“We watched my mother’s funeral two weeks ago, while we were not allowed too near her grave. Two days later, my sister passed away. Now, I am in the ICU section of Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran, and my father is on the other bed. It seems that these are the last hours of our lives, but the most painful part of the story is that I have been the cause of all our family members, being infected with the coronavirus.”

This quote is part of a video posted on social media by a young Iranian; a video that has been shared thousands of times and watched hundreds of thousands of times. These days, the release of similar videos has become a common occurrence in Iran, the third nation to be victimized by the spread of the coronavirus, after China and Italy. In addition to tackling this major disaster, they must face bigger problems to survive.

“Until three years ago, my family, friends and relatives in Iran ordered me to bring them the latest technological devices like laptops, iPods and iPads. Now it’s been months since orders have turned into basic things like medicine.”

This is what Zahra, an Iranian student at UCLA, says. She is referring to the direct impact of the economic sanctions on ordinary people in Iran. The sanctions, which have been activated since the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal, have pushed Iran’s economy and trade to the brink of collapse. The United States emphasizes that these sanctions do not include food and medicine, but evidence shows that most countries prefer to avoid the risk of doing any dealings with Iran. Before the arrival of COVID-19 in Qom, a holy city near the capital, Tehran, Iran was facing a severe shortage of medicine and sanitation supplies. COVID-19 has now pushed this historic country from the emergency phase to the crisis stage. Now, in addition to stopping international trade, local small businesses have also stopped, and on the eve of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, silence and cold replaced excitement and warmth.

Iranians are travelers and socializing people. Some unofficial statistics show that more than 7 million Iranians live in other countries. The same sources estimate the number of Iranians who are residents of the United States is more than 1 million. They do business in the US, studying and trying to contribute to the development of their new home. Iranians are much like Chinese, Koreans and Italian immigrants who are living throughout California and other states and have constant contact with their families, friends and relatives in their countries of origin.

In other words, the world is no longer a set of high walls between nations, and the suffering of every part of the world — pain caused by such things as forced migration, global warming and the clean water crisis — has a direct impact on other countries.

Based on a broad interpretation of sociology, one can upgrade their home for safety by installing cameras and a fence, but you can only be secure when your house is on a safe street in a safe neighborhood in a safe city. In other words, concepts like security are meaningful when they are collective. This is one of the foundations of security. Health is similar to security in that it consists of both individual and collective efforts.

“Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” This is a familiar warning. We see it when looking into the rearview mirrors of our vehicles. Now, with the emergence of a world crisis such as coronavirus, it seems we must again heed this warning.

The bitter and painful experiences of Wuhan, Qom, and Lombardi reminds us that the deadly impacts of COVID-19, as depicted by the media, are now much closer than they appear.  


Journalist and TV host Meisam Zamanabadi is a graduate student in media psychology at UC Santa Barbara who holds a master’s degree in media management from the University of Tehran. Contact him at tamashagar.com.