November 13, 2021
At a time when the officially-recorded death toll from Covid-19 in Iran is still at more than 100 a day, a group of Qom seminary students staged a protest against vaccination in the holy city. On Thursday, November 11, pictures of the gathering in front of the Qom Seminary Teachers Association building were posted online. The group reportedly then moved to outside the residences of some Shia sources of emulation.
Students and participants at the rally chanted several anti-vax slogans, including “Quarantine and vaccine is a betrayal of Iran”, “The IRIB must hold scientific debate”, “Independence, freedom, no to compulsory vaccination”, “Announce the vaccine death statistics”, and “We are not mice, nor lambs. We are free”.
The website Qom News reports that the protest organizers were the same ones who railed in public against the closure of the shrine of Masoumeh at the start of the pandemic. These protests led to some religious adherents breaking through the doors of the shrine in Qom.
From September this year, adherents to so-called traditional or “Islamic” medicine also staged a protest in front on the Ministry of Health, denouncing domestic and foreign-made Covid-19 vaccines and declaring: “We have the vaccine of Imam Kazem.” In Shia mythology Imam Kazem is a provider of cures for sick believers.
Qom is one of the holiest cities in Iran. Home to Qom Seminary, a number of religious bonyads, the clerical caste and the shrine of Masoumeh, it is normally the destination for thousands of religious pilgrims every year. According to the Ministry of Health, it is also one of the most vaccine-hesitant in Iran: official statistics indicate just 65 percent of citizens offered a vaccine have accepted it. Last Wednesday, Alireza Oliaei-Manesh, deputy director of health at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, said overall about 25 percent of Iranians were “resisting” the offer of a Covid-19 jab.