The Islamic Republic of Iran is among the top countries in the world in terms of the number of people that have recovered from the coronavirus. China, Germany, Spain and the US have also registered high recoveries but their number of infections are far higher than those of Iran. The US leads the world both in the number of infections and deaths. Both numbers continue to climb as this article is written. Iran’s is all the more remarkable given that it has been subjected to decades of illegal punitive US sanctions that have inflicted massive damage on its economy.
What has enabled Iran to limit the pandemic’s impact while far richer countries like the US, Britain, France etc. have fared so much worse? The first point to note about Iran is that the government machinery went into action immediately after the first death was reported on February 19. It was not easy for a people given to high degree of socializing. Iranians greet each other by kissing on both cheeks!
Similarly, as a deeply religious society, limiting access to mosques that were later shut down completely especially the shrines in Qom and Mashhad, was a very difficult decision. In the interest of public safety, this step had to be taken although some disruptive groups tried to violate it. This resulted in a disproportionate number of infections and deaths in the holy city of Qom.
Another troubling aspect of the pandemic in Iran has been the number of high-ranking officials being infected or having died from infection. These include two advisors to the Rahbar, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, former ambassador to the Vatican Hadi Khosroshahi and an advisor (Hussein Shaikhul-Islam) to Iran’s foreign minister who died after getting infected with the virus.
The number of senior officials infected is also very high. Included in the list are two vice presidents (Es’haq Jahangiri and Masoumeh Ebtekar), an advisor to the Rahbar, Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, Speaker of Parliament Dr Ali Larijani as well as a number of other members of the Majlis (parliament) and several cabinet ministers.
Despite the twin debilitating challenges—crippling sanctions and large numbers of top officials being infected—the Islamic Republic of Iran has not buckled under. More than 40 years of externally-imposed crises have enabled the government and people to rise to the occasion. And rise they did.
In the early days of the pandemic, the supply of masks and other protective gear was so limited that doctors in Iran had to share masks. The Jihad-e Sazindagi (Jihad for Reconstruction) that has existed since 1980, immediately sprang into action. Its volunteers went into hospitals to provide free services in support of the medical staff. Mosques and universities became centres for producing disinfectants and distributing them among the people.
Women voluntarily sewed face masks at home. Millions of masks have been produced and are still being produced. Outside food stores, there are piles of free masks for people to use.
Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been mobilised to help with disinfecting streets, bazaars and mosques. The Revolutionary Guards have also utilized their skills in opening new hospital beds in shopping malls. They have devised new testing kits that can produce results in 15 minutes instead of days. Iran has carried out promising experiments by using the plasma of patients that have recovered.
With a population of 85 million, Iran has already tested more than 70 million people. It has utilized a number of methods: phone lines or internet services for people experiencing any symptoms, checking temperature of people driving cars and even going door-to-door to check people’s health.
The result has been remarkable success in containing the devastating impact of the virus. Even the annual Nowruz celebrations that start on March 21 to welcome the new Iranian year, were a sombre affair this year. Travel was down by more than 70 %.
Not only is Iran’s recovery rate at 83% very high (in percentage terms second only to China—93%), it is far better than Germany’s that stands at 65%. Further, since mid-April, its death rate has been consistently below 100 per day. In other words, Iran has managed to not only contain the virus but also brought the death rate down.
The Rahbar, Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei rightly called Iran’s medical personnel that died after getting infected by the virus as martyrs. They gave their lives to save others. They are also the heroes of the Islamic revolution.
Iran may be suffering from devastating US sanctions but it is a compassionate society where people care for each other. Unlike the US, there is no blame game going on in Iran. Iran’s President does not appear on television nightly to blame some governor or foreign government for spreading the virus.
When this pandemic is over, the US would emerge not only as a country ruled by absolutely callous and cruel people but that they do not care even for their own. The gangsters that rule America are only interested in lining their own pockets. Let the people go to the dog!