We have been through the initial lies, hiding and coverup attempts of the Islamic Republic regime about the Coronavirus outbreak in Iran many times. This would represent as a timeline of the Coronavirus outbreak in Iran. The news of COVID-19 cases in Iran began on social media late January, but was repeatedly denied by Ministry of Health officials, calling the news as “rumors” and “lies”.
On February 3 in Bandar Abbas, the Minister of Health, Saeid Namaki, announced that he would not hide anything from the public, even if it was at the price of infamy and pressure on him.
Two days later, on February 5, Deputy Health Minister, Ali Reza Raeisi, denied news on social media about Coronavirus reaching Iran and Ministry of Health not informing the public , saying that the ministry had no reason to lie.
February 16, Kianoush Jahanpour, Director of Public Relations at the Ministry of Health, stresses that no one in Iran is infected with the Coronavirus! On his Twitter account, he accused the Persian-language media outside of Iran of lying about the statistics of infection and deaths caused by COVID-19, saying that the transparency of the Islamic Republic’s information in this regard had made many feel “checkmate”.
On February 28, 8 days after the official announcement, Rasht Rep. in Parliament tweeted: “I beg the officials, swear them to God, to announce the real stats. What they’re announcing is not close to reality.” On the same day, BBC Persian reports 210 deaths while the Ministry of Health announced 34!!
An official from the National Committee for Combating Coronavirus said there are more than 600 deaths in Tehran alone by March 6. Higher ranking officials started putting pressure on families, threatening not to deliver corpses if they say their loved ones died of COVID-19. The IRGC pressed healthcare staff to list the cause of death anything other than Coronavirus infection.
The death certificate of Reza Kochakiniya, an Astaneh Health Network physician in Lahijan, Gilan province who was the first healthcare worker died of COVID-19, the cause is listed as flu and not the virus.
At the same time, a photo of a death certificate was published by journalist Saeed Maleki on Twitter, in which he wrote that the patient had died of COVID-19, the cause of death was listed as “pneumonia”.
Finally, on February 19, the Ministry of Health’s Public Relations Office following the deaths of two patients with the Coronavirus in Qom, announced the outbreak, while officials called the outbreak a “rumor” and a “lie” for weeks. But later it turned out, they had been aware of the virus beforehand, but instead of being honest and transparent. The same office admitted the virus entered Iran in early January. Instead of being transparent and honest about it to prevent deaths, they started what they know best, security crackdown on the dissemination of the information! A crackdown that now Ibrahim Raeisi, Chief of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic, insists on it and has asked for Ministry of Health’s cooperation.
Ibrahim Raeisi, on Thursday, March 26, called on the Ministry of Health to cooperate in managing statistics published online and countering news of Corona related deaths. He also called for the use of causes other than Coronavirus to confirm the deaths of the deceased, and issued instructions in this regard.
Five days later, on March 31, the first session of the Supreme Judiciary Council was held in the New Year, attended by Ibrahim Raeisi and Minister of Health, Saeed Namaki. At the meeting, Raeisi told the government if “social distancing” was implemented earlier and before the New Year, better outcome would have been achieved in controlling Coronavirus.
At the meeting, Namaki claimed European countries have contacted the government through video conference asking about Islamic Republic’s protocols to combat the virus.
Statements by both sides have been publicly recorded and videos circulated on social media. However, according to the information obtained by IranWire, in the unofficial and closed part of the meeting, attendees have expressed concern about the actual numbers, which are more than seven thousand away from official statistics.
This is not the first time that concerns over the difference between actual and official statistics of infected and deaths from COVID-19 in Iran have been raised. Earlier, on March 17, Dr. Rick Brennan, Director of Emergency Operations in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new Emergencies Program said that the number of people infected with the virus in Iran could be five times the official rate.
On March 29, Mustafa Moein, the head of Supreme Medical Council, in a letter to the President Hassan Rouhani, called for a “transparent” and “honest” report on the number of infected, hospitalized and casualties.
The judiciary has begun its role as soon as the regime saw the problem is out of their control. Just like they had done it before. In March 2018, when they couldn’t control the spike in US currency rate, they ordered all exchanges must be done through verified sellers and anybody else doing it would be prosecuted! This time they ordered police and other bailiffs to deal with people they believe have “gossiped” in the Corona crisis. According to police, more than a thousand “violations” have resulted in more than 300 lawsuits. The Tehran Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement on March 11, saying those arrested had been charged with “disturbing public opinion”.
There are reports from many cities across the country that tens of people have been arrested; for example, Iraj Khanipour, the deputy commander of Zanjan police, said people circulating rumors about Coronavirus on social media have been arrested. Hassan Mofkhami, the chief police of Markazi province, also announced the arrest of several people on the same charge. Ardebil police commander Houshang Hosseini, as well as Shahin Hassanvand, Hormozgan cyber police chief, also said that dozens had been arrested on charges of “disturbing public opinion” by publishing material about the spread of the Coronavirus in Iran.
But this security crackdown has not only taken place with citizen journalists, but also with journalists. “Reporters Without Borders” issued a statement protesting the practice of dealing with journalists and citizen journalists writing that many were summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC intelligence in various cities of Iran after publishing material on social media and have been charged.
Since the official announcement of the Corona outbreak in Iran, there have been evidences of IRGC’s involvement in the coverup and threatening doctors. On February 19, Gholamreza Jalali, the head of the passive defense organization, sent a letter to the chief of staff of the armed forces, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the interior minister, indicating that they were aware of the outbreak in the country.
An infectious disease specialist told IranWire that the IRGC intelligence pressures healthcare staff and Ministry of Health preventing them to provide statistics. At the same time, IRGC threatened doctors present at the meeting with Iraj Harirchi, Deputy Minister of Health, not to release the information and real numbers discussed in that meeting. At that meeting, doctors said the statistics released by the government were absolutely not true.