At the start of this week, the National Council of Resistance of Iran reported that the Iranian death toll from the coronavirus pandemic exceeded 60,000. The NCRI has been carefully tracking the rate of infections and the number of fatal cases since outbreaks were first recorded in Iran, and it has been working to counter systematic disinformation from Iranian regime officials and state media outlets.
Iranian regime’s official Covid-19 death toll is less than one-sixth the NCRI’s figure. But Tehran’s estimate, 9,742 as of Monday, has no obvious corroboration apart from statements with a vested interest in supporting the official narrative. The NCRI’s conclusions, on the other hand, are derived from investigations into the conditions of Iranian hospitals, wide-ranging eyewitness statements, and official documents obtained by the intelligence network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
What is more, even Iranian regime’s officials are not universally in agreement about the lower estimates being provided to state media. Some have desperately blame other factions so avoid public’s increasing hatred toward the regime’s lying by bucking the regime’s official narrative and instead of taking action, making at least a ridiculous gesture of opposition, and pretending they have warned the public about the still-escalating threat of coronavirus infection. In a nutshell, this is another sign of the regime’s infighting.
Some of the most prominent examples of this internal dissent come from Alireza Zali, the head of the regime’s Health Ministry’s coronavirus task force. Zali recently acknowledged that about 20 percent of the population of Tehran Province has now contracted the illness. This alone casts substantial doubt on the regime’s modest figures, and it also confirms the NCRI reports that indicate the death toll in the capital city is greater than the total number of fatalities that the regime has acknowledged for the entire country.
Other Health Ministry officials have seemingly expanded upon Zali’s local-area estimates, indicating that there may be as many as 20 million cases of Covid-19 in Iran at this point. This puts the country on pace to quickly reach the most dire scenario outlined by the World Health Organization, in which something like half of Iran’s 83 million residents contract the virus, leading to a death toll high in the hundreds of thousands.
If this outcome is realized, it will be a direct result of dismissive and deliberately harmful policies of the Iranian regime. The same can already be said of the current situation, which has emerged out of more than two months of relaxed social distancing protocols. Making matters worse, those protocols were put into place much later in Iran than in surrounding countries where the impact of Covid-19 was much less serious. Even then, they were weakly enforced, testifying both the regime’s disinterest in the public’s welfare and its preoccupation with bolstering the Iranian economy regardless of the possible human costs.
That preoccupation was vividly expressed in March, at the start of the Iranian calendar year, when the Iranian coronavirus outbreak was already well underway. At the time, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that the next 12 months would be “the year of boosting production.” His criminal initiated policies that placed the domestic economy ahead of public health, civic peace, international reconciliation, or anything else.
Overwhelmingly, though, the supreme leader and the entire regime have remained committed to a typically self-serving course of action. This was made apparent all over again on April 11, when the regime’s authorities pressed ahead with plans to resume economic and social activities even though there had been recent spikes in the number of cases.
Of course, those spikes were even more significant in reality than they appeared in the public estimates provided by the Health Ministry. In the subsequent two months, it appeared to become increasingly difficult for the regime to cover up the fact of escalating infection rates and death tolls. But as the NCRI has demonstrated, the severity of those spikes has always greatly outpaced what the regime was compelled to report. Unfortunately, the widening gap between these two sets of figures is not generally being acknowledged by the international media, which tends to repeat the Iranian reigme’s official estimates uncritically.
It is imperative that this trend comes to end before Iran’s outbreak gets much worse. After all, the past several months of disinformation have made it absolutely clear that Tehran will never change its public health policies on its own accord. As long as it can get away with doing so, the regime will always opt for lying to justify the policies that Khamenei has already laid out for the country.
This situation will surely persist until the international community begins seriously interrogating and exposing Iran’s prefabricated narratives. The NCRI has already laid out much of the correct information, as well as explaining the nature of the regime’s deceptions. Full corroboration of that information may depend upon an investigation into the Iranian outbreak by world health authorities. But the regime will never concede to such an investigation until its disinformation campaign has been made common knowledge throughout the globe.