Saturday , 25 May 2024

Metropol Victims’ Families Told to Stay Quiet as Pressure on Government Intensifies

Iranwire – The families of some of the victims of the Metropol complex collapse report that they have been warned not to speak out about their loved ones or the situation in Abadan. Nightly protests have been taking place in Abadan and elsewhere since May 24 over the flippant way the government has handled the disaster.

So-called security forces have used violence to disperse the crowds in some cities, including a memorial in Andimeshk where people were lighting candles to remember the dead. Internet disruption has been reported in Ahvaz, Abadan and Khorramshahr.

“The situation in Abadan is very tense,” a contact on the ground told IranWire. “People are grieving and angry – for different reasons, but the main one is the dishonest reporting from day one. Almost all the reports about Metropol have been either lies or distorted.”

Apart from the IRIB claiming “a few” people had only suffered “superficial injuries”, state-controlled media outlets have offered different accounts of what happened to the owner of the Metropol site. Serial developer Hossein Abdolbaghi was said to have died in the collapse, hours after his reported arrest, while an independent journalist believes he managed to escape the country.

A health worker in Abadan said people’s misgivings had been compounded by strange behavior on the part of hospital managers. “On the day that Abdolbaghi’s family were coming to identify his body, they told all the admin and medical staff to leave the hospital, and allowed nobody to remain. Staff were allowed to return only when they were finished inside the hospital.” 

In a video posted online last week, the brother of Hassan Saeidavi, a popular teacher in Abadan who lost his life in the Metropol disaster, told Abdul-Nabi Mousavi Fard, the Supreme Leader’s representative in Khuzestan, that he outright rejected the claim that Abdolbaghi was dead. “We the people of Abadan are honorable people,” he said, “but do not abuse this. I swear to everything that Hossein Abdolbaghi is alive.”

The head of Khuzestan’s Red Crescent Society has said there is now “no indication” that anybody is still alive under the rubble. According to the latest official figures, as of now 29 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the collapse of Tower 2, while local sources have identified 38 dead and at least eight still missing.

Officials have insisted that the remaining part of the Metropol complex must be demolished. But after protests by locals the plan has been delayed for the time being. Instead, the still-standing parts will be temporarily reinforced. 

Nonetheless, more than 40 people are understood to have been arrested over the past 48 hours for protesting and/or posting online about the number of fatalities in the Metropol tragedy. Like members of the media, families have been told not to speak out about the deaths of their relatives.

On May 26, on the same day the bodies of young people from Khuzestan were being pulled from the wreckage of an incident linked to local corruption and developer greed, thousands of children and adolescents attended a pro-regime rally at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, singing “Salute to the Commander” and other “revolutionary” songs. The “Hello Commander” event was meant to be a chance for people to show their devotion to the Supreme Leader.

it took the government five days to declare a National Day of Mourning on Sunday, May 29, under extreme pressure. On the evening of Saturday, May 28, Mohammad Reza Eskandari, president of Arvand Free Zone, also told Iranian state TV that a number of contracts with Abdolbaghi Holdings had been terminated.

The Khuzestan judiciary holds that the current mayor of Abadan and two former mayors are in custody. The MP for Abadan has denounced corruption in the city which, he said last week, was “running wild”.