Protest in Abadan, south-western Iran, May 25, 2022

A Building Collapse In Iran Leads To Anti-Government Protests

Thursday, 05/26/2022
Maryam Sinaiee

British Iranian journalist and political analyst

A gathering to mourn victims who died in the collapse of a new building in Abadan, south-western Iran, turned into anti-government protests Wednesday evening.

Disruption of the Internet in Abadan Wednesday night, to prevent uploading images of protests to social media, has continued but several videos have found their way to social media. The videos show hundreds of residents who had gathered to mourn the victims of the collapse a part of the ten-story Metropol twin towers Monday chanting against officials and clerical rule.

Locals held traditional mourning rites on the streets as the incident is seen by the public to be the result of powerful insiders not abiding by laws and regulation, violating building codes.

Protesters chanted some of the slogans popular at other anti-government protests including “Clerics Must Get Lost”, “Our enemy Is Here, It’s a Lie To Say It’s America”, “Neither Gaza, Nor Lebanon, I’ll Sacrifice My Life To Iran” as well as “Rise the People of Abadan, Your Brothers Were Killed” and “Shame on Our Shameless Authorities”.

A view of the collapsed 10-story building. May 25, 2022. (Fararu website)

Another slogan heard at the protest was “God Bless Your Soul Reza Shah”, a slogan often chanted at anti-government protests by those who venerate the 20th century founder of the deposed Pahlavi Dynasty as Iran’s savior and modernizer.

Iran witnessed days of protests in May when the government raised food prices, with the overall political situation remaining tense.

Abadan protesters also demanded the resignation of local government officials who they hold responsible for the tragedy, mismanagement of the situation after the building’s collapse, and alleged cover ups.

Rescue operations on May 25. (Fararu website)

Protesters are angry about the mismanagement of the country and deep corruption which allowed the owner of the building to evade building safety regulations through his alleged close relations with powerful officials. They also accuse the authorities of mismanaging rescue operations and allegedly helping the owner, Hossein Abdolbaghi, to escape.

Many are also angry that in his meeting with lawmakers Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei did not condole the families of the victims or mention the tragedy.

The second tower of the building may also collapse any minute as rescue operations continue. The governor of Abadan, Ehsan Abbaspour, said Thursday that more bodies have been pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 19. So far, he said, 37 have been rescued from the ruins of the building.

Angry resident at the site of the building collapse in Abadan. (Fararu website) May 25, 2022

Abbaspour said the number of people trapped under the ruins is still not known and removal of the rubble and rescue operations are still underway.

Unofficial sources say as many as fifty may still be under the building debris. Head of Iran’s Red Crescent, which is carrying out the rescue operations, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said Thursday that there is no way to confirm or refute such claims.

Construction in the building was not complete but the commercial units on the building’s lower floors, including a café run by a young couple, had already opened their businesses. The young couple were pulled out dead from their café by rescue workers.

The governor of Khuzestan Province, Sadegh Khalilian, has said that the owner only had permission for building six stories but later it was agreed to add five more.

Many locals refuse to leave the area and insist on helping with the rescue operations. Some, media and social media users say, the locals have been actively helping to remove the debris with bare hands or rudimentary tools.A local young man and his friends have dug a tunnel seven meters deep in one-day to find possible survivors under the rubble, Shahrvand Online reported Thursday.

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