Written 24th March 2020
The world is dealing with Coronavirus crisis. The situation in Iran is different in many aspects. It warn that the situation is alarming, catastrophic and is getting worse by the day.
I would like to raise four points and a few steps that should be taken.
First: Casualty Figures
As of yesterday afternoon, according to the information inside Iran more than 9600 Iranians have died as a result of Coronavirus. There is information on fatalities province-by-province and city-by-city, obtained from hospitals, medical centers, and physicians, and from internal reports of the Iranian authorities and entities as well as information in the public domain. Contradictory remarks by some Iranian regime officials have given away the true dimensions of the catastrophe. The trend in Iran is accelerating and is alarming.
Reports from Qom show that, 60 to 70 people are dying of Coronavirus every day, and mortuaries cannot accommodate them. By now more than 1300 people have been died in this province.
In Tehran, at least 1,250 victims were buried in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery by March 18. A large number of Coronavirus victims have been buried ostensibly under other causes. Several workers at the mortuary, including five women, who worked in sections not designated for Coronavirus victims, were infected with the virus. According to our information on 16 to 18 of March each day 310 bodies were buried in Behesht-e-Zahra. A contract to dig 10,000 new graves in the cemetery has recently been signed.
According to our information, more than 100 officials of the regime, including senior clerics, Khamenei’s representatives, Parliament deputies, IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) commanders and senior local officials have died due to COVID-19. In many cases the regime has tried to announce a different cause for the death.
One area of particular concern is the fate of Iranian medical staff, including doctors, and nurses, who lack the most basic needs for their own personal safety. They are taking great risks working in hospitals trying to help the victims of Coronavirus. So far, more than 100 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have lost their lives in their endeavors.
Iran is the only country where the regime has gone out of its way to cover up the real scope of the crisis and has deployed all security forces and specifically the IRGC to punish anyone who talks about the real scope of the crisis. To prevent actual death toll from leaking, the regime’s Prosecutor General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri warned in a statement: “Any comments (regarding Coronavirus) outside the approved channels are a breach of national security and the nation’s interests.” Montazeri added that releasing Coronavirus-related statistics is “a criminal act punishable by law” with “severe consequences”. The regime has even announced that scores of people have been arrested for providing information on social media on real scope of victims.
The IRGC’s has ordered all provincial IRGC divisions and headquarters to be present at hospitals and medical and health centers to control reporting on the number of patients infected or died due to the virus.
Second: Reasons for spread of crisis
The main reason for the rapid spread of Coronavirus on such a wide scale is due to the Iranian regime’s political considerations and lack of timely attempt to alert the public, coupled with their incompetence in handling the crisis. We have clear evidence that the regime was aware of the spread of the virus to Iran and that several people had died after being infected a month before, but kept it a secret. Because of the staged managed February 11 anniversary of the revolution and for the sham parliamentary elections on February 21, Khamenei explicitly prohibited them from making the announcement. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told a press conference on February 23th that while some people had recommended that the regime postpone Parliamentary elections, “but as the official in charge, I did not accept any of these (recommendations).”
Despite repeated warnings, Mahan Air, owned by the IRGC, continued passenger flights to China until into March. Tehran’s lack of proper response and a failure to quarantine the city of Qom, the epicenter of the Coronavirus infection, has caused the spread of Covid19 to at least 16 other countries.
Third: Regime reactions
While other countries around the world are compensating workers and employees so that they can stay at home, Hassan Rouhani shamelessly said on March 21, “It’s the counter-revolutionaries’ conspiracy to shut down businesses and economic activity in Iran. We must not let this happen; we must all work within the framework of health protocols.” He had previously said that Iran has no plans to quarantine any cities.
Sadly, the regime is trying to exploit the catastrophe politically and blame the crisis on other issues including the US sanctions. Yesterday, Khamenei said there is a possibility that the US may have produced the virus for Iran, this reflects the regime mortal deadlock and its fear of popular uprising. Khamenei is trying to cover up the regime’s incompetence in dealing with the virus and divert the Iranian people’s anger and hatred towards the U.S.
In reality no one but the regime is responsible for the crisis.
• For years, the priority of the Iranian regime has been suppressing the Iranian people, sponsoring terrorism and belligerence in the region, instead of their welfare and basic needs, such as medical facilities and hospitals.
• Due to hoarding and mismanagement, hospitals lack basic supplies and required equipment and facilities to counter this catastrophe. Priorities in all cases are given to political considerations rather than professional medical advice. Medical facilities are exclusively controlled by the IRGC. Ordinary patients are deprived of basic needs, such as masks and disinfectant liquids; the IRGC sells them on the black market at 10 times the actual price.
• The institutions under the control of the IRGC or Khamenei’s office possess massive assets and facilities. Even a small portion of them could pay for the costs of confronting Coronavirus, including paying salaries of workers and employees.
Fourth: Crisis in Prisons:
One area of concern is the situation of prisoners, in particular political prisoners. Based on scores of eyewitness reports from all major prisons in Iran, prisoners are in great danger. Their plight must be addressed immediately. Prisoners are deprived of sanitary masks and even disinfectants.
The Prison of Great Tehran with at least 15,000 inmates is in a very dangerous situation. A number of prisoners in Ghezel-Hesar Prison, 50 Kilometers West of Tehran, which has at least 10,000 prisoners have contracted virus and some of them have died.
In the notorious Evin prison in north Tehran, inmates infected with Coronavirus have been seen. A prisoner died due to Coronavirus. The situation in prisons is so grave that in two prisons in Khorramabad and Aligoodarz in western Iran rebelled to escape from the prisons. Scores of them were killed by the IRGC.
• All over the world, governments are going out of their way to alleviate the suffering of the people in combating the Coronavirus and its dire consequences. Iran is the only country where the regime and the people are on two different sides. The regime’s efforts are aimed at covering up the actual figures and dealing with political consequences, namely thwarting any expression of outrage by the public against the manner in which the regime has been handling the virus. This has contributed significantly to people’s dire predicament and hardships at these difficult times.
• The catastrophe in Iran is an immediate, pressing issue that has not been limited to the Iranian borders and has also spread the countries in the region. The international community in general and the UN Security Council in particular should compel the regime:
• to make public all facts and figures regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran and provide them to relevant international organizations in order to save the lives of the people of Iran and other countries in the region.
• There should be immediate action to release all prisoners, particular political prisoners to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
• All assistance to Iran should be sent and distributed directly by the international agencies. Otherwise, they will be stolen by the regime.