A mourner with the body of journalist Abdollah Zavieh, Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, Tehran, Iran, March 24, 2020 (Reuters)
Iran’s regime has split over the expulsion of a Médecins Sans Frontières team, soon after its arrival in Isfahan to help fight the spread of Coronavirus.
MSF said on Sunday that it had sent a consignment of medical aid, including a 50-bed field inflatable hospital, medicines, respiratory masks, and protective clothing.
But an advisor to the Health Minister, Alireza Vahhabzadeh, said via Twitter, “[Because] the Iranian Armed Forces’ medical capabilities are entirely at its service, Iran did not need hospitals established by foreigners. The MSF presence in Iran is irrelevant.”
Sources inside Iran told EA that the Revolutionary Guards, who have assumed a prominent role in the belated regime response to Coronavirus, insisted on the removal of the medical team.
The editor of Kayhan newspaper, appointed by the Supreme Leader, said the Paris-based MSF is a puppet of the French Government.
President Hassan Rouhani said three Cabinet ministers — Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, and Health Minister Saeed Namaki — invited the medical group.
Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi also said on Tuesday that his ministry has approved the arrival of the French doctors.
But the Governor General of Isfahan Province said Namaki issued the order for expulsion.
MSF Expelled “Since There Are Plenty of Empty Hospital Beds”
The Health Ministry raised Iran’s official death toll on Wednesday to 2,077, among 27,017 cases.
MSF expressed “incomprehension” at the decision to reject nine doctors, support staff, and supplies from two cargo planes.
“We are deeply surprised to learn that the approval for the deployment of our treatment unit has been revoked,” said Michel Olivier Lacharité, manager of the MSF emergency programmes in Paris.
In response, Namaki said on Wednesday that the mission was expelled “since there are plenty of empty beds and there is no need yet to the beds of a mobile hospital offered by this group”.
Namaki said the mission is still under consideration, with its deployment in areas of Iran that are “frequented by refugees and foreign nationals”.
MP Ali Motahari criticized the treatment of MSF as “non-Islamic and against the people’s well-being”.