RNA - As countries across the world grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, Iran’s struggle to contain the deadly disease has attracted more than usual attention from mainstream outlets in certain countries.
Despite numerous statements from World Health Organization officials praising Iran’s efforts against the outbreak, certain outlets have focused on erringly similar themes regarding Iran; that the country is in chaos, is mishandling the outbreak and that it’s “putting other countries at risk”.
The Washington Post has specifically published a string of exclusively conspiracy-minded and politicized reports about the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.
Its latest reports include headlines such as “Iran’s government is lying its way to a coronavirus catastrophe”, “Iran struggles to contain coronavirus outbreak, putting Middle East countries at risk” and “Coronavirus pummels Iran leadership as data show spread is far worse than reported”.
In its latest article on Iran – titled “Coronavirus burial pits so vast they’re visible from space” – the US daily claims satellite images showed newly-dug “trenches” the size of a “football field” to accommodate bodies of the coronavirus victims.
The satellite images purportedly illustrate a cemetery near Iran’s epicenter city of Qom. The paper proceeds to cite dubious reports and videos circulating over the internet about Iran covering up its coronavirus deaths.
The report concludes that the graves have been dug to “accommodate the rising number of virus victims in Qom”.
Here’s an idea: maybe don’t circulate the image of a cemetery from an extremely traumatic pandemic as though the real deaths of real people is some type of breakthrough in investigative journalism https://t.co/pKrMyVNUIT
— Nazanin (@nazaninzar) March 12, 2020
Many observers, however, have been quick to point out inconsistencies and flaws in the report, with some highlighting the unprofessional reporting used in the article; using hyped expressions such as “seen from space” to portray a false image of mass graves.
9. Iran isn't North Korea (a fact @erinmcunningham + @DDaltonBennett + @fab_hinz know well). So if you want to know what's happening in Iran, you really can turn to Iranian news agencies and get most of the story. Follow Iranians on social media and you'll get the rest.
— Esfandyar Batmanghelidj (@yarbatman) March 12, 2020
Observers have pointed that the overall length of the purported 100 yards of “burial pits” in the satellite images cannot accommodate more than about 75-100 graves, not significantly higher than the official death toll announced for the city.
1. The satellite image (Feb. 21-March ) shows a pair of trenches totaling 90 yards or 90 meters in length in Behesht Masoumeh Cemetery in #Qom. If we consider width of each grave 125cm (Standard 75 cm grave+50 cm side walls) the trenches can accommodate nearly 70 graves! pic.twitter.com/P42vDSZfBW
— Habib Abdolhossein (@HAbdolhossein) March 13, 2020
Others have presented evidence showing that the vacant graves in the area are not specifically related to the coronavirus outbreak and that long rows of graves had been also dug long before the outbreak.
literally took this vid in Qom at al-Baqi cemetery in Jamkaran over 2 years ago.
this is no ‘burial pit’ as they would call it, just simply vacant graves at a cemetery (completely normal). pic.twitter.com/dnd6b92NR7
— Kızılbaş ❂ (@mohseni_) March 13, 2020
The dubious report, however, has circulated widely among social media accounts and various foreign-funded anti-Iran outlets, prompting Iranian officials to issue official statements on the matter.
Debunking the lies that the mainstream media is making about mass graves in Qom due to Coronavirus. Please share so that the lies are rendered impotent and exposed for what they are. #WeWillDefeatCorona #Iran pic.twitter.com/3RhPCwQ4vh
— Shabbir Hassanally (شبير حسنعلي) (@purewilayah) March 13, 2020
Speaking with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), executive manager of Qom Municipality’s burial sites Seifoddin Mousavi said the graves had been planned before the outbreak as part of usual procedures in the cemetery.
He stressed that all the operations in the cemetery are taking place according to international protocols regarding burial sites.
On Friday, Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the public relations and information center of the Iranian Ministry of Health, said that the new coronavirus has claimed 514 lives in the country.
Iran’s security forces have announced that they plan to adopt special measures in the near future to contain the outbreak across the country.