Iran’s holy city of Qom is where Shiite scholars study and pilgrims travel to a shrine believed to be a gate to heaven
Published: 2021-09-27 02:23 am
AP PHOTOS: In Qom, where Iran outbreak began, virus rages on

Iran’s holy city of Qom is where Shiite scholars study and pilgrims travel to a shrine believed to be a gate to heaven

One reason for that is a hesitancy by some based on religion. In the outbreak's first days, religious leaders were reluctant to close shrines and holy sites despite the risks of virus transmission in crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces.

Some sites briefly closed but they later reopened and remained available through repeated, battering phases of the pandemic. Overall across Iran — the Middle Eastern country hardest hit by the pandemic — there have been 5.5 million confirmed virus infections. More than 119,000 people have died, putting tremendous pressure on cemeteries across the country. Officials acknowledge the toll is likely far higher.

Qom's Behesht-e-Masoumeh cemetery is the final resting place of thousands. Each day, families can be seen weeping as they bury their loved ones, wrapped in traditional shrouds. All have dug new gravesites in which they typically bury the dead very deep in the ground.

Many hospitals are filled with victims, some in medically induced comas, even as authorities warn of a possible sixth surge in infections striking the country.

It was in Qom, some 125 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Tehran, that the coronavirus first took hold in Iran. Authorities suggest it was spread by an Iranian businessman who returned from China, where the virus first appeared in Wuhan province in 2019. Qom's Shiite seminaries draw Chinese students. The city is also is located along a $2.7 billion high-speed train route that a Chinese company is building and near a solar power plant Beijing is helping construct.

But whatever started the pandemic here, the virus still rages.

Here is a gallery of images from Qom by Associated Press photographer Vahid Salemi.


Follow Associated Press photographers and photo editors on Twitter at—Images and on Instagram at

Read Full Story

US envoy in Sudan in a bid to resolve Ethiopia’s dam dispute - 6 months ago
The U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa is in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum
Read More

Summer swelter trend: West gets hotter days, East hot nights - 4 months ago
An Associated Press analysis shows that the recent heat wave struck places that are warming up faster than other parts of the United States
Read More

Video shows Asian woman robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco - 6 months ago
An Asian woman in her 50s was brutally robbed at gunpoint and had her handbag and $16,000 Rolex stolen in San Francisco last year.
Read More

Explainer: How will the virus emergency affect the Olympics? - 3 months ago
A virus state of emergency has begun in Japan’s capital, as new cases climb.
Read More