The authorities in Iran are grappling with the perception that Qom, the holy city — pilgrimage destination of twenty million believers every year — and the center of Shia sholarship, was the starting point for COVID-19 within the Islamic Republic, writes Ali Sadrzadeh at Qantara.de :
Omnipotent and omnipresent: at breakneck speed, the novel coronavirus in Iran has eliminated everything that makes up the Islamic state – Friday sermons, pilgrimages, visits to mosques, gatherings of mourners, seminars by the ayatollahs and state-organised street parades, both religious and political.
Yet the Islamic Republic is unimaginable without these highly symbolic mass events. Indeed it virtually no longer exists, at least not in the way it has presented itself to the rest of the world for 41 years. Even the clerics have disappeared from the streets. They are either in domestic quarantine or in hospital.
Since last Sunday a YouTube clip has been causing a furore in Iran: at the airport on the island of Kish in the Persian Gulf, a crowd of people are demonstrating against the arrival of 300 mullahs from the city of Qom who want to escape the virus and seek refuge on the warm island.