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IRAN: Covid-19; Virus or Policy

As many countries across the globe have succeeded to contain coronavirus, the number of fatalities soars in Iran, and the government refuses to respond to pandemics seriously.

As the world has focused on developments in Afghanistan, with the Taliban’s news sweeping social media, and as Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi speculates about the possibility of returning to nuclear negotiations, more than 500 people in Iran are losing their lives to coronavirus every day, according to official sources.

This is while the Iranian opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) reported that Covid-19 fatalities in Iran surpassed 400,000 on September 2. Dissidents challenge official stats by the Health Ministry, saying the ayatollahs conceal the truth to cover up their incompetence and mismanagement.

Indeed, the Islamic Republic does whatever it takes to downplay the actual number of coronavirus victims and its horrible surges across the country. However, the government’s delay in procuring reliable Covid-19 vaccines has prompted public outrage against the entire ruling system.

Observers believe that the theocracy refuses to contain the cognation, seeking to eradicate any kind of protests. They point to Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini’s policy at the beginning of the religious dictatorship when he provoked western neighbor Iraq to a war of erosion and extended it to eight years.

He practically quelled all domestic objections via the excuse of war and labeled opposition groups and individuals as traitors and fifth column. In this respect, Khomeini described the war as a ‘divine blessing,’ saying, “We will continue the war until the last brick and last home in Tehran” and “The peace is equivalent to the burial of Islam.”

Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered remarks aired by the state TV on March 4, 2020, on the arbor day. “Do not exaggerate this virus. We have already experienced too greater dilemmas. This is a temporary issue. It’s not something extraordinary,” Khamenei said while hundreds of people had lost their lives as of the day.

“It is like a public exercise that will remain as an achievement. With such achievements, the tragedy will turn into a blessing for us,” Khamenei added, explicitly showing his satisfaction about the spread of the illness.

Iranian dissidents compare this situation with the beginning of the Islamic Republic’s era. In recent years, religious tyranny has been severely challenged by public protests. The people are no longer intimidated by the regime’s oppressive maneuvers and apparatuses.

Instead, protesters bravely resist in front of State Security Forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Basij paramilitary force, and Ministry of Intelligence and Security agents. For instance, during the gas protests in November 2019, people severely responded to oppressive forces and pushed them back in various cities.

Furthermore, following the IRGC’s declaration about its role in shooting down the Ukrainian Civil plane in January 2020, many citizens, mostly students, flooded the streets and chanted anti-establishment slogans.

“[IRGC Quds Force commander] Qassem Soleimani was a murderer, as is his leader [Khamenei],” “Death to the liar [then-President Hassan Rouhani],” and “IRGC, Basij, you are our ISIS,” students chanted in Tehran’s Sharif University on January 11. They also extended protests to nearby streets and resisted the SSF’s attacks.

In such circumstances, while the coronavirus has been contained in many countries across the globe and the government faces a growing rate of demand for Covid-19 vaccines, Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi as President to counter upcoming protests.

Raisi, infamous for his role in the mass killing of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, is one of Khamenei’s trustees. Given his horrible record, the government sees him as a savior for the regime’s complicated crises. However, despite Raisi’s notorious background and even the coronavirus pandemic, fed-up people have found the protests as the main sole to obtain their inherent rights.

They pursue fundamental social-political changes as a necessity to rescue the country from enormous dilemmas. In this respect, officials express their concerns overturning social or economic grievances into political demands for freedom and justice within a few minutes.

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