Some people believe that Iran has become the center of the coronavirus outbreak not only in the Middle East, but also throughout the world. If we take a look at the official numbers, Iran comes third, after China and Italy. Iran’s Health Ministry on Sunday announced that 724 people had died as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, adding that almost 14,000 people had been infected. But we should take Iran’s official numbers with a grain of salt and not be fooled by the misinformation that the Iranian regime is providing to the public.
Credible reports from inside Iran reveal a different story of what the country is actually going through. For example, based on information from a nationwide intelligence network, the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has concluded that the number of people who have died in Iran because of the virus has already exceeded 3,000. The group’s president-elect Maryam Rajavi said: “On the orders of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the regime kept the public in the dark about the outbreak of the coronavirus and refrained from taking timely preventive measures, because Khamenei did not want to impact the turnout of the 1979 revolution anniversary on Feb. 11 and the parliamentary election masquerade.”
Intriguingly, the regime’s own officials are increasingly contradicting each other, which also points to the regime’s lies and persistent efforts to hide the real information from the public. For example, Mohammed Hossein Ghorbani, the health minister’s plenipotentiary representative in Gilan Province, last week reported: “The coronavirus death toll in Gilan is 200; with 800-900 infected.” This is the death toll for only one province.
In addition, Mostafa Faghihi, the owner of the Entekhab newspaper, which is affiliated with the hard-line political camp of the regime, stated last week that the real number of those who had died in the whole country was more than 2,000. He complained in a tweet: “Mr. (Health Minister Saeed) Namaki, you aren’t releasing the actual numbers of the dead of coronavirus? Fine. I will play my part instead of you. Dear Iranian citizens. The number of dead in the country that are feared to have died of the coronavirus is nearly 2,000 (10 times more than the official figures). Over 130 people died just yesterday in Tehran and in Gilan. Mr. Namaki, don’t pour more salt (a reference to Namaki’s name, which means salt merchant in Farsi) on the public’s wounds.”
Faghihi’s statistics were similar to those provided by the NCRI. However, a few hours after posting the tweet, he deleted it, most likely because of the pressure the regime’s authorities imposed on him. Faghihi then posted another tweet stating that he had made a mistake, and that what he meant was that more than 2,000 had died of influenza and not of the coronavirus.
People in 139 cities in 31 provinces have been infected so far, according to the NCRI. Qom, Gilan, Isfahan, Razavi Khorasan, Golestan, Mazandaran, Fars, Khuzestan, Kurdistan, Sistan and Baluchestan, and Zanjan appear to have the most deaths.
Some of Iran’s health authorities, which previously urged the regime to lock down the province of Qom, are now calling for the government to lock down other provinces before it is too late. The head of a hospital in Tehran’s Yaftabad district showed his frustration by saying: “If we had limited the travel of people in Qom, since the epicenter of the illness is in Qom, the spread would not have been so extensive. You look at the map and you will see that it spread to neighboring provinces from Qom… In fact, our mistake was that when we discovered that the contamination is in the city of Qom, we should have quarantined the people there and prevented its spread. If we had done so, the virus would not have spread.”
Unfortunately Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which is chaired by the so-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani, continues to reject such calls and persists with downplaying the crisis. Rouhani, who has been appearing less and less in public or on media outlets, has declined to accept the gravity of the issue, saying that “everyone will have to resume work and production as of next week” because “life will be back to normal.”
The international community must condemn the Iranian regime for misreporting the figures, misinforming the public and covering up the spread of the coronavirus in Iran.