housing, job, and medicine. Economic sanctions imposed on Iran impacted this fundamental aspect of security. The prolonged sanction regimes have deprived Iran of what people need even to survive. The shortage of medicine and medical equipment had existed even before this pandemic. Now, Iran has been suffering more from the severe lack of too many things beyond medicine. 

It is remarkable and unthinkable that the U.S. has not reconsidered its sanction regimes under these extreme circumstances. Humanity and human virtue are all questioned today. The U.S. decision to withdraw its funding to WHO demonstrated not only the lack of humanitarianism but showed its backwardness in the fundamental human value: it is the universal priority to secure people's life safety.

To blame others and to create an enemy are often used as strategies for the populist states. The U.S. accuses China of the origin of the pandemic just as the U.S. is demonizing Iran. These strategies often work in crisis times by inventing the scapegoats for the social and economic deterioration. 

The U.S. novel coronavirus death toll reached 67,448 as of May 3. The U.S. also needs health security most. The U.S. economic prospect is much dim today. Under these circumstances, 52% of U.S. voters now disapprove of President Trump’s job performance. How much more can the U.S. continue blaming others?  Scientists alert that a new virus may emerge even after we conquer the novel coronavirus. It is time for us to recognize the need for international cooperation, not unilateralism.

Hisae Nakanishi is professor of the Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan 
 

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