Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nowrooz and Reform

The Nowrooz holidays are an opportunity for travelling around the country. Along with the family we went to Mashad, the major pilgrimage city of Iran. Although the Shrine of the Eighth Imam was very crowded but the rest of the city was not. . Nowrooz is the time for a renewal of nature coming to life after a long winter rest. A spiritual and personal renewal is also intended in this celebration.The political stalemate in Iran , the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the volatile situation in many regional countries were hot issues discussed in social circles these days. The events in the region may be in tune with the revival of nature in spring. 

Unrest and brutal suppression of the protesters in Syria was initially overlooked in Iranian State owned TV stations but I saw some reports a few days ago in Press TV , an indication of the fact that friends and foes of the Islamic Republic are all vulnerable in face of the democratic uprisings of the region.   People are more and more aware of the realities surrounding them and they have more expectations from their rulers. They expect more oversight and just democratic processes. They are fed up with corrupt pro West or pro East governments, they are in a quest for their freedom  and their independence. They are Muslims who seek the dignity that Islam proclaims humans are created with. Governments like Syria and Jordan are responding with reforms since they witnessed that in Tunisia and Egypt , Presidents were forced to resign after confronting popular demand. Syria has released its political prisoners with hopes to quell the protests and Bahrain and Yemeni governments are proposing reforms in the judiciary and political processes. It is now evident for all that reform and democratic rule without any foreign interference is the way ahead. Libya now faces very difficult circumstances due to the stubborn resistance of Qaddafi and the aggression of Western forces.
Governments which resist reform will take their countries to the verge of destruction and civil war or political stalemate, reform is a necessity for any dynamic political system in this era. Islam calls for self correction and control in the ethical and spiritual dimension and this reform process must be also considered at the social and political levels .

Monday, March 14, 2011

Earthquake Diary : From Bam to Japan

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan revived memories of the terrible earthquake of Bam in 2003. Bam is a city with about 100,000 residents in southeastern Iran. I had visited the city and the beautiful historical citadel  dating to centuries ago, once before the earthquake. Residential areas of  the city were mostly built of brick and steel and the historical citadel was all mud and clay. The city was surrounded by large date palm plantations and dates from Bam are still the most famous brands in Iran.
The  6.6 M earthquake devastated more than 80 percent of the buildings and 26, 261 people died and hundreds were injured. For the several initial hours the relief systems of the city were disrupted and it took some time before the officials realized the depth of the tragedy . Those golden moments were the time relief workers had to save lives.  The tragic images of the city I visited, in my capacity then as the Vice President, are still vivid in my mind. Avenue after avenue, street after street, homes were devastated and very few buildings remained. The government was very quick to provide relief and reconstruction projects were developed . I visited Bam once again 9 months later , the situation was much better and people were living in pre-constructed homes which were small, but provided the essential residential needs for a temporary period. Plans for reconstructing the ancient citadel were also underway at that time. The psychological and human rehabilitation would take much longer.
The government decided to set up a supreme national council for disaster response and to establish a national scheme including projects to strengthen existing building and enforce regulatory standards. Some of the construction projects were slowed down in the next government but the experience caused many officials to work for implementation of more stringent regulations in the construction sector.
Nowadays, when I visit districts of the greater Tehran Metropolitan area, as a Councilor and Head of the Environment Committee, I also visit the projects underway for education training and local earthquake response and relief groups which are underway. Tehran ,like many cities in Iran is located in an earthquake prone area and we all need to be prepared since many buildings in Tehran are not properly built and do not have the necessary strength to  withstand an earthquake.
The tragic scenes of Bam and now Japan are also a reminder to all of us, that the earth on which we stand and the ground on which we firmly walk and march is far more unreliable than we think . Our lives are numbered days on earth but our souls are eternal ....These natural disasters are a wakeup for all, a warning for those who oppress nature and the ecosystem with their excesses, it is a warning for those who oppress others, whether in the name of freedom and democracy or in the name of religion and peace. These events are a sign of the nearing of the day of reckoning when every soul will be summoned to respond for his or her deeds, it is a sign of the infinite power and reign of the Almighty Creator and the ultimate weakness and impotence of this selfish, egoist human being who sees none but his interests and profits........