According to the latest reports received by Kalameh (2:30 AM local time, August 23), a number of activists and volunteer rescuers were arrested in the earthquake stricken areas of Azarbaijan.
As of this report, the number of people arrested and their status is unknown. All communications with the people reported arrested has been cutoff.
In the last contact they had, they stated in case of arrest they will all go on a hunger strike.
Prior to the arrests, one of the activists in the camp told Kalameh reporter conflicts started from the time that IRGC entered the scene and decided to confiscate the donations collected by volunteer activists.
Amount of donations in this camp was very high and the residents at the camp emphasized they did not have any problem cooperating and working under the supervision of responsible agencies such as the Red Crescent.
They even expressed willingness to cooperate and provide a detail report on the distribution of the collected donated items. But IRGC intervened and emphasized that all donations must be turned over to IRGC.
He noted that the activists were trusted by they people, and the large amount of donated goods is based on this trust and if the people trusted the government agencies they would not have come to us.
We are not willing to betray the people’s trust by delivery their donated goods to IRGC.
According to this report, prior to the arrests, there were a total of 10 vans and Peugeot cars along with 50-60 agents stationed in front of the warehouse where the donated goods for the earthquake victims were housed.
The Special Units Guards and the Intelligence Ministry’s agents were present at the warehouse, located on Tabriz-Varzeghan road, 4 kilometers from Sarand road, by the plastics factory of Jafar Nezami, where the donated items were warehoused.
The forces, on the pretext that the warehouse has heath code violations were attempting to lock and seal the place but met with resistance from the activists and the people on the scene.
On furlough political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi Maleki was one of the activists volunteering at the camp trying to help the people in his province. The officials responsible for Ronaghi’s Judicial case were aware of Hossein’s volunteering work and had not voiced any disagreement.
Conditions at the volunteers camp in Sarand village has completely changed. From early Wednesday, two police cars with a warrant in hand were there trying to confiscate the donated goods but met with resistance from the people.
Previously it was also reported that two groups of volunteer activists, children’s rights activists and psychologist who had gone to help the Azarbaijan earthquake victims were threatened and forced to leave by the Intelligence Ministry’s agents.
The government’s reaction to the people volunteering to help the earthquake victims in the absence of proper crisis management by the government was predictable and not surprising given that the people’s solidarity and willingness to mobilize and help their fellow country men echoed around the world.
Along with this new development, the earlier arrest of civil activist Saeed Shirzad who had gone to the earthquake-stricken area as a volunteer has increased concerns for the safety of activists not connected with governmental agencies.
Also, in recent days there has been reports of confiscation of cars and the goods they were carrying to the victims of the earthquake-stricken areas by IRGC.
According to Kalameh reporter, a number of the earthquake victims said one of the IRCG agents stopping and confiscating cars and their goods was taking the items to his personal store. He has since been arrested for this violation.
Last week a number of people told Kalameh reporter that much of the donated goods even those donated from Turkey were not distributed among the victims but were taken and warehoused by IRGC.
According to witnesses even the Red Crescent employees witnessing this action by IRGC agents just stood by and would not stop them, and when asked by the people about their inaction in this matter they said that IRGC will not allow them.
Following is a partial list of the activists arrested as published by HRANA:
Ahmad Ronaghi Maleki, Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, Hassan Ronaghi Maleki, Amir Ronasi, Rayhaneh Hesami, Vahed Kholosi, Bahram Shojaei, Navid Khanjani, Shima Ghosheh, Misagh Afshar, Farid Rohani, Morteza Esmaeilpour, Hamid Reza Masieian, Ali Mahmoudi, Mohsen Sameei, Masoud Vafabakhsh, Houman Taheri, Daniel Hosieii, Jafar Nezami, Farnaz Ahmadzadeh, Nafiseh Saeidifard, Mohamad Arjomandirad, Esmaeil Salmanpour, Mehri Baghbanbashi, Narges Khirellahi, Mohamad Amin Salehi, Behroos Olomi, Miland Panahipour, Seperdad Saheban, Esmaeil Rafati, Amir Ronaghi Maleki, Zahra Sayadi, Kiana Karimpour and Artimes Varzandeh.