Iranians desperate for cash turn to selling their organs

Source: New York Post

Iranian Ali Rezaei, 42, stands beside the ad he placed for his kidney in Tehran in 2017Shashank Bengali/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Iranian Ali Rezaei, 42, stands beside the ad he placed for his kidney in Tehran in 2017Shashank Bengali/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Dozens of notes stuck to an abandoned building opposite a hospital in Tehran tell a devastating story: Iranians who have fallen on hard times are offering to sell their organs for cash.

“I’m a 37-year-old who is ready to sell my kidney because of debt and financial problems,” read one note, which included a phone number and blood type.

The author is Asghar, a 37-year-old textile worker who lives with his wife on the outskirts of Tehran.

“If I could avoid doing this, I would,” he told The Sunday Times of London, explaining that his factory job stopped paying his wages because the clothes they made weren’t selling.

Asghar has received a few bids for his kidney, the highest being about $1,950.

His plight reflects the desperation felt by many Iranians as living conditions deteriorate under US sanctions imposed after President Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal two years ago.

Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy has weakened reformers led by Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and dashed hopes of prosperity under the nuclear accord. Instead, the economic problems have strengthened hardliners, who contend their anti-western stance has been vindicated.

“Everyone is facing the same issues, particularly economic ones, ” Hajia Najafi, a 63-year-old housewife, told the Times. “These are because of the actions of the foreigners — the sanctions from the US.”

The assassination last month of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force, helped generate support for the leadership.

But younger Iranians are less enthusiastic. Many complain about the government and the country’s economic issues.

“There aren’t enough jobs, and the jobs that there are don’t fulfill what we’re looking for,” said Nima, 21, who is studying insurance management.

The economic restrictions are even affecting the ultra-rich, because high-end foreign brands like Gucci and Versace have disappeared from stores.

In the Tehran Grand Bazaar, shopkeepers are also struggling to get by.

“Business has been terrible for a long time but every year the number of customers drops,” said Vahid, 40, whose grandparents bought the shoe shop where he works 60 years ago. “For 10 years it’s been bad, now it’s the worst it’s ever been.”

A few stores away, in a lace shop shining with pearl-encrusted tablecloths, Amir Hussein predicted more bad times.

“We’re the canary in the coal mine,” he said. “We’re suffering, and it’s getting worse. But we try to work hard in the hope that a good day might come.”

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