When two earthquakes hit Iran’s northwest last week, independent relief groups called for aid and contributions began to pour in. But the watchful Iranian government quickly stepped in, mobilizing its mighty Revolutionary Guards to take care of relief operations and suppress private assistance groups.
The Revolutionary Guards, in fear of potential unrest, were deployed to coordinate relief operations and to crackdown on private donors and relief groups as well, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Private individuals and unofficial NGOs organized aid through social media platforms and set up establishing bank accounts for funds towards air relief. However, following a flow of donations the privately owned accounts had their accounts closed.
Volunteers say their cars have been stopped and searched as they drove to the quake affected areas and turned back after food and aid was confiscated, according to the Telegraph’s report.
A pro-reformist website, Kalemeh, accused some guards of “rough behavior” and distributing aid improperly. It also said cameramen had been banned from taking pictures and shooting film reported by The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, visited villages in quake-hit areas, where he reassured survivors and heard their criticism of relief operations, his website reported by AFP.
Several Iranian media outlets had criticized state television for not giving more attention to the disaster.
Khamenei’s website reported that during the supreme leader’s visit, “residents expressed satisfaction with the services extended by the officials, (but) had complaints about the distribution of aid.”
Khamenei was quoted as stressing “the great extent of efforts” but also urging a “more accurate supervision” in the distribution of goods.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government has announced a fund to quickly rebuild homes in the mountainous region before the onset of the harsh winter.
A state grant of nearly $2,000 per family has been approved, along with low-interest loans for up to $6,000.