The US Treasury Department has blocked online donations made by Iranian expatriates to help the survivors of a powerful earthquake that hit the western part of the country.
Facebook blocked a page set up to raise funds following Sunday’s devastating earthquake where nearly 500 people were killed and thousands were injured. An estimated 70,000 people lost their homes and are currently in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
The efforts to block the donations come as the US offered condolences to the affected Iranian and Iraqi nationals.
Press TV reports: Tohid Najafi, a medical professional based in Detroit, US, told Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera that the Treasury blocked the Facebook page he had set up Monday to raise money for the families of the victims and the survivors of the 7.3-magnitude quake, which had jolted western Iran a day earlier.
According to the latest official figures, some 432 people have lost their lives and about 9,388 others sustained injuries in the tremor. Some 12,000 homes have also been completely destroyed in the incident.
Najafi had planned to raise $110,000 over the next month, hoping that within the first day he would manage to raise up to $15,000.
On the morning of the next day, he saw that online donors had helped more than $80,000. The sum raised had surpassed $200,000 by Wednesday.
“I was very surprised,” Najafi said, saying he had doubts about hitting his goal on time.
On the first day of his fund-raising effort, Najafi received a message by Facebook, informing him the funds “will not be released,” until he delivers to the social media site the required authorization from the US Department of Treasury.
Following Najafi’s initiative, a New York-based Iranian-American journalist, Tara Kangarlou, started a separate personal fundraising campaign to help the victims of the earthquake.
Within the first 30 minutes, online donors had chipped in $2,000 on the YouCaring fundraising website.
However, YouCaring canceled Kangarlou’s page, saying in a message that her fundraiser had been removed “because the country you provided is part of an embargoed region.”
“The United States Treasury Department does not allow our platform to disburse funds directly to, or be routed by proxy to a state or person that is currently located in an embargoed region,” the letter read.
The website also told Kangarlou, the third-party money transfer partner, WePay, is not authorized to do business with Iran.
“As soon as they saw the name Iran, that this is for Iran earthquake, they freaked out,” Kangarlou said. “YouCaring did not care, nor did WePay,” she said. “What a shame.”