By Pooya Stone
Since long ago, most countries around the world suspended all flights to China to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) continued flights to China by using its Mahan Air airlines.
In this context, not only did Mahan Airlines not cancel its scheduled flights, but it also launched a pipeline for transferring Chinese cargoes and passengers, seriously endangering the health of Iranian citizens.
IRGC Lies and the Coronavirus Transmission to Iran
"All flights between the two countries have been suspended since the day Iran ordered to stop flights to China," Reza Jafarzhadeh, a director of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, told ROKNA news agency on February 20.
However, as routine flights continued from Iran to China, this official insisted on this false claim, saying, "The flights to China are transferring cargo and not passengers, and are under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education." This false claim, reiterated by other officials, is tantamount to the government’s planned secrecy following the downing of the Ukrainian airliner by the IRGC anti-aircraft system.
The Scandal of Mahan Air's Flights to China
Iranian authorities firmly pursued to conceal flights of Mahan Air to China; however, their miscalculation resulted in another scandal for their government. Nonetheless, they had already recorded significant instances in secrecy and non-transparency.
However, Iranian officials seem to have not to realize that in the communication age, it is impossible to hide obvious facts, such as the origin and destination, of a plane from the public. In this context, the government's non-transparency is more costly than its inability to control and curb more outbreaks of the deadly virus.
Notably, the World Health Organization (WHO) has committed to timely reviewing the situation with transparency and update evidence as an essential path to address the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, in flagrant contrast to WHO's recommendation and obligation, the Iranian government deliberately concealed the scope of the virus’s expansion in fear of keeping "voters" from the polls during the February 21 parliamentary elections.
In this context, the supreme leader Ali Khamenei attributed his failure over voters apathy in the parliamentary elections to foreigners' attempts to reduce voter turnout. "A collective campaign was undertaken against the people's participation in the election. On social media, a variety of entities used every factor possible… And this latest illness (COVID-19) became an excuse," Khamenei said in his lecture on February 23.
On the other hand, while official Iranian sources have announced that given the outbreak of the coronavirus, all conventional flights to China were suspended and dismissed news of continued flights, the state-run website Eghtsad Online revealed the truth. On February 19, this website reflected a part of the worries of Khomeini International Airport service personnel via relevant footage on Twitter.
"While the coronavirus resulted in [several] victims in Iran, Mahan Airline's flights to China continue. A group of cleaners in the 'Imam' Khomeini International Airport express their concerns over tidying and cleaning planes arriving from China," Eghtesad Online wrote.
Borders Closing to Iran
While Iranian authorities made their "best" efforts to cover up the truth, a neighboring country closed their borders to Iran as a precautionary measure and cut off their routine flights to/from Iran.
Kuwait announced that this country had suspended flights to Iran. Also, the Iran-backed government in Iraq was compelled to seal its land borders in addition to stopping flights due to the coronavirus outbreak in Iran. Moreover, the Pakistani government showed its concerns over the coronavirus expansion by adopting similar measures.
Additionally, people in Turkey demanded their borders closed with Iran by launching a twitter campaign via #iransınırıkapatılsın. This hashtag soon began trending in this country, displaying the importance of this matter among Turkish citizens.
Later, Armenia and Afghanistan announced that they, too, have sealed their land boundaries with Iran following coronavirus reports.
Coronavirus Statistics in Iran from Neighboring Minister of Health
Officials frequently denied news about the coronavirus’ risks in Iran and, like many other disasters, refused to inform the people. Also, they severely rejected local statistics provided by eyewitnesses or hospital personnel and threatened the sources of being arrested under the pretext of "propaganda against the state."
However, in an interview with the Akhbari TV, the Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared the information he had received from his Iranian counterpart. Therefore, the accurate statistics of patients suffering from the coronavirus that earlier circulated in social media seems to be closer to the truth in comparison with the official comments of the Iranian government.
According to Mr. Koca, there are 758 suspicious coronavirus cases in Iran. Eighteen people have tested positive and five patients have lost their lives. At the time, Iranian authorities, under pressure from the undeniable evidence, had only admitted to two deaths in the city of Qom, central Iran, alone without announcing any statistics over the number of patients.
Notably, according to the colossal relationship between Iran and China in different sectors, the country was severely under risk. In this regard, several reports indicated that since the early months of the coronavirus emerge in Wuhan, there were signs of COVID19 spreading in Iran. However, officials denied the skepticism due to political interests.
"The manager of public communication in the Ministry of Health and Medical Education said at the session, 'I am too angry about the corona[virus]. For 45 days, we have been saying that we haven't seen signs of the corona[virus], yet some say that they have seen it but don't announce it due to the February-11 [governmental] ceremony. Later, they said that we didn't announce it due to the elections. They later said that we will not announce it because of the Nowruz celebrations," the state-run newspaper Etemad wrote on February 19.
However, the disease time period for people infected with the coronavirus, based on their physical conditions and body resistance, extends to around two weeks. While two people died in Qom following official reports on the same day! Local people, of course, said there are about 200 patients, and twelve have been killed until that day. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
Mahan Airline's Role in the Coronavirus Emergence in Iran
In truth, while many Iranian airlines were compelled to cancel their flights to China, the IRGC-own Mahan Airlines didn't suspend its flights under the pretext of "cargo flights" because the IRGC receives its orders directly from Khamenei's staff. Notably, this aviation company is responsible for transferring weapons, ammunition, and infantry of the Iranian government to Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, etc., all conducted under the pretext of passenger flights.
In this respect, it is not surprising that some while later, the world and particularly Iran's society is faced with the role of the IRGC in transferring coronavirus to Iran. However, officials would undoubtedly justify this crime under the pretext of "human error," as they did over the downing the Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752.