How Sanctions on Iran Impact Persian Rug Stores in NYC

Hamid Kermanshah unfurls antique Persian rugs in his eponymous Kermanshah Oriental Rugs shop near Union Square. (Photo via NY City Lens)

In a story that appeared in NY City Lens, Moira Lavelle takes a look at how the U.S.’s renewed sanctions against imported goods from Iran are impacting Persian rug businesses in the city. Sanctions are nothing new, having come and gone for the past three decades. Following the Iran nuclear deal, sealed in 2015, “the Persian carpet business boomed once again.”

In Iran, carpet exports went up 39 percent in the first four months, with American imports making up a large portion. Here in New York, carpet shops brought in a slew of the handmade pieces.

Now, they cannot—and everything has ground to a halt once again. Being thrust back into an embargo this fall was unwelcome news for carpet dealers, but not a surprise, and most shop owners suspect the ban won’t last.

“It’s hard to forecast the future, but we’ve been through this in the past,” said David Basalely, 65, one of the owners of Eliko Antique Rugs on Madison Avenue. “The embargo has never lasted for more than a few years.”

Meanwhile, on Fifth Avenue by Union Square, Hamid Kermanshah has other concerns. He has been running Kermanshah Oriental Rugs with his brother for 35 years and buys many antique rugs from dealers in the U.S. so “the worry isn’t an inability to import genuine Persian rugs but that the influx of imitations rugs in other stores will threaten his business.”

“I have to compete with the imitations,” Kermanshah said. “The sanctions are one of the reasons these copies started.” Kermanshah says he can spot an imitation carpet instantly, and that he will not sell them. Even rolled up in his shop, he can spot different styles of Persian rugs, named after the regions they are from – Tabriz, Shiraz, Naim.

Basalely, like other store owners, has been having rugs made “that mimic the color and design, but they are not specifically the same texture and quality” and has also imported rugs from Turkey and South Asia “but it’s not exactly the same look.” How have customers reacted? How are authentic Persian rugs made? And how have the sanctions affected the ability to make repairs? Read more at NY City Lens.

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