Adequate warnings were not issued by state institutions, and the agencies tasked with minimizing damage to life and property, as well as providing disaster relief, failed to deliver. It came as no surprise to many that the very institutions meant to manage the crisis were unable to do so. In almost any other country, the government would have been held legally accountable for such failures.
But, mismanagement by Iran’s regime is what paved the way for the floods. The environmental damage is the result of violations of both the Iranian constitution and the Islamic Republic’s obligations under international conventions.
Destruction of trees, cutting down forests, and taking possession of protected lands all violate Article 50 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution. However, deforestation in northern Iran is so prevalent and widespread that Iranian experts have warned that 30 years from now, all forests in the country will have disappeared. In January 2018, the government passed a law to protect forests and pastures, setting the maximum penalty for cutting a tree down at 375,000 tomans, or $90. Such a light penalty will not stop the active destruction of the environment.
While Article 690 of the Islamic Penal Code states: “Anyone who [through any action tries] to create evidence for taking possession of forests and nationalized pastures, mountains, gardens, tree nurseries, water supplies, springs, natural streams, national parks, agricultural and stockbreeding facilities and farms, wastelands and uncultivated lands and other lands and estates which belong to the government…[or] resorts to an operation that destroys the environment and natural resources, or commits any violation or unlawful possession or disruption of rights in the above mentioned cases, shall be sentenced to one month to one year of imprisonment…”, little legal action has been taken against those who carry out these crimes against the country.
The Islamic Republic’s institutions are guilty in the aftermath of the recent flood disaster, which left at least 28 people dead and several children missing. These institutions have not followed domestic laws and regulations. They have not have they taken the UN’s “protection of persons in the events of disasters” mandate seriously. They have violated their country’s own constitution, which resulted in death and destruction during a time that should have been joyous — the Iranian new year holidays.