By The Free Iranian Staff
Renewed protests, and clashes with regime forces, erupted in Iran over the weekend after news spread that in a single town, up to at least 200 people (last count), some of them young children, had been infected with HIV from a contaminated syringe, for testing people’s blood glucose, was used by a nurse from the regime’s Ministry of Health.
The village of Chenar-Mahmoudi, in the township of Lordegan, in Iran’s western province of ChaharMahal and Bakhtiari, is mostly inhabited by Lors. One of Iran’s most-discriminated against minority groups, the Lors and the currently ruling Shi’a clergy have been at odds for centuries. As a result, since its establishment, the regime has neglected the greater Lorestan region and its infrastructure.
Over the last few weeks, hundreds of residents of Chenar-Mahmoudi suddenly discovered that they were HIV-positive. This development occurred after a medical team from the Ministry of Health came to the village to offer blood tests for diabetes. As one of the villagers described it, “The health ministry came to our village for free blood glucose and insulin tests. The syringes they employed had already been used and were infected with the virus. Anyone who was tested became infected.”
Listen to what the this local person has to say. This lady says she has been injected with a syringe which already contained HIV contaminated blood. I guess that explains everything.@WHO@WHOEMRO@DrTedros@PeteSalama@readycat#LordeganScandal#Lordegan#لردگان_تنها_نیست https://t.co/xevtBFbt0O
— ممدوو بابائی (@mamadou_babaei) October 6, 2019
Rather than admit negligence, or even initiate an investigation, officials began to blame the people themselves for the spread of HIV. On Wednesday, October 2nd, Mohammad-Hossein Qorbani, the chairman of the health commission of the Islamic Parliament (Majles), claimed: “Qorbani, a member of the Majlis Health Commission, said: The village has a population of about 1800 and due to the chaotic means of livelihood, 240 of the locals have become addicted to injecting drugs. This has led to the outbreak of AIDS in the village of Lordegan, with only 26 people are actually infected with the AIDS virus. I firmly state that the spread of the disease has not occurred as a result of blood glucose tests.
Within Lordegan, local health officials began accusing each other of negligence, and laying the entirety of the blame on the ministry’s headquarters in Tehran.
The villagers had had enough of insults and obfuscation, and on that Wednesday, they took to the streets. A mostly female crowd protested in Lordegan outside the municipal administrator’s office and the local health center. This proved to the be the start of a wave of demonstrations.
#Iran: Crisis hits the #ethnic Lor region of #Charmahal and #Bakhtiari when patients were treated with #HIV infected syringes.
They were hoping to be vaccinated or receive blood tests.
In response, residents have staged protests outside governor’s office pic.twitter.com/UOFTQ5C4Ly
— ARAM Iran (@ARAMalliance) October 3, 2019
Saturday, October 5th
Word had begun spreading among the people of Iran that the HIV infections had been deliberately planned, as part of an Islamic regime campaign to exterminate the Lors.
Oh my God. It is yet difficult to determine the precise chain of events, but word is spreading from inside #Iran that the Islamic regime deliberately infected people with #HIV. If this is true, it is a horrifying attempt at #EthnicCleansing of the minority #Lor group. https://t.co/xORYTQHahH
— Cameron Khansarinia (@khansarinia) October 5, 2019
Enraged crowds of protesters assembled in Lordegan and attacked the city manager’s offices. They also struck the offices of the local Friday prayer leader, who was appointed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, burning it to the ground.
Lordegan, a small town SW Iran.
ppl r angry after regime health dep made more than 250 ppl HIV+ supposedly by mistake!
angry ppl burnt down office of Khamenei’s local deputy out of anger.
regime is sending hundreds of armed IRGC to suppress defenseless ppl.
#لردگان #چنارمحمودی pic.twitter.com/9mfDDDtiMB
— Dariush Tusi (@DariushTusi) October 5, 2019
The slogans chanted by the protestors went beyond the matter of the HIV infections, incorporating what has become a standard phrase used by all opponents of the Khomeniist regime inside Iran today: “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, my life for Iran!”
Ppl of Lordegan’re protesting against spreading AIDS in #Iran.
They chant: ”No Gaza, No Lebanon, I sacrifice my life only for Iran!” 2show their anger towards the regime’s corruption&spreading hate by spending money on war in Gaza,… instead of caring4Iranian ppl & their health! https://t.co/upYPf6NSjZ
— Maryam shariatmadari (@Maryamshariatm) October 5, 2019
Furthermore, protestors began calling for the return of the Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi.
Remarkable footage: the revolt against the Islamic Republic is spreading across the country. Iranians are chanting “Without the Shah (King), there is no accountability!” Such calls for the monarchy are punishable by death.#Iran #IranProtests #Lordegan #لردگان #لردگان_تنها_نیست pic.twitter.com/pmxxSAwwq1
— Cameron Khansarinia (@khansarinia) October 5, 2019
Regime security forces fought back against the demonstrators, wounding many, and at least one person, a man named Saadatollah Mousavi, was killed.
— National Union for Democracy in Iran (@NUFDIran) October 5, 2019
The protests were not restricted to one place. Iranians in Esfahan also held an anti-regime protest to show their support with the people of Lordegan.
— Alireza Nader (@AlirezaNader) October 5, 2019
The regime is now sending tanks to Lordegan to contend with any future demonstrations.
The desperate fearful regime in Iran is taking tanks towards #Lordegan to suppress ordinary people who are protesting against infelicitous authorities that endangered their lives.@WHO @UN @UNHumanRights @hrw https://t.co/oHm4nroQlX
— Bahram (@Bahram_persian) October 5, 2019
Sunday October 6th
During the night, the regime shut down Internet access in Lordegan, in order to prevent news and video emerging of their planned crackdown. Several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps units have put the town under lockdown.
At the same time, a ‘delegation’ led by a deputy minister of health came from Tehran to Lordegan, to ostensibly ‘gather facts’ regarding the situation. The people reacted with fury, came onto the streets, mobbed and threw stones at the delegation’s motorcade, shouting “death to the minister,” until the cars turned around and drove away.
According to some Iranian media, on Sunday, the day after the attack on the protesters, Eqbal Abbasi, the governor of the province implicitly called the case “a misunderstanding” and said: “If there’s any misunderstanding, we’ll apologize.” He said the test required about 1,800 residents of the village, and then without any actual information on the numbers and cause for the infection, claimed that all of 5% of the area residents have been infected, but that 95% of are perfectly healthy.
However, different statistics have been provided on the number of people with AIDS. For example, a member of the Islamic Parliament’s Health Commission cited the number of full-blown AIDS cases in the region as 26, while locals have reported that to be many times more. Even the governor’s own recent statement indicates that at least seventy people are infected.
— Cameron Khansarinia (@khansarinia) October 7, 2019
Now the traveling nurse who is said to have administered the test has been arrested and is being said to be a member of the Basij and someone who despite being close to the regime, is a pious individual. The area IRGC commander of ChaharMahal and Bakhtiari too has now claimed that everything is in fact calm and no such protests occurred in Chenar-Mahmoudi and that the people of the village do not even like to protest in any such way, because they’re all “decent people.”
An employee of the Shohada Hospital of Lordegan township who was interviewed by BBC Persian reports that during recent days many area residents had referred to the hospital for HIV testing. The hospital employee has confirmed that testing capabilities are available but due to the number of people who have applied for tests, they have run out of kits.
At present, the situation in Lordegan is unclear, due to the martial law that has been imposed on the area. Yet, in a country already gripped with several large ongoing labor and student protest movements, the uprising there is another sign that the Khomeiniist regime is quickly losing its grip on power.