Iranian regime forges coronavirus statistics, satellite images

By Sina Farhadi

Iran's Nour military satellite launch, April 22nd. [Photo via Raja News]

Iran's Nour military satellite launch, April 22nd. [Photo via Raja News]

Several reports released in early August revealed that the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) victims in Iran is three times more than the figures the Iranian government has announced.

Earlier reports showed that the government attempted to cover up the pandemic outbreak in the country for up to a month after its initial, limited spread.

Hossein Rajabi, a Tehran-based journalist, told Al-Mashareq, "It is no longer a secret that the regime was silent for several weeks about the coronavirus outbreak. This comes as no surprise, since protecting the public's lives is of no importance to the Islamic republic."

Instead, said Rajabi, the regime feared that publicizing the news would limit people's participation in the parliamentary elections and the annual pro-regime demonstrations.

An Iranian hospital's COVID-19 ward in August. The regime has concealed real coronavirus statistics for over six months. [Photo via Fararu]

An Iranian hospital's COVID-19 ward in August. The regime has concealed real coronavirus statistics for over six months. [Photo via Fararu]

The government was finally forced to admit the virus had indeed spread across the country. The IRGC was tasked with announcing the death toll, and yet it lied about the numbers, he said.

'Nour photos' speculated to be Google Earth images

More recently, the Islamic republic's deception was also exposed in a military context. Hardline and IRGC-affiliated media outlets, including Mashregh News and Tasnim News, published detailed reports and video of the newest IRGC military exercise on July 28th.

They reported that during the exercise, images captured by Nour-1 (Iran's military satellite in orbit since late April) were utilised for reference and to help co-ordinate the exercise in a more precise fashion.

They also claimed the satellite had taken images of other areas in the region, including the US al-Udeid airbase in Qatar.

Shortly afterwards, a stark similarity was widely noticed between the released images and a number of Google Earth images taken of the al-Udeid base in 2016. This sparked speculation that the images published on hardline Iranian media websites were not authentic and may have in fact been taken from Google Earth.

On July 29th, BBC Persian published a report fact-checking the authenticity of the images. The report compared images side by side and pointed to their quality and details, which were clearly similar to those in Google Earth's 2016 pictures of the al-Udeid base. The Google Earth photos are available for free on the app.

'Another embarrassment for IRGC'

Reza Taghipourian, a Tehran-based political expert, told Al-Mashreq, "Publishing Google Earth photos and claiming they were taken by the Nour-1 satellite was an embarrassment for the Islamic republic and the IRGC."

Another embarrassing example was when they claimed the Basij invented a device for the rapid detection of coronavirus. That incident, like this one, became the source of jokes and laughter among the public, he said.

Iran's economy is paralysed and unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing, he said. The government is facing an enormous deficit and many people are living below the poverty line, yet Iran's costly military projects are still carried out.

"Instead of taking care of the people's economic problems, the regime plans and executes expensive projects such as satellite launches," he said.

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I left one or two comments, and my previous internet [user account] was destroyed. They hit and disconnected it. Well, it is no longer the Pahlavi era, when US forces were present here, teaching them [Iranian forces] and giving them military training and so on. At the time, US advisers were monitoring not only the military aspects, but also many other aspects - including food and water, etc. - and they were always alert. Now, however, the water is polluted, the food is contaminated, etc. Well, military system [of a country] is a part of the whole country. Which part of the country is working well, so that we can expect this part [military] to work well? I also think the government is not worried about the corona virus, rather it is taking advantage of it. As was the case with the ISIS which, if you recall, [the Iranian government] wasn't worry about it and instead, took advantage of [the ISIS situation]. In a nutshell, corona virus, etc., needs managers who are among the people, as was the case in other countries. Macron had a full presence, Trump was among the people, and so were the rest. [Such crisis] do not call for those who took the kits [corona virus testing kits] for themselves on the first day and went to hiding.