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How Mullahs Use COVID-19 To Prevent Major Iran Protests

Coronavirus outbreak in Iran

Holding university exams, planning to hold mourning ceremonies in Muharram, forcing people back to work amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and systematic cover-up of this crisis, are the Iranian regime’s plan to use the Coronavirus pandemic for thwarting an uprising, thus preventing its downfall. 

The regime held the college entrance exams, without implementing the most basic preventive measures and health protocols. In this regard, Minoo Mohraz, member of the regime’s National Coronavirus Combat Task Force, on August 19 told the state-run Hamshari daily: “We suggested that we postpone the entrance exams until the weather would be better, and it could be held outdoors. But the Health Ministry was forced to write a protocol. Who wants to implement it? The entrance exam is a gathering, and I, as an expert, say it should not be held indoors.” 

The regime held these exams while the COVID-19 death toll is rapidly rising, even according to the regime’s statistics, which stands at over 20,000 deaths. Meanwhile, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) announced on Friday that the coronavirus death toll in 394 cities across Iran has surpassed 92,300. 

But why is the regime deliberately sending people to the coronavirus minefield? 

The major Iran protests in November 2019 rattled the regime’s foundation. According to Reuters, the regime’s Supreme Leader ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) “to do whatever it takes” to prevent this uprising from overthrowing his regime. This order led to over 1500 people being slaughtered on the streets, according to the MEK. 

Protests in January erupted following the regime reluctantly confessing to shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, targeting the regime’s top officials, with chants of “death to the dictator.” These protests, as well as the general boycott of the regime’s sham parliamentary elections, made people’s desire for regime change clear for the mullahs’ regime and left the clerical regime in the constant nightmare of downfall. 

So, the COVID-19 was the regime’s savior. Khamenei called it a “blessing and test.” It is important to understand how the regime used this deadly virus. 

The mullahs held their sham parliamentary elections despite knowing it would be boycotted. This was partly to defy the international community and legitimize their rule. But mostly the Iranian regime intended to use the novel coronavirus as a lever of oppression to quell the restive Iranian society. The regime’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak confirmed this reality that the mullahs intend to use mass casualties as a barrier to a new series of possible major protests. 

Systematic cover-up and downplaying 

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the mullahs’ president, Hassan Rouhani, and other officials tried to downplay this crisis and cover up the true extent of this virus. While the mullahs said the virus was transmitted from China to Iran in February, documents published by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), obtained by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from the regime’s National Emergency Organization, confirmed the virus had arrived in Iran in early January. 

Yet, the regime continued its cover-up and ordered a quarantine when the virus had spread across Iran. This quarantine was also rapidly canceled since the regime feared starving people, who were at home without any governmental help, would rise up against the regime. So, they quickly forced people back to work. 

These actions increased the death toll and the infection rate. The situation even forced some of the regime’s officials to acknowledge the regime’s strategy of killing people.  

Mohammad Reza Mahboubfar, a member of the National Covid-19 Task Force, on August 10 told the state-run Jahan-e Sanat daily: “We witnessed the first patients suffering from Covid-19 exactly a month before the official announcement of this virus entering the country, meaning around mid-January. However, at the time the government concealed this due to political and security reservations.” 

Mahboubfar further described these security and political reservations. “The government to avoid the protests of 2018 and 2019 being repeated chose the herd immunity policy by vast reopening. Thus, leaving people alone facing coronavirus.” 

Not satisfied to merely deny public statements that contradict the official narrative, the regime responded to Mahboubfar’s interview by closing Jahan-e Sanat. 

Also, the state-run Setareh Sobh (Morning Star) daily, in its editorial published on August 4, while acknowledging to the regime’s cover-up, had warned about holding the college entrance exams and the mourning ceremonies in the holy month of Muharram. 

“Due to the flawed structure of health decision-making and government mismanagement, Iran is and will continue to be plagued by the disease. When the [regime’s] president [Hassan Rouhani] says that Muharram mourning ceremonies could be held gloriously, regardless of the opinion of health experts and specialists, it means there is a serious disagreement between the government and the National Coronavirus Combating Task Force. Despite the fact, most people want to cancel the national entrance exams or to hold mourning ceremonies virtually,” read the article. 

But will the regime be successful in using a high mortality rate to counter possible uprising? 

The answer is no. The restive society that showed its desire for regime change by boycotting the mullahs’ sham parliamentary elections, after sacrificing 1500 martyrs, will never forget how it was treated during these days. 

In this regard, the state-run Mostaghel daily on July 13 wrote: “This nation will not forget how it was abandoned during these bitter days. This will affect the upcoming incidents. The Government did not contain and control the coronavirus to relevantly control the anger of defiant people. But I wish that the suffering and illness of the people were not used as a cure for obliviousness and a means of revenge for the events of November and December. Because soon, people will come to their table for eating, and their despair of an empty table will lead them to protest on busy streets.”