The Iranian government has amplified its repression in line with the worsening coronavirus crisis because the ayatollahs are scared that their mismanagement will lead to increased deaths and, eventually, a new protest.
“We will use 54,000 Basij [paramilitary forces] bases as protectors of health. We will search for sick people from house to house, and we will perform the process of separating ill people from others and referring them to treatment centers,” the website wrote.
The IRGC and its Basij subsidiary are the groups responsible for the assassination of 1,500 protesters during the nationwide November 2019 protests so it’s understandably terrifying to have them go into houses and take people away.
Also, the IRGC controls the vast majority of the country’s economy, so they could have done something to control the pandemic months ago, by releasing money so that non-essential workers could stay home and the spread would slow.
However, that didn’t happen, and not only were people forced back to work, fearing starvation, but the government also held mass gatherings and encouraged people to attend.
In fact, when coronavirus was first found in Iran, the ayatollahs tried to hide it, insisting on holding the elections with in-person voting, in order to legitimize their sham rule. The Iranian people largely boycotted these elections but the few state supporters started spreading the virus.
Even after that, the ayatollahs downplayed the threat of the virus, instituted a lockdown that was too short and too late, and even the state-run media admitted that the government was using the pandemic as a punishment for the people who cried “Death to the dictator” in November. Even a member of the COVID-19 Task Force has called the lack of a second lockdown “political, not scientific.”
The ayatollahs fear another uprising with the virus so out of control, with Etemad daily writing that officials “should” fear that, “because when it comes, it penetrates all protections and burns roots [of the ayatollahs’ ruling system] and hopes. There will be no time to regret [years of] oblivion.”
So they’ve increased oppressive measures and set up a new headquarters to “promote public security and fight against insecurity” in Tehran’s Public and Revolutionary Courts. The Mizan news agency quoted Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi as saying that this would deal with “norm-breakers”, “miscreants, and those harming the security of society and neighborhoods in Tehran.”