The spokesperson for the Iranian Ministry of Health, Sima Sadat Lari, criticized the holding of a religious celebration in Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad, saying that having such a ceremony was "indeed a crime."
IRNA, the government's official news agency, cited Lari as describing the religious festival on Tuesday, October 27, as "unbelievable." She added, "After holding the ceremony, everybody claimed that they were not informed and did not know who issued the permit for the celebration."
In another reaction to the gathering, the president of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Mohammad Hossein Bahraini, speculated on the religious celebration of several thousand people in Mashhad, held amid the country's coronavirus outbreak.
It was a "sick-producing factory" that "manufactured people suffering from COVID-19," Bahraini said.
Speaking to the state-run TV news network, Bahraini emphasized that Mashhad University of Medical Sciences had not issued the gathering permit, and that the governor of Khorasan Razavi has ordered an investigation into the case.
The Khorasan Razavi province is among Iran's regions that are declared to be in a "red status" and prone to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Criticizing the holding of such a dangerous gathering in the heat of the COVID-19 outbreak, Bahraini said the provincial authorities are "highly worried" about the number of people infected in the controversial ceremony.
The religious ceremony called "Eid-e Bay'at," or "Allegiance Festival" was held on Monday in the presence of thousands of people at the Imam Reza Stadium in Mashhad.
The Islamic Propagation Organization, the event's organizer, had claimed to receive approval and "verbal permission" from the Mashhad Health Center for the event.
However, Bahraini denied the allegations, saying that the IPO sent a letter to the university on October 24. With the next day being a holiday, they held the ceremony on October 26.
The governor's office and the Municipality of Mashhad denied issuing a permit for the massive gathering. Additionally, the head of the Ministry of Health's information center, Kianoosh Jahanpour, also tweeted that neither the Ministry of Health nor the University of Medical Sciences issued any licenses for the ceremony.
Two weeks before the controversial religious celebration was held, many fans of the late Iranian vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian were banned from attending his funeral.