Last month, the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei delivered a televised address, in which he clearly stipulated his opposition to purchasing Covid-19 vaccines. The announcement led to the cancellation of an agreement that had already been established between the Iranian Red Crescent Society and anonymous American philanthropists. If Khamenei hadn’t interfered, 150,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine would likely be available in Iran right now.
According to the political organization Mujahedin-e-Khalq(MEK Iran), it is clear that behind the dithering and delay in the purchase and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines was Khamenei himself, the man who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran. The fact that Khamenei made the remarks himself instead of delegating them to one of his subordinates speaks volumes about the strategic importance of the decision to ban Covid-19 vaccines. This strategy is based on the two pillars of preserving his rule and looting as much of the country’s wealth as he can.
There is no plan to compensate for this loss. The Iranian Ministry of Health claims to oversee the development of a national alternative, which Iranian pharmacists have called a “joke”, especially when compared to existing vaccines that are more than 95% effective, a report from MEK.
The loss to the Red Crescent threatens to be devastating not only to the 150,000 Iranians who may have received the vaccine but also to the countless otherscitizenswho are hoping to get vaccinated as the Iranian society struggles to keep functioning normally in the midst of the worst pandemic in the Middle East.
Ordinary citizens have not received any support from the regime, which has refused to seriously enforce lockdown measures and help the people who are struggling to make ends meet. As a result, Iranians have no choice but to go to work or seek a new job with the greatest possible caution.
However, conscientious behavior on the part of public opinion is not particularly effective when the regime is not even transparent about the extent to which the infection has penetrated every community and has affected every demographic. According to the regime’s statistics, there are more than a million cases of Covid-19 in the country of around 82 million, with more than 56,000 deaths so far. The real numbers, however, are much higher in both cases – about four times higher in the case of deaths.
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK Iran) has been following the outbreak closely since before it was officially recognized by the regime’s authorities. According to reports from MEK Iran, the death toll exceeds 200,000, due to drastic mismanagement by the regime, rampant misinformation, and early developments that have served to dramatically accelerate the pace of infections, while the government still held everything out in the dark.
In January and February last year, the regime authorities celebrated the regime’s anniversary and their parliamentary elections, although both events received a national boycott. Just two days before those elections, the authorities had announced the first death of Covid-19 in Iran. However, the Iranian Resistance and MEK Iran later uncovered documents showing that the coronavirus infection had been identified in hospitals as early as the end of December. Tehran has since gone to great lengths to conceal the results of this situation.
Paradoxically, the authorities have also tried to underline the severity of the epidemic, particularly in discussions with Western powers who might be interested in helping to eradicate the pandemic on a global scale. Selective recognition of the crisis served as a highly cost-effective tool for regime officials to call for an easing of sanctions, at a time when their takeover was undermined by international sanctions.
The regime’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, systematically insisted that Tehran managed the coronavirus effectively, but that long-term success in limiting the epidemic would depend on regaining access to foreign markets that had been cut off from international sanctions.