Four days after a powerful earthquake devastated the northwestern Iranian city of Khoy and surround villages, the affected populations and volunteer groups say the situation remains critical due to the Islamic Republic’s mismanagement of relief efforts.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the office building of the city’s governor on January 31 to demand emergency relief items such as tents, blankets and warm food, social media footages show.
The protesters rejected claims made by Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi that the authorities were "setting up numerous camps to accommodate the earthquake-affected people” and that tents were being “distributed widely."
"All government officials are lying. Here is the situation of the people in my city: we’ve received no aid," a man could be heard saying in a video shot outside the governor's office.
"The governor and the mayor lie. Bread, food, heating equipment and tents are difficult to find and many Khoy residents are in very bad situation," he continued.
Meanwhile, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber reprimanded the local authorities for sending “false reports to the government about the relief process."
دروغ میگویند، در چشم مردم نگاه میکنند و دروغ میگویند.— S İ Z İ F / #زلزله_خوی (@Sisyphus198083) January 31, 2023
معاون رئیس دولت در پاسخ به مطالبه #کانکس میگوید: کانکس بدرد نمیخورد و مردم در سرپلذهاب استفاده نکردند!!
نه آقاجان! آنچه به درد نمیخورد مسئولان حقیری هستند که چون ارادهای برای حل مشکل ندارند، دروغ میگویند.#زلزله_خوی pic.twitter.com/jssXnJepWN
Addressing provincial officials on January 31, Mokhber said, "If you had told us, we would have provided this relief aid from somewhere else. But you keep reporting that the situation is good and that you helped everyone."
Amid an increasingly tense situation in Khoy, local sources say members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were patrolling the streets overnight.
They say extra security forces have been deployed to protect the governor's office rather than responding to the people's demands.
Special forces have already used violent means to disperse angry crowds in Khoy and other areas.
Videos shared on social media show a water cannon being used to disperse people who had gathered in front of the regional administration building on January 29.
The January 28 earthquake killed at least three people, injured more than 1,000 and forced hundreds to seek shelter from freezing winter conditions.
The official IRNA news agency said that over 3,000 houses were damaged.
Khoy, with a population of around 200,000, was particularly affected, but the semi-official Mehr news agency reported that a total of 70 villages in West Azerbaijan province were also hit.