December 16, 2017

Voice of America Interview: Earthquake Aftermath and the Human Rights Issue

The participants are Ms. Homa Salehi from the Iranian Community of Southern California-San Diego and Mr. Nasser Rashidi from NCPDA

Broadcast on January 3rd at 9:30pm Tehran Time

Host-Parichehr Farzaam:
I am Parichehr Farzaam and along with my guests and our phone lines are available to our audience today. Last Saturday, the agenda was to discuss the violations of human rights in Iran and as you recall, due to the earthquake issue in Bam, the schedule was postponed to this week’s topic. First, I would like to express my regards and appreciation to those audience members who have sent me as well as my guests, e-mails who have thanked and encouraged us for the dissemination of this much- needed inside information.

Mr. Rashidi, director of operations of the National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates is one of our guests today and he has been involved in the process of the resolution (submitted with the 3rd committee of the UN) initiated by the Canadian government, which was signed by ten other countries including the United States. The resolution concerns the violation of human rights in Iran by the regime. Please allow me to welcome our other guest Ms. Homa Salehi who accepted our invitation to join us in the interview on short notice. Ms. Salehi is one of the activists in the Iranian Community of Southern California. We will continue with our discussion about the resolution that condemns the violation of human rights in Iran. Taking into consideration the recent humanitarian tragedy, an earthquake with the strength of 6.6 killed more than 30,000 people in Bam. It is disheartening to say that when similar situations takes place in different countries, such as the US and Japan, the casualties are 2-3 lives with damages.

The serious question is: why a wealthy country like Iran, with unlimited resources, under it’s soil could not prepare for these kind of situations while this country is considered as an earthquake prone area. The issue that Iran has not utilized advanced technology for the safe construction of buildings is questionable. Combining the earthquake issue as well as the violation of human rights and the resolution that condemned the Iranian regime together, I would like to welcome our guests one more time for their comments. Could you please introduce yourselves to the audience?

Nasser Rashidi:
Thank You Ms. Farzaam. Hello again to our audience, especially to our friends in Iran and my deep condolences to the survivors of the earthquake. We would like to hear from as many people as possible.

Homa Salehi:
Hello and thank you, I would like to take this opportunity to send my condolences to the Iranian People, particularly the survivors of the tragic earthquake. It has been a huge loss for us all.

VOA:
Yes, that is rights, Mr. Rashidi and Ms. Salehi, it has been tragic but is there any legitimate relationship between the two issues of Human Rights Violations and this current human tragedy?

Rashidi:
Yes, precisely. As we have discussed before, an earthquake is a natural disaster but according to our experience in the past 24 years, the Iranian Regime has not learned any lessons from past experiences which have caused major economic losses as well as the suffering of massive casualties by the Iranian people. The Iranian Regime has always taken political advantage from these tragic situations and has tried to cover up the magnitude of the loss. For the same reason, the regime has established a very limited contact between the general public and the international journalists that have gone to Iran. The regime is trying to hide this fact from the world that the only form of immediate assistance received was from people themselves, not from government sources. On the other hand, the regime immediately rushes their revolutionary guards to the scene in order to stop the movement of help to the survivors. A group of student volunteers from Melli University who decided to rush to aid the city of Bam were stopped at Mehrabad airport for hours and finally, they did not issue boarding passes for the students to fly to Bam. This is an example of the preventative efforts of the regime to stop aid for their people in Bam. Also, the regime has attempted to take advantage of this situation to avoid attracting attention to their violations of human rights. We have seen similar cases before such as holding American Hostages in 1979. The regime held the hostages as ransom so that the US would meet their demands. At the same time, the regime also ostracized Prime Minister Bazargan’s administration.

Also, another example is Khomeini’s stubborn attitude towards the Iran and Iraq war which led to 2 million casualties and tens of billions of dollars of damage just for the sake of having a scapegoat to diverge attention to the grave issues taking place in Iran. We all remember his fatwa in order to assonate Salman Rushdie and to attract attention to himself as a powerful dictator. All of these actions serve the same purpose,- to fulfill his own agenda such as the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 after the cease-fire between Iran and Iraq. This massacre cannot be justified according to any laws or regulations in the world.

VOA:
Mr. Rashidi, so what you are essentially saying is that the Iranian regime is using this human tragedy to cover up other issues and the reason that preventing students from visiting the site is to hide what is going on behind the curtain. Keeping foreign journalists away from the scene is serves the same purpose. It goes without saying that most reporters know about the serious issues in Iran.

Ms. Salehi:
As Mr. Rashidi mentioned, the main mission of this regime is oppression and mullahs never helped the people in any situation. People are still wondering around outdoor and keeping themselves warm by burning wood if they can find any. This regime has never distributed any aid that has been contributed from outside or inside the country to the survivors neither now nor in past similar situations. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi message addressed to the Iranian people was to rush to the scene and to take care of the orphaned children. A close friend of mine that lives in Denver contacted her family and suggested for them to do the same. Shortly after, they informed her that they had tried and that they were stopped at the early stage of the procedure due to the fact that all the children are under the care of the state. We all know the destiny of these orphans. This regime has the track record of smuggling children, particularly girls to neighboring countries.

VOA:
The Islamic Republic has announced that two billion dollars will be spent for rebuilding Bam. This is a considerable amount of funding. A few days ago when I was glancing through records from the World Bank I found that in the 1990 and 1996 earthquakes which killed tens of thousands of people, the Iranian regime had borrowed 380 million and 180 million dollars respectively. The point is, did this regime spend the money that it borrowed from the World Bank for the previous situations?

I would like to open up the phones: (202) 619-7925

Back to the budget issue Mr. Rashidi, what is your opinion?

Rahsidi:
It is obvious that neither in the past nor in the present situation, the regime has never helped the Iranian people because it is not in its nature. If you consider all of the aid given from all over the world as well as from inside of Iran, and the relief that President Bush has sent, none of it arrived in Bam. Instead, loaded trucks are coming out of Bam full of goods that have been looted by the members of the revolutionary guards.

VOA:
We have a caller, Mr. Habib from Iran. Hello, go ahead.

Mr. Habib:
I am one of the former prisoners detained in Evin prison. I lost my hearing under torture. They stopped my pay check, they poisoned me, I have sent letters to all the international organizations. Mr. Khatami, Mary Robinson, Maurice Capithorne, Louis Giveney. Please give my phone number to Dr. Lahiji and Dr. Ganji.

VOA:
Another caller is Mr. Alborz from western Iran: I tried to rush along with several students from Kermanshah and Illam to the site to distribute thehelp that we collected from friends and relatives, but they stopped us and they did not let us proceed. Please get in touch with and ask the United Nations and other International Organizations to distribute help to the survivors. After 8 days, many people are still in tents with only one blanket.

VOA:
Mr. Alborz, at the beginning of the program, Mr. Rashidi mentioned that he would like to announce the e-mail address of his human rights advocate organization. If you stay with us, we will give this information to you.

Mr. Alborz:
Many of the regime’s agents are happy about the situation because it gives them an opportunity to take advantage of the situation to steal the help. Thank You.

Another call from Ahmad in Baluchistan:
We have gathered aid as much as we could from our already-distressed province but our help was not received by the survivors, instead the mullahs’ militant, Baseeje sold our supplies in the black market in another part of the country. Please let everybody know.

VOA:
I would like to direct your suggestion to Mr. Rashidi and Ms. Salehi who have the capability of contacting the International Human Rights organizations. All we can do is broadcast your voice. As President Bush mentioned, the US is helping the Iranian people not the government. We have another caller, Mr. Farhad from Ghaemshahr.

Farhad:
My condolences to all the Iranian people, especially Bam’s earthquake survivors. I have listened to VOA for several years and you always talked against the Iranian People and Iranian Government, you never talked about the progresses and achievements. Who your guests think the Iranian people are? And how much do Iranian people know about these things? Our problem is not the United States, the US has committed many crimes against Iran.

VOA:
Sorry to interrupt but we are talking about the violation of human rights and not any other issue.

Rashidi:
I would like to mention one point to this dear audience. These are not what only we say, it is what the people voice. A German rescue squad who were assigned to Iran and came back to Germany a few days ago, according to their observations, the distribution of help to the survivors has been extremely disorganized and they have observed the discrimination against women and children so you may want to talk to them.

Farhad:
Hail to President Bush! I would suggest that everyone send help through individuals and volunteers because they can do a much better job than the government can. And your dear guest Mr. Rashidi analyzed the situation of war and the violation of the human rights very well, thank you and good luck.

VOA:
Mr. Rashidi would you please announce your e-mail address

Rashidi:
My e-mail address at NCPDA is anr@ncpda.com

VOA:
Ms. Salehi, what is your opinion about the phone conversation from our fellow citizen that was complaining as to why we are talking about human rights?

Salehi:
The statements that Mr. Rashidi made can be confirmed through the regime’s broadcasting and newspapers. Another example is the execution of 6 of my immediate relatives. My cousin at the time of execution was 6 months pregnant, despite the resentment of all the international organizations, they did not wait until the delivery of the baby and she was executed along with her unborn child as well as her husband and the other immediate members of her family. My question from the gentleman that was complaining about why we are talking about human rights in Iran is how can he explain these cases? The Iranian Regime has executed at least 30 of my relatives, all for political reasons. None of these crimes against humanity can be justified anywhere in the world. Anyone that you get in touch with knows someone from their relatives and friends that either they are in jail or they have been executed by this brutal regime. About the distribution of help, the members of my own family informed me that they could not get their help to the survivors either.

VOA:
As we have mentioned on several different occasions, and as you are all aware, the US government has solved this problem by sending the money to the people and organizations who would voluntarily like to distribute money to the survivors. Therefore, as I am hearing, from this end, there should not be any problem. But the problem is the other end, which the Iranian government is to blame.

We have a call from Kerman Shah (Iran).

Call from Kerman Shah:
Hello to everyone including VOA’s personnel. I just wanted to confirm that the help has not been distributed due to the fact that they are not under the supervision of International Organizations and the Red Cross. Therefore, these aids will not get to the survivors, but it will be spent for the regime’s mass production of more mullahs and terrorist training by them. The Iranian government should be ashamed of itself asking for help from foreign countries. Iran is a very wealthy country. We are hoping that some day, the Iranian people will live in freedom and democracy by the philanthropic help of the United States. Thank You.

VOA:
We will talk about this subject again. Another caller from Kerman, Mr. Rashidi Nezhad

Mr. Rashidi Nezhad:
Hello and Merry Christmas to all. I am calling from Kerman. I am originally from Bam and I have spent 4 days there, pulling 80-90 corpses from under the rubble. I carried them to Kerman and buried them and the rest that we could not carry, we buried them in Bam. The disaster is beyond the imagination. I am at your service if you have any question.

VOA:
I would like to ask our guests first if they have any questions, unfortunately we are getting close to the end of the program and we really would like to continue this discussion with you because you have experienced this first hand. Ms. Salehi, do you have any questions?

Salehi:
I would like to ask how long did it take to pull those corpses out of the rubble. Because, according to the news, a lot of people have lost their lives due to the lack of immediate help, please shed a little light on this.

Mr. Rashidi Nezhad:
It was precisely 9:15 when we arrived there. First, we looked for members of our family and our loved ones. I heard a few people from my sister’s house under the rubble. We were able to save only two of them and the other two due to the lack of equipment, took too long and by the time we pulled them out, they both were dead. From my sister in-law’s family, five people died. We checked the spots that the rest of our relatives used to live and we saw no sign of life and no rescue activity, and as everybody knows the task force headquarter was initiated at 6 pm the day of the earthquake. The physical help actually started the next day. These are the reasons that we suffered so many casualties. Another problem that we experienced was the utilization of foreign help because there were no translators with them and we could not communicate. The same goes for the foreign journalists that we could not communicate with.

VOA:
Ms. Salehi, do you have any opinion about Mr. Rashidi Nezhad’s statements?

Salehi:
I would like to thank him for the details as he confirmed Mr. Rashidi’s statements.

VOA: Mr. Rashidi, do you have anything to add because one of our audience members from Kuwait is on the phone.

Rashidi:
I would like to thank the friends that contacted us and I confirm all the statements made. We have had several official contacts with the Red Cross and we made sure that they are directing help towards the survivors. As you mentioned, and based on our contacts here in the US and in Europe, there are no problems to send help to Iran. The problem is directing the help to the needy people. Another point that I would like to make about Mr. Alborz’s statements, first, I am very happy that I had a chance to talk to him because he was speaking for the students in Iran. Mr. Alborz knows very well that a regime who arrests 4,000 people after a peaceful demonstration in June and detains them in jail definitely will not let our dear students who have a passion for humanity and love for their people, to get in touch with the victims in Bam. The regime does not want the people to get any ideas about freedom and democracy which the students are promoting. Especially on the earthquake front which was terrible and the people had a very difficult life even before the disaster not to mention the discrimination against women and children particularly little girls. Therefore, it is obvious that the regime does not want the people in Bam to have any contact with any students. Another point that I would like to make is about the human rights and the Iranian regime. The point is that any time that these kinds of disasters happens, you hear some ideas around that:- this is a good occasion for other countries to begin dialogue with the Iranian regime to see if the regime is willing to act differently. I would like to make this point clear that in 1990 when Rafasanjani was president, we heard these opinions as well. This regime is not looking for any kind of excuse or occasion to ease the oppression or to recognize the Iranian people’s political rights. This regime is not looking for any kind of excuse to extend its relationship with western countries. The ultimate solution is a structural, political movement for the elimination of the supreme leader.

VOA:
Mr. Rashidi it seems that this subject requires much more time for discussion. Mr. Hosseini is calling from Kuwait.

Hosseini:
Good evening everybody. The human tragedy that took place in Bam is beyond the political or ideological discussion. This is the true demonstration of the philanthropic cooperation among all people. Unfortunately, this coming together has been diluted by some false statements that have been made by some people. This is not helping anybody, neither from political nor economic standpoint. In this case, the Iranian government has been criticized frequently from all sides. The fact is we admit that at the beginning there was confusion among all the governmental organizations and a lot of help was initiated by people themselves. Statements like “people do not get help” or “help has been misdirected” and so on….

VOA:
We apologize for the time limit we have only 30 seconds left till the next program, we thank you very much for your comments and unfortunately we have to say goodbye. To our dear guests, we say goodbye, we did not have time for a conclusion statement. Also, we apologize from our audience who tried to get in touch with us but did not get a chance to be aired. We hope we can talk to them in our upcoming programs. Thanks Mr. Rashidi, and Ms. Salehi.

Rashidi:

Thank You Mr. Habib Alborz and Ahmad and from all over Iran.

Ms. Salehi:
Thank You and God bless you.