By Potkin Azarmehr
- Spontaneous campaign by Iranians, binning and destroying regime run charity donation boxes that they believe are spending their donations in Gaza.
Throughout the December protests in Iran, one common chant by the protesters was, “Let go of Gaza and Syria, think about our plight”. Iran’s state TV and media often boast of the regime’s generous charity work outside Iran. For those inside Iran, watching the regime’s prioritise others’ needs in contrast with their own poverty is becoming unbearable.
On Monday, Iranian media published a video of a state-run charity, Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, feeding 300,000 Palestinians in Gaza with an Iftar dinner, for the month of Ramadan. The reaction to the video was a lot like watching a powder keg being lit. One Iranian was so outraged that he took an Imam Khomeini Relief Committee donation charity box and threw it in the bin, filming himself in the act. He then sent his clip to Manoto TV, the London based satellite broadcaster, and the most popular Persian TV station, in Iran.
The station aired the clip of the donation box being binned, and in no time at all Manoto was inundated with copycat videos from other viewers inside Iran.
“Charity begins at home, I don’t want what comes out of the pockets of our people to be spent in Lebanon and Gaza. I too, back the campaign of ‘No donations to Imam Khomeini Relief Charity’ ”, was typically what was said on these videos.
The Persian hashtag for the campaign soon became the top ranking hashtag on Iranian social media. So many donation boxes were being binned that Parviz Fattah, the head of the charity, had to respond to the phenomenon on his Instagram page, in order to calm down the public, by claiming that, “none of the money spent in Gaza was from donations collected inside Iran but from donations given by Gazans themselves! – we only managed their donations”.
Fattah also appeared on State TV and further claimed donations collected in one town could only be spent in that town alone unless the donors specifically requested that the donations be spent on another cause.
It is a claim that is hard to challenge. There is no financial transparency in Iran for state-run charities like Imam Khomeini Relief Committee charity. Who knows how much money was collected from donations, where it was collected, and where the donors wanted their donations to be spent. All the Iranian people know is that the regime is spending their money for political exploits, on causes with which the Iranian public have no affinity. They would rather charity begin at home.
Six months after the earthquake in West Iran, despite a flood of donations from the public, the quake victims still live in tents with no adequate sanitation or basic supplies. Infants have died in the freezing weather and the hopelessness has led to several suicides amongst those who initially survived the earthquake. A Venezuelan traveller recently posted videos of the Iran earthquake-stricken areas on his “borderjunkie” Instagram pages. He was shocked to see that long after the earthquake had taken place, even the rubble and debris hadn’t been cleared, and the area still resembled a war zone. It is these experiences that are fuelling the Iranian public’s growing resentment towards Iranian regime’s philanthropy abroad.
Binning the donation boxes was yet another act of civil disobedience, Iranian style, that went unnoticed by the Western media.