By Pooya Stone
On Monday, September 14, Iranian media outlets reported that ten pharmacists have lost their lives to the novel coronavirus. Furthermore, in recent weeks many doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers fell victim to this ominous disease. However, these selfless people also suffer from authorities’ inattention to their working and living conditions.
In this context, the government has yet to provide sufficient health equipment and essential protective items for medical staff. Instead, officials generously donate Iran’s national resources to build advanced hospitals in other countries and providing ventilators, face masks, and gloves for their infantry in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and other war-torn countries.
In a press conference with the managing board of Pharmacists’ Union of Western Azarbaijan province, Hojjatollah Yazdan-Shanas, the chief of the Iranian Pharmacists Assembly, explained parts of his colleagues’ sufferings and problems.
He mentioned that, along with medical staff, these hard-working people rushed to help needy citizens since the first days of the health crisis. However, they received no attention. Yazdan-Shenas implicitly pointed out to systematic corruption and the role of government-linked gangs in this sector. His remarks reveal how the state-backed mafia, i.e. the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), has taken hostage the lives and health of millions of citizens in the past seven months.
Shortage of Pharmacy and Pharmacists
“There is only one pharmacy per 4,500 people across the country,” Yazdan-Shenas said. However, he did not explain that many poor and needy citizens in impoverished areas lack clean water, let alone pharmacies, and this rationing belongs to the rich and middle-class districts in metropolitan areas. Moreover, nearly 60 million Iranians live below the poverty line and this population is growing every month based on official statistics.
The chief of the Pharmacists Assembly also highlighted the shortage of human resources. “Given the growth of population, merely 600 persons have added to the country’s pharmacists annually. This is a very insignificant number for an 83-million population,” he added.
Yazdan-Shenas also spoke about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on pharmacists’ living and working conditions. “In Western Azarbaijan, 12 pharmacists were infected with the Covid-19. Fortunately, there were no fatalities in this province. However, regrettably, ten pharmacists have passed away in the fight against the ominous coronavirus across the country so far. This is a major loss for the pharmacist community of Iran,” he said.
The IRGC’s Role in Hoarding Necessary Hygienic Items
According to credible evidence, the IRGC immediately monopolized all health-product factories simultaneously with the start of the coronavirus crisis in the country. The supreme leader Ali Khamenei and his office completely supported the IRGC in this effort. Meanwhile, the IRGC formed a “base” to counter the pandemic based on Khamenei’s order. They also exercised military parades in the streets and patrolled to “fight the Covid-19!”
Many citizens believed and openly said that authorities intend to counter the people’s rage against their mismanagement rather than containing the disease. In this respect, many netizens mocked the ridiculous steps by IRGC forces in Tehran and other major cities.
However, the IRGC used its authority and managed to control the market of health and hygienic equipment. On the other hand, factories were forced to deliver their products to IRGC-controlled institutions. Following this issue, citizens face the lack of essential sanitizing and health items, pushing them to provide their needs through the black market.
In this respect, Yazdan-Shenas blamed authorities for banning pharmacies from selling alcohol. He also expressed his fury against the state-run propaganda that frequently provided reports about sealing pharmacies for hoarding health items. “Just show me one violator pharmacy that has hoarded something,” he said.
In reality, in a profiteering trade, the Iranian government and IRGC tried to use the coronavirus as an opportunity to line their pockets with the money of millions of desperate people. However, they are now meeting growing fury and rage among their agents, let alone the ordinary people.