Iranian academics are faulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for stifling information on COVID-19 and declining foreign aid, allowing the country’s outbreak to grow into “a national disaster.”
In the March 29 letter, reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), 100 academics call Khamenei “the Number 1 culprit” for COVID-19 sweeping the nation unchecked. Now one Iranian is infected every minute, while one dies every 10 minutes, the critics say, citing senior staff in Iran’s Department of Health.
“Everyone now knows that the initial obfuscation by the regime and its security forces robbed the Iranian people of their chance to curtail this dangerous virus,” the letter says. “The lives of Iranian citizens were sacrificed, irresponsibly and inhumanely, in service of the regime’s political interests.”
The academics — all of whom live outside of Iran — outline actions they say show Khamenei repeatedly putting himself and his cronies over the health and safety of everyday Iranians.
Here are the academics’ main criticisms:
- Lies and neglect. The regime has downplayed the number of deaths from COVID-19, the critics say, citing World Health Organization estimates. The regime also continued Mahan Air flights to China in February, defying a Cabinet decision to ban flights to China announced January 31. Khamenei has even suggested the disease outbreak resulted from a biological attack.
- Refusing international aid. Iran’s leaders on March 24 kicked out Medecins Sans Frontieres, also called Doctors Without Borders, rejecting plans for a 50-bed treatment unit for COVID-19 patients in the hard-hit city of Isfahan.
U.S. officials say the regime also has declined their offers of aid to fight the coronavirus.
- Fueling violence abroad. Iran’s leaders have pulled billions from the country’s National Development Fund to support the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), rather than using the fund to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
A U.S.-designated terrorist group, the IRGC-QF causes sectarian violence in the Middle East.
- Cronies over country. Iran’s regime responded quickly against its own citizens, brutally cracking down on November protests against rising fuel prices and regime dysfunction. Yet when facing a public health crisis that is killing everyday Iranians, the regime has lied and failed to act.
The academics also fault the regime for failing to quarantine Qom, the epicenter of Iran’s outbreak, because of the city’s connection to Chinese government development projects, according to MEMRI.
“Khamenei is the main culprit in the making of the current crisis into a national disaster,” the letter says.