Tehran, Jan. 25 More than two thousand women in the earthquake-stricken city of Bam in southern Iran live in extreme poverty, without any support. Seventy percent of these women have no surviving family members.
The December 26, 2003 earthquake that struck the ancient Iranian city of Bam took more than 70,000 lives and left survivors to pick up the pieces of their wrecked lives.
In the aftermath of the deadly quake one would expect immediate government aid and support to the victims of the tragic quake, however surviving Bam residents were to soon find out that help was merely a distant mirage.
An Interior Ministry official 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.
A social worker who has spent several months tending to bereaved families said: At present the number of old men marrying girls under the age of 20 has soared. Many girls are sold in a black market. Many more are forced to marry men 3 or 4 times their age out of poverty. It is the only way that they can sustain their families.
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.