A prominent former lawmaker in Iran says officials and state-run media lied to the people about Covid-19, particularly in early 2020 when the pandemic began.
Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a former Foreign Policy and National Security Committee chief in the Iranian Parliament (Majles) told Didban Iran [Iran Monitor] news website on Thursday, that the Iranian state television's recent claim about having informed all government entities about the pandemic at its onset was not true.
In early 2020, Iranian officials including then-President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei denied international media reports about the pandemic fearing that the news would dissuade the people from going to the polls to vote in the February 2020 parliamentary election. The state-run media also ridiculed international media and accused them of scaremongering. Supreme Leader Khamenei and several leading hardline clerics later blamed foreign countries including the United States for spreading the virus and scaring Iranians.
Falahatpisheh also charged that all Iranian officials who denied the spread of coronavirus to Iran during in that period knew about the pandemic and deliberately lied to the nation.
Meanwhile, Falahatpisheh said some Iranian airlines carried Chinese passengers to and from China from January to March 2020 when China's own airlines were grounded because of the pandemic. Many Iranian and international media outlets at the time reported that Mahan Air, an Iranian airline linked to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) was involved in airlifting Chinese passengers and used the same airlines for domestic flights in Iran, in a way, helping spread the virus.
Documenting one of those flights, Flight tracking website Flight Radar 24 reported on February 20, 2020 that Mahan Airlines, which is sanctioned by the US, flew from Beijing to Tehran (Flight W578) on the date and landed at 4:40 in the morning in the Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran. Iran announced its first cases of coronavirus infections and deaths hours after the election on February 19.
Although Iranian officials said on January 31, 2020 that all flights had been stopped, Mahan Air continued flights to china but said under media pressure that it was not carrying Iranian passengers and that it was only airlifting Chinese passengers who were stranded in Turkey.
Falahatpisheh charged that some Iranian airlines acted as though they were companies of a Chinese colony.
Meanwhile, the former lawmaker lashed out at Iranian officials who imposed a high toll on the people by pushing for the development of homegrown Covid vaccines. He charged that those officials bluffed about a "national vaccine" and the people of Iran paid the price of those bluffs with their lives.
However, he did not mention that Ali Khamenei's support for the idea of national vaccines and his ban on the import of US and UK made vaccines in January led to tens of thousands of more deaths in Iran before the government was allowed to import foreign-made vaccines after hardline President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August.
Falahatpisheh blamed the officials' lies and greed for the lives lost in Iran in the absence of an effective vaccination effort until August.
He called on the parliament to launch an investigation into the mismanagement and errors of the officials during the pandemic.