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On Iranian Diaspora's Response to the Quake

By Karen Smith-Kreuger, North Carolina

The Iranian government has faced severe criticism for its questionable response to the earthquake in Northwestern Iran. The aid has been too slow, disorganized and perhaps most importantly, the government in Tehran has been unclear as to whether it would accept or reject foreign aid, with different officials giving different responses.

The response from the outside, the Iranian diaspora, has also suffered from inconsistencies and at times the spreading of false information. Part of it can be ascribed to the general confusion and the inevitable mistakes that will be committed when seeking to find clarity in a chaotic situation. But some of it reflects the lack of maturity and professionalism of Diaspora organizations.

In Canada, the International Center for Human Rights in Iran (ICHR) made an appeal 24h after the earthquake that donations to the earthquake victims could be sent to them. When asked by the BBC how they planned to get the donations to Iran mindful of the existing financial sanctions, ICHRI Executive Director Ardeshir Zarezadeh said that they had not figured that out yet. Other Board members of the organization did not even know that their Human Rights organization had issued an appeal and entered the realm of relief work.

In the United States, the American Iranian Council headed by Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi issued a similar appeal. AIC is a non-profit organization who is most famous for its efforts to act as a conduit between the governments of Iran and the US. It has no experience in relief work and had at the time of the appeal no license to transfer money to the earthquake victims.

There is also a lot of misinformation in Iranian Diaspora social media about what organizations are actually are sending money to the victims. Some of the inaccurate information has been disseminated by Iranian organizations without doing proper research. For instance, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans stated in their newsletter August 16 that the American Red Cross accepts donations for the Iranian earthquake victims. The American Red Cross denies this and has insisted that it is not involved in the relief efforts in Iran. PAAIA is yet to issue a correction to its website. Crucial aid to the earthquake victims is being misdirected by PAAIA's lack of professionalism. 

Navigating the bewildering landscape of lack of information (and at times misinformation) has been difficult for the average Iranian seeking to help his/her people in Iran. Ultimately, this only adds to the difficulties of the earthquake victims themselves.

The Iranian Diaspora should press both the Iranian government and Iranian exiled organizations to use this crucial moment to increase their professionalism and take service for the people more seriously. If this is the questionable conduct of some Iranian Diaspora organizations in face of an earthquake, what will it not be if we face the much greater disaster of war?

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