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Special Features

Weekly Review of Coronavirus Disinformation in Iran: Officials Speak with a Forked Tongue

November 13, 2020
Pouyan Khoshhal
4 min read
The proposal to lock down big cities, and specifically Tehran, has been a focus of arguments and disagreements in recent weeks
The proposal to lock down big cities, and specifically Tehran, has been a focus of arguments and disagreements in recent weeks
Health minister Saeed Namaki complained that the National Coronavirus Taskforce has not imposed fines on people who refuse to wear masks
Health minister Saeed Namaki complained that the National Coronavirus Taskforce has not imposed fines on people who refuse to wear masks

In recent weeks, the proposal to lock down big cities, and specifically Tehran, has been the focus of arguments and disagreements. Before the meeting between the National Coronavirus Taskforce and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei took place on October 24, all decisions to impose restrictions to control the epidemic in Iran were supervised and approved by President Rouhani, but these decisions have not been implemented satisfactorily.

It was only after the creation of the taskforce’s “Base of Operations,” adopted during the joint session with Khamenei, that the decision was made to close down non-essential businesses and services, first in 43 cities and then in 46 other metropolitan areas, followed by a ban on travel to and from 25 provincial capitals. And, in the last few days, all businesses have been instructed to close at 6pm, and it was announced that there would be a curfew on traffic from between 9pm and 4am. Nevertheless, the surge of coronavirus across Iran is so out of control that restrictions of this kind do not seem to have a real impact. Finally, after extensive back-and-forth arguments and disagreements among various government officials, the taskforce is to discuss the plan for a complete lockdown of Tehran next week.

 

Disagreements Within the Taskforce

Dr. Mino Moharez, a member of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Scientific Committee, is among the health experts who have consistently championed a total lockdown of Tehran in recent weeks. On November 8, as the arguments for and against a complete lockdown of Tehran were in full force, she said: “when the National Coronavirus Taskforce, which is headed by the president, the highest executive official in the country, orders a lockdown but the provincial government does not agree with it, it is a very questionable proposition. I really do not know what the answer is. I am really surprised by the provincial government’s decision.”

On the morning of the same day, Anooshirvan Mohseni Bandpey, governor of Tehran province, had announced that a lockdown of Tehran was no longer on the agenda and, instead, other measures would be adopted in Tehran.

Nevertheless, less than 24 hours later, on November 9, Alireza Raeesi, spokesman for the National Coronavirus Taskforce, tried to project a picture of harmony to the people and the media, contradicting the narrative of continuous in-fighting. “A colleague of ours has said that the president has agreed with a lockdown of Tehran but the governor of Tehran has opposed it,” he said. “This is not true. The president presides over the national taskforce, which discusses proposals and makes decisions, and if the taskforce issues an order it must be carried out. So to say that the president has ordered a two-week lockdown of Tehran but the governor has not accepted it is not true and is hereby denied.”

On November 8, Raeesi had said that “a two-week lockdown of Tehran had never been discussed by the national taskforce,” but on November 11 Governor Mohseni Bandpey said, “the proposal for a two-week lockdown of Tehran has been discussed by Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce and I, as head of the taskforce, agree."

Will the Tehran taskforce and the national one be able to resolve their differences and agree on a lockdown on Saturday, November 14? Or will Iranians continue to be forced to watch a constant rise in the number of fatalities in Iran? Some officials have said that a lockdown of Tehran will have a serious economic impact, so it could be that Rouhani is listening to these officials and basing decisions on their statements.

 

The Forked Tongue of the Health Ministry

On October 20, after the decision was made that people not wearing masks in Tehran will have to pay fines, health minister Saeed Namaki complained: “we asked the national taskforce to impose a fine on the people who do not wear masks, but go and look at the numbers and see how many have been fined. We told them, 'close the roads,' but how many roads did they close? This is not the way to contain an epidemic. If the situation is not set right we will have to fish dead bodies out from the rivers.”

On November 8, however, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari had something different to say. Reporting that only two fines had been deposited into the ministry’s bank account, she denied that the health ministry was actively punishing and fining people. “The ultimate goal,” she said, “is more about compliance with health protocols and more wearing of masks and this is something that is only possible if people cooperate.”

Contradictory statements by senior Iranian officials about coronavirus continue to discredit whatever they say afterward. As Tehran’s governor Mohseni Bandpey himself says, “we have not been successful in securing the cooperation of the people in fighting coronavirus.” This hints that there is a profound lack of trust in the government and officials.

 

Iran’s Latest Coronavirus Statistics

In her daily briefing for November 13, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

Weekly Review of Coronavirus Disinformation in Iran: Officials Speak with a Forked Tongue

 

Dr. Lari also reported that all 31 Iranian provinces are in red, orange or yellow states of alert.

Weekly Review of Coronavirus Disinformation in Iran: Officials Speak with a Forked Tongue

 

 

This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology

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