While the COVID-19 continues to take more lives in Iran due to the Iranian regime’s cover-up and deliberate inaction, the regime’s Health Minister, in an online meeting with several other health officials, as well as the World Health Organization’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean. Saeed Namaki deceptively appealed for international help with Iran’s coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile reports tallied by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) confirm that the Iranian public health crisis is far worse than the regime has acknowledged.
As the MEK has announced the COVID-19 death toll in Iran is consistently between five and 10 times greater than the Health Ministry’s official reports. While Iranian state media currently places that death toll at around 19,000 individuals, the MEK’s announced on Wednesday, that over 87,000 people have lost their lives.
As the death toll continues to increase, the regime’s officials and state-run medias are forced to acknowledge to some parts of the coronavirus crisis in Iran. On Sunday, the newspaper Jahan-e Sanat published a column by a former member of the Iranian Health Ministry’s coronavirus task force, in which he declared that the official estimates of infection and mortality rates account for only about five percent of the true total. As Fox News noted afterward, this would mean that more than 6.5 million of Iran’s 83 million people have already become infected with Covid-19, and that over 360,000 have died.
Not satisfied to merely deny public statements that contradict the official narrative, the regime responded to Mohammad Reza Mahboubfar’s interview by ordering the closure of the newspaper that had published it. This was consistent with the overall approach that the regime had taken toward public information about the outbreak since before it was formally acknowledged on February 19. It also seemed to support Mahboubfar’s point about early efforts by the regime to suppress public awareness of the crisis.
In April, the National Council of Resistance of Iran released documents that it had obtained from Iran’s National Emergency Organization which showed that Covid-19 had begun spreading within the country nearly a month before the official February start date for the outbreak. Mahboubfar’s recent disclosure suggests that the first cases were recorded even earlier than that, around the end of December. This gave the virus nearly two months to take hold among the population before government authorities so much as began warning citizens about it.
The primary motivation for this lengthy silence was concern over the outbreak’s potential impact on participation in February elections and celebrations of the anniversary of the regime’s anniversary. The crisis-riddled regime, months after the nationwide Iran protests in November that rattled the Iranian regime’s foundations, was willing to legitimize its ominous rule at any cost. Although the sham parliamentary elections and mullahs’ anniversary of usurping power was widely boycotted by the Iranian people, yet, those few regime supporters who participated in these events became hosts of this virus.
In this regard, the state-run Mostaghel daily, in July 13, wrote: “A savior was needed [for the regime] to divert people’s attention from the November and January incidents. So, came the novel coronavirus. The government used people’s fear of this invisible enemy to unleash the dragon among them. Long before its public announcement, COVID-19 had come or had been brought to Iran. But to defy Trump, they held events marking the 41st anniversary of the 1979 revolution. And to slap those dissatisfied with the approbative supervision, the Parliamentary elections were held as scheduled. Then they said: we just found about the virus’ existence, so people watch yourselves. While people are just trying to survive, this instrumental use of the COVID-19 to silence and control the anger of uncategorized starving people was so ruthlessly done that after six months, they not only have not achieved any success in controlling the virus, but according to the official statistics, the situation is out of control.”
Thus, the regime has never stopped its cover-up and disinformation about the powerful COVID-19 outbreak. This deliberate cover-up is meant to use COVID-19 as a tool to silence any dissent voice.
This was evident in the first weeks after Tehran’s first public statements on coronavirus, when the judiciary warned that “rumor mongering” on the topic would be punishable by lashings and up to three years in prison. Authorities subsequently announced a number of arrests that had been made in connection with this order, as well as a number of instances of websites and social media accounts being shut down to stop the spread of information that challenged the official public health narrative.
The closure of Jahan-e Sanat is, therefore, only the latest in a long line of actions the regime has undertaken to punish individuals and institutions for warning the public about a crisis that may be several times worse than has been reported. And by confirming that the regime’s disinformation campaign is ongoing, that incident also helped to expose substantial irony in Saeed Namaki’s appeal for foreign assistance.
The regime’s mismanagement of coronavirus has increased the Iranian society’s restiveness. As the state-run Mostaghel acknowledged: “This nation will not forget how it was abandoned during these bitter days. This will affect the upcoming incidents. The Government did not contain and control the coronavirus to relevantly control the anger of defiant people. Soon, people will come to their table for eating, and their despair of an empty table will lead them to protest on busy streets.”