Economy, Business And Markets

Helping the Quake-Stricken? Not If They Are Iranians!

Professor of Economics
Helping the Quake-Stricken?  Not If They Are Iranians!
Helping the Quake-Stricken?  Not If They Are Iranians!

Iran is a hotspot of earthquakes and several of them have devastated cities and villages during its millennia old history. Its last earthquake on the night of Nov. 12 has damaged the areas bordering Iran and Iraq with the largest impact on the province of Kermanshah.

The quake’s magnitude was 7.3, with fatalities reportedly exceeding 500 and casualties surpassing 9,300. In this natural catastrophe, hundreds of families lost their shelter and thousands lost a family member. What can one say in the face of such a calamity?

Like always, Iranian people have sprung to action independent of their political views and differences. Iranian expatriates and citizens of Iranian heritage across the world have also joined the global efforts to help. However, they face a hurdle, surreal for 21st century.

For all of the advances in electronic banking and digital money transfer, one cannot send money to Iran directly. Dozens of activists, individuals with family and relatives in Iran and businessmen or businesswomen have stepped forward, offering donations to the affected areas.

A humanitarian gesture, which is amateurish at its best and ripe with potential risks and opportunities for abuse at its worst.

Browsing through my social network pages, I came across a friend’s status, who has poured out his frustration, “I don’t understand how people are raising hundreds of thousand of dollars without having a plan for transferring it.” Another is questioning the legitimacy of dozens of fundraisers who are collecting donations.

There is no official information available from Red Cross or international agencies. There is no update from the Office for Foreign Asset Control in the United States Treasury Department. The watchdogs of sanctions are expert at closing channels than opening them to address a humanitarian crisis. The money transfer channels were closed and remain closed.

At every step of sanctions, statesmen have announced that the sanctions will not be implemented in humanitarian cases. In the face of Iran’s earthquake in the 21st century, the statesmen are sending their condolences, while implementing sanctions. The harsh reality is that sanctions had destroyed any potential channel for any sort of transactions.

Those who designed the sanctions have ironically created an underground money transfer market, where opportunities for abuse are proliferating. One has to question the logic and the rationale behind such draconian measures and ask: How many more earthquakes are needed before governments let humanitarian efforts be just humanitarian and not stained with their political bickering and agendas.

I look at all pages, there is no way to send a small sum to Iran, to rescue teams or to NGOs who are providing the victims with blankets, warm meals and tents. I feel helpless.

In this age of signals and wires, Paypal and Venmo, I cannot help. Unless I step outside the bounds of markets and banking systems. And that is a pity, a harsh reality dictated by inhumane policies.   


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints