Iranians face one plague after another, but the real problem is their rulers
First floods and then grasshoppers plagued Iran. The heavy rains came during the Persian New Year celebrations in the third week of March, devastating the nation and casting a shadow over the holidays as parts of many towns and cities were buried by mudslides.
The Ayatollah did not call for international help at that time, instead insisting that the country was capable of coping with the disaster itself. The truth was somewhat different, and many people, particularly in the north and south of the nation, were suffering greatly. Photographs and video clips posted on social media showed old and young, men and women desperate for help and assistance.
In some places the mud reached as high the rooftops. Homes, possessions, businesses and life savings were washed away, leaving many people without shelter, traumatized and facing an uncertain future. Some of the communities that were buried or washed away might never be rebuilt.
When the rain stopped, it was the turn of the Iraqi militias, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, to pour into the southern cities of Ahvaz and Khorramshahr. These “friendly” militants came to clean the roads and help people rebuild their homes. It is not clear why Iranians would need these particular cleaners when there are more than enough people in their own to clean up the mess. What they really needed was emergency supplies of food and other necessities, medical help, and tents and shelters, none of which can be provided by Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, or by the Iraqi state that sponsors them but struggles to feeds its own people and manage its economy.
While Iran’s relationships with the UAE and Saudi Arabia are rocky, they are quite amicable with Qatar and Turkey, for example, so why have those nations not stepped forward to help? Afghanistan and Pakistan, meanwhile, are not wealthy countries but might they not be capable of sending in troops or helicopters when people are screaming for help? Pakistan, after all, has the sixth-largest army in the world in terms of active personnel, and the largest among Muslim countries, with 919,000 troops, 637,000 of whom are on active duty. Would they not be more efficient and helpful than Iraq’s Shiite militia? They would certainly be less controversial.
There is no shortage of hate and anger on social media directed toward Iraq from Iran. For the reasons, one need look no further than the Iraqi militias that marched across the border waving their nation’s flag in an area considered a battleground between Iran and Iraq.
Nothing is more damaging to the people of Iran than the regime itself, which is responsible for the mismanagement that lies at the heart of the country’s problems.
Why can the regime not understand or respect the sensitivity of the people to this kind of activity? Of course the Iraqis claim the motivation was humanitarian, to provide assistance. However, this help is a bit late and in any case could be provided by volunteers without provoking anger and a public backlash. Is the regime afraid of its people?
The rains have stopped but now a plague of desert grasshoppers is threatening the southern provinces of Iran. According to officials, a huge number of the creatures has been carried along by the winds after the heavy rains and floods, making people sick and causing heavy damage to agricultural land and crops. Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the grasshoppers have so far affected 3,000 hectares of farmland, causing huge amounts of damage.
The US sanctions have caused enough difficulties for the Iranians, on top of which they now have to contend with the effects of the floods and the grasshoppers. However, nothing is more damaging to the people of Iran than the regime itself, which is responsible for the mismanagement that lies at the heart of the country’s problems.
These horrible natural disasters and the problems they have caused lay bare the true reasons for the failure of the state to deal with them; the regime cannot hide behind the US sanctions and avoid the blame forever.
• Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008).