Coronavirus: Men who licked holy shrines in Iran face jail

Iranian MP says people ‘doing such unconventional acts’ could be put in prison and flogged 

Rory Sullivan
Tuesday 03 March 2020 17:48 GMT
Men who licked holy shrines in Iran face jail for ignoring coronavirus health warnings

Two men filmed licking holy shrines in Iran could be jailed and flogged for ignoring coronavirus health warnings.

One of the video shows a man at the Masumeh shrine in the holy city of Qom, who says: “I’m licking this and I don’t care whatever happens. I’m not scared of coronavirus.”

In a different piece of footage, another man licks the rails of a tomb after saying: “I’m here to lick the tomb so that I can fall ill. This way, I’ve removed the viruses.”

In response, Iranian MP Hasan Nowrozi said: "Those doing such unconventional acts are publishing fake and superstitious news against the officials in the country.

"Such people would face two months to two years [in] jail and up to 74 lashes as punishment."

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist who shared the videos on Twitter, told the BBC: "Arresting these two people is not enough as the religious centres are still open in Qom and other cities where people are suffering from coronavirus.”

Although Iran has closed schools and universities to prevent the spread of coronavirus, major Shia shrines remain open.

However, measures such as disinfecting the holy shrines have been taken to protect visitors.

Millions of people travel to the shrines every year, with many kissing and touching them.

The holy cities of Mashhad and Qom have been particularly badly affected by the illness.

On Tuesday, Iranian health officials confirmed that 77 people have so far died from coronavirus and 2,336 people have been infected.

Meanwhile, it was reported on Tuesday that the head of Iran’s emergency medical services, Pirhossein Kolivand, has also contracted the disease.

In a bid to tackle the growing crisis, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has said that soldiers may be used to combat the spread of the virus.

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