Cleric Pandemic and Conspiracy Theory
In his new year’s speech, Iran’s Supreme Leader claimed that ‘jinns’, demons identified in the Qoran and known as ‘genies’ in the west, are the country’s enemies. Referring to verse 112 of An’am chapter of the Quran, he said: “the Islamic Republic’s enemies are both humans and Jinns who conspire together against us.”
The official media did not air this part of the Supreme Leader’s speech, which caused various reactions; however, in a video published in Negar internet magazine, run by the Supreme Leader’s website (KHAMENEI.IR), Hojjat al-Islam Abedi, a religious academic, responded to the program’s host and made some clarifications regarding the army of Jinns and humans.
Abedi justified the Supreme Leader’s new year's speech and said: “We know that Jews and Zionists have had a long-standing history of contact with transcendental phenomena such as the Satan and Jinns. Therefore, Israel’s intelligence service is doubtlessly using these phenomena as well.”
The paranoia of Biological War between Iran and the United States
When Covi-19 first entered Iran, many officials including the Supreme Leader tried to downplay the pandemic by holding ‘the enemy’ to blame for psychological war against the regime.
Following the outbreak of the virus, Hossein Salami, the chief of IRGC, announced that Iran is involved in a biological war. He related the high mortality rate of the pandemic to an ‘American biological warfare’ and emphasized that Iran will prevail in the battle against the virus, which is America’s biological attack, first on China and then on Iran.
Gholam Reza Jalali, the chief of the Passive Defense Organization, reacted to Salami and said: “we cannot ascertain whether or not the virus is biological warfare. But it does have many characteristics of biological warfare.”
Only a week after these comments by Iranian officials, the Supreme Leader sent a mandate to the Chief of Iran’s Armed Forces, Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, and ordered for the opening of field hospitals to combat the Coronavirus and reiterated the conspiracy. He said: “the probability that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Iran is a biological attack on the regime is not overruled.”
Considering the basics of biology, it is not impossible for the virus to be a weapon of bioterrorism; however, the reason why Iranian officials are reinforcing the rumors are as follows:
1. Iranian officials are after justifying their shortcomings regarding their mishandling the crisis through these conspiracy theories. Failing to mention the lack of effective management and the rampant corruption in Iran, they blame all the problems in the medical sector on America’s sanctions against Iran.
2. Invoking conspiracy theories prevents people from exercising the limited civil freedoms they had to voice their concerns and criticism. The conspiracy theory also blames the virus on foreign enemies, which means that anyone who criticizes the management crisis following the outbreak of the virus is potentially a spy cooperating with foreign enemies.
3. In the past 40 years, the Islamic Republic has always held the ‘Big Satan’ responsible for all of its problems, especially at the time of internal conflicts. For example, in the November protests, the announced that foreign enemies were behind the unrest.
The Regime Could Do More Against the Virus
As the chief of the WHO has acknowledged, a big part of the blame regarding the spread of the Coronavirus is on the way that different countries have responded to the virus. However, in the case of Iran, the problem is different even from Italy, which has been blamed for its mismanagement of the crisis. Even if we accepted the conspiracy theories of the regime, the Iranian officials have done very little to control this humanitarian crisis. What follows shows why Iranian officials are responsible:
1. Iran’s friendly terms with China and its reluctance to close its borders rendered Iran a safe ground for the spread of the virus. While the majority of countries had set strict rules regarding the flights to and from China, Iran continued its flights. As some Iranian officials have admitted, Mahan Airlines never stopped its flights to China. This was later justified by claiming the flights to be limited to cargo flights only.
2. Quarantining the city of Qom has always been the regime’s red line. If they had quarantined the city in time, the uncontrollable spread of the virus and its deadly consequences could have been avoided. The regime’s reluctance to quarantine the city comes from its ideological reliance on the city as a holy place where people can get cured through praying and performing religious activities. No other reaction was expected from the Supreme Leader and his fundamentalist followers.
3. The regime delayed publishing news about the spread of the virus and held the information regarding the real statistics of Coronavirus cases and deaths. This has always been the regime's habit. The regime had the same policy regarding publicizing the number of deaths following the November mass protests in Iran.
4. Many healthcare forces died as a consequence of insufficient medical supplies. While the US is also to blame for the lack of medical supplies, a leader who rejects talks with the US and calls them ‘lethal poison’ is equally to blame and should accept the responsibility of the death of brave doctors and nurses of our country. ‘Honoring’ doctors and nurses who lost their lives with the title of ‘martyr’ does little to alleviate Iranian people’s pain.
More than 100 years ago, when Cholera was ravaging Iran, the poet Iraj Mirza summarized the problems of Iranian people in beautiful verse and warned against a more dangerous pandemic than Cholera: the Cleric Pandemic. Iran has always suffered the detriments of the clerics more than any pandemic. Iranians have faced three disasters since autumn. The mass murder of Iranian protesters in November, the shooting down of the passenger flight and now the Coronavirus. All these ailments have the same cause: the clerics pandemic that has afflicted Iran for the past 40 years.