It was September 2017, and I was back home in Iran. A few weeks earlier, I had received a phone call that my father had fallen critically ill. He had for a year successfully managed a rare, incurable neural disease. Soon, he was hospitalized after a series of extensive brain hemorrhages and, while in the ICU, would develop a pulmonary infection that would ultimately claim both of his lungs. Treatment was not out of the question, but he urgently needed drugs that were distributed by European and American companies.
Over the course of several days, my family would search in vain to secure his medication. Time and again, we were told that recently renewed American sanctions had made it impossible to procure many types of specialized drugs. Unrelenting, my mother reached out to friends, family, and strangers, hopeful someone could lend a helping hand—even if it meant pointing us to distributors on the black market. There were Iranian variants of the same drugs, but as my father’s doctors would politely inform us, “The Iranian alternatives will not give us the results that we need.”
After a second stroke, and a series of unsuccessful operations, my father died on October 23, 2017. Two years later, I cannot help but wonder: Would my father’s life have been spared if American sanctions had not made access to life-saving drugs impossible? It is entirely plausible that he could have survived, but I want to restrain myself here from speculating about the past. Rather, I offer this painful story because it is one that many Iranians are intimately familiar with.