IRANIAN PRESIDENT Hassan Rouhani walks down aircraft steps as he arrives at Kermanshah near the areas worst hit by the earthquake..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This is not the first time the government in Tehran has gotten stuck responding to a natural disaster such as the earthquake that took hundreds of lives in western Iran on November 12.
As someone born after the Islamic Revolution, I can’t remember a natural disaster that didn’t cripple the government. Somehow, all the natural disasters end up being handled by the blankets, tents and food collected by the people.
And even there, the government hinders rather than aids: in the Bam earthquake of 2003 the international community sent $11.9 million in aid but the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) received only $1.9m. from the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
In Iran, the main cause of the skyrocketing death tolls is never the natural disasters themselves but the government’s mishandling of the situation and the lack of emergency relief.
Let’s be clear: Iran is not a poor country unable to provide relief. But of course it is about money.
To reduce the casualties caused by natural disasters, there are certain steps to be taken, both before and after disaster strikes.
Here are some of those steps:
The Education Ministry and the national media must play a major role in preparing citizens to be of more assistance to the first responders on the ground, such as medical teams.
The Interior Ministry can set aside funds for a goods reserve, for use in the first hours after the occurrence of the disaster.
The Transportation Ministry can train personnel to respond in such situations immediately and efficiently. Even military personnel can be useful only if they have received proper training.
All the above require money. Too much, some will argue – but is it truly impossible for Tehran to manage?
Since the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran has given millions of dollars in aid to terrorist organizations. For years, Iran had been giving an estimated $200m. a year to Hezbollah – and this amount was boosted to $800m. after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed with the US. Plus, Tehran has been giving up to $60m. a year to Hamas even though it refused to participate in the Syrian civil war as part of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alliance.
This is all money that could have been used to save innocent lives inside Iran rather than taking innocent lives in the region.The author has worked as human rights observer and journalist in Colombia, Iraq and Greece. In the past three years he has been working with refugees in Greece. Born in Iranian Kurdistan, he was exiled and now lives in Norway. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or email him at [email protected]