The coronavirus is spreading in Iran among the country’s elites, particularly the religious establishment and IRGC circles. This is because of how it entered the country via Qom, a city known for holy sites and seminaries for the religious establishment. Because Iran operates as a nationalist theocracy, the degree of separation between the first men to get the virus in Qom and the leadership in Tehran was diminished.
How many officials have been sick and died? We know about the deputy health minister, who was one of the first widely known cases. His name is Iraj Haririchi and he was infamously seen on video on February downplaying the virus while sweating and coughing. We also know that Massoumeh Ebtekar, vice-president for women and family affairs, was sick. According to BBC, top emergency medical services official Pirhossein Kolivand is sick, as well as Esmail Najjar of the Interior Ministry’s “crisis management” department.
Based on various reports, we have tried to compile a list of those who may have had the virus, died from it or were suspected to have had it. There may be some repetition because the same name appear on different lists compiled by regional reports.
In parliament, at least 24 members have the virus, including two who died: Fatemeh Rahbar, a representative from Tehran and Mohammad Ali Ramezani from Gilan. A local mayor of district 13 in Tehran, Mojtaba Rahmanzadeh, was also diagnosed early on.
Mahmoud Sadeghi, an MP and outspoken politician, also had the virus in February.
A longer preliminary list in late February included Mojtaba Zonnour, a cleric and national security official from Qom, as well as Mohamad Reza Ghadiri of Qom University. In addition, Ayatollah Musa Shabr Zanzanj and Ali Rabiei, a spokesman, reportedly were afflicted.
The last day in February came with news that Mustafa Pourmohammadi, a former justice minister and deputy at the Intelligence Ministry, was ill. In addition Rep. Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak was hospitalized.
By March 1, news came that Seyyed Mohammad Mir Mohammadi was dead from the virus. He was a member of the Expediency Council and one-time chief of staff for Ayatollah Khamenei. MP Hadi Khosrowshahi was also sick – he was a former ambassador to the Vatican.
Mojtaba Fazeli, an advisor to a senior cleric was also sick, along with Reza Pourkhanali, an Agriculture Ministry official who eventually died, according to Al-Arabiya. Hamed Jalali Kashani, an activist, died on February 28. Other officials also died, including Mohammad Haj Abolghasemi of the Basij and Ahmad Toyserkani, an advisor to judiciary member Ebrahim Raisi. Al-Arabiya claimed that Hossein Sheikholeslam, a former ambassador to Syria, also succumbed.
Al-Arabiya compiled an even longer list of suspected deaths, including Rasoul Azizi, head of Gilan’s police inspection unit, cleric Akbar Dehghan of Qom, Ayatollah Mohsen Habib, cleric Ali Khalafi, Ayatollah Reza Mohammadi Langroudi, Mousa Torabzedeh from Astaneh-ye Ashhrafiyeh in Gilan, cleric Ali Hosseini of Aliabad-e-Katul in Golestan, clerics Mostafa Amini and Nematollah Javadi Bamiani, Reza Modarresi, and others.
This report noted that these were not all confirmed cases and the cause of death was not always clear according to Iranian media.
On March 4, claims emerged that Ramezan Pourghassem of the IRGC ground forces had died. Two days later, Hossein Sheikholeslam, advisor to the foreign minister was also dead, and Mohammed Abolghasemi was infected.
By March 9, IRGC official Farzad Tazari and politician Mohammed Reza Rachamani were reported dead. A commemoration took place online for Hossein Sheikholeslam. High ranking officer Abdollah Jafarzadeh of the IRGC was also said to have died. A funeral was held for Farzad Tazari, also of the IRGC, as Iran declared medical personnel “martyrs” for fighting the virus.
The sheer volume of clerics, officials, MPs and officers of key parts of the security apparatus who are sick or who have died in Iran is unprecedented. The image emerging from Tehran is a shock to the system of government.
Yet Iran continues to function amid the crisis, sending officials to Syria, Iraq and allegedly even to meet with Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut. This has fed rumors that Iran’s network of IRGC members who travel openly in the region and without medical checks via Baghdad, Beirut and Damascus Airport, may be spreading the virus.
So far, the number of official infections in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria is not large. Rumors are now spreading that Nasrallah may have been exposed to the virus from Iranian officials. This is similar to rumors that Muqtada al-Sadr fled Qom in February due to the outbreak. In the absence of information – and with Health Ministry officials in Iraq and Lebanon encouraged to remain mum by Tehran – conspiracy theories are emerging.
What is known is that an alarming number of clerics and officials in Iran appear to have the virus. Iran’s regime prefers to claim that the virus was created by the US or Israel to harm the regime, and to blame sanctions for the regime’s own coverup of the extent of the problem. But Iran cannot hide the funerals for high-level clerics and officials.
Source » jpost