After Tohid Najafi, a medical worker from Detroit, started collecting donations for the families of the victims and the survivors, he shortly received a message from Facebook saying the funds, which to his surprise reached as much as $200,000, could not be released unless authorized by the US Treasury.
Another fundraising campaign, coordinated by American-Iranian journalist Tara Kangarlou, also came to a standstill as the Youcaring and Wepay websites refused to transfer the money she had raised citing the destination as an embargoed area.
Even though US Treasury has clarified policy for #DisasterRelief support to #Iran (as seen during Bam earthquake) @youcaring CANCELED our fundraising to help victims of #IranEarthquake. Shame, truly shamful. #ايران #زلزله https://t.co/gvq4AXo3Xk @paaia @NIACouncil pic.twitter.com/GIzAvqTyH6— Tara Kangarlou (@tarakangarlou) 13 ноября 2017 г.
"These are the moments that you realise how political tug of war are hurting ordinary Iranians." Thank you @tedregencia for covering this very important issue as US sanctions snag donations to #Iran earthquake victims. #ايران #كرمانشاه #زلزله https://t.co/k499KUgGue
— Tara Kangarlou (@tarakangarlou) 16 ноября 2017 г.
“As soon as they saw the name Iran, that this is for Iran earthquake, they freaked out,” Kangarlou said. “YouCaring did not care, nor did WePay,” she said. “What a shame.”
A number of fundraising campaigns are still underway in an effort to support the tremor jolted region, including one started by Google with a special “donate” button emerging on the website and on the justgiving.com platform.
I’ve seen videos of the young kids who’ve become homeless overnight. It’s heart breaking. A small donation from a… https://t.co/JkPqQTiVM6— Kaveh M. Beigi (@kaveh_m_beigi) 16 ноября 2017 г.
— shahrzad (@shahrzad3m) 14 ноября 2017 г.
Many survivors and their relatives are asking for help directly from their Twitter and Facebook accounts, posting heartbreaking stories and powerful images.
“Words cannot express the sorrow over the catastrophic earthquake that devastated villages in Iran and Iraq Sunday, taking over 400 lives and injuring thousands. Prayers and deepest sympathy at this time of immeasurable loss,” one Facebook user wrote.
Hindered Relief Efforts Cause Public Commotion
Most of the donors are still hesitant about whether their payments will reach Iran, citing the burden of sanctions and the continuous US-Iran tug of war. A number of internet users openly accuse the US authorities of hindering donation flows, saying the overall aid infrastructure remains unclear:
The vast amount of independently organized donation campaigns for the earthquake relief efforts in Iran/Iraq/Kurdistan shows two things: 1, people are inherently good and 2, there is a strong lack of coordination and transparency of the existing donation infrastructure.— Sham Jaff (@sham_jaff) 14 ноября 2017 г.
When you want to donate for Iran for the earthquake on Facebook but the feature of donation is not available in Taiwan, also you cannot donate for Iranian Red Crescent Society. I have no idea how can I aid those who suffered due to the earthquake.
— CCT@man gom shodam (@VokalojdemuloCT) 14 ноября 2017 г.
If you're having trouble on gofundme, you can always paypal me (but PLEASE make sure the description only says "donation" don't mention Iran, otherwise the transaction will be blocked) https://t.co/lBgMDslCny
— 🌸 (@pxrmida) 16 ноября 2017 г.
Initiatives from abroad seem to also face obstacles, as a number of foreign banks partnering with US financial organizations have also rejected payments to quake-hit Iran.
Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, stressed that "it is virtually impossible" to donate from Britain to humanitarian funds in Iran, citing "overcompliance" of the UK banks as the reason why they "refuse to transact to accounts with 'Iran' in the title."
Speaking about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to provide medical aid to the people of Iran, who Israel considers to be its national security’s top threat, a souce has told Sputnik that the offer had been declined by Tehran.
"Israel addressed the Red Cross with intention to provide civilian humanitarian help, and immediately received a decline, which demonstrates the true face of the Iranian regime," the source in the chancellery of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Around 500 people were killed and 7,000 suffered injuries in western Iran and neighboring Iraq on November 12. An estimated 70,000 people lost their homes and are currently in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
Following a long-lasting standoff, the US has imposed broad economic sanctions against Iran, including a ban on interstate banking. Though some of the restrictions were lifted in the wake of the 2015 international nuclear deal, US-based donors still have to operate only through well-known charitable funds, provided they also have the consent of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).