In a webinar: Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), addresses the causes for the spread of coronavirus in Iran, Iranian regime’s cover-up, mismanagement and politicizing the issue to get international sanctions lifted. He also referred to the rising number of casualties, which according to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK) has exceeded 11,000.
The full text of remarks by Mr. Mohammad Mohaddessin:
Ladies and gentlemen,
The world is dealing with Coronavirus crisis. The situation in Iran is different in many respects, it is alarming, catastrophic and is getting worse by the day. For us as Iranians, this is a pressing humanitarian issue since our people from all age groups and all over Iran are perishing in broad daylight. Urgent international action is needed.
For the past three weeks, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran or PMOI/MEK has provided the latest figures on Coronavirus fatalities in Iran. As of the afternoon of March 25, Coronavirus has taken the lives of more than 11,500 in 222 cities across Iran.
The information on the death toll province-by-province and city-by-city is obtained from hospitals, medical centers, physicians, morgues, mortuaries, and from internal reports of Iranian authorities.
Allow me to provide some of the figures province by province:
· Tehran 1,700
· Isfahan 1,360
· Qom (the epicenter of the crisis) 1,300
· Gilan 1,050
· Khorasan Razavi 980
· Mazandaran 820
· Khuzestan 500
· Kermanshah 280
· Yazd 230
· Lorestan 230
· Hamadan 240
· Zanjan 150
Reports from Qom show that 60 to 70 people are dying of Coronavirus every day, and mortuaries can no longer accommodate them.
The situation in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran is dire as well. According to eyewitness reports, at least 1,250 victims were buried in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery by March 18. A contract to dig 10,000 extra graves in the cemetery has recently been signed.
A large number of coronavirus victims have been buried ostensibly under other causes. According to eyewitness reports, several workers at the mortuary, including five women, who worked in sections not designated for Coronavirus victims, were infected with the virus.
Another indicator of the scale of the catastrophe is the death of more than 100 regime officials, including more than two dozen senior clerics such as Khamenei’s representatives, and advisers, at least 10 senior IRGC commanders including Brig. Gen. Hossein Assadollahi, the former commander of the IRGC’s 27th Division in charge of controlling Tehran, as well as parliament deputies and senior local officials.
One area of particular concern is the plight of the medical staff, including doctors and nurses, who lack the most basic needs for their own personal protection. So far, more than 100 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have lost their lives while treating coronavirus patients.
The regime’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri warned that releasing Coronavirus-related statistics and information except from government channels is “a criminal act punishable by law” with “severe consequences”. Arrests have continued in various cities on charges of spreading rumors about the casualties.
The IRGC’s has ordered all provincial IRGC divisions and headquarters to be present at hospitals, medical and health centers to control reporting on the number of patients infected or dead due to the virus.
We have clear evidence that the regime was aware of the spread of the virus to Iran and that several people had died after being infected in late January, but kept it a secret. Because of the February 11 anniversary of the revolution and the sham parliamentary elections on February 21, Khamenei explicitly prohibited officials from making the announcement. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told a press conference on February 23, that while some people had recommended the postponement of the parliamentary elections, as the official in charge, he had rejected those calls.
Despite repeated warnings, the IRGC-owned Mahan Air continued passenger flights to China into March.
We have documents from hospitals that since early February, patients suspected of being infected by coronavirus had been hospitalized in Tehran.
While the regime has made a concerted effort to blame the sanctions as the real reason for the catastrophic situation, in reality, no one but the regime is responsible for the crisis.
Here is an obvious example:
The regime’s attitude toward the prominent NGO, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the past few days is very telling. MSF dispatched a field hospital to Isfahan, one of the worst-hit cities in Iran. Despite claiming that the situation is dire and sanctions are preventing the regime from addressing the immediate needs of the Iranian people, officials expelled the MSF from Iran. Alireza Vahabzadeh, a senior Health Ministry official tweeted on March 24: “There is no need for foreigners to set up field hospitals.” In a word, the regime says give us the means so we can use it for our purposes but no direct presence since that would expose the regime’s priorities, mismanagement, and corruption.
While outside of Iran the regime claims that it lacks the basic needs due to the sanctions, inside Iran it boasts that it is in total control and has extra means. On March 25, Hassan Rouhani claimed, “Until today, we had no shortages of beds, nurses, or doctors. Even in intensive care units (ICU), in most cities and provinces, we have reserves. Yesterday, I was particularly worried about Mashhad; however, it turned out that 30% percent of ICU beds were empty. There is good planning in place”! He also claimed yesterday, “Hospital admissions (for Coronavirus) have decreased and the death toll is declining.”
What are the basic facts?
1 For four decades, the Iranian regime’s only concern has been to suppress the Iranian people, sponsor terrorism and belligerence in the region and proliferate weapons of mass destruction. This is reflected in the allocation of budgets for these malign activities instead of the basic needs and welfare of the people such as medical facilities and hospitals. This policy has devastated the basic foundations of Iranian society with the Iranian people paying the price.
2- Corruption is institutionalized. It has become so rampant that even the regime’s leaders describe it as a seven-headed dragon. On July 15, 2019, Health Minister Saied Namaki said: “1,3 billion dollars for the purchase of medical equipment has gone out and no one knows who exactly has taken them and what has been brought in and to whom they were handed over.” The Governor of Central Bank on December 19, 2019, said: “We have provided 22 billion dollars’ worth of foreign currency for the imports, out of which 11 billion dollars has not returned to the country. What has happened to the rest of the money?” A regime newspaper wrote on December 18 that according to information from 15 Iranian banks, it became evident that financial assets and funds provided to 456 real and legal entities was about 86.5 billion dollars, which is equivalent to the whole budget of the Iranian year 1399 (that started on March 20).
Due to hoarding and mismanagement, hospitals lack basic supplies and required equipment and facilities to counter this catastrophe. Medical facilities are exclusively controlled by the IRGC. Ordinary patients are deprived of basic needs, such as masks and disinfectant liquids; the IRGC sells them on the black market at 10 times the actual price.
3- Regarding the availability of funds, according to the regime’s senior officials there are five institutions that control 60 percent of the national wealth. This includes Headquarters to Execute Imam’s Order (Setad Ejraie Farman Imam), IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya Garrison, Astan-e Quds Razavi, the Martyrs Foundation and the Mostaz’afan Foundation.
All of them are under the total control of the regime’s leader, Ali Khamenei. Setad’s assets and capital are estimated to be in excess of $100 billion alone.
The National Development Fund is under the total control of Khamenei. While there are several estimates on its holdings, it reportedly has dozens of billions of dollars in assets.
These institutions possess massive assets and facilities. Even a small portion of them could pay for the costs of confronting Coronavirus, including paying salaries of workers, employees, and nurses.
While Khamenei has refused using his personal coffer to provide for the most basic needs of Iranians, the salary and benefits of repressive forces namely the IRGC and the regime’s proxies outside are continuing to be paid. On January 8, the regime increased the budget of the IRGC Qods Force by 200 million Euros.
Medicine has never been sanctioned. The Director of Organization of Food and Medicine of the regime announced on Saturday. March 21, that special clothes, masks, and hygienic material are imported in 48 hours. The regime has been able to import testing kits since January.
The other day, Khamenei said there is a possibility that the US may have produced the virus for Iran. The regime is using the lives of defenseless Iranians as a tool for political expediency and trying to undermine the sanctions. The world should not allow the mullahs to use the lives of thousands of Iranians as pawns for their ominous political objectives.
This is also evident in the way the regime treats the Iranian people. While other countries are compensating workers and employees so that they can stay at home, Rouhani said on March 21, “It’s the counter-revolutionaries’ conspiracy to shut down businesses and economic activity in Iran. We must not let this happen.” He had previously said that Iran has no plans to quarantine any cities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
· All over the world, governments are going out of their way to alleviate the suffering of the people in combating the Coronavirus. Iran is the only country where the regime and the people are on two different sides. The regime’s efforts are aimed at covering up the actual figures and dealing with political consequences, namely thwarting any expression of public outrage in response to its mismanagement of the virus. This has contributed significantly to people’s dire predicament and hardships.
· The catastrophe in Iran is an immediate, pressing issue that has not been limited to the Iranian borders and has also spread the countries in the region.
· The regime is exploiting the Iranian people’s predicament to alleviate sanctions in order to have more means to continue its repression, terrorism, and belligerence. Even a dime to this regime will not reach the Iranian people. All assistance to Iran should be sent and distributed directly by the international agencies. Otherwise, they will be stolen by the regime.
· Regarding the sanctions, as Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, underscored, those who are shedding crocodile tears for the religious fascism ruling Iran because of the sanctions should also show some empathy for the Iranian people. And if they are true to their words, they should force the regime to allow journalists, observers, missions, and foreign aid into the country and allow assistance to reach the needy without middlemen. They should also press the regime to release all prisoners and to stop arrest, torture, and execution, and especially, compel the regime not to prevent the youths from helping their fellow citizens.