Iran: hardliners and clerics die from covid-19
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The epidemic causes several deaths among the Iranian elite. Regime denounces U.S. sanctions
Coronavirus has so far claimed 145 lives among 5823 infected people in Iran, according to Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Kianush Jahanpur, at 7. Marz shared. Currently, 16.000 suspected cases to be treated in hospitals in Iranian major cities. In some areas, 40 percent of those hospitalized are reported to have recovered, Jahanpur said. 1.669 patients reportedly discharged from hospitals after recovery.
According to the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), on the other hand, over 1.800 people in 105 cities of Iran have already died of the coronavirus. 180.000 people may have been infected with the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Iran has closed schools and universities in affected areas until mid-March and suspended Friday prayers. The city of Ghom, a major flashpoint for the coronavirus, has not yet been sealed off. No city is currently under quarantine.
Air traffic with China will also continue, although the Ministry of Health had already announced at the end of January that all flights to and from China would be suspended. Mahan Air, which is said to be cooperating with the Revolutionary Guard, continues to fly between China and Iran.
It remains to be seen what measures the Iranian government will take in response to New Year’s celebrations, which will take place in two weeks’ time. Partly the opinion is spread on television that the spread of the virus is stopped by the beginning warm season. An opinion that, by the way, is also held by Donald Trump.
High officials and clerics affected
The Iranian city of Ghom is considered the epicenter. When the first deaths were reported there two days before the parliamentary elections, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke of a disinformation campaign by the West and accused the country’s opponents of exaggerating the threat of the coronavirus just before the elections in order to keep voters away from the polling stations. Accordingly, the disease was covered up, downplayed, or dismissed as American propaganda by the government.
"Frankly, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s unwillingness to restrict crude visits to these shrines is criminal in the case of this disease", said Amir A. Afkhami in The New York Times, a physician and historian at George Washington University who has studied the Iranian response to past epidemics.
This attitude of the government now also shows consequences in the political and religious leadership level. Unverhaltnismabig many functionaries are now infected or can be found among the fatalities. On Friday, Fatemeh Rahbar, a hardline Islamist who was elected to parliament in last month’s elections, died from the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Hussein Sheikholeslam succumbed to the effects of his coronavirus infection, a former adviser to Auben Minister Zarif. Sheikholeslam, who held American diplomats hostage for 444 days in 1979-1981, was also a member of the group that founded Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the 1980s.
Mohammad Abolghasemi, who was also "the butcher of Tehran" is believed to have died Tuesday. His Basij militia participated in last year’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests. Haj Ramezan Pour-Qasem, head of the intelligence department of the Revolutionary Guard, is also reported to have died.
Also that week, clerics Mullah Seyed Hadi Khosroshahi and Akbar Dehghan died. Dehghan paid among the staunch religious opponents of importing quarantines when the virus first broke out. They said that the shrines in Ghom and Mashhad would heal the faithful.
The first high-ranking official to die from COVID-19 was Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a close adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In all, more than 20 members of parliament are believed to be infected, including Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar.
Particularly to the spread of the disease among the functionaries may have contributed Minister of Health Iraj Harirchi of all people. Visibly plagued by a fever, he spoke at press conferences and on talk shows before he died on the 25th.February tweeted that he had contracted the coronavirus and placed himself in isolation. He had downplayed the spread of the virus and said that mass quarantines were unnecessary. Also, his deputy Dr. Kianush Jahanpur showed signs of illness as he appeared before the press yesterday
Notwithstanding international tensions, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump had offered Iran assistance in combating the coronavirus in late February. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. stands by the Iranian people in the health crisis. The U.S. government formally sent the offer of assistance to Iranian authorities through the Swiss government, he said.
Iran’s leadership, meanwhile, portrays itself as a victim of U.S. sanctions. Auben Minister Mohamamd Javad Zarif said yesterday that U.S. sanctions – which were reinstated from 2018 following Washington’s withdrawal from a multilateral nuclear deal – are hampering Iran’s fight against the coronavirus.
US President Donald Trump "maliciously exacerbates illegal U.S. sanctions aimed at depriving Iran of the resources it needs to fight #COVID-19 – while our burgers die from it", Zarif tweeted on Saturday. The world could not remain silent for long about U.S. economic terrorism being supplanted by medical terrorism, Zarif continued.
Zarif could still be right. The Intercept according to anti-Iranian organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is now said to be urging crude pharmaceutical companies to do so, "to end their Iran deals". The UANI, for which John Bolton also works, maintains an online database (Iran Business Registry) of companies doing business in Iran. The strategy behind this is to denounce these companies in order to strengthen Iran’s economic isolation. Among the targeted companies are Bayer, Merck, Pfizer, Genzyme, AirSep, Medrad, Becton, Dickinson Company, Eli Lilly and Abbott Laboratories, it said.
Already excluded from IBAN international payments due to prere from the USA, the possibilities of helping Iran are limited. INSTEX, an instrument designed by the European Union to facilitate legitimate trade with Tehran, has not yet led to any transactions. In this situation, the Chinese app WeChat should prove helpful in sending money to the country.