ISSN 2330-717X

Coronavirus Rampant In Iran As Mullahs Focus On Staying In Power – OpEd

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Coronavirus (Covid-19) has invaded several countries so far and is spreading more every day. This has created a climate of fear among the people of the world, including Iran. The fear the people of Iran are experiencing, however, is not only because of the increasing number of casualties that have reached 650  by now, but also the fear that the Iranian government is not being transparent and is hiding the facts about the number of deaths.

In fact, the lack of trust in the regime, its officials and the government’s Minister of Health have raised concerns among the public, as the Iranian regime tries hard to hide the facts and downplay the reality of the situation.  On Monday, February 24, 2020, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, an MP from the city of Qom, spoke quite openly saying that so far, “about 50” people have lost their lives to the virus in that city.

Following this acknowledgment of the crisis from Qom’s MP, Harirchi, the Deputy Minister of Health, and Ali Rabiei, the government’s spokesman met the media. “We completely deny that statement.  According to the government and Security Council resolution, no one else has the power to declare the news like that, the information is in front of us,” Harirchi said.

But despite Iran’s denial, the news found its way to the Iranian social space and now people believe that the regime is hiding the facts about the Coronavirus, the same way it hid the facts about downing the Ukrainian plane.  “I was told to postpone the elections in that city of Qom due to corona outbreak, but I declined because of our election calendar is such that if the election were not held, the formation of the next parliament would be postponed anyway . in other words, his priority was the election and not the life of the people.

Even Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei downgraded this tragedy and called it a political move by western countries against Iran. In his speech, he failed to express any condolences and sympathy to the families of the deceased. In fact, he offered no recommendations or solutions regarding cautionary measures in combating the virus. In his speech, Khamenei referred to the virus as a “good excuse” for the enemies of the country to use and lessen people’s participation in the parliamentary election.

But why did Khamenei speak as if nothing important had occurred in the country? A series of events that have recently happened in Iran, including the massive people’s uprisings in November, the launching of missiles on the Ukrainian plane and the government’s attempts to conceal the facts, the recent uprisings by university students and the low turnout for the February parliamentary elections have all been alarming signs for the supreme leader that his government is in peril.

In fact, all Khamenei cares about is prolonging its inevitable collapse and consequent regime change in Iran and the suffering of the people of Iran is unimportant for him. Thus, it is natural that being tangled in such social, economic, political and international problems, even offering simple condolence is very difficult for him as he regards any opposition by the people as his enemy. He himself is the source of the cover-up and the lack of transparency in all the crises.

The French newspaper Le Monde highlighted the political side of the crisis in Iran and wrote, “About the death toll, the turmoil and the complete confusion regarding its existence in Iran”. “People are skeptical about the integrity of the government … The apparent mismanagement of this crisis by a regime that has lost much of its credibility in recent months is now causing a new crisis of confidence in the country.”

The number of fatalities is increasing by the hour. Hundreds have been hospitalized in various hospitals in different cities. Even the hospitals are not equipped with proper procedures and medical equipment to deal with and cure the disease.

According to some reports, regime officials have fled the city of Qom and other infected cities and have sought refuge in safe and secluded places like Kish Island in the Persian Gulf.

Regime officials have also resorted to social media threats to counter social news sites that reflect the true scale of the crisis. The regime’s cyber police chief said they had arrested 24 people who have spread rumors about the fatalities and three others had been identified and summoned. Tehran also announced the formation of a special task force to “counter cyber rumors with the Corona issue”.

Now, the question is whether the regime can conceal the storm of outraged people by disguising the truth and threatening them? Undoubtedly, a massive social explosion is on its way.

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Hassan Mahmoudi

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate and Social Media journalist seeking democracy for Iran and peace for the region.

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