Reporting by PMOI/MEK
Iran, April 13, 2020—While the novel coronavirus continues to spread across Iran and claim lives, the Iranian regime is trying to take advantage of the suffering of the Iranian people to score political points and obtain economic benefits.
For weeks, Iranian regime officials and their lobbyists abroad have been waging a propaganda campaign in a bid to lift U.S. sanctions that were instated to prevent the regime’s funding of terrorism and creation of weapons of mass destruction.
The main talking point of this concerted effort, which has also recruited a number of politicians who endorse a policy of appeasement toward Tehran, is that U.S. sanctions are hampering Iran’s ability to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Regime officials, with foreign minister Javad Zarif at their helm, are blaming the tragic deaths of thousands of Iranians and the regime’s dismal response to COVID-19 on the U.S. They only solution, they claim, is to lift sanctions and allow the regime to return to business as usual.
But a deeper look at the situation shows that the Iranian regime is the main instigator and facilitator of the coronavirus outbreak. Despite having the necessary resources to help the people of Iran—especially the impoverished segments of the society—regime officials continue to prioritize their own benefits and hold on power over public health and the lives of millions of Iranians.
The regime’s mismanagement of the crisis
From the outset of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, the people of Iran have suffered from the corruption, mismanagement, and inhumane policies of Hassan Rouhani’s government. Supported by regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Rouhani’s decisions have worsened an already critical economic, social, and political situation.
The virus entered the country at a time that was especially inopportune for the regime, which was planning pro-government rallies on February 11 and parliamentary elections on February 21. The regime declared the first two COVID-19 deaths on February 19, but according to documents obtained by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the regime knew about coronavirus cases weeks earlier. The regime’s decision to keep the lid on the outbreak was plainly aimed at pursuing its political interests.
Regarding the beginning of the epidemic in Iran, Reuters reported on April 2: “When the authorities did become aware of domestic cases of the flu-like virus in early January, they didn’t announce the news until weeks later, out of concern that releasing detailed information would unsettle the public ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for February 21.”
“The coronavirus outbreak in Iran began in February and some say even in January and this shows that the officials’ delayed in announcing the start date of the disease and tried to deny the truth in the beginning,” MP Mahmoud Sadeghi told the state-run Entekhab website on April 11.
Also contributing to the crisis, and possibly causing it from the beginning, was the continued flights of the IRGC-affiliated Mahan Airways to and from China, including the transfer of 700 Chinese religious students to Qom. In February, Mahan Air, ran at least 55 flights between Tehran and China, further infecting the Iranian people.
The state-run Etedal newspaper reported on March 5: “Reportedly Mahan Air flights continue to China for the reason of China’s support of Islamic Republic at the time of the ‘sanctions’ and in this situation, Mahan Air continues to benefit.”
Earlier, Bahram Parsai, another MP, said: “Profitability of a domestic Airline and wrong policies of the Civil Aviation Organization and not taking seriously the warnings of the World Health Organization (WHO) is the cause of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran. There were no reports of this virus in neighboring countries and this means that it entered the country through flights, and it is unclear when the virus came to Iran.”
Rejecting medical and humanitarian aid
Even after that spread of the virus in Qom, Rouhani’s government didn’t take any measures to isolate and quarantine the cities.
“The government does not believe in quarantine measures. The Majlis (parliament) attempted to pass an urgent blueprinting to shut down the country for a month, however, the entire plan was taken out of the agenda in a strange fashion to decrease supervision over the government to a minimum,” said Majlis member Tayebeh Siavoshi.
As Iran became the Middle East’s hotbed of COVID-19 infection, the regime also rejected international efforts to contain the spread of the virus. On March 24, Tehran expelled a delegation from Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders), which was had sent a 50-bed inflatable hospital and an emergency team of nine people to the central province of Isfahan to increase hospital capacity for treating patients critically ill from coronavirus.
Khamenei also rejected aid offered by the United States, describing them as evil conspiracies and blaming the U.S. for having created the virus to attack Iran.
“Iran refused the United States’ offer of humanitarian assistance and medical supplies to the Iranian people to help address the coronavirus outbreak. On March 23, the Iranian Ministry of Health kicked out a Doctors Without Borders team that was setting up a treatment facility in Esfahan. However, the regime is still calling for sanctions’ relief. Clearly, their priority is access to cash, not medicine,” said the U.S. State Department in a statement on April 6.
The supreme leader and IRGC’s financial empire
Aside from the mismanagement of the crisis, the regime has also refused to use its vast financial resources to maintain the quarantines and avoid sending people back to work.
Khamenei controls more than $200 billion in oﬀ-the-books assets in holding companies and foundations and another $91 billion in Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, of which $20 billion is in cash or cash equivalents.
Iran’s economy is totally in the hand of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and run by 14 non-governmental financial institutions or also known as “powerhouses” to fund its fundamentalist policies. These powerhouses are not under any sort of monitoring or financial audit, making them a perfect instrument of the regime’s political and strategic goals. Astan-e Quds Razavi (AQR), one of the most longstanding financial and religious foundations in Iran is one such institution; another example of the clerical regime exploiting religion to pursue its ominous objectives.
Only the Supreme Leader has the authority to financially audit this financial empire that employs tens of thousands of people.
Astan-e Quds Razavi has played an active role in providing financial, material and logistical support to fundamentalist and terrorist groups within the last few years. Particularly, the heads of AQR have vast relations with Hezbollah’s top officials. It is worth noting that these activities within the past few years have been expanding.
Behzad Nabavi, a government minister in several administrations, said in an interview with the state-run Alef news agency on September 21, 2019, “In our country, there are four institutions which control 60 percent of the national wealth. This includes Executive Headquarters of Imam’s Directive (Setad Ejraie Farman Imam), Khatam-ol-Anbiay Base, Astan-e Quds and Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled. None of these institutions are in connection with the government and parliament.”
But in this time of crisis, where the Iranian people are in dire need of money to continue to support their livelihoods, these financial institutions have yet to tap into their vast resources to help the population.
While Khamenei enjoys his multibillion-dollar wealth, 80 million Iranians are living under the pressure and repression of the mullahs' regime. Government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said on April 11, “The mortality rate of poverty and restrictive economic policies is not comparable to the mortality rate of the coronavirus.”
Khamenei and Rouhani unleashed the COVID-19 outbreak on Iran, and then they left millions of helpless Iranians without protection in the face of coronavirus outbreak, while the wealth of the country controlled by the IRGC and its affiliates can easily pay the wages of workers, office employees and unemployed so that they can be quarantined.
Iran’s coronavirus outbreak has once again proven that the regime does not value the lives of the people. The main obstacle to solve the COVID-19 crisis in Iran is not the sanctions but the inhumane nature of the corrupt mullahs’ regime ruling Iran.