Iran: Mass Coronavirus Graves Caught by Satellite Images ‘Fake News’

Mahmood Hosseini/Tasnim News Agency via AP
Mahmood Hosseini/Tasnim News Agency via AP

Iranian state media on Sunday denounced as “fake news” a viral video depicting enormous mass graves dug for coronavirus victims near the Shiite holy city of Qom, epicenter of Iran’s deadly outbreak.

The graves were not only caught on cellphone video. As the Washington Post noted in a March 13 report, which incorporated footage from the Iranian viral video, the mass graves near Qom can be seen from orbit:

“This is the ‘crisis’ section of the cemetery. This is only one part of it. There is another part higher up. There are graves as far as an eye can see. They are ready for burials,” said the narrator of the original video.

Al-Arabiya on Sunday quoted the curator of the Behesht-e Masoumeh cemetery stating that while the video does indeed show the “crisis” section of the burial grounds intended for calamities where “a large number of citizens are left dead,” and it will be used for coronavirus victims, its expansion began about four years ago.

Domestic critics of the Iranian regime, including some lawmakers, said construction of the “crisis” plots sped up dramatically after the coronavirus reached Iran, demonstrating that the death toll is much higher than the 853 total fatalities reported by the regime as of Monday morning. Of those deaths, 129 were said to have occurred on Sunday alone.

According to the Iranian health ministry, 1,053 new cases were reported on Sunday, bringing Iran’s total to 14,991.

Iran’s state-run PressTV on Sunday denounced the mass graves video as “fake news” and specifically criticized the Washington Post for spreading it.

“Experts say the best action to take for now is to stay calm, ignore misinformation and try to maintain personal hygiene,” the Iranian media outlet said.

CNN reported on Friday that contrary to Iran’s narrative about a long-planned expansion to the Qom cemetery proceeding as scheduled, satellite photos revealed a very significant escalation of trench-digging activity beginning on March 1. 

Business Insider noted that an ample supply of lime, useful to “prevent decay and manage odor,” has appeared next to the trenches, which look more “hurriedly dug” than other nearby gravesites.

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