COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the lives of everyday people around the world. The virus hasn’t reached all parts of the planet yet, however, and some countries have suffered more than others. While the United States has the most recorded cases overall, one of the first countries to get hit — and one of the most deeply affected — is Iran. The degree to which the Iranian people have suffered due to the coronavirus will have an impact for years to come. Besides the changes they can expect to see in their daily lives, the Iranian government’s reaction to the coronavirus will have an influence on Iranian-US relations as well. Here’s a brief rundown on the Iranian response to the pandemic.
Iran Before COVID-19
The previous few months were difficult ones for the Iranian regime. In November 2019, Iran was the scene of the most violent anti-government demonstration since the 1979 revolution. The extent of the protests led the regime to shut down all access to the internet for six days, bringing rebukes from nations and human rights groups from around the world. In January 2020, in the midst of an especially tense time in Iranian-American affairs, the government’s Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian Airlines passenger jet, killing everyone on board. The fact that they denied the incident for three days afterward further eroded any trust the Iranian people still held in their government. When the coronavirus started infecting Iranians shortly after that, the relationship between the people and the regime had become severely frayed.
The transmission of COVID-19 among the Iranian people was accelerated due to several factors. First, Iran’s Mahan Airlines continued to send flights to China (and even Wuhan directly) long after most of the world had stopped flights to and from the epicenter of the outbreak. Furthermore, Muhan completed hundreds of roundtrip flights throughout the Middle East all the way through March, spreading the virus even further. Even when crew members started exhibiting signs of COVID-19, they continued working and were forbidden to talk about their conditions. Second, once the virus arrived and started to spread, the government failed to recognize the extent of the infection, finally admitting that there were any cases within the country on February 19 after two people had already died. In fact, when the country was preparing for the 41st anniversary of the revolution, the regime went to great lengths to hide the spread of the disease. Despite the relatively poor turnout from an educated populace, the government’s behavior only exacerbated a dangerous situation.
A Risky Reopening
The hiding of data surrounding the coronavirus didn’t stop in February. Throughout the pandemic, the government has been hiding figures from the public in an effort to shield themselves from damaging information. One of the costs of this approach is it’s led to a reliance on false data to justify the reopening of Iranian mosques and businesses at a point when it’s still unsafe. The result is a resurgence in infections and many lives lost. Sadly, with the current regime controlling information, we may never know how many people have been infected and killed by the virus.
As with most crises, the Iranian regime is ill-suited to act in the best interests of the people. The OIAC is committed to improving Iran-US relations and the lives of the Iranian people by advocating for a democratic secular government in Tehran. Get involved today by calling us at (202) 559-9232.