Iran earthquake:Khamenei accused of ignoring deadly earthquakes
By Robert Tait
1:54PM BST 13 Aug 2012
As the official death toll climbed to 306, President Mahmoud Ahmadienjad’s government was criticised for a chaotic response to Saturday’s quakes in East Azerbaijan province, with tents intended for survivors allegedly ending up in the hands of “profiteers”.
Masoud Pezeshkian, MP for the province’s main city, Tabriz, said local people had been forced to ferry victims to hospital in their own cars and claimed many of the 8,000 tents sent out by the Red Crescent had not reached the affected areas.
Emergency calls for blood donors were first communicated on social media after the state broadcaster, IRIB, provided only minimal accounts on Saturday evening while broadcasting a comedy programme and coverage of the Olympic Games.
The 6.3 and 6.4 quakes destroyed a dozen villages and left an estimated 16,000 people homeless after they struck within minutes of each other.
Two of the most influential conservative newspapers, Keyhan and Resalat ignored the event on the following day’s front pages. Keyhan, considered to represent the views of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, instead gave prominence to a report about western “plots” in Syria.
Ayatollah Khamenei did not issue condolences until Sunday night, after several foreign leaders had sent messages of sympathy and offered help. He had earlier given a speech to academics focusing on the “Islamic awakening” – the Iranian authorities’ preferred term for the Arab Spring – while making no mention of the earthquakes. Ayatollah Khamenei’s condolence note appeared on his website 25 minutes after a message of congratulations to Iran’s Olympic athletes had been posted.
While no one has dared to tackle the supreme leader directly, a barrage of criticism has been aimed at IRIB and Mr Ahmadinejad for travelling to Saudi Arabia rather than visiting the stricken zones.
One MP, Nader Ghazipour, said the response amounted to discrimination against Iran’s Azeri-speaking minority, many of whom live in East Azerbaijan and neighbouring provinces. “Aren’t our Azeri lives precious?” he asked parliament.
Asr-Iran, a conservative website, under the headline, “Mr Ahmadinejad, where have you gone?” questioned why the president had gone to Saudi Arabia nearly two full days before the scheduled opening of a conference on Syria.