Overwhelming Volunteer Response to Earthquake in Azerbaijan Province
Volunteerism reached high levels in the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Iran. Iranians inside and outside the country formed online communities to organize relief efforts. Weblogina writes [our translation]:
After the unfortunate earthquake in Eastern Azerbaijan during the recent week a flood of information poured into social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Some users tweeted news of the quake from their place of residence and Twitter may have been the first place to publish the news…. soon websites such as Hope for Azerbaijan and Help Tabriz emerged as well. The significant part of the story began when users of such websites managed to collect donations from others. As hard to believe as it may sound, one of these groups collected some five million Tomans only 24 hours after the earthquake.
“Distribute Goods Yourselves.”
New York Times reporter Thomas Erdbrink wrote of the efforts of one group of young people who drove from Tehran to the area of the quake to deliver supplies they collected.
Pouria, an office manager with broad shoulders, said he made a similar trip in 2003 to Bam, a southern city where a powerful earthquake killed 25,000 people, many of them buried in rubble. After the world gave money to help, Pouria said, he saw a lot of it disappear in the wrong pockets.
“Bam was a lesson for me,” Pouria said he had reminded his wife after news of this month’s earthquakes. “We normal people should take the initiative.”
Radio Zamaneh added that students who travelled to the province of Eastern Azerbaijan to deliver collected donations have, on multiple occasions, faced members of the riot police and security forces stationed at the quake sites. They are determined to deliver donations directly because they do not trust government affiliated institutions.
Many artists joined efforts to raise funds and organized trips to Azerbaijan as well, including those associated with the banned motion picture guild Khaneh Cinema. While they were raising funds and volunteering, other artists were meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss their needs. Baztab, a news site believed to be affiliated with former Revolutionary Guard Mohsen Rezaei, criticized those in attendance asking how they could party when people in Azerbaijan suffer. “Now we know your real face and the face of those who went to help [the earthquake victims]…If you are a good artist and your place in the heart of people, you must go to Azerbaijan and not to the party with Ahmadinejad.” Commenters took the writer to task stating that:
Your view is very black and white. How do you know these people? You don’t know anything about their actions or charitable giving.
They have a right to discuss matters important to them, like their salary, their healthcare, their house. You don’t know anything about these people and you’re putting them in a corner.
Others supported the article, thanking them for their insight. One wrote:
Wow! Wow! That’s what I wanted to say too.
This is Our Difference
The Facebook group: “I won’t participate in your election” commented: “We who are accused of having ‘bad hejab’ wanted to give blood to the people of Azerbaijan, but the morals police harassed us.” See the complete photo report here.
Many organizations that have come under pressure in the past few years have reactivated their networks in order to respond to the quake. This has caused consternation in pro-government circles. Roozonline quotes an article in Kayhan, a pro-government newspaper affiliated with the Supreme Leader: “The event (i.e., Saturday’s earthquakes) has provided the disheveled opposition groups a good excuse to reorganize and re-energize themselves.”
At Tehran Bureau D.H. writes:
Among government supporters, many believe there was no delay at all in the state’s response to the disaster. The conservative Resalat newspaper declared that anyone speaking to the contrary is beating the enemy drum. Reporters who fabricate such rumors are not journalists, Resalat asserted, but vicious “news peddlers.” Some conservative bloggers have written that all “rumors” regarding the state’s indifference toward the impacted region should be laid to rest after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s visit there.