TEHRAN -- The number of deaths from coronavirus in Iran is nearly triple what the Iranian regime publicly claims, a BBC Persian service investigation has found.
Government records -- leaked to the BBC as seen here -- show almost 42,000 patients died with COVID-19 symptoms up to July 20, versus 14,405 reported by the regime's Health Ministry.
The number of patients known to be infected is almost double the official figure: 451,024 as opposed to 278,827.
The data given to the BBC include details of daily admissions to hospitals, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.
This leak is just the latest blow to the legitimacy of authorities in Tehran.
Just a few weeks ago, Iranians became fraught with fear, anger and confusion following President Hassan Rouhani's assertion that more than half the country's population could eventually be infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Of the country's 80 million citizens, 25 million have been infected, with 30-35 million more facing infection in the future, according to claims announced by Rouhani.
Rouhani's shocking statement and his silence in the wake of it have Iranian officials attempting to offer their own explanations -- even as Iranians' distrust of government institutions grows.
Rouhani's latest comments and leak about the actual death count come amid a flood of disinformation about the pandemic from multiple sources.
Tehran, Moscow and Beijing have suppressed details of the coronavirus outbreak internally, censoring coverage of major outbreaks, while spreading fake news and criticising Western governments' response to the pandemic, activists say.
All three of these governments are actively promoting alternative narratives about the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Protests in various parts of Iran in recent weeks highlight citizens' growing anger at the regime's mismanagement of the pandemic amid the spiralling economic situation.
The regime is exacerbating Iranians' economic hardships by choosing to support proxy wars around the region -- particularly in Syria, Iraq and Yemen -- instead of investing in its own country, protesters say.
The COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has contributed to the economic woes with a temporary shutdown of the economy and has reduced exports, leading to a sharp devaluation of the rial and rising inflation.
On July 16, police attempted to break up one such protest in Behbahan, Khuzestan Province, where protestors were shouting anti-regime slogans, much like they were in January across the country, chanting "Death to the dictator" -- a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.