Iran: Death toll Surpasses 300,000
Downplaying the crisis
The country’s leading opposition group has been carefully tracking the impact of coronavirus outbreaks since the beginning and has repeatedly exposed the ways in which government authorities have been downplaying that impact to mask their own neglect and mismanagement of the crisis.
Officially, the Iranian Health Ministry still insists that the death toll is around 80,000, but various individual officials and members of the Ministry’s coronavirus response task force have acknowledged that the government’s statistics likely reflect an undercount. Whereas those officials tend to stop short of describing such undercounting as deliberate, the regime’s critics understand that the crisis was exacerbated at an early stage by coordinated cover-ups and regime propaganda.
Mullahs regime did not allow the public to be aware of the spread
For well over a year, the (PMOI / MEK Iran)’s findings have relied upon hospital and morgue records, testimony from hospital staff and other eyewitnesses, and leaked government documents.
Among those documents are records of some of the first coronavirus cases that were identified by the National Emergency Organization. These dates back to early January 2020 or even late December 2019 and thus confirm that regime authorities were aware of community spread for more than a month before they made their first public statements on the topic.
Mullahs regime was concern about parliamentary elections
Those first public statements came in the middle of February, just days before the country’s parliamentary elections. The proximity of those two events has led to speculation that the regime’s eventual disclosure was motivated not by concern for public health but by concern over the reputational consequences of the anticipated boycott of the polls during the election.
Voter turnout in February 2020 turned out to be the lowest in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic, though the forthcoming presidential election could break that record.
“Resistance Units” boycott the election
For weeks leading up to last year’s election, Iranian officials urged the civilian population to turn out and vote in the largest numbers possible. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei went so far as to declare voting both a patriotic and a religious duty.
But at the same time, “Resistance Units” affiliated with the (PMOI / MEK Iran) were conveying messages from the group’s founder Massoud Rajavi which conversely declared that it was the patriotic duty of all pro-democratic Iranians not to vote in “sham elections.”
Mullahs regime acknowledged the spread after it became clear by the public
Tehran acknowledged the spread of coronavirus only after it became clear that this Resistance message was not losing traction among the population. After the parliamentary elections concluded, authorities began to praise the voter participation statistics in spite of the record low turnout, arguing that in light of public concerns over the emerging pandemic, more ballots had been cast than might have been expected.
Sadly, many lives might have been saved if the regime had simply been committed to this narrative in advance. Instead, it spent weeks not only ignoring the virus but also encouraging and sometimes even compelling citizens to vote and to undertake even riskier behaviors, without the protection of masks, sanitization, or social distancing protocols.
Public funeral for Qassem Soleimani for downplaying the mass boycott
In January 2020, the regime-held a public funeral for Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force who had been killed in a US drone strike, and in early February it held parades and public gatherings to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic.
In both cases, authorities were intent upon manufacturing the largest possible crowds for the benefits of state television cameras, in order to create a veneer of political legitimacy that would promptly be scraped away by the mass boycott of the parliamentary election.
Nationwide uprisings in January 2018 and November 2019
That boycott was certainly predictable. It was preceded by nationwide uprisings in January 2018 and November 2019, both of which condemned the theocratic system in its entirety and conveyed the popular understanding that meaningful change could not be achieved at the ballot box.
Tehran no doubt recognized this message, and it may have actually been the advance expectation of record low turnout that prompted regime authorities to herd citizens into close quarters and cover-up news of the coronavirus spreading until the very last moment when it became clear that propaganda could not overcome the organizing efforts of the (PMOI / MEK Iran).
Mullahs regime never put significant measures to stop the spread
From the middle of February 2020 onward, public awareness of the health crisis has been irrepressible. But by that time, the damage of early, oblivious gatherings had already been done. And afterward, Tehran never put significant measures into place to stop the spread, fund the health system’s response, or distribute vaccines once they become available.
Maryam Rajavi message
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI): The mullahs ruling Iran facilitated the spread of coronavirus and did not make any serious efforts to contain it. This is why the pandemic has turned into a source of hidden escalation of fury and anger.
Tags: coronavirus, coronavirus (COVID-19), coronavirus in Iran, Iran human rights, Iran Opposition, Maryam Rajavi, MEK, Mujahedin-e Khalq, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), People's Mojahedin organization of Iran, PMOI