Iran is one of the countries that’s hit the hardest by the Coronavirus. While exact numbers are unknown, it’s clear that Iran has -after China and Italy- one of the worst outbreaks of the virus. Since the start, government restrictions to stay inside were not enough to keep the people off the streets. Corona in Iran
A situation that became painfully visible during the Persian new year, Newroz. At this time of the year, Iranians visit their families or go to the countryside. As a consequence, a lot of shopping will be done and large traffic jams fulfil the streets. Situations in which many people are together. Unfortunately, also in times of a pandemic, this year was no exception. Corona in Iran: trust vs distrust
Worldwide many countries had to deal with people having a hard time accepting social distancing. Still, Iran has one of the major outbreaks worldwide and the government had given instructions to stay inside. How could this situation happen? Do people not care enough? Isn’t the government strict or clear enough? Or is there something else?
There’s a background story to explain the situation of Newroz that starts on a political level. The gap between the government and the Iranian people is big. The government of Iran is in a small part chosen by society and is ruled strictly by the Ayatollah according to Islamic law.
Read more about that here: Iranian politics: a valuable lesson. The religious part of the government is solid since the revolution of 1979.
It’s no secret that the majority of the Iranian people doesn’t support the regime anymore. Exact rates about opinions are hard to find, if existent. The proof comes from the growing protests over the last years. More and more people from multiple layers of society expressed their frustrations towards the regime. At first, protesters wanted the government to change their position. But over time, the situation of the Iranian people didn’t improve at all and was even getting worse.
Consequently, the protests changed from changing of the position of the government to the call of resigning of the government.
All protests over the last years were stopped with force. The Ayatollah and his armed forces showed little mercy in favour of the Iranian people. Resulting in years of frustration and a growing gap between Iranian politics and society.
The existing gap is filled with distrust as the government hasn’t been able to come close to the needs of society for a long period of time. Due to strict foreign policy, the economical situation of Iran is getting worse every year.
Although combative words from the Ayatollah, society pays the growing bill from the sanctions and restrictions.
And while the Green Revolution of 2009 and many protests that followed in the next 10 years were able to move large masses on the streets, the corruption never ended.
As a consequence, as the gap between politics and society grows, so does the distrust. The government has still the power over the country, yet it has lost most of its moral power towards the people they represent. The government has proved to be a non-reliable force.
The distrust towards the government has become part in every aspect of daily life and unfortunately now in the Corona crisis.
The current restrictions to stay inside could be interpreted as another move to keep society in a submissive position. Right where the regime wants them to be. With a history of misinformation and corruption, it’s no surprise society will not rely on the words of the government. And will make their own conclusions.
Fact is, in dealing with the Corona crisis in Iran, the troubled, distrusted relation between the government and the Iranian people troubles the situation even more. The distrust is preventing people to separate the information that benefits them, from the information that benefits the government only.
And so, the filled shops and streets at Newroz are not such a big surprise.
Like many other countries, Iran has to deal with the consequences of this pandemic. As I wrote before Iran has to deal with many challenges when it comes to the Coronavirus.
Power struggles in the government and the difficulty between science versus religion are two of them. Read more about it here: Corona in Iran: science vs religion. Without doubt trust versus distrust is also one of the challenges Iran has to deal with right now.
Unfortunately, dealing with distrust by the government will be a hard one to break. Ironically the only thing the government could do to handle the current situation will be ruled by strict hand. Forcing people to stay inside could be a lifesaving intervention. As history shows, not a new chapter in the history of Iran.