US blocks fundraising to Iran earthquake victims

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - No difference in which part of the world you live, when you hear about the pains of your fellow countrymen under the rubbles of earthquake you are uneasy to find a way to help them. But the story is different for the Iranians living in the United States where they face another challenge.

The 7.3-magnitude earthquake rocked west of Iran damaging seven cities and 1,950 villages. 12,000 houses were completely destroyed with 15,000 others being damaged. The latest reports put the death toll of the quake at 432, saying 9,388 others were injured.

The news of the devastating quake were quickly circulated around the world prompting all Iranians living abroad to make their contributions to aid the quake-stricken areas.

Along with all the Iranians living across the globe, the Iranian community in the US tried to send its humanitarian supplies to Iran over the past three days. Some Iranians living in the US are launching charity fundraising campaigns thorough social networks, while others are sending their cash and non-cash aid to Iran via international organizations or Iranian institutions.

The earthquake is the second one in Iran after the imposition of sanctions on Iranian banks by the US administration. The first quake in 2012 shook East Azarbaijan province in northwestern Iran leaving at least 300 dead. At the time, the effect of US sanctions on Iran got evident more than ever when the Iranians living in the US were not able to send their financial aid to Iran by means of banking systems.

Although The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury has apparently declared in an statement that the NGOs can render services to Iran in regard to rescue operation activities, as well as allowing donations to the country to relieve the sufferings of those affected by natural disasters, transfer of cash has been subject to special circumstances which permits a maximum 500,000 dollars to be transferred over the course of 12 months.

The statement requires the existence of special circumstances for the dispatch of cash even to non-commercial individuals or to a relative. However it is not yet clear how one can prove the special situation of the circumstances.

Despite all the difficulties, the Iranians living in the US are doing their best to devise innovative solutions to send their humanitarian supplies to the quake-hit areas in western Iran.

Amir, an Iranian living in the US, says he and one of his friends are collecting donations via Facebook and intend to ask their families in Iran to change the donated dollars into the Iranian rial and send them to the quake-stricken areas. He said he was not sure whether Facebook would give them their money or no.

'Many Iranians in the US are very eager to help the quake-stricken people, but they don't know how to send cash to Iran as US arbitrary sanctions forbids the money transfer thorough the banking system,' Amir said.

Shaghayagh, who has recently arrived in the US for higher education, says: 'The Iranian population is very big in California and there are many charity foundations here. Some of these foundations which have many supporters in Facebook have launched fundraising campaigns over the past few days.'

Apart from the individuals and charity foundations, there are Iranian associations in different parts of the US that have become active in the past days to dispatch aid to the quake-stricken people in Iran.

One of the members of these associations says he and his colleagues have made every effort to introduce to the American people the international organizations which are allowed to transfer money to Iran so that they can send their humanitarian supplies to Iran if they intend to do so.

He said that the Iranians living in the US can send their non-cash aid to Iran thorough the post company but they will face many difficulties for sending cash supplies to the country.

The US administrations continues with its sanctions on Iran although the 2015 nuclear deal Iran reached with the six world powers, including the United States, requires all the contracting parties to remove sanctions they had imposed on Iran under the pretext of its nuclear deal.


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