Dozens of employees of Iran’s state-run Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts Industries and Tourism Organization gathered outside parliament this week to protest their forced transfer from Tehran to cities such as Esfahan and Shiraz as part of an effort to disperse government offices in the seismically active nation.
The controversy came as a fairly significant earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale shook the southern Iran early Wednesday morning, Iranian media and seismology monitors reported, injuring at least 19 people.
About 150 employees are scheduled for imminent transfer, while another 1,100 have been notified they could also be moved. But although many countries try to scatter state-owned industries outside the major cities for economic reasons, many Iranians are wary of any attempt to exploit the very real fear of earthquakes for political gain.
Earlier this year, an Iranian cleric made international headlines when he suggested that women who dress too revealingly cause earthquakes by invoking God’s wrath.
According to the report of seismography center at Tehran University’s Geophysics Institute, a tremor struck close to the Persian Gulf coast at 12:08 a.m. and damaged some homes. The injured included residents of the town of Lamerd, Iranian media reported, where a local relief official told state media that between 50% and 70% of buildings were damaged.