Last Saturday, August 11, an earthquake hit the West Azerbaijan province of Iran with a magnitude of 6,4 followed 11 minutes later by a powerful aftershock wave of 6,3. The epicenter was located 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Tabriz, the provincial capital.
The villages of Ahar, Varzaghan, and Harees at 20 others closest to the epicenter were decimated. According to the latest official numbers, more than 300 people died, at least 2,600 were injured, and 16,000 are estimated to be left homeless.
It looks like Iran is trying to minimize the gravity of the situation: “However, officials dismissed the idea that the number of fatalities could rise significantly, saying the eventual figure may in fact be lower than current estimates.”
It has been reported that several foreign nations offered assistance to Iran but according to the Interior Minister Mostafa Mohamma Najjar Iran doesn’t need outside help and can manage the situation. The head of Iranian Red Crescent Society also said international aid was not needed
The country’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei expressed his condolences 30 hours after the events which appeared on his website 25 minutes after having posted a message of congratulations to Iran’s Olympic athletes.
Also, the state television did little coverage on the earthquake keeping the current schedule for Saturday evening: the Olympics Games and a comedy program. Moreover, instead of visiting the devastated areas, Mamhoud Amhadinejad went to Saudi Arabia to attend a conference.
This response from the Iranian authorities or lack thereof is a sad reminder and an additional evidence of the discrimination against the Azerbaijani community. It’s hard to imagine that a government would care so little about its people and ignore so blatantly such a situation. Maybe at least this tragic event can help bring some international focus on the discrimination that face the Azerbaijanis in Iran. As Nader Ghazipour (MP of Urmia, West Azerbaijan) asked the Parliament: “Aren’t our Azeri lives precious?”
UPDATE AUGUST 16th: 5 days after the earthquakes, Ayatollah Khameini finally visits the desolated areas. Apparently, Iran is worried by potential unrest and has called the Revolutionary Guards to run the operations, only aided by the Iranian Red Crescent and the state-run Imam Khomeini Relief Committee.
Posted By Caroline Risacher
Posted Aug 14th, 2012