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Iran: outrage at official response to earthquake compared with rapid aid for Syria

February 13, 2023 at 3:12 pm

Search and rescue efforts continue following 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes centered in Turkiye’s Kahramanmaras, in Salqin district of Idlib, Syria on February 09, 2023. [Muhammed Said – Anadolu Agency]

Iranians have expressed anger at their government over its poor response to earthquake victims within Iran in comparison with the rapid response to last week’s earthquake in Syria. Some have called it “double standards”.

According to Iranian journalists, activists and citizens on social media, the Iranian government’s response to the earthquake in the north-west of the country on 28 January was slow and insufficient. Affected citizens and victims were left without aid and shelter for days, and some are still without any help of any kind.

Following last week’s earthquake in south-east Turkiye and north-west Syria, however, Iran responded within 24 hours, with an aircraft carrying 45 tons of food, medicine and emergency aid sent to Damascus.

The earthquake near Iran’s north-west city of Khoy was 5.9 magnitude with multiple aftershocks. It killed at least three people and injured over 800, causing structural damage and the destruction of many homes in the city and its surroundings.

Although it was smaller in its scale, magnitude and damage compared with that in Turkiye and Syria – a quake of 7.8 and a death toll so far of more than 36,000, with tens of thousands injured – it still had a significant impact in that region of Iran. More than 40,000 Iranians are no longer able to live in their homes.

READ: Between a dictator and a failed UN, post-earthquake Syria resembles its revolution: isolated and abandoned

Pictures circulated on social media and even official media outlets showed people in Khoy and its surrounding areas living in cold, snow-covered streets without any shelter days after the earthquake last month.

Furthermore, the Iranian authorities then cracked down on those protesting at the poor government response, dispersing them with water cannon. Instead of aid and assistance, critics mocked, the government was sending riot police.

Iranian journalist Amir Dadashi tweeted: “Today, humanitarian aid from the Islamic Republic arrived in Syria by truck and plane… Why was the share of earthquake victims in Khoy anti-riot [police] vehicles?”

Even Iranian officials seemed to be aware of the lack of government response to earthquake victims at the time. A video of the ruins of Khoy showed Iran’s Vice President Mohammad Mokhber complaining to and interrogating the country’s Red Crescent Society on the matter.

“Why are you reporting to us that the situation… is good and that everything has been taken care of?” Mokhber asked. “People say they sleep in the cold, then you say we distributed tents. According to your report, we thought the situation was good. A few days have passed since the earthquake and some have no bread, no water and no tents.”

READ: Germany offers temporary visas to Syrians, Turks affected by earthquake