We previously reported on how despite Qom being at the epicenter of Iran's deadly Covid-19 outbreak, the powerful Shia clerics overseeing the Iranian 'holy city' have fiercely resisted closing its key shrines.
In normal times, millions of pilgrims per week flock to the crowded shrines, most especially the shrine of Fatima Masoumeh, named after the sister of the eighth Imam of Shia Muslims. Throughout the crisis, even as the number of confirmed cases recently soared past 10,000 days ago, hardliners still resisted the Masoumeh shrine's closure.
But even though up to last week the shrine was still receiving thousands of people, it appears local authorities have moved to enforce a final closure Monday. But as multiple Middle East correspondents reported, this immediately brought rioters out, enraged that one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam has been shuttered.
The nightmare of containing #Coronavirus in #Iran: Mobs storm the Masoumeh shrine in Qom after authorities ordered its closure to stop virus.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) March 16, 2020
Iran has > 15,000 cases and is major source of spreading to MENA: pic.twitter.com/WotRWH7RXB
New York Times journalist Farnaz Fassihi reported Monday: "Iran finally shuts down Shia shrines today as coronavirus peaked in those cities."
"Mobs of ultra hardliners break the doors in Mashhad & Qom, bypass the police & storm the shrines. This appears organized," she wrote.
3/ Mobs in Mashhad storming closed shrines clash with security forces trying to stop them.— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) March 16, 2020
Today the governor of Mashhad called for Rouhani to quarantine the city because of critical number of infected & dead from coronavirus. Rouhani has so far refused restriction on movement. pic.twitter.com/8JBYhh48Ws
President Rouhani had long resisted openly backing its closure despite much of Qom being shut down and in quarantine.
However, the province's governor urged Tehran to finally impose a full quarantine due to the dramatically rising number of infected and dead.
A number of Shia clerics have backed Qom's complete closure, even to religious pilgrims; however, they've faced attack and continued resistance from other top clerics which see it as a compromise of Islam.