Iran and the Covid-19 crisis

Authors: Dr. Firouz Daneshgari and Dr. Sina Dashti*

Over 300,000 lives have been lost in Iran due to the coronavirus. The staggering death toll places Iran with the highest per-capita fatality rate in the world – by far. This results from the theocracy’s war against the Iranian people, its astronomical corruption, and its mindboggling mismanagement of the crisis. The Iranian people are not just struggling against the coronavirus but also against the Velayat (clerical rule) Virus.

The Health Ministry currently puts the official death toll at around 80,000. But Iranian authorities are notoriously deceitful and dishonest. Doctors and practitioners across the country say the figures are much higher. The main opposition, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has been keeping a reliable tally of casualties on a daily basis since March 2020. It said this week that the actual numbers have exceeded 300,000.

The opposition tally is based on detailed records and reliable data from morgues, cemeteries, hospitals, medical centers, internal reports, state media, leaked state documents, and first-hand testimonies from healthcare professionals in 543 cities.

As such, Iran has the highest mortality rate in the world: In the U.S. the death toll from COVID-19 has been approximately 1/660 of the total population, Iran’s death toll is 1/226, nearly 300% of that in the U.S.  

Why does Iran have the highest per-capita death toll?

The regime engaged in a cover-up of the initial outbreak. Leaked documents indicate that the National Emergency Organization had recorded probable cases of coronavirus infections as early as December 2019. The regime, however, covered it up to minimize fears of its forces’ participation in the anniversary of the February 11 revolution and the February 21, 2020 parliamentary elections.

During the carefully stage-managed parliamentary vote in February 2020, state employees were forced to attend polls, while others were provided free transportations and a multitude of monetary incentives to maximize the number of crowds at voting booths before state television propagandists.

The manufactured image of public support was especially important for the regime after the November 2019 uprisings in nearly 200 cities, during which the people called for democratic regime change. State suppressive forces murdered at least 1,500 protesters during the upheaval.

At the same time, the regime organized a mass funeral for its eliminated terrorist mastermind, Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq in January 2020.

All these propaganda events became super-spreaders. And despite repeated warnings, Mahan airlines, which is owned by the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), continued flights to China well into March.

At the same time, the regime deliberately engaged in a slow and tepid response to the outbreak. In February 2020, the mullahs’ President Hassan Rouhani, billed by some in the West as a “moderate,” accused the United States of spreading “fear” over the virus, and insisted that his government had the situation under control.

Now months later, officials are warning about a ”fourth wave” of infections. The head of Arak Medical Services University described the situation as a ”tsunami,” the likes of which ”may never be experienced in history.” As of May 19, one hospital in Khuzestan reported having 95 percent of its ICU beds dedicated to COVID-19 cases, in addition to 90 percent of its ordinary beds. That situation is common in other cities.

The regime’s despised Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has banned the import of vaccines from the US or the UK, leaving the people at the mercy of the virus. According to the latest Reuters data, only 1.9% of the population has received a dose of the vaccine. At this rate, it will take at least 4 years to administer enough doses for the entire population.

Why would Khamenei ban vaccines while happily importing the technology his regime needs from the West? Because he wants to deliberately slow the recovery process. Fearful of growing public discontent against the regime, he wants to use the coronavirus as a barrier against public protests like the ones in November 2019.

In March, ahead of the Iranian New Year, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of NCRI, highlighted recent unrest and protests by teachers, pensioners, and defrauded investors, calling it evidence that ”the fire of the uprisings is rising from the ashes of the coronavirus.”

For four decades, the regime’s only preoccupation has been to suppress the Iranian people, to spread terrorism and extremism around the region, and to proliferate weapons of mass destruction. It has sunk billions of dollars into these projects at the expense of basic needs and welfare of the people, such as medical facilities and hospitals.

The Iranian people know perfectly well that their misery has nothing to do with international sanctions. Medicine has never been sanctioned.  The regime can import vaccines, special clothes, masks, testing kits and hygienic material. But Khamenei has chosen to hoard at least a trillion dollars in his corrupt institutions, depriving the people of the funding necessary to combat the virus.

The coronavirus is enabled by the clerical dictatorship in Iran. But the Iranian people will overcome both viruses. The international community should provide moral support.

*Dr. Dashti is a specialist in infection and family medicine, practicing in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Dr.Firouz Daneshgari
Dr.Firouz Daneshgari
Dr. Daneshgari is professor of surgery at Case Western Reserve University and lives in Akron, Ohio, USA