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Iran hard-liners storm shrines closed due to coronavirus

Groups of Iranian Shiite hard-liners briefly unsealed holy shrines in Qom and Mashhad in protest of the government's closure against the coronavirus epidemic.
Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of Imam Reza's holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran February 27, 2020. Picture taken February 27, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY - RC2FAF91QZ3P

As of March 17, the coronavirus epidemic in Iran had killed nearly a thousand people and infected over 16,000 others. For a theocracy like the Islamic Republic, closing down religious sites as a measure to slow transmission is a tough decision, leaving the authorities stuck between a rock and hard place.

Yet with the epidemic showing no sign of abating, the Iranian authorities chose to impose a lockdown on the key religious sites, among them the highly revered shrines of Hazrat Masoumeh and Imam Reza in the conservative cities of Qom and Mashhad, respectively.

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