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Iran Agency Forbidden To Release Number Of Deaths Amid Coronavirus Controversy

A coronavirus victim in Iran before burial without a family funeral. April 28, 2020

A spokesman for Civil Registration Organization of Iran (NOCRI) says the agency will not disclose the country's death toll for the winter of 2020 at the request of the National Headquarters to Fight Coronavirus.

Iran has refused to release the breakdown of coronavirus deaths per province in what many see as an attempt to manipulate numbers and report lower infection and death figures.

Speaking to the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) on Tuesday, May 5, Saifullah Abootorabi stressed that these statistics should normally be announced by the "end of April or May".

Pro-reform daily Sharq (Shargh) disclosed on April 29 that the NOCRI had not published the death toll for the winter and that the organization's website was inactive.

A reporter for Sharq newspaper, Mohammad Baqerzadeh, wrote in a tweet on April 29 that it had been two weeks since he asked NOCRI to provide death statistics for the winter, "separated by age and province", but officials admitted "they were not allowed to release the data."

Estimates by Radio Farda based on local media reports in March showed that the government was grossly underreporting the pandemic’s toll.

The issue of death statistics for the three months ending March 20 has been highlighted since a member of the Tehran City Council, Mohammad Javad Haqshenas, revealed that 13,000 people were buried in Tehran's main cemetery in March and April 2020. He added that by comparing the number of people who died in March-April 2020 with the same period last year, it would be possible to deduct the pandemic’s real death toll.

Meanwhile, another Tehran city councilor, Ms. Nahid Khodakarami, also divulged on April 15 that between seventy to 100 victims of COVID-19 were buried in the city each day.

Based on the city councilor Khodakarami's estimate, from mid-March to April 15, between 4,000 and 5,600 people suspected of dying of COVID-19 have been buried in Tehran alone.

The government’s official death toll for coronavirus nationwide is just over 6,000.

Since the deadly outbreak, the Islamic Republic authorities have done their best to keep some crucial information concerning the novel coronavirus completely secret.

For example, some three months after the start of the outbreak, still no one In Iran knows whether it was true the virus was first brought to the city of Qom by Chinese Muslim seminary students and what was the role of the country's officials, clerics, security and military forces in the spread of the disease in its initial phase.