Iran’s Regime Attempts to Cover Up the Amount of Damage from the Earthquake Disaster

Article published on Nov. 19, 2017
Article published on Nov. 19, 2017

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Reports provided by the people from the cities and villages of the area show that the number of deaths is much higher

Iran’s Regime Attempts to Cover Up the Amount of Damage from the Earthquake Disaster

The Iranian regime is hyper-focused on maintaining the appearance of control, especially during times of disaster. The mullahs and their officials have tried to cover up the dimensions of the disaster, while suppressing any attempts of social process surrounding their response to the disaster. The earthquake measured 7.3, and struck near the Iran-Iraq border later on Sunday night. Hundreds of people in Iraq were injured and the latest numbers indicate that 530 individuals died, with almost 7,500 injured.

Reports provided by the people from the cities and villages of the area show that the number of deaths is much higher. While the media outlets have reported that 60% of the city of Sar-e-Pul Zahab is buried to the ground and its residents are trapped under the debris. Yet the head of the Rescue Organization of Red Crescent Society said, “It is unlikely that anyone is left under the debris.”

Immediately after the earthquake, the regime’s first response was to send in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which meant that anti-insurgency units and IRGC motorcycles were first on the scene. According to eyewitnesses, they have not been active in helping the people, instead they have focused on preventing popular protests.

The Iranian regime has refused international assistance, limiting the relief effort to the Iranian Red Crescent and other NGOs.

On the other hand, while government aid for rescuing those trapped under debris was negligible, the regime announced on the second day after the earthquake that the rescue operation had ended. This is while people are still trying with no means to rescue those who are under the rubble. Instead of calling for more help, the regime announced, "The situation has returned to normal, and officials have advised people to go to their homes!"

The Crisis Headquarters in Kermanshah has asked the people to "avoid any congestion and gathering.” On November 14, the mayor of Azgaleh (the earthquake center) said, "One-year-olds and two-year-olds have been sleeping in the cold for two nights. No tent has ever sent to us yet."

Iranian President Rouhani indicated that individuals would have to rebuild their homes with loans from the government, many that would be too small to actually buy the materials to rebuild their homes.

One of the biggest concerns in the wake of the destruction is how badly the government housing was built. Private housing withstood the earthquake much better.

“The engineering system organization had no supervision over the construction of the Mehr housing units, and no monitoring engineer has been introduced by the organization for the housing units,” said Hassan Gurbankhani, the head of the engineering system organization, in an interview with the state-run Fars news agency affiliated with the IRGC.

The state-run “Iran” newspaper quoted Mohammad Reza Habibi, member of the board of directors of the engineering system of Kermanshah, as saying that in Mehr housing project, “the cost of construction from was reduced from 600,000 Toman per meter to 300,000 Toman per meter, which surely lead to a decline in the quality and use of materials with lower standards in Mehr housing across the country.”

The Mehr housing project, which is one of the largest housing projects over the past few decades, was implemented by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. There has been plenty of criticism from the beginning of the project and even Rouhani’s cabinet and government officials have been repeatedly criticized the project as being subpar.

“The reaction shown to each earthquake by the ruling regime in Iran is far different from its counterparts across the globe. Media censorship, excruciating delay in sending even minimum support and imposing a tight security atmosphere to quell any possible sign of unrest is Tehran’s response to such natural disasters,” said Heshmat Alavi, a political rights activist focusing on Iran and the Middle East.

Hospitals in the area have been unable to provide care, due in part to the shortage of ambulances.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) President-elect Maryam Rajavi sent her condolences to those who have suffered losses during the earthquake. She also encouraged the youth in the area to assist in the search for those who might still be alive under the rubble. Rajavi acknowledged that historically, the regime’s response to disasters has been poor and called on the Iranian people to show solidarity with each other during the crisis.

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, also expressed his grief and called for action to provide care for the earthquake victims. It has been noted that many are sleeping outside without any form of basic shelter and the temperatures have continued to drop.

The reality is that the funds the Iranian regime has used for its military campaigns has left the country vulnerable to these natural disasters, as the regime does not have the resources to assist its people during these times of crisis.