In Iran, COVID-19 is just another crisis to survive
Nation already faces many disasters, Nahal Lotfi writes from Tehran.
You see videos of people in western countries rushing to stores and panic-buying, and hear news about them holing up in their homes. But here in Tehran, people are going on as usual, paying little attention to the fatal newcomer: COVID -19. It is said people buy to manage their emotions; it’s about taking back control in a world where you feel you’ve lost control. But the sad truth is that Iranians lost control over their lives long ago, so they hardly miss a beat when a fresh catastrophe emerges.
Iran has had one of the highest death rates from COVID -19 of any country. If the number of deaths were as high in any western country, the pandemic would have kept people at home. But for many Iranians, the pandemic is little more than an opportunity for a holiday.
Some influencers on social media are trying hard to convince people to take the virus seriously and stay at home. Despite all of their efforts, die-hard holiday-goers can be seen rushing toward Mazandaran, a favourite destination for domestic tourism. And with the biggest Iranian holiday of the year, Naw
Ruz, or New Year’s, Iranians, completely oblivious to the dangers of travel, have been rushing home in droves to visit their families.
What makes Iranians so seemingly indifferent to this deadly virus?
For Iranians, COVID-19 is just another obstacle to overcome. Back-to-back disasters in Iran have thrown the population into a state of shock and resignation which, at least in part, has contributed to their passivity in the face of the coronavirus.
Starting two years ago, when the United States announced its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Iran has experienced severe economic hardship. And U.S. sanctions did not just impact the government: they affected the whole country. Business, both large and small, were hit hard by this decision and many people slid slowly into poverty.
With the rial losing its value day by day, it is difficult for anyone in Iran to plan for the future. The high cost of getting married and establishing a family is making it harder for young people to strike out on their own. And the rapid rise in the unemployment had caused many of them to lose hope for the future. Many young people in Iran have forgotten how to dream.
Even nature has not been kind in the past few years. From mid-March to April this past year, much of Iran was laid low by flash-flooding as 26 of the country’s 31 provinces were deluged by rain. And in summer, people in the south of Iran in particular must cope with water scarcity. Moreover, people in the south and west are victims of severe earthquakes that have left their villages devastated.
Given the onslaught of disasters, it is natural for Iranian to feel they have lost control of their lives. From an unstable economy to natural disasters – Iranians have been shell-shocked. For them, COVID-19 is just one more blow.