According to the Iranian Resistance, Iran’s regime is severely downplaying the country’s coronavirus outbreak. Credible allegations of inaccurate infection rates and mortality figures persist despite the fact that government officials have lately acknowledged a rising trend in new infections, including a staggering number of infections among healthcare workers.
As of Thursday, the regime’s Health Ministry said that 7,249 people had died from Covid-19 while roughly 100,000 had recovered. The total number of infections was pegged at slightly under 130,000. These false and fabricated statistics of recoveries to active cases allowed regime’s president Hassan Rouhani to once again claim on Wednesday that regime’s authorities were close to brining the epidemic entirely under control.
But the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) paints a much different picture. Based upon ongoing analyses of hospital records, disclosures from hospital staff, and other information collective by activist networks inside Iran, the coalition determined that the death toll exceeded 43,800 on Saturday. It is believed that the total number of infections can be measured in the millions.
In previous statements, the NCRI has made a strong effort to highlight the danger posed by the Iranian regime’s plans for reopening the domestic economy. Those efforts have already been ongoing for six weeks, having begun on April 11 after an inexcusably brief national lockdown. Surrounding countries closed their borders and halted non-essential commerce soon after outbreaks were recognized, but Iran dragged its heels long enough to become, without question, the worst-affected nation in the Middle East.
Rouhani’s false claims about the current status of the outbreak leave little doubt about the regime’s commitment to following through with its plans. But even the regime’s official statistics make it clear that the consequences of reopening could include tens of thousands of additional deaths. As initial steps toward the reopening have taken effect, the outbreak has resurged. And the past two weeks showed a steady increase in new cases.
It is very telling that even the state-run media has made little effort to deny this fact. That media and the regime behind it have shown prior willingness to deny practically every facet of reality. Public announcements about an under-control outbreak were contradicted by Iranian doctors and nurses, some of whom communicated with independent news outlets while others used social media to speak directly to the public about the effects of the virus.
So while Rouhani was boasting of empty beds in intensive care units and the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was publicly rejecting offers of medical aid from the United States and from Doctors Without Borders, anyone who circumvented the regime’s internet censorship was able to see images and hear personal accounts of an overwhelmed healthcare system, a lack of space in Iranian morgues, and general absence of government attention to a dire public health crisis.
To the extent that the Iranian regime believes state propaganda can overcome this information, its faith is surely based on a commitment to the brutal repression of dissent. The head of Iran’s national security forces recently announced that over 300 individuals had been arrested for the so-called “spreading rumors” about the outbreak, while more than 1,000 websites had been shut down on similar bogus charges. The regime’s judiciary made it clear at the outset of the crisis that “rumor-mongering” would be punished with flogging and up to three years in prison.
In view of the Iranian regime’s historical treatment of political prisoners, it is doubtful that this will be the full extent of the punishment in all cases. Furthermore, the security officer’s statement was not the first announcement of mass arrests. There don’t appear to be any published figures for the total number of detainees, but it is safe to say that there is no limit to the amount of enforcement the regime is willing to resort to in order to conceal evidence that undermines a pre-selected course of action.
That course of action was determined by none other than the supreme leader, who announced that Iran was entering the “year of boosting production” at the start of its current calendar year in March. It is remarkable that this announcement emerged when the country was already in the grips of a public health crisis that was sure to necessitate social distancing and public sacrifice. Khamenei’s tone-deaf response sent a clear message that economic outcomes are more important than human life.
That message was quickly reiterated by the regime’s failure to support people during the crisis. Khamenei himself dragged his feet for two weeks after Rouhani requested the release of one billion dollars from Iran’s sovereign wealth fund. And this sum is meager in comparison to the hundreds of billions of dollars in assets that are personally controlled by Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
In sending ordinary civilians back to work under the present conditions, Tehran is demanding that they sacrifice themselves to safeguard the mullahs’ wealth. But this demand is strictly buried beneath a veil of disinformation. The regime is desperate to convince people that they are safe because it recognizes that if they believe their lives are in danger no matter what, then the people would sooner sacrifice themselves for freedom and democracy than for the benefit of their repressive overseers.
Khamenei came to the edge of acknowledging these stakes on Saturday, in a video conference with Basij thugs. In it, he violated a long-held taboo among regime authorities by making direct reference to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), Iran’s main opposition group. Apart from regularly countering the regime’s propaganda about coronavirus, the MEK has been a major driving and leading force behind anti-regime protests over the past two years.
The regime’s supreme leader was compelled to sound the alarm about Iran’s organized Resistance because he knows full well that it is waiting in the wings to lead the way toward a new revolution and a democratic system of government, just as soon as the people find a reason to revolt. And what better reason could there be than because the regime has been exposed for its open willingness to let people die in drove.
Many ordinary Iranians already recognize this feature of the clerical dictatorship, but many more will join in that understanding if regime’ false claims about the coronavirus pandemic fall apart once and for all. By recognizing the Iranian people’s right to resistance, the international community could pave the way for Iran’s terrorist government to fall, without the need for Western intervention in any form.