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Many Iranians don't trust government with their donations for quake victims.

A lot of people, disgusted with reports of government corruption and inefficiency, are refusing to contribute to state agencies for earthquake relief and instead are contributing to private efforts, some of them organized by celebrities like soccer legend Ali Daei.

The government doesn't like that. It is complaining that such private efforts are clogging roads and actually slowing down the relief effort.

The government complaints are not completely without merit. While Daei has rented large trucks to carry supplies and hired people in Kermanshah province to distribute supplies, much material is being brought by well-meaning families who load up the family car with blankets and canned goods, and then drive to Kermanshah on a hunt for the needy.

Daei--the most popular soccer player in Iranian history --asked the public to send their non-monetary donations to him so he could make sure they were delivered to the victims. Later, Daei posted a bank account number and said that because public support had been massive, he would also accept monetary donations.

Sadeq Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University, took a similar approach. Zibakalam--who has a large presence in the Iranian media and on social networks--posted an account number on Instagram and said he knew some reliable people in Kermanshah who could make sure the aid was delivered to the victims.

In a Facebook post November 21, Zibakalam said he had collected 23 billion rials ($560,000) in donations up until then. He also added that the figure was rising and noted that because the donations had exceeded his expectations, he would personally travel to Kermanshah to assess the situation at hand.

Daei posted a video message on Instagram that same day and said, "[To this point], 15 trucks and trailers carrying nonmonetary aid have been dispatched to the victims. Also, 62.8 billion rials [$1.5 million] have been donated."

This doesn't mean no one trusts government organizations. The Red Crescent Society tweeted on November 20 that it had received so far about 350 billion rials ($8.5 million) in contributions from the public.

The Washington-based website Al-Monitor commented, "The huge number of people that had opted to personally help the victims resulted in the aid not always being distributed in a logical, just and coordinated manner."

Fahimeh Hassanmiri, a journalist covering social affairs who traveled to Kermanshah to report on the situation firsthand, told Al-Monitor, "In some instances, you could see a lack of coordination in assisting the victims. Those villages that received more media coverage also got much more aid than needed, while there were shortages of tents and blankets in other villages.

"I also had a chance to see the Red Crescent in action and saw their management and organization in helping the victims. However, the persistence of people in personally sending donations through trusted figures or those they knew in the region not only created difficulties in aid distribution but also caused massive traffic jams on the roads leading to these villages. And what normally was a half-hour drive took several hours because of the traffic."

On November 17, a few days after the November 12 quake, Kermanshah's deputy police chief urged the public to refrain from driving to the area and adding to congestion.

There was also a fear of corruption by people collecting funds privately. The Red Crescent tweeted on November 19, "Over 2,000 bank accounts have been introduced on Telegram alone for collecting donations for the earthquake victims. How can there be any oversight in such a situation?"

Al-Monitor asked, "Why do so many Iranians prefer to make their donations through private organizations or even individuals instead of government-affiliated organizations?"

Leila Ashouri, a sociology lecturer at Tehran University, responded to Al-Monitor: "News stories of billion to man embezzlements in some government organizations have worried many people, and so they prefer to transfer their donations to the victims via figures they trust."

Caption: RECOVERY--This young lady seems to enjoy living in a tent and cooking outdoors with assorted pots and kitchenware her family was able to recover from their destroyed home.

Caption: HELPFUL--This is a family of Ahvazis who drove to Kermanshah with restaurant gear and are now cooking meals for those made homeless by the earthquake.

Caption: DAEI ... collecting aid

Caption: ZIBAKALAM ... collecting aid

Caption: CLEANUP TIME--Now comes the hard time for quake victims--removing the rubble. There can be no new construction until the mess left by the quake is picked up and carted away. Some big equipment has been moved into the region (above) and is busily tearing down damaged buildings and carting away the rubble. But many families are still recovering their valuables (below) from their homes before those homes are reduced to rubble.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Dec 1, 2017
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