COVID-19 evil twin: the one which has been affecting us all since a long time ago, a humanism crisis which we have been ignoring even to properly acknowledge

There are so many statements saying that COVID-19 is a fair virus, i.e., both poor and rich may get the disease; but is it really how we define fairness? Let me start with Iranians.

I do not want to double-emphasizing on how the sanctions are affecting my country’s (Iran) health system¹. I do not want to talk about the vivid unfair direct effects of sanctions which have been a burden on my people’s shoulder not for the past months but for the last years. I cannot help myself not to mention those patients with cancers or with very painful EB (Epidermolysis bullosa simplex) disease who have been also affected by sanctions². Their medicines are so rare and if they find them, they are super expensive due to the fact that Iran’s economy is getting worse on a daily basis. Though for sure, recently, it is crystal clear to everyone how sanctions have been affecting Iranians due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. I know and you know that there has been some mismanagement by the Iranian government like most of the other governments, but one of the main reasons for the medical shortage in Iran is actually the sanctions! Whether you want to believe it or not.

As I mentioned, I do not want and I do not have enough information about the details and the process of the medical aspect of this crisis, but for sure I can talk about how COVID-19 is affecting my country compared to others, like Canada, from the academic point of view. The day after my university (University of Toronto) was shut down due to the virus, I was bombarded with emails explaining how instructors, TAs, or students can use the online platform for the rest of the semester. No single class was canceled. Although it is not the best and some courses do require in-person classes, there is not a big deal compared to what has been happening in Iran.

Let me start from a couple of years before this COVID-19 pandemic. While I was a master student, I remember trying to get access to online courses on the Coursera platform. The one you all are familiar with and for sure have not had any difficulty to join an online-free course of your interest. But if you were in Iran, you could not do that at all. Once you enter the website from Iran’s network you will get a notification that you are from Iran, therefore, you cannot log in and use any course³. Shocking! Wait there is more. One of the easy ways of online meetings is zoom, the one you love when you get those cool backgrounds behind you, right? But wait; its access is also restricted in Iran and you are not allowed to use it⁴. Why? Because of stupid sanctions.

Nowadays, during this quarantine, we as students in developed countries can access so many online courses, we can continue our semester and even do the exams online but this is not the case in Iran. Schools and universities in Iran have been closed for more than one month now and there is not a robust on-line platform to be used.

Sadly, the problems I just mentioned are the ones that are clearer and easier to feel due to these days’ conditions, but this is not the whole story. There are so many shortages in equipment and electrical tools in research labs in Iran. why? Since the companies, even the ones who are proudly claiming to work with academia are banned/afraid to collaborate with Iranians.

Of course, we as Iranians, have been trying our best to find ways of dealing with these difficulties; some directly from our government (such as filtering some websites like Twitter and Facebook!) and some from the world. The worst part is that we as Iranian are not the only ones. And this academic problem is not the only problem. At least it is not directly killing anyone (yet).

There are so many people so many children dying in Yemen for starvation or a disease that has been cured for a long time now, like the children-paralysis⁵ (acute flaccid paralysis). There are so many people in quarantine in Syria who cannot live their lives due to the war. Or the Muslims who are in jail in China only because they believe in Islam⁶.

There are a lot of crises going on in the world but why we are acting toward COVID-19 with all we have in power? Why we are sad by staying at home even when we are sure we are safe and there is no bomb that would fall on our roof? We now are talking and acting because we are the ones who are in danger. That is the worst part of human beings (not for all of us, of course) that they will react when they are the direct target, otherwise, no matter what is happening to others, we do not care because we think we are of course special to have this freedom, safety, and luxury to live. We did not expect something that could also affect our lives; that is the reason I think that we are panicking. This is the COVID-19 evil twin which was not even fairly acknowledged in our daily happy lives. People with already so many problems in their lives, like living in the street or not eating healthy food are not that afraid of this virus since they are used to have an uncertain hard life. I am very sad to see the virus killing so many people, but in these bad times, it is still an opportunity to clear our minds and vision by embracing this experience to at least live a better life when we are done with this pandemic (finger crossed that we all survive).

As Saadi, our great poet said: “Human beings are members of a whole, in the creation of one essence and soul, If one member is afflicted with pain, Other members uneasy will remain. If you have no sympathy for human pain, The name of human you cannot retain.”

References:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/04/04/world/middleeast/04reuters-health-coronavirus-iran.html
  2. https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-sanctions-iran-patients-struggling-access-healthcare-report-hrw
  3. https://learner.coursera.help/hc/en-us/articles/208280116-International-restrictions
  4. https://medium.com/r/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fsupport.zoom.us%2Fhc%2Fen-us%2Farticles%2F203806119-Will-Zoom-work-internationally-
  5. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/11/14/667805263/why-a-war-on-children-could-get-worse
  6. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-50511063

PS: this is my first medium post, more than happy to hear your comments and feedback.