Art And Culture

US Humanitarian Website Blocks Kermanshah Fundraising Pages

Ghasideh Golmakani speaks for the audience at the closing ceremony of the 59th Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Films ‘Zinebi’ in Bilbao, Spain, November 17.Ghasideh Golmakani speaks for the audience at the closing ceremony of the 59th Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Films ‘Zinebi’ in Bilbao, Spain, November 17.

Filmmaker Ghasideh Golmakani dedicated her prize from the Zinebi Festival in Spain to the victims of the last week’s deadly earthquake in western Iran.

The 7.3 magnitude killer quake shook Kermanshah Province and the regions bordering Iraq on November 12. It cut short the lives of at least 436 people, injured 9,400 and left thousands of desperate survivors homeless and in urgent need of support.

Golmakani, 33, received the first special mention at the closing ceremony of the international competition of 59th Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Films ‘Zinebi’ in Bilbao, Spain, November 10-17, for her short film ‘Limbo’, wrote.

‘Limbo’ is the story of a former Iraqi sniper who started to get tattooed his body with the name of the all soldiers he had killed during wars in Iraq. A young Iranian artist does the last tattoo but the sniper asks him something more to do.

After receiving her award, with a lump in her throat, Golmakani, who is based in Paris, said that (last week) she created a fundraising page on YouCaring, a crowdfunding website for personal, medical and charitable causes based in San Francisco, to help the thousands of quake victims in Iran.

However, later the Iranian director received an email from the website saying that the page had to be removed in accordance with the regulations of the US Treasury Department. “The country you have stated is an embargoed region and the United States Treasury Department does not allow for our platform to disburse funds directly or be routed by proxy to a state or person that is currently located in an embargoed region,” the letter said.

After reading the letter for the audience, she, sarcastically, added, “I have to notice that it is from a humanitarian website. And my page was closed even if it was supposed to help thousands and thousands  of people who are living in misery following a natural disaster”.

  Similar Case

According to Al Jazeera, Tara Kangarlou, a New York-based Iranian-American journalist, also started a personal fundraising effort to help the victims of the devastation.

Within the first 30 minutes she raised $2,000 on the YouCaring fundraising site.

Kangarlou, who had previously raised money for Syrian refugees, was hoping the money would help buy much-needed medicine, food and blankets for the earthquake victims.

Despite the US Treasury’s exemptions on its policy on disaster relief to Iranian individuals, YouCaring pulled out Kangarlou’s page, sending her the same message Golmakani received.

She was also told that the third-party money transfer partner, WePay, is not authorized to do business with Iran.

“As soon as they saw the name Iran, that this is for Iran earthquake, they freaked out,” Kangarlou told Al Jazeera. “YouCaring did not care, nor did WePay,” she said. “What a shame.”

Kangarlou decided to refund those who had donated in her cancelled YouCaring page. “However, I will match the contributions in a personal capacity, and make sure it gets into the hands of those in need,” she wrote on her Facebook Page.

She said the US government “should not make it difficult” when people want to help those in need in Iran when a disaster strikes. “The way it is now, it is extremely difficult. These are the moments that you realize how the political tug of war is hurting ordinary Iranians.”

   Four Decades of Sanctions

The US imposed wide-ranging economic sanctions against Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Following the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers, including the US, some restrictions have been lifted, including the export of Iranian oil and gas in the world market.

But the US maintains a comprehensive trade embargo with Iran, which includes prohibitions on direct banking between the two nations.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), under the US Department of Treasury, has issued exemptions allowing US citizens and residents to lawfully engage in certain activities to help out relief efforts.

However, major foreign banks are reluctant to work with Tehran out of fear of potential US fines and other complications with the hard-line government in that country.


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