By Editors of The Free Iran Herald
Updates on events unfolding in Iran
Iranians Hold Chinese Neocolonialists Responsible for the Epidemic
As most of the world has heard by now, Iran is currently wracked by the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, being the country most afflicted by it, second to China.
Iranians have been largely cut off from global travel, as other countries fear Iranian visitors may be possible virus carriers. The virus has become so widespread that even high-ranking Khomeinist regime hierarchs are becoming ill, and in some cases, dying. Yet, the regime continues to do little to control the epidemic, or assist those who have been stricken by it. The barefaced unconcern shown by the ruling Shi’a clerics has caused some Iranians to rise up against them.
The Tehran regime continues to conceal the scale of the coronavirus epidemic in the statements provided to the international community. As of Wednesday, February 26th, a confidential source inside the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) informed the Persian-language news website AVA Today that 488 Iranians had died from the coronavirus so far – many more than the 34 the regime has said officially. The same site reported another 42 people dying on Friday. However, some reports say the death toll may be far higher than that – with one unconfirmed source saying that 5,000 people have died from the virus.
According to what I hear from #Iran, almost 5,000 people have lost their lives due to #CoronaVirus/#COVID19 outbreak. A friend of mine, Saber Abdol-Razagh, a retired #IRIAF officer who was KC-707’s boom operator & crewchief in 1970/80s died today because of #COVID2019. pic.twitter.com/sraBIqyTj2
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) February 29, 2020
According to a team of Canadian doctors, using mathematical models to estimate the extent of the virus’s spread, 18,000 Iranians – at least – are infected. In videos posted to social media, Iranians are seen collapsing in the streets as they begin to come down with the infection.
— Alireza Nader (@AlirezaNader) February 29, 2020
Many Khomeinist officals were reported to have become ill from the coronavirus, with one, Hadi Khosrowshahi, a cleric, Islamic fundamentalist ideologist, and a former ambassador, dying.
Other officials reported or rumored to have been infected include:
- Massoumeh Ebtekar: Currently one of the regime’s Vice-Presidents, born Niloufar Ebtekar before changing her name, she abandoned her cosmopolitan, secular, upper-class upbringing to become a Khomeinist fanatic. Famous to Americans as “Tehran Mary,” Ebtekar was the spokesperson for the terrorist group that kidnapped the American embassy staff in November 1979, and she personally tortured some of the diplomats. Despite her ostensible hatred for the USA, her son Eissa Hashemi lives in Los Angeles, CA, and was secretly given a US Green Card by former President Obama.
- Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf: Former mayor of Tehran, and one of the most brutal and corrupt of the regime’s leaders. Among Iranians, Ghalibaf is known for having a private army, and prison, which he uses to abduct, torture, and kill his political enemies. Many Iranian intellectuals who criticized the regime were later assassinated at Ghalibaf’s order. Before falling ill and being taken to hospital, he was on track to become the Speaker of the Islamic Parliament (Majles).
- Mostafa Pourmohammadi: Former justice minister, and one of the five clerics in charge of implementing the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, which killed over 33,000.
Multiple members of the Islamic Parliament are also reported to have become ill, and additionally, so has a relative-by-marriage of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Farideddin Haddad Adel. The virus is also said to be spreading rapidly amongst Iranian Air Force pilots, and among the staff of the regime’s Foreign Ministry. However, some Iranians are skeptical of these news announcements. They believe that these officials might be lying about being ill in order to then stage a “miraculous recovery” and then build up their reputations among their religious followers as leaders “chosen by God.”
Be that as it may, the regime’s response to the outbreak has been woefully deficient. Tehran has refused to quarantine areas where the virus is widespread, and it continues to encourage people to visit Shi’a holy shrines – at a time when mass gatherings would enable a further spreading of the disease. Some clerics are promoting nonsense superstitions, and claiming that licking the poles of the shrines will cure the coronavirus!
While the city of Qom is the epicentre of #CoronaVirus in Iran, authorities refuse to close down religious shrines there.
These pro-regime people are licking the shrines & encouraging people to visit them.
Iran’s authorities are endangering lives of Iranians & the world pic.twitter.com/s9o6zYhzNQ
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) February 29, 2020
3 to 4% of Iranians support #Iran‘s Islamic Regime. This religious minority has done its best to infect Iranians with #CoronaVirus. They can be seen in these videos licking germs on shrines of Shiite religious figures to prove that Spirits of Imams can protect them from #COVID19! pic.twitter.com/ujG29ETrjd
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) March 1, 2020
Meanwhile, face masks and hand sanitizers and even soap remain impossible to obtain in Iran. Corruption is one of the main causes, as officials, notably from the IRGC are said to be hoarding items meant for distribution to the people and selling them at a massive profit on the black market. In another case, the IRGC was seen to be mislabeling cans of air freshener as anti-bacterial spray, and then selling them. Tehran also rejected an offer of aid and assistance from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In Tabriz -Iran, some small sellers provide free masks to the people
However IRGC Mafia agents in the mullahs’ regime Stockpile masks and essential health requirements to sell at a higher price later, but people will defeat these sinister goals. pic.twitter.com/TkovxgEhnS
— hassan.mahmoudi (@hassan_mahmou1) February 24, 2020
I’m deeply concerned by the spread of #coronavirus in #Iran and the public health risk to the Iranian people and their neighbors. The U.S. offers our humanitarian assistance to the people of Iran to help unmet needs in their response efforts.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 28, 2020
The regime’s inattention to the people’s health stands in contrast to how well they treat their own. On Saturday, 10 clerics who had contracted coronavirus in Qom, where the outbreak is most intense (over 200 coronavirus deaths in Qom alone), were transported to the Towhid Clinic in Bandar Abbas, along the shores of the Persian Gulf, so that they could feel better by being in a warmer climate. Residents of Bandar Abbas, enraged not only by the fact that the clerics were taking needed hospital beds away from them, but also by the reality that bringing the clerics there increased their risk of becoming infected, took to the streets and set the clinic on fire.
An angry crowd set fire to a clinic in Bandar Abbas, south of #Iran because it had patients in it suffering from #coronavirus. Some people say the patients were from Qom and this had angered the mob. There is a sense of panic. Still hard to believe this happened. #covid19 pic.twitter.com/5KR9xWAVSc
— Apocalypse NewsPaper (@Apocalypse_NP) March 1, 2020
Suppressing the masses’ anger, rather than tending to public health, seems to be the only thing that Tehran’s officials are doing. On Sunday March 1st, IRGC and Basji units poured into the streets of Iranian cities, with trucks bearing water cannons, claiming they going to “fight coronavirus” and that they would not return to their bases until the epidemic had passed. Of course, everyday Iranians knew this was really done in order to prevent new anti-regime demonstrations from commencing.
According to @saeednamaki (Minister of Health in Iran),within 2 days, 300,000 Basiji/IRGC forces are planning to coordinate w health officials to control & fight against the outbreak of #COVID 🦠—These thugs maimed & massacred Peaceful protesters pic.twitter.com/vZPuf6jReA https://t.co/NVPMDGNaFO
— Baharak (@Baharak_Irani) March 1, 2020
Amidst all this, the IRGC has now begun to use coronavirus as a means to target and punish political prisoners. Family members of Fardin Moradi, an activist in Sanandaj who has been detained since January 22nd, told journalists that Moradi had been threatened by his jailers that he would be forcibly infected with the virus if he did not cooperate during interrogations. Today, it was revealed that Ami-Hossein Moradi (no relation to Fardin), an inmate in Tehran’s Fashafouyeh Prison, which is well-known for its decrepit and unsanitary conditions, who had been sentenced to death a few days ago for protesting against the regime last November, had become infected.
At the same time, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who has been imprisoned since April 2016 on false accusations of espionage, has stated that she has come down with an illness she fears may be the coronavirus. As a result, many incarcerated opposition activists are worried that the regime may be purposely spreading the virus inside the prisons, to massacre them while making the deaths seem natural and giving Tehran plausible deniability when charged with human rights violations. In one prison in Khorramabad, inmates went on strike on Saturday, after several of them began showing symptoms of sickness, but prison officials refused to provide them with medical care.
#BREAKING: It is now confirmed that the Ministry of Intelligence of #Iran‘s Islamic Regime has started deliberately infecting #Iranian political prisoners with #CoronaVirus! Amir-Hossein Moradi, one of three Iranian protesters recently sentenced to death is infected with #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/1Z0Dm7PqXv
— Iran Protests Watch (@IProtests) March 1, 2020
A number of prisoners in #Iran have gone on strike since Saturday. The Khorramabad prison is one of the least hygienic facilities for preventing #coronavirus outbreaks. Some inmates have been left without help with symptoms such as fever & cough. They don’t have access to doctor. https://t.co/85JFmsBOgo
— Iran Revival | فَرَشگَرد (@iranfarashgard) March 1, 2020
China Blamed for Virus’s Entrance and Spread in Iran
Opinions in Iran are nearly unanimous that the coronavirus epidemic was caused by the careless disregard for cleanliness and the health of their colleagues shown by Chinese executives and laborers employed in Iran, and the subservient attitude adopted towards the Chinese regime by Tehran. When most other countries had already suspended air flights to Wuhan, China, where coronavirus first emerged, the IRGC’s Mahan Airways continued flying to and from there, and it continues to do so even now. This one fact alone has been described by opposition journalists as the regime’s “treason” against the Iranian nation. Furthermore, Tehran continued to allow millions of face masks manufactured in Iran to be shipped to China, while Iranians were unable to obtain any. Chinese expatriates in Iran hoarded all of the available supply inside the country for themselves, and after public outrage, it was announced over regime media that unnamed Chinese citizens had been arrested for stockpiling millions of masks. Outside observers have commented that Tehran’s actions in this regard are on account of China’s being the regime’s last foreign importer of Iranian oil. In fact, China currently does not pay for the oil it takes from Iran, rather, it deducts the value of the oil from the amount that the regime owes Beijing. Iranians have remarked that this arrangement, of natural resources being extracted from a country to pay an onerous debt, is a standard case of neocolonialism.
The Chinese exploitation of Iranians, aided by the connivance of the Tehran regime, is nothing new. In November 2018, the Iranian employees of a regime-Chinese joint venture, a petrochemical factory in Masjed’e Soleyman, went on strike and rioted against their Chinese managers, who hadn’t paid their wages in months, and physically abused them. Also in 2018, Persian Gulf coast fishermen, some of whose families had been fishing those shores for generations, reported how their livelihoods were being destroyed by the regime’s having conceded the Gulf waters to Chinese industrial fishing ships using bottom trawling practices – which are also known to be destructive toward the aquatic environment. The regime has also sold prime-quality Iranian soil, which could have been used for agriculture, to Chinese companies who used it for their island-building campaign in the South China Sea. The longstanding subservience of the Tehran regime to Beijing, the trading away of Iran’s economic wealth and public health for Chinese aiding the regime to sustain itself, has been dubbed by Iranians “Eastoxification” (Sharghzadegi in Persian).
In a naïve hypocritical gesture, the Persian language section of Radio & TV China recently produced a series of instructional videos to help Iranians avoid contracting the coronavirus. Using Persian names, the Chinese broadcasters, speaking fluent Persian, repeat common sense tropes such as “wash your hands with sanitizer,” and “wear a mask on the bus,” avoiding the fact that it is due to China that Iran is experiencing shortages of those exact products. Iranians have found these videos unintentionally humorous, as examples of Chinese obliviousness and condescension towards Iran, which they consider to be a client state of theirs.