ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – As rain and cold make life harder for the homeless victims of the Nov. earthquake, Kurds say they give up waiting for government assistance and build their own homes and shelters.
On Nov. 12, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake affected both Iran and Iraq, but the Kurdish region of Iran bore the brunt of the overall destruction and casualties.
"We are cold. Our children are cold. We are stuck in mud and slush. The government does not help," a woman told Kurdistan 24.
"We don't have heat. We don't have electricity. Our lives and especially children's lives are in danger," a man told Kurdistan 24.
Locals said if they do not build shelters immediately, the winter will cause more damage than the earthquake itself did.
"Although the government deeply disappointed us, we are grateful to all Kurds, from Iran to Iraq to Turkey," a man told Kurdistan 24.
Iranian state-run media declared that the earthquake killed over 500 in the Kurdish regions of Iran, but locals told Kurdistan 24 the real number was closer to 3,000.
“In my village alone, 500 died. We lost a lot of relatives in other villages too. People here believe at least 3,000 have died,” Karim Mohammad from Salmas, Kermanshah Province, told Kurdistan 24.
Mostafa Eliassi, whose village was destroyed and who lost numerous relatives, also told Kurdistan 24 the government official statistics were unreliable. “I can guarantee that more than 2,000 have died.”
People who spoke to Kurdistan 24 complained that the Iranian government has been slacking on sending aids while Kurds in other cities and some Iranians have been generous with sending food, blankets, and tents.
Kurdistan 24 could not independently verify the casualties, but the interviews reflected the deep distrust of the locals in their governments.
In fact, even Iran’s supreme leader criticized the government’s response to last week’s earthquake during a visit to the scene of the disaster on Monday.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said many people involved in the rescue and relief operations had performed well, but he was “not satisfied.”
He added “officials from some sectors” needed to “double their efforts.”
The earthquake completely leveled two villages. An estimated 15,000 houses were destroyed, leaving some 70,000 people homeless and faced with a bleak future as temperatures drop.
Among the collapsed buildings were homes that the government had built in recent years under an affordable housing program called “Maskan-e-Mehr.”
The Iranian government has offered to pay $500 loans to the homeless to rebuild their houses, an amount people complain is too little.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani traveled to the affected region last Tuesday, promising the government would do everything in its power to help the survivors.
A viral video on social media showed people booing when President Rouhani claimed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had rescued civilians.
Kurds and Iranians in Europe and North America also donated to several organizations, but sanctions on Iran made it challenging to contribute directly to organizations assisting people on the ground.