Earthquake Response in Iran Shows the Establishment's Unpopularity

“We are hungry. We are cold. We are homeless. We are alone in this world,” a weeping survivor who lost 10 members of her family in the hardest hit town of Sarpol-e Zahab told Reuters by telephone. “My home is now a pile of mud and broken tiles. I slept in the park last night. It is cold and I am scared.”

A week after a devastating earthquake hit western regions of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran is putting the Iranian people last - again. The number of casualties is much higher than official statistics, according to Iran’s own parliament deputies, some of whom believe more than 1,000 people died in the an event described as "apocalyptic." Eyewitnesses put the casualty figure closer to 3,000.

Damaged apartment block of <a rel="nofollow" href="
Damaged apartment block of Mehr housing project in Sarpol-e Zahab, Iran

Days after the 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Kermanshah province, reports continued to surface about the incompetence and inaction of Iranian authorities. Exhausted and exposed to freezing cold, survivors of the earthquake continued to seek food and shelter days after the quake, with little or no government support.

“No state-run enterprise is helping. People are helping people,” said Ayasheh Karami, 60, standing amid the ruins of her house, according to LA Times. The scale of the disaster is extensive. Sadly, people did not just die of the earthquake. Many survivors died later due to lack of relief efforts and horrendous mismanagement; A large number of injured people died due to insufficient care at hospitals and lack of blood supply or even serum injections. Several people froze to death after being rendered homeless, with three young children and a woman among them.

"In rural areas, 10 kilometers north of Sarpol-e-Zahab, where the AFP (Agence France Presse) team was passing through, most of the aid distributed to people on Wednesday belonged to private individuals," the agency said. Most of the aid that gets to the region comes from individual Iranians, not the government. Meanwhile, the establishment’s suppressive forces have prevented the arrival of aid to Sarpol-e-Zahab, and have confiscated donations off trucks and vehicles. At the same time, the Islamic Republic’s forces confiscate and later sell these products, like water, tents and food, at a profit. What is worse, the Islamic Republic is refusing international help for the region.

Iran has seen a large number of earthquakes. Over 26,000 people were killed in an earthquake in 2003 in Bam in the south-eastern region of the country. In 1990, more than 50,000 people died in Rudbar when a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck the north-western part of the country.

That means any government in Iran should by now have the competence and expertise to deal with such recurring disasters. In Japan, for example, intentional and effective policies have been put into place to protect citizens against earthquakes. But the Islamic Republic’s establishment puts its own security and survival before the welfare of the Iranian people. Authorities spend much of their time intimidating and executing people in Iran while usurping national wealth and channeling it into the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to pay for regional designs and proxies some of which are designated as terrorist groups.

Poor construction practices and negligent behavior by government affordable housing schemes also put residents at risk. Shoddy construction in the building of government housing has led to a higher number of casualties from the earthquake, according to Reuters. The IRGC, other suppressive forces and the main state broadcaster continue to provide a different image of the situation, giving the perception that everything is under control. But the reality is grim. A man in Ali Abad village says that despite official media reports, no one has arrived to help the residents. "Only the people of other cities, like Paveh, Sanandaj, Marivan and Ilam have come to our aide," he says, adding "death to the regime and its Qods Force." Other residents say that if the Kermanshah was an Arab region like Lebanon or Gaza, the Islamic Republic would have rushed to help in anticipation of recruiting forces and currying favor for its terrorist proxies and operations.

The dire situation in western Iran is another reminder that the ruling establishment does not care about the Iranian people. It also reminds the international community that the Iranian people are deeply disgusted and distrusting of the Islamic Republic, which is seen as plundering national wealth and instead focusing on its survival. It is time that the Islamic Republic is held to account for the inhumane actions against the Iranian people and the people of the region. This is an establishment that appears to put the nuclear program, executions as illustrated by the Amnesty International, and terrorism, first. It should be confronted not engaged.


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Harvard-educated, Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a world-renowned business strategist and advisor, a leading Iranian-American political scientist, president of the International American Council on the Middle East, and best-selling author. He serves on the advisory board of Harvard International Review.

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Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
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