04/09/2020, 10.03
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Coronavirus, US and EU leaders call on White House to ease grip on Tehran

The bipartisan movement calls for trade and easing of sanctions. To overcome the Covid-19 threat, divisions between governments must be overcome. In the Islamic Republic mosques and mausoleums transformed into centers for the production of masks and sanitary material.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - A bipartisan movement, made up of senior officials, politicians and diplomats from the United States and Europe, has launched a new appeal to the White House to facilitate humanitarian trade with Iran, essential to counter the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Islamic Republic is the most affected nation in the Middle East by the new coronavirus, with approximately 65 confirmed cases, just under 4 thousand victims and 30 thousand recovered.

To respond to the need for health supplies, the authorities have transformed mosques and historical places, including the mausoleum of Shah Cheragh into factories for the production of protective masks.

There have been repeated appeals to the US government to ease its policy of all out confrontation with heavy sanctions against Iran which have caused blockages and restrictions in sending medicines and basic necessities.

To stem sanctions, three European nations have used the Instex system for the first time in sending aid. And news of the sending of medical supplies to the United States, also overwhelmed by the pandemic, by groups of Iranian students, was reported in recent days.

The authors of the statement write "as the world grapples with COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – we must remember that an outbreak anywhere impacts people everywhere. In turn, reaching across borders to save lives is imperative for our own security and must override political differences among governments".

Among those who shared the appeal launched by the European Leadership Network and The Iran Project we find: the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini; Lord Desmond Browne of Ladytown, a former British defense minister; Paul O'Neill, former US Secretary of the Treasury and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Danish Prime Minister and former NATO Secretary General.

Aid, experts underline, cannot make up for a necessary (targeted) easing of some sanctions and this must take place "without preconditions". The US government, they continue, must take measures "immediately" to "facilitate humanitarian trade with Iran" and "support its ongoing efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic." Added to this is the expansion of the "scope of exemptions" for humanitarian reasons, including "the devices and equipment necessary to effectively combat" the new coronavirus.

Meanwhile, efforts are increasing in Iran to accelerate the production of masks and other basic medical equipment, to make up for the lack of supplies from abroad and to guarantee internal autonomy. For this reason, the mausoleum of Shah Cheragh (the King of Light) in Shiraz, in southern Iran, was temporarily converted (pictured) to a factory, inside which the female workforce is engaged full time in the creation of masks protective.

Not only sanctuaries, places of worship are also being transformed into production centers. In Tehran, the Imamzadeh-Masum mosque, south-west of the capital, welcomed a group of 40 women who, on a voluntary basis, decided to dedicate their time to the production of the protective healthcare masks and suits, in great demand worldwide because of the pandemic. As the seamstresses stitch, a team is in charge of cutting out and sorting the masks, which are placed in buckets. Other women fold and arrange the printed sheets of material as they are produced.

In another room of the place of worship, men sitting on prayer mats make plastic gloves with rudimentary heat-sealing devices.

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