Iranian currency's value loss felt by Canadians too

Keely Dakin
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The volatile state of the Iranian currency is affecting not only Persian people in a far off land, but Canadian citizens who may have left their homeland decades ago.

Jinus Makari, long-time resident of Prince Albert, holds up two coins from her birth country, Iran. Iran’s currency has lost three-fourths of its value in less than a year due to international sanctions limiting the sale of food and goods to Iran. She stands outside of her work place at SIAST Bookstore, on Oct. 31.

For Jinus Makari and her husband, Bahram Makari, both residents of Prince Albert for 30 years, the fall of the Iranian currency, the rial, has an impact on them here in Canada as well as on the family they left behind.

 “I have a sister and brother and my mom and all of my cousins and aunts and uncles,” Jinus said.

“I left Iran in 1978, during the revolution. By that time life wasn’t difficult yet. It was just like here,” she said.

Thirty years ago they immigrated to Canada.

Jinus and Bahram still have property in Iran and had been considering selling it. However when the rial lost three-quarters of its strength in less than a year, they decided it was not worth selling. The rial is now the least valued currency in the world.

“We were thinking of selling the estate, but because of the incredibly high rise of inflation in Iran, the property quickly lost dollar value,” Bahram said.

Her family’s property is now worth a quarter of what it was worth a year ago, Jinus said.

“So the value has to go four times higher to be the same (as before),” Jinus said.

The damage done to the Iranian currency over the last year is the result of foreign sanctions restricting the sale of food and other goods.

The result is that basic food supplies have risen sharply in price. Public demonstrations, which are a risky endeavor in Iran, have cropped up as well.  This was reported in an article by the UK paper, The Daily Telegraph on Oct. 4 by Robert Tait and David Blair.

 “Security forces used tear gas and batons against demonstrators angered by a dramatic collapse in the national currency, the rial, which has lost about a third of its value against the U.S. dollar since Sunday (Sept. 30). The hour by hour decline of the currency provides vivid evidence of the damage wrought by international sanctions, which were imposed because of Iran's nuclear ambitions.” 

The same article reports that trading for the rial was about 37,500 for one U.S. dollar a month ago, compared with 29,500 only four days earlier. The article also reports that at the end of last year, only 16,000 rials were needed to buy one U.S. dollar.

“My mom was here, my mom came nine months ago for my son’s wedding, to Canada … every dollar was 1,200 toman, now it is nine months after, every dollar is 4,000 toman,” Jinus said.

While the toman is no longer an official unit of currency, Iranians continue to express amounts of money or prices as tomans. One toman equals 10 rials.

In the few days since speaking with Jinus, the rial has dropped again, Barham said on Monday.

“We were speaking with Jinus’s brother, he said it was almost 4,500 (tomans) to the dollar … this was yesterday (Sunday) around lunchtime.”

In rials that equals 45,000, a rise in cost of about 7,500 rials per dollar in one month.

While the effects to Jinus and Bahram are felt here in Canada, it is much more dire for their family and friends in Iran who are working to make rental payments and to keep food on the table.

The governments don’t like each other, but who suffers here? It’s the poor innocent people, who have no choice in this. They can’t speak up, they can’t say anything, because if they talk they get killed," Jinus Makari said. .

“I worry for my family all the time, because you know I never know what is gonna happen, because they have these sanctions against the Iranians, so most of the countries, they don’t really sell them food or anything,” she said.

“Inflation is really high in Iran. And the price changes all the time and I don’t know how people can manage to survive there,” Jinus said.

“It’s unbelievable how expensive everything got,” she said.

“The money they make is Iranian money, but the shopping they do is the dollar,” she said.

Many families are living together to cut costs as well as working two jobs, just to make enough for rent and food.

“I think our meat is cheaper than theirs,” Jinus added.

“The life is extremely difficult, and God bless their hearts, they are very brave people. And they grew up with the difficult things, so they are used to it, but the inflation and the expense is really, really hard. I don’t know how people survive.

“Iranians are really proud people. And they don’t complain, they are just survivors,” she said.

Bahram said he hopes the government will change its mind and end nuclear development so that the sanctions will be lifted and the people relieved, but he does not know if the sanctions are helping or not.

Jinus doesn’t believe the sanctions are effective.

“I don’t think so, because people are suffering and everything is so expensive,” she said.

“So far the sanctions did not help yet. Because the rich are rich and the poor are poor. The Rich--(it) doesn’t bug them, and the government, they don’t feel it, they have the money,” Jinus said.

“It is hard when there is sanctions against the government, because I think that politics shouldn’t get involved in people’s life. Who suffers? The governments don’t like each other, but who suffers here? It’s the poor innocent people, who have no choice in this. They can’t speak up, they can’t say anything, because if they talk they get killed,” she added.

“Anytime they do their demonstration, they always get killed. There is no freedom and there is no support for them, who’s gonna help them?” she asked.

“When I left Iran, I went to Philippines, hoping that I finish my schooling and go back. It never worked that way, but I’m just hoping, I really hope for these people, something good will happen,” Jinus said.

“We just have to pray for these people and be so grateful were we are. How much freedom we have. Don’t take it for granted, don’t abuse it. Enjoy it. Cause lots of people in the world don’t have what we have,” Jinus said.

“I’m one of the lucky ones that is here,” she said.




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Recent comments

  • daniel
    January 25, 2013 - 12:01

    With all due respect the property prices in Iran have raised much more than currency exchange rate. Even with today's currency exchange the home prices are higher than Vancouver.

  • Katherine
    November 07, 2012 - 18:07

    A good local article that shows how interconnected we all are. To continue thinking that sanctions against a foreign country have no local impact is foolish and is an old way of thinking. Sanctions impact in ways both seen and unseen and ALWAYS take away and diminish human rights to those who already are disenfranchised. I wish I had another option to offer, I don't, other than to share a quote from a great mind. "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." Albert Einstein.

  • Hossein
    November 07, 2012 - 04:12

    Hot topic article Keely Dakin. The sanctions are not effective in the sense that they are not targeted to the Iranian government. The targets have become the people of Iran and there is 34 years of evidence showing that the government of Iran couldn't care less what is happening to the fate of the people of Iran as long as they are in their suppressive and oppressive power. Many people including my father whom relies on international business consultation have been out of their primary job for years now. Others like my self who rely on financial support coming from Iran now face a major problem: compared to just a few months ago they have to send me 4 times as much money for me to get the same amount in dollars here. Let's look at this with an example. Imagine you send your kid or your dependants to the US and every 4 months you send them $5000 CAD. Now imagine all of a sudden you have to send $20,000 CAD! This is major! And it's hurting a lot of people on a spectrum. Your money is worth nothing had you any need to move it out of the country; with current respective inflations your cost of food and medicine is sky rocketing. I know for a fact that people in the middle class are facing a big challenge and will very soon be pushed into poverty if the situation remains unresolved. What I don't understand is how are the poor still alive? And as a political side effect: A poor and hungry country has much bigger problems than freedom of speech, human rights and such. If the majority are pushed over the limit recovery may simply not take place under such government. International sanctions must stop. They are NO solution! They are only hurting the people who also like to see this government gone.

  • Bronwen
    November 06, 2012 - 21:03

    Nice balance of information and reference with a strong "humanist" slant. Like many "comfortable westerners" I go through my day-to-day cocooned in my good fortune, that of being a Canadian. I was tuned out to the degree that I wasn't even aware that this was going on. But it has made me stop and think, once more, about what it is "we" hope to accomplish with foreign policies such as this. The ones who pay the price are never the leaders who "earned" our displeasure. It is always the people who, just like ourselves, are trying to get by from day to day. In a country like Iran, where to disagree with your government is likely to cost your life, how can policies like this effect meaningful change? There is a wonderful quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, to the effect that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. How many times have we gone down this road and how many times has it actually yielded the results we were hoping for? I don't have any answers; but I hope that, personally and collectively, those of us who have the luxury of asking questions will start exercising our right to do so.

  • Maryam
    November 06, 2012 - 18:32

    It's really devastating... sanctions only make the poor poorer and life for the middle class harder. It's crazy how devalued the rial has become. Many Iranians still have property and investments there like my family and this affects lots of foreign immigrants. There has to be a change. Can't keep going on like this.

  • Ed B
    November 06, 2012 - 16:00

    It's good to see this talked about. I've always wondered about sanctions, and how they impact people in the sanctioned countries. I know the point of sanctions is to put pressure on governments to make changes. But it seems the effect of sanctions is to make the poor poorer, and to destroy the middle class -- pushing more people into poverty. And we KNOW that democratic reforms are more likely when there is a larger, more powerful middle class to push for change. So why destroy the middle class in Iran? In a perverse way, these sanctions might actually HELP Ahmadinejad (Iran's president) -- by making life harder for Iranians, they make his claim that the West is bad or "evil" sound more true to the people in that country. (Even though the West would love democracy in Iran.) I guess it's tough to determine foreign policy, because there are always so many unintended consequences to policies. I liked how this article shows the unintended consequences to people who have moved to Canada, and are trying to make a new life here.