Iran Officials React Quickly After Poor Family Loses Shack To Demolition
Iranian authorities have immediately criticized municipal agents in Hormozgan Province, southern Iran, who demolished an illegally built shack and prompted the occupant, a single mother of two, to set herself on fire on Thursday [November 19].
The 35-year-old woman, who has not been named, is being treated for severe burns affecting 17 percent of her chest and arms at Hormozgan Medical Sciences University hospital. She is likely to require extensive treatment and rehabilitation.
The provincial representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, lawmakers and municipal officials all condemned the woman’s treatment after a video was widely shared on social media and news websites showing the mother and her children crying and pleading with municipal workers to stop.
Back in 2010, the self-immolation and death days later of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor, after his cart and wares were confiscated by municipal agents, prompted the ‘Arab Spring’ revolts that toppled several Middle Eastern rulers. The swift reaction to the woman’s self-immolation in Hormozgan may reflect concern over the desperation and poverty of millions of Iranians as the economy has nose-dived under crippling United States sanctions introduced since 2018.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was called the ‘Revolution of the Impoverished’ by its leader Ruhollah Khomeini, but around half of Iranians have fallen into poverty after a rapid rise in the cost of basic items over recent months, according to a welter of new, if sometimes inconsistent, statistics on family income and expenses.
Fereydoun Hemmati, Governor of Hormozgan, has apologized for the incident and promised to act against those responsible and help the family. Mohammad Ebadizadeh, Khamenei’s representative in the province and Friday prayer leader in provincial capital Bandar Abbas, called for those responsible to be held to account and warned the authorities to recognize “a warning siren.”
Mojtaba Ghahramani, the Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Bandar Abbas, said the incident was being investigated and that government welfare organization had been summoned to give immediate assistance to the family.
The incident illustrated the growing influence of mobile phones and social media, allowing such a graphic tragedy to spread instantly and prompt an early reaction from the authorities. In May, social media highlighted the death a 61-year-old woman in Kermanshah after municipal agents used pepper spray to overcome her resistance to them demolishing a makeshift shack she had built for herself and her family only a few days previously. According to judiciary officials, several municipal officials were subsequently arrested.