Satellite images revealing Iran’s mass graves raised a firestorm of inquiry as nations scramble to contain corona (COVID-19). At the same time that Iranian people were reported dying in the streets due to the lack of adequate medical care, the regime reportedly had the funds to erect a new statute of slain Iranian terror leader Qasem Soleimani.
Iran was digging mass graves and burying far more people than it admitted were infected in the very earliest days of the coronavirus outbreak, according to satellite imagery. Great sleuthing by @erinmcunningham & @DDaltonBennett https://t.co/CSu9iPFMoW
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) March 12, 2020
New Qassem Soleimani statue in Bandar Anzali, norther Iran the same province that we keep receiving heartbreaking footages of people who are suffering coronavirus being refused medical aid and lying helpless in the streets of Iran. pic.twitter.com/Nx80wiVZaM
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 10, 2020
(Even in the crisis, others couldn’t help calling out the absurd design of the statue, which they likened to SpongeBob:)
Sponge Qassem Square Pants | In Bandar Anzali, Iran they are erecting a 15 foot statue of Qassem Soleimani — for the kids, it would seem. According to @Abualiexpress the locals note the resemblance to Sponge Bob. pic.twitter.com/IZJwMt5zSX
— Mike (@Doranimated) March 10, 2020
Iran claims that its corona outbreak claimed over 500 lives and infected more than 11,000 in a country of over 80 million people. Vice News anticipates the number of dead is much higher, especially given the mass graves seen from space. There’s a growing body of evidence supporting claims,” Vice shares, “that the country’s ruling clerics are lying about the real toll of the virus.”
The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood also believes Iran has far more coronavirus cases than it’s letting on. He writes:
As of yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, Iran has reported 6,566 COVID-19 cases, or about one in every 12,000 people in its population. The first case appeared on February 19. Right now Iran is third behind China (80,695) and South Korea (7,314), and just ahead of Italy (5,883).
But the official Iranian number is almost certainly an undercount, probably due to the Iranian government’s attempt to hide a desperate situation for which it is partially responsible. When the final history of the coronavirus epidemic of 2020 is written, it may go something like this: The disease started in China, but it became finally and irrevocably uncontained in Iran. Knowing that the Iranian number is much higher than currently disclosed tells the rest of the world that the epidemic is even further along than official statistics indicate.
On Friday, March 13, Iranian leaders directed security forces to clear streets within 24 hours in order to help contain the spread of the disease. Reasonable enough.
Yet, the next step Iran is taking raised more than a few eyebrows as the regime announced through the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri, “During the next 10 days, the entire Iranian nation will be monitored once through cyberspace, by phone and, if necessary, in person, and those suspected of being ill will be fully identified.”
Iran has a population of 80 million, which makes this latest announcement sound less like health care during a global pandemic and more like military surveillance in a theocratic state. Some even wondered if Iran would use the crisis (and the mass graves) to “conveniently” get rid of political dissidents.
While Iran announced that it was temporarily freeing 54,000 prisoners to stem the spread of the virus in its jails (including some political prisoners) , a British-Iranian political prisoner (charged with spying) reported that he was recently transferred to the notorious Evin prison that previously housed corona patients and had horrifically unsanitary conditions.
“As we entered [the new prison ward] the soldiers were wearing worn-out masks, and no gloves. Nobody checked anybody for high temperature. All our stuff they touched when we entered,” said Anoosheh Ashoori in a call recorded by his family. “Last night bedbugs were biting everyone. Nobody slept through the night. Today we have newcomers who are murderers and all different outlaws. Someone was sent from corona quarantine.”
So, the question remains: Exactly what is going on in Iran? Unfortunately, unlike the transparency coming from Western countries on the state of their nations, countries like Iran (and China) still put propaganda above human welfare.