January 15, 2020
Floods have claimed at least three lives, demolished thousands of homes, schools, medical centers and businesses in towns and villages, and killed thousands of animals since early January in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan in south-eastern Iran.
Pictures and videos released on social media show villagers living on the rooftops of standing buildings while many others have been living on the trees. However, there are not that many trees in the arid area and few buildings are still standing.
In the meantime, alligators have been menacing flood victims. Although the local species of alligators, Gando, is said to be shy and has not been observed to attack humans unless it is attacked, yet children, and some adults find hungry alligators dangerous.
Navid Borhanzehi, an advocate of Baluchi culture who has usually encouraged other Iranians to go and visit the land and people of Baluchistan, wrote that some 10,000 people in 50 villages in the area have been cut off from the rest of the world, adding that they can be helped only by sending helicopters.
“We have been forgotten. No one can hear us. We want the officials and the media to listen to us and send helicopters to help us before it is too late,” Navid quoted villagers in one rural area in Baluchistan.
Relief efforts have been minimal in the provinces’ cities and extremely scant in the villages.
City dwellers who have visited some of the villages, have appealed for help from the people and the government.
One particular Twitter user has appealed for retweeting his post and video hoping that officials might see them when retweeted by influential users.
من فالوئر ندارم.نميدونم چطور بگم كه مردم استان #سيستان_و_بلوچستان در خطر غرق شدن هستند .هر كسي اين توييت ميبينه ريت كنه#صداي مردم #سیستان_بلوچستان باشم،انها در خطرند#ريتوييت#دشتياري#زراباد#بنت pic.twitter.com/TCU9rLlmbk
— سعيد آزادي (@saeedazadi605) January 13, 2020
Videos recorded by visitors and volunteer relief workers show children complaining about cold weather and not having shelter.
Officials including IRGC Commander Hossein Salami and Majles Speaker Ali Larijani have visited major cities in the province, including Chabahar port city, which is a major military center and a trade hub, but eyewitnesses have said on social media that afflicted villages have been more or less neglected.
The Iranian state TV shows only one video of relief workers in a town repeatedly while people in the villages and small towns have been calling for medicine, helicopters and essential commodities.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has offered his “thoughts and prayer” and wrote about search and rescue operations.
Farmers are badly affected as whatever they had planted for the season has been washed away by floods.
While people have been sending relief aid to the area, the government has not been doing much. One twitter user said scornfully that perhaps President Hassan Rouhani will find out about the floods later as he also got the news of the gas price hike and the missile attack on a civilian airline many days later.
The Iranian government has been often criticized for ignoring the demands of the people in this area. The locals are mainly Sunnis while the Islamic Republic is a Shiite state. Locals have been complaining for years that the government does not allow them to build their own mosques. Meanwhile like all ethnic minorities in Iran, the Baluchis have been complaining for many years that the government allocates less budget and pays less attention to the wellbeing of the Baluchis.
This comes while volunteers and NGOs often frowned at by the government have been doing their best to help. Some officials are suspicious of charities such as the Imam Ali Charity fearing that they might be garnering support for the political rivals of hardliners.