It took a little time. But now the structures are in place. And what is even better: the population is getting more and more used to the rescue dogs.
Iran is a troubled country. Politically unstable and geologically no less so. The arabian plate is shifting there under the eurasian plate. It’s no wonder that severe earthquakes occur again and again – most recently at the end of november 2017 in the province of kermanshah. The country is classified as a high-risk area for earthquakes.
Siggi hofer was in iran for the first time in 2003. The earthquake in the city of bam claimed around 40,000 lives at the time. Many victims were buried under the trummers. Were there still living? The red crescent – the iranian equivalent of the bavarian red cross – called for help from abroad. The beginning of a success story that has lasted more than 15 years. "The colleagues in iran realized how effective a search for missing persons with the help of trained dogs can be," recalls hofer, who has been working for the red cross since 1991. The idea came up to found an iranian rescue dog team. Before that, however, contractual and emotional limits had to be overcome.
Iran is a muslim country. "Dogs are considered unclean there," hofer explains. In addition, there are a lot of wild, stray dogs, which do not exactly increase the trust in the animals. A dog in the back seat of a car? A person walking a dog on a leash? What is normal in our country was unthinkable in much of iran. "We quickly realized that this was going to be a rough project," hofer recalls.
"It was quickly clear to us that this was going to be a rough project." Siggi hofer, training manager
In 2007, mark hofmann from kempten was found to be responsible for the project. Siggi hofer agreed to take over the training on site. Initially every five years, now in two year intervals, the project is extended, currently it runs until 2020. The costs are shared between the red crescent and the BRK. "The money is well invested," finds hofer. There are now 74 full-time dog walkers in iran, ten trainers. "It works like a snowball system," she explains, but emphasizes: "the project must continue to grow."
Their goal: in the foreseeable future, there will be a training center in each of the country’s 31 provinces – and the full-time rescue dog handlers will gradually be joined by volunteers.
2009 siggi hofer was in iran for the first time as a trainer. Their insight: dogs and humans were anything but a unity back then. "The dog handlers put on extra overalls and gloves," she remembers. "And the dogs were taken directly back to their kennels after the training session."
The iranian colleagues had to learn one thing above all: dogs are not a means to an end. Dog and man must be partners if they are to work successfully together in an emergency. This understanding has grown in the meantime.
Siggi hofer has been to iran nine times in recent years, most recently for two weeks at the end of february/beginning of march. Dog walkers and dogs have long become a team and even the population has – in a positive sense – come to the dog. In the meantime there are several private dog schools in the country. "In the past, people really avoided the dogs," she remembers. Now it’s not just the children who have approached the rescue dogs. Adults have also observed the team training from very close by. Hofer attributes this to intense coverage in the iranian media.
Every now and then, the iranian and german rescue dog handlers meet for training in isphahan. The city is centrally located, easily accessible for all. "And you can do good trummer work there," says hofer. But this time it went high up. In dizin, the iranian dog handlers and their german trainer met at an altitude of about 4000 meters. After a short period of living in the area, man and dog felt at home in the snow, searching for people buried under avalanches, with the support of the local mountain rescue service.
Two years the project will be continued in any case, maybe it will be extended for another two years. Siggi hofer is looking forward to more educational trips to iran, to people who are "very open and hospitable without end". She understands the importance of her work, which can help save lives. A new earthquake can strike any day in iran.