Iran News ...


My trip to Iran's quake stricken Bam in May

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

This is my personal impression from my recent trip to Bam, the third since the quake.

There was still a haze in the air everywhere we went, like a touch of dust, blocking the view. Generally speaking small scale works have been done or are under way, but nowhere big enough or fast enough. There were big queues in front of government offices during the working days.

Life in Bam is coming back; one sees many stands in the various squares of the city that sell different things from ice to meat and vegetables. We saw many damaged houses being demolished so that some sort of reconstruction can be started. I talked to Mr. Touskie from Relief International who are involved with many projects in Bam, including re-housing, water sanitation, and setting up clinics among others. In housing sector of their work, they are setting up foundations and bases of over 400 homes and then individuals in that area, with grants from the Bonyad Maskkan- Housing Foundation, are to do the rest of the work themselves. This way, they get involved in their own well being, learn a trade and stop feeling idle all day long.

We saw one building, near Bimarestan Street, Almass that had remained completely intact and when my friends had talked to the engineer who had built it, he had said that it was not only matter of luck that it had remained standing, but rather good engineering and good materials.

Life in few of the camps in Bam that I visited was really bad; many complained, but when I asked the men what they did to help themselves about it, it seemed that I met blank faces. In the case of women, it was different. They deal with realities of daily lives but do they do what needs to be done. Many complained that they have to carry water and do the hard work like moving things while men stand there laugh at them. They also have to get the goods which officials would grant families via a booklet of coupon; everybody is dreaming of a new connex if not a house.

We went by taxi to Camp Sina. On the way in the daylight I saw many housing units being built there, mostly half done. We learned that delivery of drinking water had recently been stopped; I learned later from city officials that this had been applied to the entire city and the reason was the staggering cost of the operation. People were expected to provide their own drinking water, from the monthly payments they received from local authorities. Although running water for washing and general hygiene was provided, like electricity in the city. Everybody, in the camp, kept saying that 'responsible officials' must come to see to their needs. When I asked what they have done for themselves they informed me that recently a shoura - camp council, was formed consisting of five people, three of whom were women, but they had not done much yet and were supposed to go and talk to the authorities soon.

We went to Chakavak Group tent at Sina Camp. This is an NGO from Kerman, which helps families in this camp and is run by a Mrs Akhalghi. Their real job is music therapy, but I guess that would be too much a luxury these days, and they are too busy doing survival assistance work. One of their staff, a Mrs. Kayvandi who ran a shop before the quake and also lives in this camp told us about how families may obtain the 'daftar-che'- book of coupons- which were the same as if you wanted to get a new birth certificate, including a receipt of local amenities, water, electricity bill, ownership documents, if you were registered in one of the governmental or municipality salary payment lists. (Please see pictures) The page No. 20 of this booklet is for a place to live-Housing.

I visited a clean yet humble clinic in the camp which was donated and operated by Relief International. I talked to Dr. Namak-Shenass who told me they are very busy and they treat people with colds, diarrhea & dysentery and allergy as well as snake and scorpion bites mostly. More serious cases would be transferred to one of the Bam or Kerman hospitals. One doctor is at the station all the time (there are a group of 15 in this program, male and female doctors who do a full day shift at the clinic). There are two trained nurses, of whom one of them Ms. Akbari, was the head of new Camp Council. The doctor told me that despite disinfection of the camps and the city there is a serious health issue especially with the weather getting warmer.

There are about six main camps in Bam, and there are smaller sort of private camps, where several members of one large family have gotten together in one of their relations' place, like the Cooling place -saard-khaneh<.i>- or school or factory.

Next we went to Camp Vahdat, where we met many children. What was most impressive here was that people seemed more active and involved. There was a wonderful library-called khaneh khorshide or house of the sun, run by two sisters, both hoping to go to university next year called M/s Bani-Ebrahimi, who told me that they need more books, but especially children's books and books that can be used for University entrance exams, also dictionaries, and self teaching books on different subjects particularly English. Their telephone is (+98) 344 2222 450

We saw the nurseries that are run by for Protecting the Rights of the Child (SPRC) and also have offices there; both were closed, as it was Friday about noon. It felt generally a healthier camp compared to Sina in every respect. Later I found out that sadly at Sina, when people moved there, they dug up and uprooted date trees that are so essential in a place like Bam, depriving them of the shade to say the least.

Next we visited a private camp at Bam Cooling House. Here Women Against Environmental Pollution had set up a tent and sent sewing machines and other materials. There was also a small library at the back of the tent. This was to help women in that area to use their talents and generally empower them to help themselves and get their families back on their feet. The place is managed by Mrs. Fadaiee who was a former dressmaking instructor. They were very friendly. Our small group bought several of their finished work, including home-dress, blouses, skirts and dresses. Please see pictures.

It seems that those who are prepared to help themselves are more likely to have a better and healthier life in comparison to those who just wait for others to help them. Despite the mis-management which I feel is still widespread and lack of cooperation between different organizations, governmental or non governmental, it seems that they are learning the hard way to communicate and exchange and see each other's views and opinions. Also it seemed, to me, that bigger roles have been granted to local organizations and people with the relevant know how and local knowledge.

What inspires one to hope and not lose hope for a better life in Bam are the children here with their big smiles and lovely faces, which no doubt touches any soul. I can only hope that the efforts that are being done in Bam bring it back to real normality very soon.

There are so much that needs to be done and this can only be done not only with government but also with help of many groups that have very specific project and wish to help people of bam to help themselves. Please do not forget people of Bam, their ordinal is not over, please if u can continue to help and assist them with your generosity and kindness.

I work for Women's NGOs & CSOs Coordinating Committee for Restoration of Bam.
You may check our site at:

This is the account address for your donations:
Mrs Shirin Ebadi
Account Number 8080
Bank of Saderat
Assad Abbadi Square Branch (1238)
Tehran / Iran

... Payvand News - 5/28/04 ... --

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