Iranian Health Minister Fired

According to Bloomberg, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired the first female Cabinet member in the history of the Islamic Republic this week.  That member, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, had been serving as Iran’s health minister, but, says Bloomberg, she will now be replaced by Mohammad-Hassan Tarighat Monfared. According to Radio Free Europe (RFE), Dastjerdi was not only the first female member of the Cabinet, but also its only female member.

Both Bloomberg and RFE speculate that Dastjerdi may have been fired because she had criticized Iran’s Central bank in recent days and had complained about the lack of financial support it had been giving to medicine.

She had also criticized the government’s priorities. According to Reuters, Dastjerdi appeared on National Television, where she declared, “I have heard that luxury cars have been imported with subsidized dollars but I don’t know what happened to the dollars that were supposed to be allocated for importing medicine.” She argued that medicine was “more essential than bread.”

RFE also suggests that Dastjerdi may have been fired after she supported raising prices on certain medicines – a suggestion Ahmadinejad objected to. According to Rachel Hirshfeld of Arutz Sheva, Dastjerdi’s support of price hikes was due to the effect of US and international sanctions.

While there are no sanctions on medicine, says Hirshfeld, the sanctions do “limit their ability to be imported to the country due to increased restrictions on financial transactions.” The effect of sanctions on medicine has not been negligible.  Indeed, Hirshfeld reports that an Iranian official said that the cost of locally produced medicine had gone up between 15 and 20% in just three months, while the cost of some imported medicines had increased by up to 80%.

Ahmadinejad and his counterparts have tried to downplay the effect of US sanctions and to appear strong in the face of then. Dastjerdi’s comments, then, may have earned his ire, because they seem to confirm that sanctions are hitting Iran hard. On the other hand, according to Reuters, Iranian officials have also been blaming some of Iran’s financial problems on the sanctions. Dastjerdi’s comments may have been particularly problematic for the Iranian regime, because she blamed, not just the United States or the international community for Iran’s woes, but the Iranian government itself.

Filed Under: Politics


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Miranda Flint About the Author: Miranda has a B.A. in political science and has worked over a decade as a news reporter, financial news writer and political blogger. More about Miranda

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