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Prominent Activists Urge UN To Take Action On Covid Crisis In Iran

Ten prominent Iranian activists in a letter to United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and other international rights organizations Saturday have urged urgent action on the current Iran Covid crisis, including requiring the Iranian government to import vaccines.

"We will be facing terrifying mass deaths in Iran if enough vaccines are not imported to vaccinate everyone in the country," the letter signed by the activists including Narges Mohammadi, Mohammad Nourizad who have served time as political prisoners and filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof said.

In their letter, the rights activists said Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's vaccine ban, inadequacy in vaccination as well as the government's promotion of large religious gatherings in which health protocols are hugely neglected were causing more infections and deaths and stressed that the government's official figures are not to be trusted.

Khamenei had banned the purchase of American and British vaccines in January and is being widely blamed for the current fifth wave of the pandemic and thousands of deaths that critics say could have been avoided. Khamenei ruled out importing United States- and British-made Covid-19 vaccines in January on the grounds of a conspiracy theory that western drug companies had a track record of testing products in developing countries and that it was “not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations.” At the time, the US-German Pfizer, US-made Moderna and the British-made AstraZeneca were the leading internationally approved vaccines, although Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates had approved use of China’s Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use.

In recent days, hardline media and politicians have tried to deflect the responsibility for the high daily death toll from Khamenei. They claim that the leader never banned foreign vaccines and did not object to US and UK vaccines "if they were produced in other countries".

"Regarding vaccine imports, enemy media want to cast the blame…although the leader of the revolution has always advised the authorities to import vaccines," the IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif said Wednesday evening in a speech to journalists in Kermanshah exposing “enemy psychological operations.”

Hardliners have also tried to cast the blame for mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic in Iran on former president Hassan Rouhani and his government – who had to abide by Khamenei's ban -- in a bid to establish grounds for later praising the 'success' of new President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) as and if vaccines become more widely available.

Covid infections and deaths have significantly increased in Iran since mid-July, from a seven-day average of 120 to more than 600, while only less than 10 percent of the population has been fully inoculated. The daily death record was broken again on Tuesday with 709 deaths reported, the highest figure yet.

According to the latest official figures released Saturday, there were more than 26,000 infections and 614 deaths in the latest 24-hour reporting period. Since the very early days of the pandemic in Iran in February 2020, critics and health professionals suggested that official figures did not reflect the reality on the ground. Several officials have recently also suggested that the real infection and death toll may be up to three times higher.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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