Although reports in international media rarely acknowledge it, the coronavirus pandemic has affected Iran more seriously than perhaps any other country in the world. Out of a population of roughly 83 million, more than 72,000 Iranians have died from Covid-19 so far, and the mortality rate shows no sign of slowing any time soon.
In fact, even the Iranian regime’s official assessments acknowledge that the country has repeatedly broken its record for single-day death totals in July. This is made all the more significant by the fact that Tehran has been spreading disinformation and downplaying the severity of the outbreak since the very beginning.
The regime has only acknowledged about 13,000 deaths so far. The higher estimate reached the international community care of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). MEK has been announcing the real COVID-19 statistics using its connections to extensive intelligence networks inside Iran. The MEK’s findings were amplified on Friday’s multinational teleconference, the Free Iran Global Summit.
The global summit connected over 30,000 locations from continent in form of smaller-scale gatherings in accordance with the local public health standards of each region that boasts a significant expatriate community. Elsewhere, supporters of Resistance movement participated in the summit from their own homes or offices. Therefore, the collective participation in localized gatherings exceeded the record attendance at prior in-person rallies.
The NCRI’s “Free Iran Global Summit” came not despite the coronavirus but because of it. The pandemic’s unique impact on Iran has done as much any other recent development to demonstrate the current regime’s unwillingness and inability to manage domestic crises and advance the welfare of the Iranian people. This in turn has elevated the Iranian society’s restiveness and made regime change in Iran more urgent.
The coronavirus pandemic and the 72,000+ death toll was referenced by a number of the people who participated in Friday’s summit. Robert Joseph, a former US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Policy, highlighted that “the mullahs know the people will never forgive them for the role they’ve played in the tragic deaths of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Even the regime’s own officials, median and think tanks have acknowledged mullahs’ deliberate cover-up of pandemic. In March, while assessments of the public health crisis were still in their early stages, the Asra think tank released a report that acknowledged the growing tensions between the Iranian regime and people, and predicted that new anti-regime uprisings would emerge in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. But in lieu of commenting on the ways in which the regime might counter its incompetent and self-serving public image, the report urged repressive institutions like the Revolutionary Guard to step up their crackdowns on dissent and prepare for more intense clashes with the activist community.
The Free Iran Global Summit offered some ideas as to why this is. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the NCRI explained that the mullahs are facing a critical impasse in virtually every area of public policy. “If they continue to pursue their current path and course of action, namely… belligerence, missile launches, terrorism, intimidation and contraction, they will inevitably crash head first,” she said. “On the other hand, retracing their steps and changing behavior will undermine their very rule. This is why the regime is trying to consolidate power in the most brutal agents of the supreme leader.”
Other speakers underscored the ways in which the coronavirus outbreak exposes Tehran’s unshakeable commitment to its malign priorities that define its theocratic system.
“The economy in Iran is collapsing,” said Rudy Giuliani, former iconic mayor of the New York City. “It’s a tragedy. Even when Iran was getting a flow of money, people in Iran were starving. With coronavirus, the level of hunger and poverty in Iran is heartbreaking.” He then went on to emphasize that the Iranian people’s suffering is a direct result of the regime’s refusal to spend money, no matter how scarce or abundant, on the public welfare.
“They’re still allocating tremendous money to terrorist groups. They’d rather allocate money to renegade groups that want to wreak havoc in Europe than feed their people. They’re crooked. They’re thieves,” Giuliani added.
As Mayor Giuliani said, this is de facto theft of public funds has done more than prevent the regime from providing meaningful support to the Iranian people during the pandemic. It has also contributed, over the long term, to the circumstances that allowed Covid-19 to rack up such a death toll in spite of the overwhelming youth of the Iranian population.
“More than any other time, this carnage uncovered the ghastly reality of how the mullahs have destroyed the country’s healthcare, nutrition and social welfare foundations, leaving our people vulnerable to the virus more than any other country in the world,” Mrs. Rajavi said.
Friday’s event devoted much of its time to celebrating three nationwide uprisings that have taken place in Iran since the end of 2017. Numerous speakers pointed to these as precursors to the sort of post-Covid uprisings that the Asra report warned about. The overall message of the Free Iran Global Summit was that Iran is on the verge of a revolution. Meanwhile, the event’s pandemic setting pointed to the ways in which survival of the current crisis could inspire further activism in its wake.
This was clarified by Tom Ridge, America’s first Homeland Security Secretary. “Covid-19 could not deter the world from gathering for the cause of freedom in Iran,” he said. “If a global pandemic is ill-equipped to silence us or keep us from gathering to support freedom, then the mullahs can’t possibly do it. They tried again and again, and they’ve failed. Over decades and decades, they’ve imprisoned and tortured thousands and thousands of your fellow citizens to silence the call for freedom, for regime change, and they’ve failed.”
“They will continue to fail,” Ridge concluded. “Their grip of oppression grows weaker every day. The voice of freedom grows stronger and louder every day. And this gathering shows the global support for the NCRI and MEK grows larger and louder every day.”