How a totalitarian government works. Hugh Tomlinson in the Times (£):
Dozens of Iranian volunteers who distributed aid to victims of two deadly earthquakes have been arrested as the Government seeks to quash dissent at its own response to the crisis.
More than 300 people were killed and thousands injured by the quakes, which struck the northwest of the country a fortnight ago. With thousands more left homeless, ordinary Iranians clubbed together to deliver food, water and blankets to villages.
Embarrassed by this independent relief effort, which underscored widespread criticism of the Government’s response, the authorities have detained at least 35 volunteers, charging them with distributing unhygienic goods and food that was past its sell-by date, which they deny.
“The regime was furious about the solidarity shown by the public. Officials were stopping cars of volunteers going to the villages. Any independent relief group they saw, they arrested. We had to do most of our work at night, undercover,” said one volunteer, who did not want to be named.
There have been widespread, though unconfirmed, claims that the true death toll has exceeded 1,000, three times the official figure. Iranian journalists who visited the earthquake zone have been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry upon returning to Tehran and warned about reporting on what they saw.