What Killed the People in the Earthquake in Iran?

Revolutionary Worker #1225, January 18, 2004, posted at rwor.org

On December 26, an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale hit the city of Bam in southeastern Iran. This historic city now lies in ruins. Over 30,000 people have lost their lives, and tens of thousands more are injured and homeless.

In the face of this massive disaster, the common people of Iran mobilized to carry out rescue operations and help those hit hard by the quake. It was not just the forces of nature that the people had to battle. As a statement from the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) pointed out (see below for excerpts), the devastation of Bam and the immense suffering of the people there have much to do with the reactionary nature of the Iranian rulers.

The bloody fangs of the U.S. were also on display in the aftermath of the quake. The Bush administration made a show of "humanitarian concern"--by temporarily lifting the economic sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on Iran since 1995. There was speculation in the media that this might lead to a "thaw" in relations between the U.S. government and Iran's Islamic regime, which Bush has labeled a part of an "axis of evil."

Speaking to reporters, Bush said that by lifting the sanctions temporarily to allow quake aid, the U.S. was showing that "we've got great compassion for human suffering." The brutal U.S. occupation of Iraq--right next door to Iran--shows what a shameless lie Bush's remark is. And then, right in the next breath, Bush warned the Iranian government that it must turn over al Qaida members in its custody and stop its nuclear weapons program. This was a blatant gangster threat: Any "improvement" in relations will only come on the basis of the Iranian government's submitting to the terms set by the U.S.

The following excerpts from the statement by the Communist Party of Iran (MLM) on the Bam quake were provided by A World to Win News Service.


The heart-wrenching loss of tens of thousands of people in Bam has left the people of Iran with deep sorrow. People from all corners of the country, independently of the Islamic regime and its corrupt state organs, promptly took it upon themselves to organize aid for the stricken area. The liar President Khatami did not even dare to set foot in Bam (until three days later, after widespread criticism). The "Leader", Ayatollah Khameini, who uses every opportunity to run his big mouth about the so- called "power and will of the Islamic community," crept into a hole like a rat because the last remaining microscopic bits of the social and spiritual repute of his Islam were buried under the rubble. Former President Rafsanjani (the most powerful man in the Islamic Republic) did not even bother to go down there to count the number of his slaves crushed to death. But during this horrific disaster the people have pulled together and have brought into play their longing for a kind of society where they can cooperate and work closely together to lighten each other's suffering and collectively deal with such situations.

Some 70 percent of Bam's 200,000 inhabitants were killed or injured. There no longer exists a city called Bam. There are no more hospitals and nurses. There are no more boulevards and schools. The students have been crushed under metal beams. Why?

This is the 21st century and earthquakes are no longer a mystery. Human beings have gained knowledge of this phenomenon and have been able to limit its destructive powers. Just four days before the Bam earthquake, an earthquake with the same power (6.5 on the Richter scale) shook the state of California in the USA. But it left only three dead. A truly shocking difference. Why?

Earthquakes in Iran are not surprises. Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. In the eastern part of Iran, earthquakes occur regularly every dozen years or so. The fault line has been mapped, and which cities are in danger is well known. Still, the people live in unsafe houses. Basic aid disaster such as medicine and tents are non-existent. The authorities have made no effort to educate people on how to prepare for and deal with earthquakes. Instead, they encourage the people to "raise their hands to god and pray." Why, why and why?

The people of Bam were not killed by the earthquake alone. Human hands prepared the conditions for their deaths. This crime must be exposed to the whole world.

Bam is not an unknown city and the statesmen of the Islamic Republic certainly paid attention to it. The attention and kindness of these pillagers was extended to Bam all right. The bloodsucker Rafsanjani clan turned Bam into a centre for their agricultural and industrial "activities." Local and foreign investment in Bam had attracted many job seekers from the southern cities of Iran and the countryside. Rafsanjani had established a "special agricultural zone" here and a factory to manufacture seats for Daewoo cars. (The Korean company Daewoo is a main foreign capital partner of the Rafsanjani family). The Rafsanjanis even paid due attention to the historical sites they were eyeing as a source of income from the tourist industry. Hotel construction and an airport had made Bam a "model developing city."

But the role of the workers and peasants in filling the large and long pockets of the Rafsanjani clan did not mean that these leeches were anxious about the fact that Bam sits in the midst of an earthquake zone. On the contrary, the invasion of Bam by bloodsucker capitalists had made land prices soar. The housing shortage meant that the common people had no choice but to add more stories on top of their traditionally built mud houses. In Iran, the builders of office and apartment towers monopolize cement, so the people had to build their walls with local mud bricks and their roofs with potentially murderous heavy metal beams. This is a town lying on an earthquake fault line!

During this disaster once again it became crystal clear that the lives of the people are worth nothing to the rulers of this country. They are solely concerned with reinforcing and guarding their oppressive and exploitative rule. The reactionary rulers make mind-boggling expenditures on military and police equipment, building prisons, expanding their intelligence apparatus and employing snitches against the people, all for safeguarding their own corrupt rule... But when it comes to the lives of the workers and peasants they would never loosen the strings of their moneybags.

The people of Bam did not die because of the geographical particularity of their city. In fact they were killed by the reactionary political power, the exploitative economic system and the greed of the ruling classes, while nature only gave these reactionaries a hand.

Nobody believed Khatami's crocodile tears. The reactionary "Leader" (Khameini) called for "prayer" for the victims and their families. The criminal mullahs called the earthquake a "divine test". The stupid president sent his flimsy rescue operation to the scene so late that it was useless for saving people. We should never forget that when this regime wanted to suppress the people of Kurdistan, their helicopters and airplanes would immediately darken the skies. Helicopters would fly in a matter of minutes from their bases to machinegun the mass uprisings in Eslamshahr, Ghazvin and Mashad.

The only real aid and rescue and healing efforts can come from the people themselves. The people from four corners of the country and every strata, extremely distrustful of the Islamic Republic regime, have taken it upon themselves to mobilize and organize the aid efforts. They are clearly aware of the fact that they cannot leave the people of Bam to these criminals. In the recent history of Iran, the best real aid work during natural disasters has always come from the spontaneous and independent organizing of the masses of people themselves. Under both the Shah and this Islamic regime, the rulers have sabotaged peoples' efforts to aid each other, because the reactionaries are always afraid that in the heat of collectively dealing with disasters people would weave strong bonds of solidarity and friendship. Under these conditions the advanced and militant students should step forward, utilizing the nationwide student network, in order to help build institutions and structures which are completely independent from the regime and its organs (including the Islamic Student Associations) in order to aid the people of the stricken areas..

The people of Iran are not the only ones in the world who suffer from these kinds of events. Every year hundreds of thousands of toiling masses around the world--especially in the backward countries dominated by imperialism--become victims of earthquakes, floods and famines. No doubt human beings are in a kind of continuous battle with nature. But in class society, the main obstacles in this battle are the exploiting classes and their states. The scale of loss in human lives and material destruction during these natural disasters is directly related to the fact that a minority of people in these countries and globally have monopolized resources, the fruits of science and the material wealth produced by the people.

In other words, even to deal with these disasters and limit the scale of their destruction, we need to make revolution. The people need to overthrow the class enemies in order to emancipate their energy, creative power, skills and talents from the grip of the exploiters, and be able to serve their own interests. The people can limit the destructive power of earthquakes, can defeat famine and contain floods, if they seize political power and if they build their own rule, a regime that represents the will and interests of the masses of people.