ISSN 2330-717X

Iran: For Whom The Bell Tolls – OpEd

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In many cities, the bell tolls because of the spread of coronavirus which has spread all over Iran killing women, men, old, young, and children. In the last days, at least 200 students died from this disease. The Iranian opposition, MEK, reported more than 116,000 dead in only half of the country’s cities while the alarms are sounding in much of the national territory. 

The health catastrophe has reached such great dimensions that the regime is no longer able to cover it as it had previously. President Hassan Rouhani, with his characteristic obscenity, can no longer refer to the “normality” of the situation. 

Iraj Harirchi, Deputy Minister of Health, admitted: “We are in the middle of the stormy and it no longer makes sense to speak of different colours to refer to the situation of each city or province because the whole country is in red”. Even the Tehran Epidemiology Committee announced the risk of a greater catastrophe (Shafaghna news site, September 23, 2020).

Arash Najimi, the spokesman for Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, said on September 23 that Isfahan province is in a “critical situation” in terms of the prevalence of the disease and that it is getting worse. In this context, the Iranian regime has deployed Coronavirus patrols throughout the city (Tasnim news agency, September 22, 2020).

Denying the dimensions of the Coronavirus outbreak

The deployment of the patrols in Isfahan is in line with the Iranian regime’s claim to the population to respect the social distance. The regime has tried to hide that the wave of infections throughout the country is mainly due to the religious celebration of Muharram, which the regime insisted so much on carrying out. Health experts are increasingly complaining about the lack of compliance with health procedures at such meetings.

According to Masoud Younesian, Member of the Epidemiology Committee of Kovid-19, at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, the main cause is “the new wave of infections”. They warn that the death toll will have a significant increase in the next two weeks. Especially, since they have allowed 15 million students and teachers to return to schools in these conditions.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on March 4, 2019: “The Covid-19 is a temporary issue, it is not something extraordinary. Let’s not make a big deal”. Rouhani has repeated the same speech many times in last few months. For example, he said that the disease was like a cold and that between 80 and 85% of people have suffered the disease without even notice it and got recovered on their own. 

The regime has always sought to cover up the Coronavirus crisis and normalize the situation. It was not ready to pay any cost to respond to the situation, including paying the cost of quarantine and the war wage.

The disease, a blessing

Despite the terrible consequences that the pandemic is leaving not only in Iran but worldwide, Khamenei has considered it “a blessing”. For him, it has become an opportunity to block the path of the uprisings with massive casualties and an atmosphere of despair and sorrow. 

The insistence on performing the Muharram ceremonies as every year despite the recommendations of experts as well as the early reopening of schools can only be explained by the strategy of “collective and herd immunity” chosen by the regime. This response may result in the death of 1 or 2 million people to force the rebellious youth to surrender to the regime, especially after the mid-November uprising.

Social resistance

The execution of Navid Afkari against the international pressure confirmed that the regime can feel the steps of an imminent uprising and it is trying to intimidate the community to avoid it. Society, however, is strongly resisting.

The Coronavirus patrols as well as the guidance patrols that it had deployed before that to observe the rules of hijab and Basij motorcyclists in the cities have been nothing else but attempts to prevent the formation of protests and public gatherings. The sirens sound here and there is a whisper to mullahs announcing that the great uprising is coming soon.

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.

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