The Iranian Regime’s Response to COVID-19 Has Been a Host of Lies and Misinformation
The most recent count of new Covid-19 cases revealed by the regime’s health ministry on Friday was 2,102, by far the highest daily total for some time. No one knows the true figures, as whatever the ministry reveals doesn’t appear to match the reality. It has even been suggested that the death toll is only 7,000, while reports received by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) indicate that more than 42,100 people have lost their lives to this deadly virus.
The second wave of infections in several provinces and numerous cities has flooded hospitals and forced local officials to issue new quarantine restrictions.https://t.co/waS6qEFEK9#Iran #MEK #COVID__19 @USAdarFarsi pic.twitter.com/W67H20eiRY
— MEK Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) (@MEK_Iran) May 17, 2020
The statistics aren’t quite right. The official confirmed cases are 100,000, showing a month by month steady increase. There are some suggestions that the regime has downplayed the true statistics as the Health Ministry officials assigned recently admitted that no less than half a million are likely to have contracted the virus. When it comes to fatality rates it isn’t necessary to listen to what the regime is saying as the people working in the field know exactly what is going on. Nurses, doctors, and individuals have kept the public informed through social media and through talking to journalists. They have been quite clear that the hospitals and morgues are overwhelmed by people who are either suffering from Covid-19 or who have been its victims.
Hard to cover up but easy to suppress
Because the regime hasn’t been able to cover up the true impact of Covid-19 it has turned to silence those who are speaking the truth. Just last Wednesday, Hossein Ashtari, the regime’s chief of police, stated publicly that no less than 320 individuals were about to be prosecuted for ‘’ disrupting public opinion” with the pandemic. At the same time, it was mentioned that the Cyber Police had allegedly sought out 1,300 websites that had been misinforming their readers about Covid-19. Ashtari wasn’t specific about what methods they intended to use to penalize the website owners.
It wouldn’t take much to assume what the likely penalties for these so-called alleged misinformers would be, as you only have to go back to the early days of the outbreak. At that time the regime stated that anyone who spread untrue rumors about the virus would be flogged and may even end up in prison for 3 years. Often though, in these sorts of situations, the police do not rest at minor penalties like these, but add whatever they can to the list of violations, like insulting Iranian officials, cooperating with the regime’s enemies, or being hostile towards God. This sort of behavior can end up with the violators being sentenced to long prison terms and even being executed.
As the #coronavirus disaster becomes exacerbated, the regime’s inner crises deepen, and the more Rouhani tries to cover up his regime’s crimes, the deeper he sinks into the swamp that is his own making.#Iranhttps://t.co/g31vVVikfu
— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) May 16, 2020
Censoring the internet
The regime just can’t stop when it tries to restrict freedom of speech, as it bans some websites and even popular social media channels. Accessing Twitter hasn’t been allowed since 2009 and the favorite messaging app called Telegram was added to the regime’s banned list ever since the national uprising in early 2018. Fortunately, technology has still allowed Iranians with viewpoints that differ from the regime to get through to Iran’s citizens, including revealing the disinformation provided by the regime concerning COVID-19.
The regime won’t acknowledge that Covid-19 is out of control
Now and again the regime comes out with some accurate information which is only done so ordinary people restore their faith in the regime. In reality, the outbreak has not been controlled and this is partly to do with the approach in the first place by denying the seriousness of the outbreak. This lack of a proactive approach has meant that Iranians did little to protect themselves allowing thousands of people to die needlessly.
What the international community can do
Western telecommunications companies can ensure the internet is widely accessible with no restrictions within Iran. Human rights groups can use the resources provided by the international community to keep Iranians current with all there is to know about Covid-19. On top of freedom of expression, Western governments must keep up the pressure on the Iranian regime to not administer any crackdowns and it should also permit humanitarian access to Iran’s prisons and hospitals. The NCRI and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI /MEK) have kept Iranians informed about the severity of Covid-19 ever since the outbreak began to become a health concern earlier in the year.
Tags: coronavirus, coronavirus (COVID-19), coronavirus in Iran, Iran human rights, Iran Uprising, Mujahedin-e Khalq, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), People's Mojahedin organization of Iran