Iran Focus: Tehran, Jan. 30 - In a letter to Tehran’s prosecutor, his counterpart in the earthquake-stricken city of Bam
(southern Iran) filed a complaint against Sharq daily for publishing an article about the spread of corruption in the ancient city following the December 26, 2003 earthquake ... Iran Focus

Tehran, Jan. 30 - In a letter to Tehran’s prosecutor, his counterpart in the earthquake-stricken city of Bam (southern Iran) filed a complaint against Sharq daily for publishing an article about the spread of corruption in the ancient city following the December 26, 2003 earthquake which took more than 70,000 lives and left survivors to pick up the pieces of their wrecked lives.

In a January 17 article, entitled, "The Spread of Drug Addiction and Theft in Bam," the daily had quoted an anonymous Interior Ministry official talking about the expanding corruption and prostitution in the city.

The Bam prosecutor filed charges against the Interior Ministry official, the writer of the article, the daily's editor and its publisher for defamation and slander. He also filed a complaint against an official working in the Governor's Office in the province of Kerman, where Bam is situated, for "failing to deny" that corruption had increased in the city.

At present more than two thousand women in Bam live in extreme poverty, without any support. Seventy percent of these women have no surviving family members.

Last week an Interior Ministry official had announced the number of struggling women and said that the maximum assistance given to some of these women was 500,000 rials ($50) per month to recover their shattered lives. The majority of these women are dependent on earning other funds for their daily bread.

With their immediate family perished and having no one else to turn to for support, many of Bam's women have been forced to marry strangers. Temporary marriages have become routine for many of the women there.

Girls and single women between the ages of 15 and 25 were the biggest victims of the tremor in Bam. Foreign aid workers complained at the time that the Iranian authorities were discriminating against women and girls, giving men priority in the distribution of aid and medical supplies.

Recent reports indicate that teenage girls are being systematically sold to men who are 50 years older than themselves. Many of these men are not from Bam, and have traveled from other cities, and residents complain that the government has turned a blind eye to forced marriages.

Reports have also surfaced that highly organised criminal gangs, many indirectly affiliated to corrupt security forces, have kidnapped orphaned girls in the area and have been selling them abroad in countries such as Dubai.