Despite having the funds, Tehran denies relief to flood victims
Massive flood damage
Since mid-March, flash floods have hit 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces, forcing mass evacuations, ravaging infrastructures, and inflicting heavy losses on the agricultural sector.
Citing the European Commission, the United Nations estimated that at least 12 million citizens across Iran have been affected by the recent devastating floods.
The European Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM) says the incident has been the worst natural disaster happening in Iran in the past 15 years, affecting 2,000 cities and town in 31 provinces.
ReliefWeb, the specialized digital service of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says two million people are in need of humanitarian aid and over half a million people have been displaced from their places of residence.
According to official reports 89,000 homes have been demolished or severely damaged with more than 220,000 people being forced into emergency shelters.
“Twenty-five provinces and more than 4,400 villages across the country were affected by the floods,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli told the parliament, according to the official IRNA news agency.
He said the damages amount to between 300 and 350 trillion rials – between $2.2 and $2.6bn at the free market rate.
Transport Minister Mohammad Eslami meanwhile told government officials that “725 bridges have been totally destroyed.”
“More than 14,000 kilometers of roads have been damaged,” he said, according to IRNA.
Early estimates put the agriculture sector’s losses at 47 trillion rials, the head of the Agriculture Ministry’s crisis management, Mohammad Mousavi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Meanwhile, Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade, Reza Rahmani, announced that the industrial sector across the country has suffered damages up to $400 million.
While earlier on April 8, the Minister of Agricultural Crusade (Jihad), Mahmoud Hojjati, had talked about 6.7 trillion dollars damage to farms and agricultural lands, Mohammad Mousavi declared that the loss amounts to 15 trillion rials or $300 million based on the official exchange rate.
Based on Mousavi’s report, 30% of farms and agricultural lands have been totally destroyed, 159 hectares of greenhouses, 1,400 rural livestock farms, 52,000 apiaries, 1,300 fisheries, and 2,000 water pumps have been damaged, and 27,000 livestock died during the floods.
Khamenei rejects special funding to handle the crisis
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has deferred allocating funds from reserves to deal with unprecedented flood damage.
The head of Iran’s Central Bank said April 8 that it will be impossible to deal with the disaster relying merely on the current budget. He said money must be withdrawn from the National Development Fund (NDF), Iran’s sovereign wealth fund which consists largely of income from oil exports.
Khamenei who had initially agreed, issued a letter on Monday April 15 saying that funds from the current budget should be spent first and the NDF funds can be used only as a last resort.
“You are aware that withdrawing from the development fund is only permitted when all other channels of raising funds are exhausted,” Khamenei wrote in response to a letter from the Iranian regime’s president Hassan Rouhani.
What Khamenei meant from “all other channels” was money from the country’s national budget, including construction, bank reserves, and insurance. This means the Iranian people themselves will have to pay for the destruction left behind by the floods. The sources Khamenei is referring to is the money that should be spent on improving living conditions for ordinary Iranians.
The cost of compensation for the destructions from the floods is so high that even the regime officials are expressing concern.
“The government cannot finance the heavy cost of the damage alone,” Gholamreza Tajgardoun, head of the parliamentary commission for budget affairs was cited as saying in the ISNA report on April 6. “There needs to be help from elsewhere. The overall cost of the damage hasn’t been finalized yet, but what’s clear is that the damage is greater than what the annual budget has allowed for.”
Tajgardoun said the government will probably have to dip into the NDF.
Tehran spending abroad while millions are in desperate need of aid
More than a month after the devastating flood crisis, the regime has not taken any effective measures yet to help the people in the affected areas. Several videos published on social media show people speaking of being defenseless in the face of the devastating floods. They stressed that the only relief they had received in such drastic conditions came from ordinary people.
Khuzestan is one of the most prolific plains in Iran and is capable of producing wheat, rice, sugar, dates, and fish for the whole country. Its residents, however, are now engaged in a life and death battle. In Ahwaz, capital of Khuzestan, sewage water has been running throughout the Pardis district, causing alarm over incidence of viral diseases and infections.
Not receiving any state aid, the situation of flood victims is critical.
The people of the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, have been hit by floods and also by grasshoppers which have destroyed their crops. The clerical regime has not yet taken any measures to deal with this situation. Some farmers say in light of the floods and the attack by grasshoppers, they are not going to have any crops for five years.
People have reported that residents of the flood-hit areas in Sistan and Baluchestan are dying.
They do not have clean water and are drinking from the contaminated water and getting ill. They urgently need medicine, water and food.
In a video released on social media, a displaced woman in the city of Shush says, “Government agencies have not given us any help. We don’t even have water and food to eat. The traitorous officials in Ahwaz say you are considered to be in the Shush region and in Shush they say you are part of Ahwaz!”
At present, the only source of relief and aid for the flood victims is the solidarity and assistance from the residents of neighboring provinces and cities.
A woman in Mamoulan, one of the hardest hit areas in Lorestan: “We worked hard to buy our furniture. (Flood) waters have destroyed everything. My son says why should we stay alive when water has taken away and destroyed everything?”
A family in Mamoulan, Lorestan: “Everything’s been razed to the ground. What are they going to do? They bring us a few mineral waters. This is not going to solve anything for the people. All of us had a house… Now, we don’t have even our own clothes, warm clothes. Ladies don’t have any hygiene products.
“They have no shoes. There is no medicine, at all. We have sick people with blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Powdered milk and pampers for babies. 2,000 people used to live in this village. Everyone had built their houses with great difficulties. Now, that the water has subsided, there is the threat of cholera and hepatitis. We need cranes to remove the mud and soil from our houses.…”
A flood-hit girl in the city said, “We have not received any assistance, so far. We sleep in cars at night. We have no place to go. We have no tents and did not receive one from the government… We need shelter. It is very cold here.”
It is worth noting that while there is a desperate need for state funds to help the people and provide at least basic necessities, some state-run media reported on April 27 that the clerical regime ruling Iran has paid 1.2 trillion rials (equal to about $30 million) to Iraq and Syria under the pretext of rebuilding shrines in those two countries.
Flood stricken people protest regime inaction
While the regime authorities have been constantly claiming the flood is under control and has been resolved, locals in the flood-hit areas in western and southwestern provinces are complaining of not receiving any adequate state aid.
In early May, a group of people, especially the youth in the city of Shiraz, in Fars Province, south-central Iran, in a symbolic move exhibited a street show to garner support for residents of flood-hit areas. The initiators of this move dressed in muddy clothes to resemble the flood-hit people. They carried simple tools representing the people’s lost livelihoods during the recent floods and walked down the streets. They tried to display the peoples’ anger and hatred toward the corrupt regime officials who have not taken any action to relive their miseries.
A member of Iran’s Majlis (parliament) acknowledged in April that people are increasingly frustrated and are literally cursing regime official wherever they appear in public. Describing this phenomenon to other Majlis members during an open session, Mohammad Reza Sabbaghian said, “We need a closed-door session to be able to say things we cannot talk about in an open session.”
“There are some things that, due to the reactions it could create, cannot be said in public. People are really having problems and wherever they see us, start cursing us and calling us bad names… People are unhappy. They live in poverty. We are paid a few million tomans (referring to the Iranian currency) and we are not happy, let alone the people who get a fraction of this amount!” Sabbaghian added.
Responding to the public outcry over the regime handling the crisis, Iran has resorted to suppressive measures against the people of these areas and preventing popular protests instead of helping flood victims.
In this regard, IRGC Colonel Shahin Hasanwand said 24 people were arrested on charges of “spreading flood rumors” in Khuzestan province.
Furthermore, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC forces have arrested dozens of volunteer relief workers after working in flood-impacted areas in Iran.
On the other hand, the regime has transferred a large number of militants affiliated to the terrorist Quds Force in Iraq, known as Hashd al-Shaabi, to Ahwaz and other parts of Khuzestan to suppress the dissent. Under the pretext of distributing aid to flood victims, they have been stationed in these areas with weapons and armored vehicles.
Moreover, according to the state media, another group of the Quds Force Iraqi mercenaries, known as Nojaba, “with more than 100 light and heavy vehicles, entered the territory of Iran from the Mehran border … ” “all managers of representative offices of Nojaba in Iraq and the Head of the Executive Council of the Movement accompany the caravan.”
On the other hand, the Afghan and Pakistani militants of the Revolutionary Guards (known as Fatemiyoun and Zeinbaiyoun) have been stationed in some flood-affected areas, such as Lorestan.
This is at a time when the Iranian people, including the youth and even children in flood-hit areas of Lorestan and Khuzestan provinces, are coordinating relief efforts and erecting floodgates. All the while the IRGC, which is equipped with heavy machinery and engineering facilities, boats and helicopters, refuses to use these means to help flooded areas.