In Iran, a huge cemetery struggles to live with the virus

Tehran, Iran (AP) – For half a century, a huge cemetery bordering Iran’s capital has provided a final resting place among the war dead of this country, its celebrities and artists, its thinkers and leaders, and all of them is.

But Behesht-e-Zahra is now struggling to keep up with Iran’s coronovirus epidemic, with double the usual number of bodies arriving each day and thousands of new plots excavated by graves.

Said Khal, manager of the cemetery, said, “In the history of the last 50 years we have experienced all the woes of this cemetery, which has been going on for more than the last 50 years.” Never before – during an earthquake or even in the country’s 1980s war with Iraq – have the bodies of Behrs-e-Zahra flowed for so long, he said.

“We have been in crisis for 260 days now, and it is unclear how many months it will take us to face this crisis,” he said.

Based on this 1.6 million people are buried, spread over 5 square kilometers (1,320 acres), Behesht-e-Zahra is one of the largest cemeteries in the world and is the primary for 8.6 million people in Tehran. The gold towers of its Imam Khomeini Shrine are visible for kilometers (mi), the burial site of the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But it was not big enough for the coronovirus, which entered Iran earlier this year, the region’s worst outbreak.

Iran has reported more than 700,000 infections and 39,000 deaths – and has set single-day death records 10 times in the past month. Nearly half of the country’s virus has died in Tehran, the cemetery has been pressurized.

At the far end of Iran’s war with Iraq and the graves of the dead of politicians, the cemetery has expanded into a new area. Tehran’s leaders announced in June that they were building 15,000 new graves there – more than 5,000 in a typical year. Satellite images from September depict the plots – enough to allow for as many as three bodies in each – newly dug, each separated by a layer of dirt and bricks.

While not all new graves are for coronovirus victims, most are.

For Khal, sometimes referred to as the “mayor” of this vast necropolis, the pace is beyond anything he has seen before.

“We told the Associated Press,” We used to accept between 150 and 170 dead bodies every day, but these days when we are experiencing the peak of death, we are accepting 350 dead bodies.

Khali said that the burden of tremendous work is also falling on the staff of the cemetery.

It is unclear how other tombs in Iran are copied. In March, authorities arrested a man for posting an online video of bodies wrapped in white shrouds and wrapped in black body bags in a cemetery in the shimmering city of Qom, alleging that they were all “corona-infected.” ” Cemetery officials at the time said they were testing the bodies for the virus.

Behesh-e-Zahra – or “Zahra’s Paradise” in Persian, named after a daughter of Prophet Muhammad – the bodies of known coronovirus victims arrive by ambulance every day. Morgue attendants prepare each body for washing the rites necessary for the Muslim dead. During the epidemic, which now includes the use of disinfectants.

Later, an Imam recites Namaz, while mourners stand on the outside squares which ensure that they keep their distance from each other.

Maulsam Rajvi said, “These days I pray about 25 to 30 deaths (for COVID-19 victims).” “There are about 12 of us who pray daily for the same number of dead. This is a large number. “

Mourners lead the body to the cemetery, where another masked staff and disposable coveralls in the glove carry the body to its final resting place.

Waves of loved ones echo to the expanse of freshly dug graves that await the next funeral.


Associated Press authors of Nasir Karimi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Tehran, Iran contributed to this report.


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