efe-epaBy Artemis Razmipour Tehran

United States sanctions on Iran, implemented following Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, have pushed the nation towards poverty as its citizens fall victim to an economic crisis.

Economic damage to the lives of normal Iranians is tangible. At first, many had to reduce leisure activities to save money but now it has become a question of trying to make it to the end of the month and to budget for basic commodities like food.

The financial downturn began to worsen a year ago when President Donald Trump announced the US' withdrawal from the nuclear agreement reached in 2015 between Iran and six major world powers, a decision that would be followed by the re-imposition of tough sanctions on the West Asian country.

The first victim was the national currency, the rial. It suffered a strong devaluation against the dollar, plunging from 40,000 to the dollar to 150,000 to the dollar.

The director of the Iranian group for the development of international trade Syndej, Hassan Tajik, told Efe that the sanctions, applied last August and November, have had a "very direct and strong" impact on Iran.

"One of the main problems is the reduction of people's purchasing and financial capacity, which has brought the population to the edge of poverty," he lamented.

Tajik also said that "the lack of a correct management on the part of the country's decision-makers" has deepened the negative effects of the sanctions.

This poor management has led them to accept "any proposal or agreement, be it illegal sales or very unfair interactions in oil exports and petrochemical products," added the businessman, who predicted a worsening of the situation in the future.

US sanctions affect, among others, the banking and oil sector, the Achilles heel of Iran, whose economy depends largely on oil exports.

In fact, tensions have increased since last month, when the US decided not to renew sanction exemptions for the purchase of Iranian crude oil that had been granted to eight countries.

In response to the pressure, Iranian President Hasan Rohani announced Wednesday that his country would reduce its nuclear agreement commitments and gave 60 days to the remaining signatories of the pact (Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany) to resolve the current restrictions on the sale of oil and on the banking system.

In the middle of this tug-of-war with the international community, the Iranian population continues to suffer the consequences of the sanctions.

The Grand Bazaar of Tehran, recognized as the heart of the country's economy, has all but collapsed, with some stores closed completely and others are reporting losses.

Hosein, a trader of children's clothes from the bazaar, told Efe that sales had dropped 60 percent in the last three months.

"People just come and look, they do not buy because they do not have money and we do not insist they buy because we understand that they do not have the economic capacity to do so," he said.

Several other Iranians consulted by Efe confirmed they had considerably reduced their purchases of chicken, while beef and lamb had disappeared from their tables altogether.

The price of food, in general, has multiplied and the rise sometimes occurs daily, while some essential products, including medicines, are scarce in the market due to restrictions on imports.

The occasional scarcity of goods is also due to internal corruption and hoarding by entrepreneurs and merchants who want to push up prices.

The economic insecurity has instilled a great distrust in the population.

Rumors of imminent price rises spark panic buying.

Last week, for example, long lines appeared at gas stations after local media reported that a liter of gasoline was going to increase from 10,000 to 25,000 riyals.

Although this information was denied by officials, the queues lasted several days because, as one of those waiting to refuel told Efe, "the authorities lie, if they say that it will not go up, it means that it will go up". EFE-EPA

ar-mv/rml/jt/ch