September 18, 2017

An Invterview with Dr. Haydar Akbari (NCPDA Chairman) and Mr. Nasser Rashidi

Voice of America Interview

This interview was originally conducted in Persian. It has been translated to English by NCPDA volunteers

Interview was primarily in Farsi, and was later translated to English by NCPDA’s volunteers.

The following interview was performed at 9:30pm Sat Dec. 27th and was broadcast live for one hour. The sound
byte of this interview is available on VOA’s website. This was a live program with contact from citizens in Iran and
neighboring countries as well as Europe in which they asked questions. For this interview we invited Dr. Heydar
Akbari,Chairman, and Mr. Nasser Rashidi, Exectutive Director of the NCPDA (National Coalition of Pro-
Democracy Advocates). The original schedule was to talk about human rights in Iran for one hour. It was changed
due to the earthquake issue, and questions and answers from our fellow citizens in Iran. The agenda will be in three
different sessions about the weapons of mass destruction that the Iranian regime is developing and will follow later.

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Parichehr Farzaam:
Please let me to start with Dr. Akbari, a physician and a human rights activist. Thank you for
joining us. I would like you to brief us as a physician on your updates from Bam.

Dr. Akbari:
I would like to take this opportunity to send my condolences from my organization as well as
myself to the survivors in Iran. According to my last contact that I had with my fellow physicians
in Iran, particularly in Kerman I have been updated about the situation. Two hospitals in Bam
have been completely destroyed and they have had to transfer the wounded to the neighboring
towns like Cirjan and Jiroft. It was about 11 am that I was informed about the earthquake in Iran
from my contacts. It was almost 6 hours after the incident; there was no inflow of help, not at all.
After several more hours passing, the people finally decided to form a task force themselves in
order to look for survivors. The number of casualties was getting higher as time was passing by.
The people from neighboring towns and cities rushed to give aid.

VOA
Mr. Rashidi, my question from you as a human rights activist is: Do you have an agenda for
direct help to send to the survivors?

Nasser Rashidi:
Yes, Ms. Farzaam, I also would like to send my condolences on behalf of myself as well as my
organization and the other Iranian committees in the United States to our fellow citizens that have
lost their loved ones and we are concerned for the welfare of the survivors. We are asking our
fellow citizens in Iran to offer their services to the victims and their families. The same way that
our national hero, Takhti, that personally showed up at the scene in the earthquakes of Gheer and
Karzin and physically rolled up his sleeves and helped. We are asking our fellow citizens in Iran
to see him as a model and to do the same. Since yesterday when we were informed, we have
established extensive contact with all the International, Iranian, and American Human Rights
Advocate Organizations. We have consulted with these organizations for ways that help and
assistance can be funneled directly to the survivors. Unfortunately, according to the past
experience, our people should not wait for the Iranian government to step in to help because they
are thieves. Despite the fact that these clerics have possibilities and resources, they never
attempted to be a source of help to the Iranian people during times of crisis. Also, in the past
during similar situations, they have created obstacles for the people who actively offered help.
During my conversation with Dr. Akbari we learned that a considerable number of physicians
that were voluntarily willing to go to Iran and help in the past, in similar situations, were arrested
before they arrived and they had been detained in Evin Prison.

VOA
Mr. Rashidi, essentially, what you are saying is that there is a relationship between yesterday’s
damage and the Iranian Regime, but that was only a natural disaster, please explain that?

Rashidi:
Yes, that is correct, it was a natural disaster. But the point is any country in the world based on
their resources and possibilities, particularly a country like Iran that is earthquake prone, is
normally equipped with some type of resistance protection to avoid damage. It is perfectly
understandable that this is only a natural disaster but you have to pay attention to this point that
Helal Ahmar in Iran is equipped with only two helicopters. It clearly means that the primary
source of aid in the disaster has only two helicopters and one of them is not functioning. I am
telling you this from the Iranian Regime’s news sources. Ms. Farzaam, we are talking about a
country that has spent billions of dollars developing nuclear weapons, our question is where is
this money coming from? During the 1990 earthquakes we lost 30,000 of our fellow citizens,
what has the Iranian Regime learned and what kind of preparation took place in light of that
tragedy and knowing that Iran is earthquake prone? Absolutely nothing. Who is responsible for
this great loss? Ms. Farzaam, if you look at the time of the earthquake, you will see that it was
5:28am. At 12noon, the Regime’s broadcasting disseminated reports indicating the situation as
not serious. At 9pm, the Regime’s broadcasting announced that a taskforce meeting was held
with President Khatami. As you see 15 hours after the earthquake, the Iranian President calls for
an emergency meeting! At 12:19am none of the government top officials were present at the
scene. At 7am the next day, the Associated Press reported that the workers were working without
tools except their hands. Only a few bulldozers were blind fully moving the debris killing any
possible survivors. Someone in the Interior Minister’s press conference shouted that “since
yesterday I was seeking help to find my family and I have had no response yet.”
VOA

Let me announce VOA’s phone number for direct contact in case anyone in our audience in Iran
or around the world would like to contact us and ask questions. (202) 619-7925
Mr. Akbari, based on statements that Mr. Rashidi made, the magnitude of the damage is so
extensive that for the first time the Iranian Regime has asked for international assistance.
According to Le Monde Newspaper, The Iranian Regime will accept aid from any government
other than Israel, what is your opinion about that?

Akbari:
Well, according to our past experience, the Iranian Regime considers these international forms of
assistance as limited and politically motivated, and having nothing to do with the loss of lives that
has taken place. It is customary that in these kinds of situations help is acceptable from those
who are willing and who respect humanity. But as Mr. Rashidi said, in a country that has spent
billions of dollars developing weapons of mass destruction, including the atomic bomb, the
corruption and bribery among officials is ubiquitous.

Caller Alireza from Ilam:
Good to speak with you and I give my condolences. Dr. Akbari we want you to give the word of
this fact that Mr. Khatami responded to the crises 15 hours later, to everyone. I am very
emotional and I cannot stop crying since yesterday. Please let everyone know and thank you.

VOA:
A lot of help and assistance have been offered from the International Community for example, the
French President has sent his condolences to the Iranian President and Mr. Bush and the First
Lady have as well. But we have not heard any of this from Iranian Broadcasting. Do you have
any point to mention about this?

Akbari:
I would like to mention that regarding this case, the International Organizations have expressed
their desire to help but, due to the fact that the Iranian Regime considers these aids as politically
motivated they will not let these countries aid materialize. As we have experienced in the past, in
city of Zandjan and province of Gilan, when the Iranian Regime received help from the
International Organizations they either distributed a small portion of it among the victims under
their own names or they simply did not distribute the aid and held the funds for themselves. The
opposition published some documents that the aids coming in supplies have been sold in the
black market.

VOA
We have another call from London, Mr. Kourosh. Mr. Kouroush, go ahead.

Kourosh from London:
I would like to confirm Dr. Akbari’s statements and also mention that the Iranians in Bam have
not received any help. We would like to send some aid from outside, but when we see that the
Regime takes the money that we send for themselves and deposit it in their own personal account
in foreign banks, we consider this a humiliation –what can we do?

VOA
I would let Dr. Akbari and Mr. Rashidi to answer your question and inform you of how to send
assistance that the victims can receive.

Rashidi:
I have strong sympathy with you Mr. Kourosh, and we 100 per cent agree with you that no help
that comes from the International Community goes to the victims and it has been experienced
many times before. We are demanding the UN’s direct supervision on the distribution of these
helps and assistances. It could delay the distribution of the aid a little, but at lest we can be sure
that the victims will receive assistance, and another channel is through their own relatives who
are willing to help.

VOA
We have another call from Tehran, Mohammad who is making the same suggestion. Mr. Rashidi
you suggested the UN’s supervision: what has your organization done in order to make this
assistance possible?

Rashidi:
We have established an extensive contact with UN officials as well as the other Human Rights
Advocate Organizations. We will converse on this issue. Another point that I would like to
mention here again is we acknowledge that it was only a natural disaster but the primary disaster
is the Iranian Regime. Now we are talking about an estimated 30,000 people dead. What kind of
reaction are you expecting to see from a regime that has executed more than 120,000 of its own
citizens and numerous cases of amputation, stoning, eye gouging, and so on? How can we expect
from such a regime to help their people? Of course it will never happen.

VOA
Another call from Tehran.
Hello. I would like to inform you Mr. Rashidi that they broadcasted all kinds of news from all
over the world, but they did not mention anything of this earthquake until the foreign news
sources broadcasted the news, then and only then the Iranian news source started to talk about the
earthquake.

Another call form Iran:
Mr. Rafsanjani has spent the people’s money on huge establishments in Bam and the Regime
does not let anyone visit these sites to view how the government is spending our money on
racetracks, and tennis courts, and automotive factories. They have guards stationed at that
establishment and do not allow anyone to go there.

Another call from Iran:
I just wanted to inform everybody that the earthquake happened early in the morning but in the
Friday Prayers, at noon, none of the clerics mentioned the news to the congregation.

Dr. Akbari:
As you see, all of our fellow citizens are confirming that these aids will not be channeled to the
victims. And as Mr. Rashidi mentioned, we strongly demand that all international help to be sent
through the International Red Cross.

VOA
Another call from Kuwait:
I would like to send my condolences on behalf of all the Bakhtiaris that are residing in Kuwait.

Rashidi:
I am glad to hear form our fellow citizen’s form all over the world and I would like to add that, at
this moment 35 hours after the incident, there has not been any structural help from the regime.
Instead the regime has sent the guards in order to oppress the people and stop any kind of
uprising. This regime knows very well that the Iranian people are ready and waiting for any
opportunity to rise against this horrible regime. Thank You VOA for the opportunity to discuss
this grave situation and not to wait for the Regime who is unresponsive.

VOA
We thank you. Talking about human rights violations will continue to be discussed in our
upcoming programs.