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Darkened mosques in Iran

Iranian Member of Parliament Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak died on Saturday after he and four other MPs tested positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus a few days earlier.

Dastak, elected last week as the representative for Astana Ashrafieh, was hospitalized just a few days ago after being diagnosed with the virus.


Iran’s Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) news outlet reported the MP died Saturday morning after being “hospitalized due to influenza and chemical injuries” dating back to the Iran-Iraq war.

It was precisely this form of misinformation that led a lawmaker in the holy city of Qom to accuse the government of a cover up, and the United States to urge the Islamic Republic to be more transparent in its statements on the effort to deal with coronavirus in the country.

Former Ambassador to the Vatican Hadi Khosroshahi, 81, a prominent cleric, has also died of the virus.

Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, the highest-ranking woman in the government, meanwhile has become the seventh Iranian official to be diagnosed with the illness, and is currently quarantined at her home. She sits just a few seats away from President Hassan Rouhani at the cabinet meetings.

Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, head of the coronavirus management center in Qom and director of the city’s state medical university was also diagnosed with the virus.

Iran’s Death Toll Climbs Past 200, VP Sick, US Offers Aid

Iran’s Health Ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour said Saturday that the death toll had reached 43 and hundreds more were ill.

“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours,” he said. “The death toll is 43 now. The new confirmed infected cases since yesterday is 205; that makes the total number of confirmed infected people 593,” he said.

Friday prayers at the mosques in Tehran and 22 other cities have been canceled, and schools and universities have been closed until the end of the Iranian year on March 21.

Another Neighbor Closes The Border
Azerbaijan has temporarily closed its border with Iran over the coronavirus epidemic, according to Azerbaijani media. The border closing will be in force for at least two weeks.

According to the report, the country’s Cabinet of Ministers discussed the move with Iran’s “relevant bodies” and Tehran was informed of the decision.

“The necessary corridor will be provided for Iranian citizens to leave Azerbaijan as well as for Azerbaijani citizens who are in Iran to return home,” according to Interpress News.

Eleven countries had closed their air and land borders with Iran as the deadly virus continues to spread.

Five of Iran’s seven neighbors – Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Armenia – had already closed their borders.

Other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, UAE, Oman and Georgia had imposed travel and immigration restrictions.

Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan had only intensified their border checks up to this point.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.