(Natural News) As of Monday, at least 17 current and former figures in the Iranian government have died from the coronavirus, and 13 other prominent officials have been infected since the Iranian outbreak – the deadliest in the Middle East – which began in late February.
Hamid Kahram, former member of parliament (MP), is the latest official to die from COVID-19. His death was reported by state media on March 19.
Kahram represented the city of Ahwaz in the southwestern province of Khuzestan from 2000 to 2004. He was also Khuzestan’s regional campaign manager for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during the country’s 2017 presidential election.
The latest current regime officials to die are Habib Barzegari and Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani. Barzegari was a founding member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Before his death, he was serving as a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Golpayegani passed away on March 16, just two days after he tested positive for COVID-19. He was a member of the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member council of clerics and scholars of Islamic law that has the power to dismiss and appoint the country’s Supreme Leader.
Dozens of officials dead or infected
At least 15 other current and former regime figures have succumbed to COVID-19, including:
- Nasser Shabani and Hossein Asadollahi, both senior IRGC commanders. They passed away on March 13.
- Mohammad-Reza Rahchamani, former MP and reformist politician. He died on March 9.
- Farhad Tazari, former head of the Political Bureau of the IRGC. He also died on March 9.
- Fatemeh Rahbar, MP from Tehran and Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak, MP from Gilan province. Both officials were recently elected, and weren’t able to begin their terms as MPs before succumbing to the coronavirus.
- Mohammad Mirmohammadi, member of the Expediency Council, an assembly of officials directly appointed by the Supreme Leader that arbitrates disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council – the governmental body that vets electoral candidates. The Expediency Council also serves as an advisory body for the Supreme Leader.
At least 13 other officials have been infected with COVID-19, including:
- Eshaq Jahangiri, Iran’s First Vice President, and second in the line of succession to the Iranian presidency. His case was confirmed by Iranian news agencies on March 11.
- Ali Asghar Mounesan, Minister for Tourism.
- Reza Rahmani, Minister of Industry.
- Ali Iravani, member of the Expediency Council. Iravani is also a member of Supreme Leader Khamenei’s office.
- Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs and the highest-ranking woman in the Iranian government.
- Iraj Harirchi, Deputy Health Minister. Before Harirchi’s case was confirmed, he was publicly downplaying the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. He was also seen in a news conference coughing occasionally and wiping away fever sweats.
- Mojtaba Zolnour, Zohreh Elahian, Mahmoud Sadeghi and Masoumeh Aghapour Alishahi, all of whom are current MPs.
A spokesman for the parliament told Tasnim News Agency on Tuesday that at least 23 of Iran’s 290 MPs have tested positive for COVID-19, or nearly eight percent of the legislators. This is the highest number of parliamentarians in one country that have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Most #coronavirus deaths (42,345 worldwide)
— Krishna Mishra (@krishna8mishra) April 1, 2020
President Rouhani: Criticism of Iranian government’s response to COVID-19 a “political war”
President Rouhani reacted on Sunday to criticism of the country’s lackluster response to the coronavirus pandemic by describing the international outcry as a “political war.”
Despite the growing number of deaths and confirmed cases, President Rouhani has still, so far, refused to impose nationwide lockdown measures because of its potential effects on Iran’s already beleaguered economy, which is being heavily impacted by United States sanctions. (Related: Iran’s coronavirus crisis is so bad they’re excavating mass graves so large they can be SEEN FROM SPACE.)
“Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us,” said Rouhani. “We must put these principles together to reach a final decision. This is not the time to gather followers. This is not a time for political war.”
Iran is currently urging the international community to lift their sanctions on the country. They are also asking the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion loan.
As of writing, official reports state that Iran has 44,605 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 2,898 deaths and 14,656 recoveries. Kianoush Jahanpour, spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Health, said that they had 3,111 new confirmed cases. He further said that 3,703 of the country’s cases are in critical condition.
When we review the regime’s approach since the outbreak of the virus in Qom, it becomes clear that the current crisis is actually not a medical issue in #Iran, but a profound political problem #COVID19 #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/6zwX3JxHxO
— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) March 31, 2020
On Wednesday last week, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned that Iran may be facing a second wave of infections as many Iranians continue to ignore guidance issued by the country’s health officials. In response to this open defiance, Rouhani finally relented to calls for a lockdown, banning inter-city travel. Furthermore, he banned traditional gatherings in parks.
“Unfortunately, some Iranians ignored advice from health ministry officials and traveled during the [Iranian] New Year holidays… This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” said Rabiei. “All the new trips between cities are banned and violators will be confronted legally.”
While many institutions and public places, such as schools, universities, cultural and sports centers and parks have been temporarily closed, President Rouhani’s government is still refusing to impose a lockdown on movement within Iran’s cities. Officials, including Rouhani, have dismissed concerns, stating that all the necessary measures Iran needs to combat the pandemic have already been taken.