Indulge for a moment, in a little imagination: It is January 2013 and the Western hemisphere's embargo on Iranian oil has begun to have an impact on the nation's economy. What happens to Termeh, Simin and Nader from the award-winning movie A Separation, under the sanctions?
Let's take a peek inside Iran.
Nader, the doting father who works at a bank has lost his job. The banking sector in Iran has taken a huge hit as a result of the sanctions, so his position was eliminated. Their hard-studying, bright-minded daughter can no longer attend the private school she went to during the movie, and is now encumbered beneath a black robe in a segregated public school in Central Tehran where she is often subjected to verbal abuse for not being pious enough or for coming from a liberal family. She has been detained a few times for her involition to conform to the strict regulations of the school and is descending into depression. Simin, the feisty Mom with visions of a life outside of Iran's borders, has been forced to move back in with her estranged husband and is not only caring for his Alzheimer's stricken Dad, but has taken a part-time job as a maid for one of the neighbors, as the family struggles to make ends meet. She is bitter and frustrated, and her mental state is taking its toll on the entire family -- not least on the 13 year old daughter who needs her mother more than ever.
Somayeh, the six year old daughter of Razieh, the former care-taker who worked in their home before she miscarried, showed up at their door-step one day in tears, asking if she could stay with Termeh and her parents. The little girl sobbed as she said her parents were fighting all the time because her Mom could no longer find work, while her father continued to sink deeper in debt and they can barely put food on the table. The strain at home has become too acerbic for the little girl to handle. She begs to live with the family and pledges to help in any way she can around the house. Simin, who is tired of doing the chores alone and working part-time, accepts the offer, and thus begins the little girl's long-to-follow career of housekeeping, instead of going to school and having a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty that crippled her own mother. There was an organization from the US that at one time helped her family with food and sustenance so they could afford to send her to school, she recalled. But with the new, tougher US sanctions in place, that charity can no longer function in Iran. They have turned their focus to Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, the US is still mired in a tedious war while the French have pulled out their troops in the face of repeated attacks by Taliban forces and even Afghan soldiers who refuse to see the West as a force for good. France, having abided by the US sanctions regime and relinquished Iranian oil, is now forced to purchase oil from Russia, since the OPEC nations, hampered by Venezuela and Iraq, could not agree on raising their quota to compensate for lost Iranian oil on the market. Russia, seeing the opportunity to make more petro-dollars in order to fund social services at home to stem the rising discontent of a long-underserved populace, has raised its price for crude and Europeans are paying the price. The economies of France and Italy have all but crumbled, while prices for energy and food soar beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. Protests have appeared in cities and town across Europe where people feel hopeless in the face of economic hard-times and pessimistic about the future.
Here at home, the US economy continues to lag as oil prices rise and energy costs climb. A gallon of gas is now $4.45, and with a new Republican administration that is eager for war poised to take the helm, the future looks as grim as ever. Consumer confidence is low, and the nation's armed forces are preparing for yet another protracted conflict in the Middle East, this time in Iran.
Over in Iran, just to have come full circle, the theocratic regime of the Islamic Republic is as entrenched as ever, and defiant over its right to acquire nuclear technology. While they insist that their quest is for peaceful purposes, the world looks on with skepticism -- and worry. Recognizing that they may be attacked, Iran has stepped up its enrichment activity and may be closer to weapons-grade enrichment than ever expected. The sanctions have crippled the nation's banking sector, and have nearly obliterated any quality of life for the ordinary citizen. But they have not prevented Iran from developing its nuclear program, nor have they stemmed the scientific and engineering activity that is largely sourced from within. Iranians are more determined now than ever to acquire nuclear technology. Iran has been able to sell its oil to India, China, Turkey and Japan among others, and has funded its nuclear program more intently than ever. Worst of all, the opposition movement that had taken hold in 2009 following contested elections, has now consolidated around the nationalistic cry that Iran is entitled to self-determination and that it should not have to succumb to indiscriminate global pressure.