December 26, 2012 | Press Release

Tehran Lied About Boy ‘Killed By Sanctions’

December 26, 2012 | Press Release

Tehran Lied About Boy ‘Killed By Sanctions’

In death, Manouchehr Esmaili-Liousi became an instant celebrity, the unwitting poster boy for Iran’s growing deprivation under sanctions and the inhumanity of the West. Five weeks on, the teenager’s death has instead underlined the hypocrisy of his own government, desperate to shift the blame for a deepening health crisis amid accusations that state corruption is putting lives at at risk.

Manouchehr, a 15-year-old haemophiliac, was admitted to hospital in the southwestern town of Dezful in November, bleeding uncontrollably from a flesh wound. He died, it was claimed, because local doctors had run out of drugs to treat him. Officials and state media pounced on the tragedy, claiming the teenager as the first civilian death directly linked to the sanctions imposed by the West to curb Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The US and EU are behind setting regulations that disguise what are really sanctions on food and medication, which are not supposedly on their boycott lists,” said Ahmad Ghavidel, head of Iran’s Haemophilia Society.

It was a tragic story, but it was not true. Sources in Dezful and doctors have confirmed that Manouchehr fell and cut himself while hiking in the mountains. It took almost two hours for him to reach hospital. By the time he arrived he had lost too much blood to be saved.

The shortage of medicines is real. Government data obtained by The Times confirms that the country only has sufficient stockpiles of drugs to last another 100 days. Hospitals have already begun to run
out of anaesthetic for operations.

But the campaign over Manouchehr’s death underscored the eagerness within Tehran to blame sanctions for the crisis, shifting attention away from the toxic combination of mismanagement and corruption at the heart of government.

Any opportunity is seized upon. Medical personnel in the town of Karaj told of an incident after the death of a 42-year-old woman from a stroke. The woman’s family was approached by local officials offering to pay all funeral costs if a camera crew could film the ceremony.

The woman’s sister was asked to record a personal message to President Obama from the graveside, blaming him and sanctions for her sister’s death. The family declined. “This had nothing to do with a shortage of medicine, they were just trying to make capital out of other people’s grief,” said one Iranian source.

Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, Iran’s Health Minister, has spoken out repeatedly against government cuts to her department. Some $2 billion in promised funding has not materialised. The regime’s response has been to launch a motion to impeach her.

Medical imports are exempt from sanctions, but the Government has slashed healthcare funding, while the Revolutionary Guard continues to profit from the crisis. A subsidised exchange rate, imposed by Tehran to ring-fence imports of food and medicine from the impact of Iran’s currency crisis, has been exploited by the powerful militia to fund the purchase of sports cars and luxury goods.

Regime officials continue to enjoy world-class healthcare while choking off medical funding to ordinary citizens. Surplus drugs from Revolutionary Guard hospitals are dumped on the black market, where they are sold to health groups and civilians at three times the price.


To discuss U.S. policy toward Iran, or arrange interviews with any of FDD’s scholars, please contact Madeleine Levey Lambert at [email protected] or (202) 297-8480.