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Even Dying Has Become Unaffordable in Iran

Expertly handcrafted tombstones are out of the price range for most Iranians.
Expertly handcrafted tombstones are out of the price range for most Iranians.

Considering the intensification of deep-seated economic and social crises in Iran, money is very hard to come by for most average families. One of the biggest expenses that people are struggling to afford is purchasing tombstones for their loved ones that have passed away.

Due to rampant poverty across Iran, the business of second-hand tombstones, and vendors who are willing to allow customers to purchase them in installments, is booming, as noted by the state-run daily Hamshahri, which first noted the trend in May 2021.

A report by the state-run news agency ROKNA stated that the average price of tombstones has increased by 35 percent. For example, the price of a tombstone in the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery near Tehran has almost tripled from 3.5 million tomans to over 10 million tomans.

A tombstone vendor, who was quoted in Sharq daily’s January 11 publication, stated that since the outbreak of Covid-19 in Iran, the number of people turning to purchase tombstones in installments has increased. However, he added that some vendors will only sell products in installments to friends and relatives, as they cannot guarantee that other people will be able to settle their accounts.

According to him, many people are instead resorting to buying cheap stones, pouring black ink on them, and then polishing them to get a seemingly valuable tombstone.

He said that cemetery employees often take old tombstones, which belong to 30-year-old tombs or tombs which have been converted to multi-story graves, grind the old scripts, polish them so that they could be reused, and sell them to families with limited financial resources. However, many people are simply satisfied with the small stone that is installed by the cemetery administration on the graves.

A January 11 report by the state-run news agency ISNA quoted a conversation between an old woman and a tombstone vendor, which read:

“She entered the shop of the tombstone vendor. With her hands shaking, and while holding her chador with her teeth, she took out her paystub from a colorless nylon bag and moved toward the vendors. She was there to buy a tomb for her dead husband. Her entire pension was 1.550 million tomans.”

The woman told the vendor, “I’ve no children and no husband. My husband passed away a few years ago. Now I cannot afford to buy for him a tombstone…Every time I dream of him, he looks sad. I always imagine that he is sad because his grave is left without a stone. He was a respected person. I need a cheap stone. Sell it to me in installments. I’ve got no insurance.”