Zahras Paradis receives twice as many dead under the corona – NRK Urix – Foreign news and documentaries


The Iranians have been hit very hard by the corona. The country has passed 40,000 deaths, and according to Worldometers, infection rates have risen sharply since September.

Iran is in its third and deadliest wave. It notices the staff of Zahra’s paradise.

– Before, we received somewhere between 150 and 170 dead people every day. But now we are experiencing a sharp increase in deaths. We now receive an average of 350 deaths each day, most from Tehran. This is a very high number, says Saeed Khaal to the news agency AP. He is the head of Iran’s most famous cemetery.

Zahras Paradis

Behesht-e-Zahra Cemetery, Zahra’s Paradise, is an hour’s drive outside Tehran. With its 1.6 million small and large tombs, the place is reminiscent of a small town. You drive from section to section on asphalt roads. Here are figures from Iranian politics, generals and famous artists buried. This is also the resting place of the soldiers who fell in the Iraq-Iran war, which cost Iran half a million men. Each group has its area. Families visiting the graves can be seen everywhere. Many bring tea and food, as if to eat with their loved one deceased. Usually, Zahra’s paradise is characterized by tranquility. But not anymore.

According to Islam, those who die should be buried before sunset or during the first 24 hours. Therefore, things have to happen fast. And now 12 imams take care of all the ceremonies.

SMALL CEREMONY: Now only those closest to you can be present when someone in the family dies of covid-19. The Imam reads prayers from the Qur’an to bless the dead.

Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

– Now I lead between 25 and 30 funerals every day. We are twelve imams here praying for the dead during the ceremonies. And that is a high number, says Imam Meysam Rajabi, to the news agency AP.

The funerals are not as they used to with the whole extended family present. Now only the closest family can participate and they must make sure to stand at a good distance from each other.


LAST DISINFECTION: Before burial, spray the dead with chemicals. The closest relatives are waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

Before the ceremony begins, a man in a protective suit sprays disinfectant on both the corpse lying in a blanket and then on the mourners.

The cemetery is being expanded

The cemetery is now being expanded with another large section. Hundreds of new graves await those who will die of covid-19 in the coming days, weeks and months.

bGXb69pXk8s Likhuset Behesht-e Zahra

THE BODYHOUSE: Zahra’s Paradise receives around 350 dead every day. That is more than twice as many as before the corona, when the number was between 150 and 170 equal. The dead must be washed and then buried within 24 hours.

Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

In the large morgues, the dead lie in black bags, close together on benches and on stretchers. They are waiting to be washed before the funeral. The employees at the cemetery struggle to deal with the large number of dead.

– We have been through many crises in the last 50 years, but most were over in a few days. But the crisis we are in now has lasted for 260 days and we have no idea many months this will continue, says Saeed Khaal, who is also called the mayor of the city of the dead.

He tells AP that the workload puts enormous pressure on everyone who works at the burial site. Never before has the flow of the dead been so intense, not even during the eight-year war with Iraq. Nor during the earthquakes, according to Khaal.

In June, the Tehran authorities announced that 15,000 new graves had to be prepared, 5,000 more than a normal year. According to the AP, satellite images from September show that the new graves are so deep that each grave can hold three dead, separated by a layer of earth and bricks.

tzbm6k0LaYs Funeral 2 Behesht-e Zahra

SORROW: A family mourns a family member. The cemetery is called Behesht-e-Zahra, Zahra’s Paradise, to honor Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.

Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

No long lockdown

When the corona spread came to Iran in February, the country was already hard hit by isolation and economic problems after President Trump reintroduced harsh sanctions and banned the country from selling oil. The economy went into a darkness, the value of the Iranian rijal sank like a rock. The Iranian authorities have not been able to afford to shut down society for a long time as richer countries have been able to. However, the Iranian authorities encourage everyone to wear a face mask, keep their distance and show responsibility. Those who break the rules will be fined or forced to work in hospitals where they will help corona patients, said Reza Asgari, governor of Zanjan, according to the Tehran Times.

Grieving in Beheshte Zahra cemetery outside Tehran

IMPORTANT PLACE: Many thousands of soldiers from several wars are buried here. Every day, families come to sit at the graves of their loved ones. They lost a loved one who went to Syria as a volunteer.

Photo: Sidsel Wold / NRK

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