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Father of dead Iranian protester calls on global community to keep sanctions on Iran

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The outspoken father of a protester killed by security forces during Iran’s anti-government protests last November has called on the international community to not lift sanctions against the Iranian regime and instead send aid to Iranians directly amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“If sanctions are lifted, the regime will buy weapons to kill our children using the money it would make from selling Iran’s oil and [other] resources,” said Manouchehr Bakhtiari in a video shared by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad on Twitter on Friday.

Manouchehr Bakhtiari’s son, Pouya Bakhtiari, was shot dead on the second day of anti-government protests which erupted across Iran last November after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50 percent.

The Bakhtiari family blame the death of their son on the regime and have been highly vocal in their opposition to the Islamic Republic following their son’s death.

Iranian authorities arrested and later released several members of the Bakhtiari family, including Manouchehr Bakhtiari, last December after they insisted on commemorating their dead son.

Bakhtiari called on the international community to refrain from offering the regime money amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The regime will spend that money on relatives of officials. They will spend the money in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Palestine. They will not spend it on Iranians,” he said.

“Any money the Islamic Republic receives, it spends it on its own needs rather than on the people,” added Bakhtiari.

Protests triggered by fuel rationing and price hikes continue on in Iran despite a nationwide internet blackout. (File photo: AFP)
Protests triggered by fuel rationing and price hikes continue on in Iran despite a nationwide internet blackout. (File photo: AFP)

He suggested the international community help Iranians “directly” rather than ease sanctions against the regime or offer it money.

“If the international community and the UN really want to help Iranians, they should help directly. I ask the World Health Organisation to designate a representative in Iran and help Iranians directly.”

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Iran expelled a team of doctors from international humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) who came to the country on March 23 to treat coronavirus patients in Isfahan, one of the country’s worst-hit provinces. Senior Iranian officials have also strongly opposed any US help against coronavirus on more than one occasion.

Despite humanitarian goods such as medicines being exempt from US sanctions on Iran, the Iranian foreign ministry recently launched a campaign calling for the sanctions against the Islamic Republic to be lifted, claiming they hinder Iran’s access to medicine and medical supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some Iranian officials, including health minister Saeed Namaki, have disputed this claim.

Pointing to the regime’s efforts to have US sanctions lifted while insisting on refusing any US help against coronavirus, some Iranian activists accuse the Islamic Republic of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to lobby for sanctions relief.

As of Friday, 4,232 in Iran have died from the virus, and there are 68,192 confirmed cases.