Friday July 01, 2022

Sanctions, the virus and Iran

March 20, 2020

As the world battles the coronavirus, with the number of affected people increasing every single day, the major brunt of the crisis will be borne by third world states that are unequipped to deal with what has been now termed as a pandemic.

This novel crisis has also unleashed racism as people, including the president of the US, keep calling it the ‘China Virus’ or ‘Wuhan Virus’. We have also seen how Chinese people have been ridiculed in Western countries. This also reveals how a system that runs on exploitation and is only concerned about profits is least capable to take care of the masses in the face of such a pandemic.

We have also been seeing how Iran, a third world country, is being cornered by the international media, imperialist powers and white-man psychology as it fights using its meager resources a virus that has so far caused around more than a thousand deaths.

The bias, hatred and racism for a nation became quite visible when the New York Times, the purported vanguard of media freedom worldwide, ran a piece on its pages that was titled as: ‘Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak’: Iran Emerges as a Worldwide Threat’. So much sympathy for ordinary Iranians whose lives are as precious as people from the first world or say the United States!

This didn’t stop there nor did anyone try to challenge such anti-Iran narrative. We saw it alleged that Iran had kept ignoring or suppressing the news about the coronavirus spreading in the country because of elections. A few days later, Iranians were ridiculed when their deputy health minister contracted the virus. But the world, mainly the Western media, stayed silent and did not make similar remarks when the UK’s health minister tested positive for the virus while another European country’s member of parliament also contracted it.

Social media was abuzz with how uncivilized Iranians were when a video showing an alleged believer licking the grill of a religious tomb in Qom went viral. But everyone remained somewhat silent when Iranian authorities confirmed that the man in question along with another who was found to be doing the same were arrested and given two years in jail for trying to play with people’s lives. The religious sites and tombs are now closed, to the surprise of the Western world and their propaganda machine that must have been thinking that only they are the chosen civilized nation on earth.

Now let’s come to one major aspect which has been purposefully ignored by the media and opinion makers. The Iranian nation is fighting two evils at a time today: the novel coronavirus and the US sanctions that have wrought havoc with their economy and health system.

No one seems to care about ordinary Iranians because perhaps they have to pay for the alleged crimes of their regime. No one dares question how the United States could not end the sanctions against Iran, given the global pandemic it faces. With every passing hour, Iranians are dying as the authorities try their best to cope with the deteriorating situation. However, the West doesn’t bat an eye and rather its papers come up with pieces usually titled as ‘Will Iran’s Regime Survive Coronavirus? (this was published in the US magazine ‘National Review’).

While the spokespersons of the empire reiterate that the sanctions do not affect humanitarian aid or trade of necessary life-saving medicines, the truth is that the US even persecutes or threatens those companies which have sent such goods to Iran. This was revealed by a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published well before the pandemic in October, 2019.

The HRW report says, “On February 14, 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CBS News: ‘Things are much worse for the Iranian people [with the US sanctions], and we are convinced that will lead the Iranian people to rise up and change the behavior of the regime.’”

So, it seems the US and its allies want more and more deaths in Iran now because of the virus – to an extent that Iranians rise up against the regime. The HRW also found out that “US economic sanctions on Iran, despite the humanitarian exemptions, are causing unnecessary suffering to Iranian citizens afflicted with a range of diseases and medical conditions. Some of the worst affected are Iranians who have rare diseases and/or conditions that require specialized treatment and are unable to acquire previously available medicines or supplies”. Remember that this report is from last year and today Iran has to fight the novel virus with all of these sanctions.

Not to forget that the US on March 17 imposed fresh sanctions on Iran to even further tighten the economic pressure. Their plan remains the same despite the deepening of the current health crisis.

More than eleven hundred Iranians have died of the coronavirus while over 28,000 are still in hospitals. Iranians – along with other nations of the world – will hopefully overcome this global crisis in coming months. But the Iranians will remember for centuries to come the silence and indifference they felt in these tough times.

The writer is a journalist covering human and labour rights.

Twitter: @Fawadhazan