Trade embargo pulls the rug from under Persian carpet legacy

By Jaime Leon

Tehran, Aug 26 (EFE).- Persian carpets, known for intricate and vibrant patterns, a symbol of Iranian legacy, are gathering dust as exports have declined over the years owing to American sanctions and growing global competition.

People involved in the 2,500-year-old exquisite handmade carpet industry recognize that the sector has experienced decades of slow but relentless decline, exacerbated by the US economic sanctions.

Trader Morteza Mostafa Gholizadeh says their business has fallen by up to 90 percent compared to 30 years ago.

The owner of the Gholizadeh company, founded 160 years ago by his great-great-grandfather, says that his best clients in the past were Germans and Americans.

But the economic sanctions have reduced his exports to “zero,” Mostafa Gholizadeh told EFE.

The US banned the import of Iranian rugs in 2010. The embargo was removed in 2105 when Tehran signed the nuclear pact limiting its atomic program.

But three years later, then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement and reimposed the sanctions that curbed Iranian overseas trade.

Mostafa also noted that Europeans were no longer as interested in Persian rugs as they used to be and were more inclined to buy cheaper Indian, Pakistani, and Nepalese rugs.

“Those countries have taken away the market from us,” Mostafa said.

The rug maker said that the younger Iranian generations were not interested in carrying forward the carpet legacy, once a symbol of distinction.

The hand-woven rug industry peaked in 1994 with exports worth $2 billion.

But this year, the country exported carpets worth $50 million in the financial year that ended in March 2022, said Morteza Miri, a member of the Handmade Carpet Manufacturers and Exporters Union.

“The figure is $15 million lower than last year’s exports,” Miri was quoted as saying by the Iranian Financial Tribune reports.

According to Ahad Azimzadeh, the owner of a prominent brand of handmade Iranian carpets, it is a massive setback for an industry that employs two million Iranians.

The businessman points out that one of the industry’s challenges is that exporters must transfer their foreign cash to the government at a loss-making exchange rate, which has caused him to halt sales abroad.

The currency problem is a consequence of the US economic sanctions.

“The lack of government support is a betrayal to a national industry that is part of the country’s identity,” Azimzadeh said.

Domestic sales have also fallen amid dwindling purchasing power due to a limping economy hit with 50 percent inflation.

“Our market is more internal and has fallen by 70 percent in four years,” Hosein Golab, director of production and design of the Parse Carpets, told EFE.

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