Iranian teachers fill gap between state, society after floods

Al-Monitor | Although governments are responsible for dealing with natural disasters, individual and collective relief efforts by citizens cannot be overlooked. Indeed, the effectiveness of private relief endeavors in past decades in Iran has paved the way for more and better public engagement in humanitarian efforts, most notably through NGOs. The devastating flooding last month in northeastern and southwestern Iran is a reminder of how the socio-cultural context of Iranian society has long fostered a tendency to come to the aid of fellow citizens affected by natural disasters.

The participation in relief efforts by celebrities, artists, athletes and politicians as well as various social, political and civil groups and guild associations reflects the humanitarian sentiment found across Iranian society. Along with the recent flooding, in which dozens were killed and the damage is estimated at around $2.5 billion, another event illustrative of eliciting individual and organized action is the 2017 earthquake in western Kermanshah province that left hundreds dead and major destruction in towns and villages.

Unfortunately, a historical division between state and society as well as deep-rooted misunderstandings between the two have largely prohibited governmental organizations from partnering with civil society groups and has placed serious obstacles in the way of civil society taking effective action. In numerous cases, this has created considerable difficulties for humanitarian efforts to help disaster-stricken people.

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