Volunteers Co-Translate Top-Searched Chinese Virus Videos Into Farsi for Stricken Iran
Qian Xiaoyan
DATE:  Mar 18 2020
/ SOURCE:  yicai

(Yicai Global) March 18 -- Videos on how to prevent Covid-19 contagion have become hot search items on Iranian social media platforms these days and Chinese-language epidemic prevention videos are now widespread on the Gulf nation's social platforms because of the addition of Farsi subtitles. 

These videos would not exist without an online group called the 'China-Iran Epidemic Prevention Mutual Aid Group,' which mainly consists of university students, professors and medical workers from the two ancient Asian nations.

Iran had 1,178 coronavirus cases on March 16, and the tide has yet to turn in its fight against the pandemic, data from the Islamic Republic's health ministry show.

The group's aim is that "China's experience serve as a reference," Chen Binbin, the group's founder, told Yicai Global, adding, "and we must share our method of controlling the epidemic with Iran in the hope that it can also rein it in as soon as possible."

Chen is a fourth year doctoral student in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Beijing's prestigious Peking University. She formed a connection with Iran as an exchange student at Tehran University last year. She has been closely following its outbreak since the country reported its first Covid-19 case on Feb. 19 and, as the number of patients skyrocketed each day, she began to worry Iran's outbreak would spiral out of control.

Birth of an Idea

Chen thus conceived the plan to disseminate China's experience to the Middle Eastern country. She posted a quick response code to join a group on Tencent Holdings' popular WeChat messaging app on Feb. 24. She wanted to set up a team to translate the Chinese cure regime and preventive measures against the coronavirus into Persian, with the main purpose of raising Iranian self-defense awareness and averting panic, she said on WeChat.

Many joined. Some were her online friends, but others did not know her. The group started translating videos within several hours of its founding.

It now has 200-odd volunteers. The entire team is further divided into data, translation, proofreading, production and publicity squads. More than half its members are Chinese. "Almost all universities in the country now have Persian majors," Chen said. About four in ten of the group's participants are Iranians.

Fatemeh Hajary, from the southern Iranian city of Salad, is responsible for the Farsi proofreading. She is currently in her third year of a Chinese major at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University.

The university suspended classes so she returned to her hometown at the epidemic's outbreak. She spends the rest of her time on the group after attending online classes and doing homework each day. "I'm willing to do this; these are people who are helping my country," Hajary told Yicai Global to explain why she participates as a volunteer in this activity. She hopes that Iranians will become more knowledgeable about the novel coronavirus through her efforts.

In Darius' Footsteps

The group includes two members from Afghanistan. Persian is one of the official languages of Afghanistan, where it is widely spoken in the form known as Dari. One local is tasked with sharing the materials the group turns out on his own social media platform to share China's epidemic prevention experience with his compatriots. The other, who has studied in China and speaks fluent Chinese, has taken charge of translating portions of the text from Chinese to Dari.

The team is currently focusing on translating short videos of about one to three minutes' length, because these are the easiest to transmit, Chen said. They are mainly posted to the social media Iranians most use, such as Instagram, Twitter, instant messenger Telegram, and the country's popular Aparat video-sharing site, Chen noted.

The team currently focuses on prevention, because Iranians are now gearing up for the country's 13-day Nowruz new year celebration when they often gather to celebrate the spring equinox. The group hopes the videos will induce them to reduce outdoor activities and take sound protective measures even if they do go out in public, Chen said.

The squad is collecting popular epidemic prevention methods on Iranian social media and screening them using the Chinese experience in these vlogs. It plans to translate some examples of the Chinese treatment for mild cases for Iran's reference as its next goal, she explained.

Many know that Hajary's major is Chinese, so, they ask her when they have questions about the novel coronavirus and she forwards the materials to them, she said.

Riding to the Rescue

China and Iran have cooperated at an official level in addition to the non-governmental introduction of China's Covid-19 experiences to the country. A team of volunteer medical experts sent by the Chinese Red Cross Society arrived in Tehran on Feb. 29 to help in the nation's fight against the pandemic. The Chinese novel coronavirus diagnosis and treatment plan has been updated in its seventh edition, and China is giving each version to Iran as it issues. 

The Farsi rendition of 'Professor Zhang Wenhong's Advice on Prevention and Control of Covid-19' was translated early this month and an electronic version is available for free download from the Center for Strategic Studies under the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Farsi is the name Iranians give to their national dialect. Persian is the overarching term that refers to it and the slightly differing, but mutually-intelligible forms spoken in Tajikistan and parts of Uzbekistan -- Tajik -- and the Dari of Afghanistan.

Editor: Ben Armour

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Keywords:   Iran,Covid-19