Monday I wrote about evidence that suggests the spread of the coronavirus in Iran has been much worse than government officials have admitted so far. The official number of cases (as of Monday) was 6,566 but the actual number may have been 100 times higher. Today the Washington Post published a story which further indicates Iran isn’t being truthful about the spread of the infection or the death toll. The story is titled, “Coronavirus burial pits so vast they’re visible from space.”
At the Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran, the excavation of a new section of the graveyard began as early as Feb. 21, satellite images show, and then rapidly expanded as the virus spread. By the end of the month, two large trenches — their lengths totaling 100 yards — were visible at the site from space.
Here’s what the site looks like. That white pile you see near the center of the photo is believed to be lime, used for controlling the smell. The burial pits are just above that.
Coronavirus burial pits so vast they’re visible from space.
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 12, 2020
The size of the pits suggests the death toll in Qom is significant:
In Qom, the spiritual center of Iran’s ruling Shiite clerics, more than 846 people have contracted the virus, officials say. Iran’s government has not released an official death toll for Qom, however, where about 1.2 million people live. But videos, satellite images and other open-source data from the cemetery — a vast complex six miles north of the city center — suggest that the number of people struck down by the virus there is significantly higher than the official figure.
Videos taken from the ground show burials of coronavirus victims at this cemetery and a worker at the cemetery said there had been 250 such burials so far:
“A worker told me that they must have buried more than 250 coronavirus victims so far. These are all graves and they are fresh. These are all from the last few days. And as you can see, it goes on until the end.”pic.twitter.com/lOGItUNYsb
— Heshmat Alavi (@HeshmatAlavi) March 12, 2020
As for why Qom is one of the hardest hit areas, it was the place where the virus first spread in Iran. Also, because it is a spiritual center, there appear to be a contingent of people who are intent on showing their piety by going to public shrines during the outbreak and even kissing and licking the shrines:
More videos are emerging of people licking the shrines in the city of Qom #CoronaVirus, the epicentre of the epidemic in Iran.
Iran's authorities still adamantly refuse to close these religious sites.
The virus is wreaking havoc all over the country pic.twitter.com/veCQd6ots6
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 1, 2020
Meanwhile the reality of what is happening in Qom is getting out a little at a time:
Sobbing man who lost his mother to #COVID19, curses Khamenei, the regime's Supreme Leader for lying about the outbreak.
"I could not even hug my mother one last time," he says in between sobs. #Iranians hold the regime responsible for the 2000+ deaths. pic.twitter.com/omelzGi47I
— Iran News Wire (@IranNW) March 8, 2020
This clip shows an Iranian nurse saying she had witnessed 100 deaths from the virus in a single day.
So what is the actual death toll in Iran right now? According to an Iranian opposition group it’s over 3,600:
More than 3,650 people across 160 cities in Iran have died of coronavirus, according to Iranian opposition PMOI/MEK.
— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) March 12, 2020
Iran has asked for a $5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund to alleviate the devastating impact of coronavirus, which has killed at least 429 Iranians as it shakes fragile Middle East health systems and economies already burdened by war, sanctions and corruption.
Iran Central Bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati disclosed on his Instagram account Thursday that he had formally requested a bailout from the Washington-based international lender last week, suggesting he had yet to receive a reply. It would mark the first time in nearly 60 years that Iran has asked the IMF for help.
As I pointed out before, Iranians are probably furious at being lied to by their government just a few weeks after the government lied for several days about shooting down a passenger jet. And as National Review argues here, the fact that the epicenter of the spread is one the country’s spiritual centers is arguably another challenge to the regime’s legitimacy. How much more will the people of Iran tolerate?