Experience has proved that on time cooperation for preventing the proliferation of a crisis is both logical and an issue of public interest. Today, the world is witnessing a spread of infection in an increasing number of people to a scourge called COVID-19. Any inattention by world leaders to this scourge will lead to a further spread of the virus even to their own people; this issue will cause problems for their future responsibility.

While the spread of the dangerous coronavirus is increasingly affecting the whole world and people in more than 150 countries have been infected by it, the inhumane and unilateral coercive measures by the US have negatively impacted the global and concurrent fight against the deadly and contagious disease. The United States government has implemented a regime of economic and medical terrorism against the Islamic Republic of Iran which is a systematic and gross violation of human rights. To give extra-territorial impact to its unlawful sanctions, the United States government uses political tools against economic partners and neighbouring countries of Iran in an irresponsible, unilateral and bullying manner and in violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions. These sanctions directly affect the development of the health system and the ability to respond to health crises in Iran. These sanctions not only violate international humanitarian law and the judgments of the International Court of Justice, but also violate the right of the Iranian people to health and their right to life by depriving Iranians of access to medicine and medical equipment. Thus, due to the contagious and rapid spread of the virus, the US is endangering the health of all countries in the region and the world.

Regarding the global aspect and depth of the catastrophe, the leaders’ responsibility is not just an internal one and its external aspects can be even more important. World leaders cannot immunise their nations just by closing their own borders and be ignorant to other countries. Cooperation is absolutely needed to take holistic measures.

Today, Iran is badly plagued with COVID-19. The level of spread of the virus in Iran, which has one of the highest health standards in the world, is quite considerable. Despite the tireless efforts of medical teams, Iranians still suffer a very high death toll due to the disease. The main reason of this situation is unilateral coercive measures and unfair sanctions that hamper Iranian access to medical requirements. Neither international humanitarian norms nor recent international judiciary verdicts support such brutal sanctions. The continuation of this situation will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe and needs the immediate reaction of global leaders, especially those of neighbouring countries. Any inaction or passive stance of others towards these unfair sanctions will in the future, be the responsibility of world leaders. Eradication of the virus needs a global and collective endeavour and there is no guarantee for other countries to completely remove themselves from the situation. Quoting from the Iranian great poet Saadi Shirazi:

Human beings are members of a whole,

In creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain,

Other members uneasy will remain.

If you’ve no sympathy for human pain,

The name of human you cannot retain!

The cooperation of relevant international organisations, in particular the World Health Organisation, with the support, cooperation and assistance of the people and the government in friendly countries such as China, Pakistan, Turkey, Germany, France, Japan, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Russia is very encouraging and promising. The Iranian government and the nation will never forget the help of these kind-hearted countries in difficult days.

So far, truth-seeking and peace-loving states such as China, Pakistan, and Russia have emphasised the negative and destructive effects of unilateral actions and US’ anti-Iranian sanctions against the spread of the virus in Iran and the region and called on the international community to exert pressure on them to lift these inhumane sanctions.

In this regard, we appreciate the recent call of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for lifting sanctions against Iran and we thank his wisdom in understanding the importance of virus control over political rivalries. He urged the US to lift sanctions on Iran as Iranians are in a difficult situation to procure medical and emergency supplies from abroad. Imran Khan said that Iran is a “classic example” of a place where the humanitarian imperative to contain the outbreak outweighs political rivalries.

Alongside this, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony gave his reaction on US unilateral sanctions against Iran and stated that the Trump administration’s anti-Iran policy is in sheer violation of human rights and the principles of humanity. Noor-ul-Haq Qadri expressed solidarity with the people and government of Iran on the spread of the coronavirus. Pakistan’s Minister of Religious Affairs strongly criticised the US government’s anti-Iranian approach and continued unilateral sanctions against the Iranian nation.

Dr Zafar Mirza, Pakistan’s Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health termed the fight against coronavirus a collective responsibility and urged the international community to press the US to lift medical sanctions from Iran to help the Islamic Republic in defeating the deadly virus. This valuable support and wise stance of Pakistani officials means a lot to us. The government and the people of Iran will always remember friends in these difficult days. We can move past this critical time with empathetic cooperation and with the support of the Almighty.

May Allah protect all of us.

Seyed Mohammad Ali Hossaini

The writer is the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Pakistan.