Grave concern: Iran homeless find a ‘resting place’

Local authorities forcibly move the grave dwellers away. (Photo courtesy, Shahrvand)
Updated 29 December 2016
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Grave concern: Iran homeless find a ‘resting place’

TEHRAN: Images of homeless drug addicts living in empty graves just outside the Iranian capital have deeply shocked the public and prompted reactions even from President Hassan Rouhani.
Shahrvand newspaper on Tuesday published the images in a report on the homeless people — about 50 men and women — who dwell in a cemetery in the town of Shahriar, 30 km west of Tehran.
The story and the haunting images of the homeless staring into the camera from inside the unused grave slots spread quickly on social media, where users and celebrities reacted with expressions of alarm and sadness.
Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi aired his frustration in a letter to Rouhani.
“I read the report... and now my entire being is filled with shame and sorrow,” he wrote.
“With this letter, I intend to share my shame with you and all those who have had any responsibility in this country” in the past few decades, he added.
The president responded to Farhadi’s “painful” letter on Wednesday.
“Who can see human beings hurt from social issues who take shelter in graves.... and not feel ashamed?” Rouhani said in a speech about government supervision.
“I have heard about people in western countries who sleep on cardboard under bridges out of poverty or those who sleep in metro stations, but not in graves,” he said.
“To solve these issues we must all unite and leave aside partisan issues and differences and address the basic problems of the country.”
In a follow-up report, Shahrvand said the grave-dwellers were forcibly removed from the cemetery, after promises from authorities to resolve the issue.
Some of those who lived in the graves had done so for 10 years, according to the daily.
“Aren’t we humans? Are we foreigners? We are Iranian too,” an unnamed homeless man told the newspaper in a video.
He asked authorities to build a shelter in the area.
The report is a rare glimpse into the lives of homeless people in the Iranian capital.
In October another report on homeless people occupying in sewage canals on Tehran’s highways triggered similar reactions.
Poverty has worsened in recent years in Iran.
The official unemployment rate has risen to 12.7 percent this year from 10.6 percent in 2014, while joblessness among teens and young adults has reached 27 percent.


UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

Updated 17 December 2018
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UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

  • The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups
  • The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation

JERUSALEM: The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Monday appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians next year, saying that they needed more but had to be realistic in the face of “record-low” funding.
The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups, including UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Humanitarian actors are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action,” he said in a joint statement issued on Monday, ahead of the appeal’s launch in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Although “much more assistance is needed,” McGoldrick said, the plan was “reflecting what we can realistically accomplish in this highly constrained context.”
Over the past year, the United States has slashed its funding to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.
The United States promised $365 million to the agency in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations.
The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
US-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014 and a bid by US President Donald Trump to restart them has so far showed little progress.
Around 77 percent of the funds sought in the 2019 plan would go to Gaza, the appeal organizers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and recurring hostilities.
“The humanitarian context in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is still deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation violations in a time of lack of resources and declining funds because of the politicization of the humanitarian aid,” Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said in the statement.