Iran’s anger over corruption boils over after deadly building collapse

Evidence suggests that real estate developer Hossein Abdol-Baghi was one of 32 people killed when the 10-storey Metropol Twin Towers Complex collapsed in the Iranian city of Abadan.

There is an official DNA match. He was pictured in the building before collapsing. His family could be seen crying on TV.

But that’s not enough to convince those who have taken to the streets to protest corruption over the past week. They are deeply skeptical of the official account, saying his influential supporters helped him flee the country and escape their wrath.

“It’s so obvious, he’s not dead. If his face and body were so smashed and he needed a DNA test in a hurry, why was the ID card in his pocket unscathed?” said Reza, a member of Abadan’s A 28-year-old unemployed man.

“Why was Abdul-Baji allowed to build such a non-standard building?” he added, suggesting it was because of his ties to senior officials.

The idea that Abdol-Baghi must have escaped illustrates the level of anger at the corruption in the Islamic Republic, which people are already fighting against Prices rise and the economy takes a hit. As the inflation rate is close to 40%, it is a A deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions In return, the lifting of U.S. sanctions has also stalled.

The province of Khuzestan, home to Iran’s largest oil and gas reserves, was at the center of anti-government protests in 2019. Demonstrations against rising fuel costs ended in violence, with more than 300 deaths across the country, according to Amnesty International.

Not only do they have a meager share of the oil-rich province’s natural wealth, locals say, but new developments are also benefiting corrupt elements.

Rescuers search for debris in Abadan. Protesters say they did not share in Khuzestan’s oil wealth, which has been made rich by corruption © Tasnim News/AFP/Getty Images

“Discrimination and corruption by officials bother the people of Khuzestan the most. We walk on oil, but our houses are still built with mud and bricks,” said Hosna, who left her hometown of Abadan for Tehran. “Events like this are an excuse for people to take to the streets and get out of their pent-up anger.”

Iranian leaders have acknowledged corruption as a serious problem and pledged to address it. They blamed dishonest individuals and said it was not an institutional problem. Analysts say a generation of young businessmen loyal to the regime has emerged. Their expensive cars and big houses often annoy ordinary Iranians.

“In every city, there are some ‘Hussein Abdul-Baghis’,” Mostafa Tajzadeh, a reformist politician in Tehran, wrote on Instagram. “They have a few things in common: they have astronomical wealth, run charities, hold religious ceremonies. . . have strong relationships with council and city council members. . . have several major construction projects. . . it’s that easy.”

The authorities’ slow response to the tragedy also angered protesters. Officials expressed condolences days after the building collapsed. Ebrahim Raisi’s government called Sunday a national day of mourning.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been the main target of Abadan’s slogan. Protesters also used the new revolutionary hymn “Hello Commander,” widely publicized on social media, to express their disapproval. Many people posted videos of the disaster on social media, saying “Hello Commander, watch this”.

In a video on social media, a woman walks through the ranks of riot police in Abadan.She can be heard asking them: “Are you [sent by] “Hello Commander”? . . . are we thugs? All of us? ”

The anger “is rooted in extreme poverty in this very wealthy province,” said Ahmed, 32, who immigrated to Tehran from Khuzestan to find work in the hospitality industry. “Even oil companies recruit non-natives. Wherever you go, you will see a lot of young people standing in the street chatting and smoking.”

There have been no reports of deaths during the protests. Unofficial reports said security forces fired live and bird rounds and used tear gas. “It’s a catastrophic situation. There are demonstrations every night,” said an Abadan resident, who asked not to be named. “All main streets are surrounded [by security forces]. “

Authorities said they would take action against the perpetrators of the tragedy. Several officials, including the mayor, have been arrested for allegedly failing to properly oversee construction projects.

But Reza doubts the protests will bring about change. “People will protest more and soon they will have to go home to continue their miserable lives, while Abdul-Baji is enjoying his luxurious life in Dubai,” he said.

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