Politics & Policy

Iran Quakes

Devestation, despair--and a touch of hope.

In the midst of death and mayhem in Bam last week, three children were born in the mobile hospitals set up in the outskirts of the ruined city. In spite of the zealous rule of the mullahs, two of the three pregnant women were birthed by male European doctors. The female European doctor who oversaw the delivery of the third woman held the infants up to the camera, after they had been washed and beautifully dressed, and said: “These three will rebuild this city!” The children were the first to be born there after the devastating earthquake of December 25th.

Though many aid workers were turned back, others were allowed to stay. Iranians were becoming angrier by the day as the mullahs arrogantly refused help from countries like Israel. A cab driver in Tehran was heard saying: “What nerve these mullahs have to turn away aid offered by the Israelis…those poor people over there are constantly dealing with those suicide bombers, who are probably financed by the clerics of the Islamic republic of Iran, and yet they are kind enough to offer us their aid and these audacious zealots over here threaten to attack them!”

Though the European aid workers are treated with respect, they also receive a great deal of aloofness. The arrival of a U.S. colonel and his aides in Hercules C130 military transport planes, however, proved to be a raging success. Iranians had gathered in the Kerman airport to greet them with arms full of flowers, shouting, “AMRIKAAYEE…KHOSH AMADEE” (American, you’re welcome). Iranians hugged them and hung on to them as if their “saviors” had come. Departing Americans were met with pleas from the crowd, begging them to stay. One of the American aid workers involved said that she was shocked and deeply moved to receive such a reception.

Khatami and Khamenei’s visits to Bam, however, lasted no more than a scant hour each. Though they were surrounded by “walls” of bodyguards, they could not be shielded from harangues and insults hurled at them. “It is your fault this happened to us,” one woman cried. “You knew that this could happen and you liars never warned us.” The hatred for the regime reached a fever pitch as it became clear that, in fact, all the information about the seismic activities and dangers of the region had been made available to the clerics for years, and they had simply ignored it.

The Iranian National Seismological Center had provided the regime with report after report and data upon data stating that the repopulation of the area could prove to be disastrous. But the mullahs had responded by saying that the 12th Imam, who is “invisible,” would shield the residents of the city from harm!

The 1911 earthquake leveled this ancient city, but it was rebuilt in the ’30’s as a mercantile headquarters for dried goods. But in 1950 and 1966 it suffered two more catastrophic earthquakes. In the 1970’s, when UNESCO declared the ancient landmarks as part of the “heritage of mankind,” building in the area ceased and no further construction licenses were granted.

After the arrival of Khomeini and the Islamic republic, criminal elements appropriated large allotments of land in the region and created shoddy dwellings and markets. The local mullahs also received hefty kickbacks from the issuance of permits for such construction.

This disaster could not have been more damaging for the mullahs. As the February parliamentary elections in Iran draw near, the adamant threat of boycotting the elections looms over their turban-clad heads. The Islamic republic’s refusal to allow Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s humanitarian delegation to visit Iran is yet another sign of the mullahs’ horror over the strengthening ties between the U.S. and the people of Iran. The Bush administration could not have been more politically savvy in offering their generous help to the devastated. This “experiment” did not only prove to the U.S. that the people inside Iran really do value their partnership in instituting a new and secular regime, but it also strengthened any and all ties that were already there.

Geesou Atasheen is the pseudonym for a writer born in Iran.

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