Few Buyers for Persian Carpets | God's World News

Few Buyers for Persian Carpets

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    Iranian carpet shop owner Ali Faez works at his shop at the traditional bazaar of the city of Kashan, Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    Dyers dye batches of thread for hand-woven carpets at a workshop at the Kashan bazaar. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    A woman weaves a carpet at a workshop in Kashan, Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    Some weavers work for as little as $4 per day. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    The majority of carpet weavers in Iran are women. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    Ali Akbar Sayyahi puts a finishing touch on a hand-woven carpet. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    Carpet designer Javad Amorzesh works at his shop in the Kashan Bazaar. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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Richly colored, intricately woven rugs fill booths in the historic Kashan bazaar in central Iran. But the skilled craftspeople who made them struggle with sales. Iran’s tensions with the West have unraveled the stability of the carpet industry.

The skills needed for the Persian weaving style pass from generation to generation. (Persia is an ancient name for the region now known as Iran.) Workers use materials like vine leaves, skins of pomegranate fruit, and walnut hulls to dye the threads. Designs feature flowers, plants, animals, and historic scenes. Weavers wrap yarn around stationary warp threads, a technique called the Persian knot. A single rug can take months to make.

Rug exports exceeded $2 billion two decades ago. But last year, they brought in only $50 million, according to government figures.

The weavers’ troubles aren’t exactly new. The industry has been through major ups and downs over the last half-century.

1979: After the Islamic Revolution, the United States increased sanctions on Iran’s government over issues such as Tehran’s links to militant attacks and the American Embassy siege in which American citizens were held hostage. Those sanctions included a ban on rugs.

2000: President Bill Clinton lifted bans on Iranian rugs, caviar, and pistachios.

2010: With concerns rising over Iran’s nuclear program, the United States again banned Iranian-made rugs.

2015: Iran struck a nuclear deal with world powers which greatly reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium. (Such uranium is used for nuclear weapons.) The rug trade was allowed once again.

2018: President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal. Since then, Iran increased production of enriched uranium. The carpet makers’ goods are again banned under U.S. law.

Carpet sellers say the number of tourists to Kashan has dropped as well. Iran’s minister of tourism insisted in April that six million tourists visited the country over the last 12 months. But that likely includes religious pilgrims as well as Afghans and Iraqis with less spending money. The tourists who do show up face the challenge of Iran’s financial system, where no major international credit card works.

The country’s rial currency plunged in value over the last several years. That leaves many Iranians also unable to purchase the handwoven rugs.

Abdullah Bahrami is head of a national syndicate for handwoven rug producers. “The whole world used to know Iran by its rugs,” he says. But as the carpet industry suffers, that no longer seems to be the case.

Why? The policies of an unjust government and resulting sanctions can contribute to the suffering of its people.

For more about Persia and its history, see Bright Star: The Story of Esther by Holly Mackle in our Recommended Reading. 

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