Iran has declared a day of mourning for the victims of Sunday’s earthquake. The aftermath of the tragedy is of course still unfolding. More than 400 people have died, thousands are injured, and many more thousands slept out in the cold last night, their homes having been destroyed or become too dangerous to stay in. As we continue to follow the rescue efforts, we also note with horror the reasons behind the high death toll — chiefly, corruption and lack of education. Regulations for buildings are not strict enough in Iran, unlike countries like Chile, which have tough guidelines to which contractors must abide. In Iran, corrupt officials benefit from the poorly regulated building industry. Lack of education means that the public are not in a position to hold the industry, or the government officials who oversee it, to account. This must change or Iranian society will continue to be devastated by such natural disasters. The question is not whether such a quake might strike again, but when, so now’s the time to act.
It’s been impossible to listen, watch or read the news over the last few days without coming across the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and revisiting how his recent blunder continues to impact on the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It’s been incredible to see her story so high up in the news and shared by so many. Though we all worry about what Johnson might say when he goes to Tehran -- a trip that was not necessarily on the cards a couple of weeks ago — essentially it’s a good thing that the UK government is finally stepping up to protect its citizen, and that the mainstream media is focused on Nazanin and the violation of her rights.
Hopes for her release come alongside fresh concerns for Nazanin’s health. Unfortunately, though, medical neglect is a common experience for prisoners of conscience in Iran. There was widespread shock when photographs of journalist Alireza Rajaei were published in September, showing him in a hospital bed after undergoing 14 hours of surgery, and his story is just one of many. This week, Aida Ghajar takes a look at the long history of prisoners being denied medication and proper consultation and treatment. It’s important we continue to raise these cases, both current and historical, so that people both inside and out of Iran know just what the Islamic Republic continues to do to its own people. Again, education and sharing this knowledge is key, and the hope is that as more people become informed, much-needed change will become possible.
As always, please let me know if you have any comments.
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