Home­less in graves shock Iran

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

TEHRAN: Im­ages of home­less drug ad­dicts liv­ing in empty graves just out­side the Ira­nian cap­i­tal have deeply shocked the pub­lic and prompted re­ac­tions even from Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani. Shahrvand news­pa­per on Tues­day pub­lished the im­ages in a re­port on the home­less peo­ple - about 50 men and women - who dwell in a ceme­tery in the town of Shahriar, 30 km west of Tehran.

The story and the haunt­ing im­ages of the home­less star­ing into the cam­era from in­side the un­used grave slots spread quickly on so­cial me­dia, where users and celebri­ties re­acted with ex­pres­sions of alarm and sad­ness. Os­car-win­ning Ira­nian di­rec­tor As­ghar Farhadi aired his frus­tra­tion in a let­ter to Rouhani. “I read the re­port... and now my en­tire be­ing is filled with shame and sor­row,” he wrote. “With this let­ter, I in­tend to share my shame with you and all those who have had any re­spon­si­bil­ity in this coun­try” in the past few decades, he added.

The pres­i­dent re­sponded to Farhadi’s “painful” let­ter yes­ter­day. “Who can see hu­man be­ings hurt from so­cial is­sues who take shel­ter in graves .... and not feel ashamed?” Rouhani said in a speech about gov­ern­ment su­per­vi­sion. “I have heard about peo­ple in west­ern coun­tries who sleep on card­board un­der bridges out of poverty, or those who sleep in metro sta­tions, but not in graves,” he said. “To solve th­ese is­sues we must all unite and leave aside par­ti­san is­sues and dif­fer­ences and ad­dress the ba­sic prob­lems of the coun­try.” In a fol­low-up re­port, Shahrvand said the grave-dwellers were forcibly re­moved from the ceme­tery, af­ter prom­ises from au­thor­i­ties to re­solve the is­sue. Some of those who lived in the graves had done so for 10 years, ac­cord­ing to the daily. “Aren’t we hu­mans? Are we for­eign­ers? We are Ira­nian too,” an un­named home­less man told the news­pa­per in a video. He asked au­thor­i­ties to build a shel­ter in the area. The re­port is a rare glimpse into the lives of home­less peo­ple in the Ira­nian cap­i­tal.

In Oc­to­ber another re­port on home­less peo­ple oc­cu­py­ing in sewage canals on Tehran’s high­ways trig­gered sim­i­lar re­ac­tions. Poverty has wors­ened in re­cent years in Iran. The of­fi­cial un­em­ploy­ment rate has risen to 12.7 per­cent this year from 10.6 per­cent in 2014, while job­less­ness among teens and young adults has reached 27 per­cent. — AFP

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