FAQ: How You Can Help the Earthquake Victims [Updated]
NIAC has received a flurry of emails over the past weekend with questions about how Iranian Americans can help in assisting with relief efforts of the earthquake aftermath in northern Iran.
The U.S. Treasury Department issued a general license for earthquake relief efforts on August 21. There are a number of nonprofit organizations working to provide disaster assistance. Moms Against Poverty, Relief International, Children of Persia, and Children's Hope International Literacy & Development (C.H.I.L.D.) are providing emergency relief and recovery assistance in Iran. In addition, Child Foundation and the Iranian American Muslim Association of North America (IMAN) are sending emergency supplies to Iran. IMAN is accepting donations of certain humanitarian items – for a list of approved items and more information on how to donate, contact IMAN directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310-202-8181).
Separately, the American Red Cross has encouraged NIAC to dispel rumors that it is accepting funds for Iranian relief efforts. The Iranian Red Crescent is not accepting aid from other Red Cross chapters at this time.
Washington, DC - NIAC has received a flurry of emails over the weekend with questions about how Iranian Americans can help in assisting with relief efforts of the earthquake aftermath in northern Iran. To help you stay informed and to ensure that we are doing everything possible to assist with relief efforts in Iran, we have provided a list of frequently asked questions below.
How Can I Help?
At this stage, there are limited options for assisting in relief efforts. Given the Iranian government's denial of outside help and current U.S. sanctions on Iran, there are few channels to get help to the victims. NIAC is in direct contact with officials in the White House, Treasury Department, and State Department and is urging for a general license to be issued to exempt relief efforts from current U.S. sanctions. That way, U.S. relief organizations will be able to provide immediate assistance if the Iranian government accepts international assistance. (It is not uncommon for governments to accept international assistance after initially declining foreign assistance in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.) In the past, including after the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, critical aid was delayed for days while international relief organizations waited for permission from the U.S. Government to operate in Iran.
Have any groups applied for a license to provide humanitarian relief in Iran?
NIAC is reaching out directly to humanitarian organizations to determine what is the state of humanitarian relief efforts and how best Americans can support these efforts. Relief International, a U.S.-based nonprofit that currently provides aid in Iran, has applied to the U.S. Treasury Department for a license to provide assistance to the earthquake victims. Although Relief International provided relief assistance after the Bam earthquake in 2003, their current license from the Treasury Department does not allow them to provide emergency assistance to the victims of the earthquake near Tabriz. If approved by the Treasury Department, Relief International plans to provide zero-interest loans of up to $300 to individuals to help them bridge through the crisis period and to rebuild their livelihoods. You can learn more about Relief International here.
Can I go through the Canadian Red Cross?
At this moment, no. The International Red Cross organizations cannot provide assistance in the absence of a request from the Iranian Red Crescent. That also applies to the Canadian Red Cross. The Canadian Red Cross has made it clear that they are on "stand by," meaning that they are ready to send support if the Iranian Red Crescent either requests aid or agrees to accept it. As of this morning, they are not earmarking money for Iran. If money is raised now and no request is made by Iran, the funds will be used for disaster relief efforts elsewhere in the world.
Why Hasn’t the Iranian Government Requested Help?
In NIAC’s conversations with the American Red Cross, it was made clear that it is not uncommon for governments to not request (and sometimes, not even accept) outside help. Two recent examples include Turkey and Japan. The Turkish government did not accept outside help for an entire week after it suffered a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in June 2012. The Japanese government did not request outside help in March 2011 after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused one of its nuclear reactors to meltdown, though it did later accept outside offers of help.
Based on the size of the disaster, it is the assessment of several aid organizations NIAC has spoken to that the Iranian government is unlikely to request outside help, though it may cautiously accept it if offered. Unfortunately, the growing risk of military confrontation may also make the Iranian government more suspicious and reticent about accepting assistance from the outside.
Even if Iran does not request assistance, the Iranian government should provide information about the emergency needs of the earthquake victims so that international relief organizations can be prepared to offer appropriate assistance without delay if Iran decides to accept unsolicited international assistance.
How can I make sure my donations go to the earthquake victims?
There are a few questions you should ask:
1) If you are donating to a US-based organization, that organization will need a license from the U.S. Treasury to carry out work inside Iran. Does the organization have a license to operate in Iran, and if not, how is it planning to get aid to Iran?
2) Whether you choose a US or a foreign organization, it is necessary to find out as much as possible about them. Is disaster relief their primary mission? Have they raised money for disaster victims before?
We will keep you updated as we receive any new information on this matter.