The epidemic of cancer in Iraq that emerged after the 1991 Gulf War has afflicted nearly every family. In response to a health care system devastated by sanctions and war, Iraqis acquired decades of experience piecing together novel mechanisms for obtaining treatment. The tendency of families to rely on their own knowledge and practices around disease is, however, no match for the coronavirus pandemic and the corruption of political elites that enables its spread. Forthcoming in MER issue 297 “Health and the Body Politic.”
As Turkish scholars residing in the United States when the pandemic began to curtail normal life, Ergin Bulut and Başak Can signed on to take the Turkish government’s evacuation flight home. This experience and their time spent in government-managed quarantine yielded interesting insights into the state’s intense efforts to rebrand itself as caring and effective, particularly after consolidating power during the 2018 switch from a parliamentary to presidential system.
The Iranian government is fighting against the coronavirus pandemic not only with travel restrictions and social distancing rules, but also with ideological tools that promote unity and resistance. Through the production of posters and other media, Iran is creating connections between earlier battles, such as the Iran-Iraq war, and the current health crisis. Kevin Schwartz and Olmo Gölz trace the lineage of the iconography used in these images and the ideological efforts behind them.
With its national government in fragments and fighting ongoing, Libya was in an extremely vulnerable position when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March. Four months later, however, infection rates have been kept relatively low. Nada Elfeituri explores the crucial role of post-Qaddafi civil society in confronting the coronavirus and the still precarious position of the Libyan people.
Palestine is heading into a disastrous recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic’s paralysis of economic life combined with structural factors specific to the Palestinian economy. Colin Powers explains why the Palestinian Authority is unable to generate the necessary level of revenue to support its citizens, including the pernicious role of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the PA’s misguided choice to hand economic management to Palestinian business elites.
While people around the world are under lockdown, Palestinian workers in Israel continue to labor in the now accelerated construction sector. While Israel’s project of control and expansion exploits their labor, Palestinians are put at greater risk without proper testing, accommodations or healthcare.
Refugees everywhere are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza are legally under the protection of the UN and Israel. Are these authorities meeting their obligations? Amahl Bishara talks to Badil director Nidal Al-Azza to find out and to learn how communities are coping.
Lebanon’s highly privatized system of health care is presenting challenges to implementing a public health approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the country already suffering from multiple political and economic crises, containment of the coronavirus has been more effective than expected. But serious obstacles to the public’s health and well being remain.
Andrea Wright talks to South Asian migrant workers in the Gulf to find out how the pandemic is affecting their lives. They explain that if they stay in the Gulf, they risk abandonment by their employers and coronavirus infection from cramped living conditions. If they return to India under lockdown, they face starvation, mounting debts, joblessness and anti-Muslim sentiment. There are no good choices.
Is the Algerian state using the COVID-19 crisis and the suspension of weekly street protests as an opportunity to put an end to the Hirak social movement? What is the Hirak doing now? How is the government responding to the pandemic? Muriam Haleh Davis interviews the Algerian journalist Selma Kasmi to find out.
Pharmacists in Turkey, like the author’s parents, are working overtime to serve their communities and to adapt quickly to shifting government orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. While steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of the virus on the most vulnerable, various forms of inequality entrenched across the country mean that certain groups suffer much more than others.
Voices from the Middle East: Doctors, COVID-19 Patients and Dilemmas of Treatment under Sanctions in Iran
Caring for COVID-19 patients without the proper equipment and medicine is difficult anywhere. In Iran it is especially devastating to know that lives are being lost due to US sanctions. Two pediatricians at provincial hospitals in Iran describe their experiences.
In Iran, the state at first wavered in response to the spread of the coronavirus but eventually led a mass mobilization across the government and military to try to monitor, treat and contain COVID-19. Beyond the official response, charities, mosques and professional groups are responding to the rapid changes in public life with new forms of social organization and grassroots mutual aid.
Jordan’s strict nationwide curfew and ban on car traffic in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is complicating crucial aid delivery to refugees. Amanda Lane, executive director of the Collateral Repair Project, explains how they are coping with the new restrictions and why the situation was already so precarious for refugees.
The Jordanian government’s severe restrictions on movement to contain the spread of COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting refugees and low-income Jordanians. While the government has established a national fund for needy Jordanian families, resources for the large population of already insecure refugees are drying up as international agencies scramble to shift gears.
Gaza’s health system has been severely weakened by 13 years of Israeli land, sea and air blockade. With 2 million residents and not enough hospital beds, protective equipment and other essentials, the arrival of COVID-19 could spell disaster. Danya Qato gets the details of Gaza’s dire situation and the response of health care workers to the pandemic in this interview with Salam Khashan, a doctor in Khan Yunis.
US sanctions against Iran, along with Iranian government policies, have created insurmountable obstacles for domestic drug manufacturers who are struggling to provide people with the health care they need, especially now as COVID-19 ravages Iran. An Iranian pharmaceutical company employee explains why procuring supplies has become so difficult.