by Amir Basiri
The Washington Examiner, November 20, 2017 - The devastating earthquake that struck the western regions of Iran last week has triggered a nationwide crisis, leaving hundreds dead and thousands wounded.
But while the victims are still reeling in aftermath of the disaster, apologists of the Tehran regime abroad, who have no regard for their plight, are trying to take advantage of the situation to further their political ends. No more than a couple of days following the earthquake, Trita Parsi, the president of National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a well-known lobby for the Iranian regime, took to the media to claim U.S. sanctions are hindering donations and humanitarian aid from reaching the affected people.
'President Trump has not shown any human side that would extend itself to a country and the people like Iran,' Parsi said in an interview with Al Jazeera. 'If sanctions are really hindering emergency aid after an earthquake, I think that really shows the problematic aspect of the sanctions.”
What’s missing in Parsi’s arguments, which he has repeated in similar interviews with other outlets, is how the Iranian regime has already made a debacle of the disaster relief and is preventing aid that already exists in the country from reaching the victims.
According to reports by state-run media, the disaster has left more than 500 people dead and 8,000 wounded. One Iranian member of parliament from the Kermanshah, the province that was hit hardest by the earthquake, estimated the casualties to be well above 1,000. The Iranian regime’s response, not nearly as efficient as its speed and efficacy in cracking down on social protests, leaves a lot to desire. The same MP said that only 10 percent of the struck regions have received minimal help.
Since the signing of the nuclear accord in 2015, the Iranian regime has received an infusion of cash and economic incentives. But none of it has trickled down to the Iranian people, and it has been mostly spent on fueling the regime’s intervention in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Therefore, when disasters such as last week’s earthquake strike, the people are left on their own.
Images and video obtained from the affected regions show victims of the quake left to spend the night in the freezing cold without tents and blankets. In a video posted on Facebook, a father whose 16-year-old son was crushed under the rubble of their home accuses the government of sending aid to neighboring Arab countries but neglecting the needs of its own people. Social media networks are filled with similar videos and posts that express outrage at the regime for abandoning the people in times of need.
The Revolutionary Guards, the notorious military body that takes orders from Iran’s supreme leader, were dispatched to the struck areas ostensibly to help in relief efforts. But their effective mission was to prevent protests against the regime’s poor handling of the situation.
According to reports obtained by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, people from around Iran have rushed to help the victims. But government forces are preventing the arrival of public aid to affectd areas, and are taking possession of individual donations and goods under the excuse that it should be distributed through state-controlled institutions.
Meanwhile, according to NCRI , state security forces and those same institutions have stolen a considerable amount of these donations. “If the regime did not steal people's aid and did not obstruct their distribution, the earthquake problem would be solved,” a statement by the NCRI reads.
On the second day after the earthquake, the regime officially declared the rescue operation had ended, declared the situation as normal, and advised people to return to their homes and avoid gatherings and congestions. Meanwhile, the Iranian people continue to search the ruins of their homes for the missing, sometimes with nothing more than their bare hands.
Of course, none of this matters to Parsi and his ilk, whose sole purpose is to justify the crimes of the Iranian regime. In this regard, they are shamelessly trying to use the people’s suffering as an excuse to push for the lifting of pressure from a regime whose only role was exacerbating an already bad situation.
Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.