Vaccine 4000

Why aren’t American and English vaccines trusted?

In his recent public speech, delivered on the anniversary of the January 9, 1978 uprising sparked by the people of Qom, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution explicitly announced that importing American and English vaccines to the country is forbidden. He also mentioned France, saying: “I do not trust the French either.” In this op-ed, examines the reasons behind the Iranians’ and the Leader’s distrust of the US and some European countries.

When hearing Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements about imposing sanctions on American and English vaccines, one might begin to think that in one sense, he is basically opposed to importing foreign vaccines, but when he says later on, “If officials wish to import vaccines from other places – from safe places – it will be alright,” it becomes clear that the ban on importing foreign vaccines only applies to these three western countries.

The question that arises here is why the leader of a society expresses his open opposition to the importation of vaccines from some countries which have claimed to have produced a vaccine in circumstances where his country needs a vaccine and medication, just like all other nations in the world. Does he politicize science? Is such a risk on his part reasonable? Has the hostility between Iran and the US and the existence of some differences between Iran, England and sometimes France caused him to extend it to the medical area? In sum, why these three countries? Is this only his own viewpoint and is the Leader of the society imposing his viewpoint on his nation?

The Farsi hashtag "#Salame_Gorg" (#HelloOfWolves)[1] is a hashtag being used in social networks, which Iranians have turned into the number one trend, and it seems to be ironic. Examining and reading the messages published with this hashtag reveals a somewhat strange viewpoint. Under closer scrutiny, it becomes clear that #HelloOfWolves is in fact part of an Iranian proverb which says, “When wolves say hello, they have another intention.” It means that if someday a wolf says hello to you, you should know that there is some ulterior and probably exploitative motive behind it. The more interesting point is that the hashtag has been created in response to two apparently well-intentioned programs introduced by western institutions. One is the proposal to give 150,000 doses of Corona vaccine to Iran as a gift, and the other is the lifting of sanctions on medicines in order to help Iran buy vaccines from western countries. Do Iranians reciprocate kindness with hatred? Does some illusion of a conspiracy exist among the Iranian people and their officials on the basis of which they do not realize what is good for them and according to which they look at matters pessimistically and illogically?

In order to find the answer to these questions and ambiguities, we need to do some research in order to find a clue about this joint pessimism and distrust towards certain western countries shared by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the people of Iran – at least a large part of them. In his recent speech, when he mentions France, he speaks of an incident which we have heard about less frequently: “Of course, I do not trust the French either. The reason is that they have a history of giving us contaminated blood products.” But what is that incident about?

In the early 1980s, the family of a six-year-old hemophilia-stricken boy, named Masoud, complains about a bitter incident. Their son contracted AIDS in the process of receiving blood. Their report receives a lot of attention and research is conducted on the issue. Finally, the researchers realize something that is even more unpleasant: during the Iran-Iraq wars in the years 1983 and 1984, the Mérieux company, which has been purchased by the French Sanofi-Aventis company, sent HIV-tainted blood products to Iran and some other countries destined for patients suffering from hemophilia. The crisis grew larger in dimension with the passage of time. The patients suffering from hemophilia and thalassemia and using those blood products contracted AIDS and lost their lives one after another.

Even if we forget about that dark tragedy, the Iranians pose another question: “If Iranian lives are important to American, British and French officials, why have they imposed medicinal sanctions on Iran? Why have European companies been prohibited from exporting medication to Iran and why will they face heavy fines if they do so? What hostility can a child suffering from EB [Epidermolysis bullosa] have towards the US, Britain and France and why should its medication be cut off as a result of sanctions?

Naturally, the roots of this lack of trust, as mentioned by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and as manifested by the Iranians through hashtags such as “#HelloOfWolves” or “#BuySafeVaccines”, cannot merely originate from one particular issue such as medical incidents and interactions with BUF countries – Britain, US and France. Basically, this mentality has been shaped throughout history and as a result of numerous experiences and interactions. It is safe to say that the Iranians, in particular in the present era, have not seen their optimism and good behavior towards those countries reciprocated. The coup against Dr. Mosaddeq administration[2], supporting the dictatorial Pahlavi regime, arming Saddam with chemical weapons[3] and giving wholehearted support to him against Iran[4], striking the Iranian passenger plane[5], backing terrorist groups such as the Rajavi sect and organizing them in Paris and New York[6], creating discord among the Iranians and their neighboring countries[7], interfering in the defensive power of the Islamic Republic[8], creating a false wave of Iranophobia[9], creating propaganda networks against Iran, making an endeavor to create social discord and at the greatest level, imposing widespread and – as they themselves put it – crippling sanctions[10] and many other constitute the large part of Iranians’ historical memory in interaction with these three countries – in particular, the US and England.

Of course, a nation and a society are not supposed to merely rely on their own experiences. Reading the history of treacheries and colonial damages causes by these three countries against other nations in the present century helps every vigilant society make wise and careful choices in the face of such countries. Incidents such as conducting secret nuclear experiments in Algeria on the part of the French[11], distributing blankets contaminated with contagious and fatal diseases among Native Americans by the British[12], spreading syphilis among soldiers, prisoners and psychiatric patients in Guatemala by the US[13], and selling the HIV and Hepatitis-tainted blood samples of American prisoners to Canada’s blood bank[14], a crime committed by the US, and many other overt and covert actions are some of the examples in this regard.

Reviewing Ayatollah Khamenei’s speeches indicate that unlike the current propaganda efforts, such distrust is not merely ideological nor the result of anti-western sentiment and , it originates from the lived experience of the people of Iran. In his meeting with government officials organized on June 14, 2016, he says: “What hostility has the Islamic Republic shown towards France? Because Imam resided in France for a while, that country was even praised by revolutionary forces, but you see what they are doing in the present time. You witnessed that on the nuclear issue, the French played the role of the bad cop. Of course, it was the Americans who managed this, but the French took the worst position on the nuclear matter anyway. What had we done to the French? Had we shown any hostility towards them?”

In order to dispel the doubts on Iran’s anti-western sentiments and distrust towards the world in its entirety, we can refer to the Leader’s meeting with the Italian prime minister organized on April 12, 2016 where he said that he considers Iran’s outlook towards Italy a positive and optimistic outlook. He has even shown that one should forget about the past, that one should not adopt a generally unfair outlook towards history, and that one should not place the countries that have caused fewer problems for Iran on an equal footing with others? That is why in his meeting with the people of Bojnourd, held on October 10, 2012, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution mentioned: “The countries which sacrifice themselves for the US are doing a foolish thing. Our people do not have a bad memory of many European countries. We do not have bad memories of France, Italy and Spain. Of course, we do have bad memories of England and that is why we describe that country as ‘Malicious England.’ However, this is not the case with other European countries. With their action – cooperation with the Us, which is completely foolish in our opinion – they are provoking the Iranian nation’s enmity. They are doing something to make the Iranian nation hate them.”

As the final word, governing and managing a society does not take place in a fantasy world, rather it takes place in the world of reason, experience and possibilities. If Ayatollah Khamenei and the people of Iran have become sensitive towards the purchase of Corona vaccines from the above-mentioned countries, this originates from the concern that damaged individuals normally have. This concern results from the fear that these three countries might have assumed “the Hyde character” when trying to export their vaccines. In other words, they might have an ulterior motive – for example, they may wish to test it on other nations particularly because the above-mentioned vaccines have not achieved success in their own respective countries yet.


[1] In Persian, the hashtag is #Salame_Gorg, which literally means "the hello and greetings of a wolf."