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September 14, 2023

Parents of Mahsa Amini: “On the anniversary of the martyrdom of our beloved daughter Mahsa (Zhina), we gather at her grave.”

Week of September 11, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

Parents of Mahsa Amini Announce Plans to Gather at Daughter’s Grave on Anniversary of her Killing

Mahsa Amini’s parents, Mojgan Eftekhari and Amjad Amini, wrote on Instagram:  “On the anniversary of the martyrdom of our beloved daughter Mahsa (Zhina), we gather at her grave. Like any grieving family, we hold traditional and religious ceremonies annually at Mahsa’s grave.” In addition, they stated, “Apart from this message, we will not publish anything else. Although we appreciate the heartfelt condolences and genuine concerns expressed by our fellow citizens, we urge everyone to refrain from any violent actions or reactions.”

Mahsa Amini was arrested in Tehran on September 13, 2022 when she was 22 years old. She was reportedly beaten while in detention by the morality police before collapsing and being transferred to Kasra Hospital, where she tragically passed away three days after her arrest.

Aycheh Saghez Cemetery witnessed a large public attendance at her funeral on September 16. Most cities throughout Iran saw significant protests following her death, which were marked by slogans against the Islamic Republic and chants of “Woman, Life, Freedom” that continued for months after her death. There was also broad public attendance at Amini’s 40th-day commemoration despite tight security measures. More than five hundred people were killed during the nationwide demonstrations, and seven people were executed in connection with the protests by the judiciary. 

Several days ago, on the eve of the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death in detention, her uncle, Safa Aaeli, was arrested. According to a news source, officers with several cars went to his home around 4 PM and searched it without a warrant. According to this source, the family does not know what charges Mr. Aaeli was arrested on or where he is currently located.

Mahsa Amini’s mother had previously posted on Instagram demanding his release, writing: “Mahsa dearly loved her uncle, and he was very proud of her.” As Mahsa Amini’s death anniversary approaches, security agencies have increased their pressure on the families seeking justice, political activists, university professors, protesting students, and labor and cultural activists. As a result, many of them have been arrested or threatened.

A new wave of arrests of Kurdish activists and citizens has been reported as the Iranian government intensifies security measures to prevent the commemoration of Mahsa Amini’s murder. Kurdistan Human Rights Network reported that in the past few days, security forces have detained at least seven Kurdish activists and citizens in Saqqez and Bukan. These individuals are identified as “Hiro Ghadimi, Ahmad Mozaz, Omid Tooti, Ghader Fathollahi, Taher Soltani, Hassan, and Hossein Chakoche.”

Shirku Hajazi, a civil activist and head of the local football committee in Saqqez, was arrested by security forces September 12. Kurdish Human Rights Network reports that security agents detained this Kurdish citizen in Saqqez by using violence near his workplace and transferred him to an undisclosed location.

BBC Persian has also reported the deployment of anti-riot forces in Kurdistan. There appears to be an attempt by security authorities to close the entrances to the city of Saqqez, as well as those leading to neighboring cities. The Iranian government is concerned about the resurgence of protests and their spread to other areas of the country.

Five Imprisoned Activists Protest Mahsa Amini’s Death Anniversary by Going On Hunger Strike

Mostafa Tajzadeh, Hossein Razag, Saeed Madani, Mehdi Mahmoudian, and Mohammad Najafi – five imprisoned activists in Iran – have announced that they will embark on a hunger strike on September 16, the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death. In addition, these five prisoners stated that they are striking in protest against “the continuation of the government’s oppressive and anti-woman policies” as well as in solidarity with “the demands of the protesters, including the end of the compulsory hijab.”

By taking this action, they express their “solidarity” with “all non-violent advocates for an independent, free, and developed Iran, free from all forms of discrimination.” The letter stated: “The glorious uprising of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom,’ a year ago, swept across the existence and lives of Iranians, especially the women, transforming them and opening a new chapter in the struggle for democracy, development, and the realization of national self-determination.”

It was stated in the letter that the “sacred movement of Mahsa” caused a significant shock to the entire system and all guardians. In referring to the widespread participation of youths and teenagers in recent protests in Iran, the authors stated: “The uprising of Mahsa demonstrated that Iranian youths and teenagers are firmly determined to build a free, equal, and developed Iran despite all challenges and difficulties. As they revitalize their right to determine their own destiny, they will carve out a bright future for all of us.”

The political prisoners continued: “We, a group of political prisoners, while honoring all the efforts and sacrifices of the proponents of the ‘Mahsa uprising‘ and paying tribute to all the martyrs of this movement, and expressing sympathy with the families of the hundreds who lost their lives, on the anniversary of the beginning of the protests, to express our solidarity with the will and desires of men, women, and the young generation, especially the girls of our nation, to achieve all their rightful demands including the end of the mandatory hijab, and in protest against the continuation of oppressive, anti-national, and anti-woman policies, especially the regressive bill known as ‘Chastity and Hijab,’ will go on a hunger strike on September 16.”

Grossi and Abdollahian Comment on Nuclear Negotiations

Rafael Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has stated that there has been no progress on the agency’s ongoing inquiries in recent months. Grossi had previously reached an agreement during his trip to March laying out a path to greater cooperation and transparency.

This agreement required Iran to provide “credible technical” answers regarding the discovery of uranium particles at certain undeclared sites and to install surveillance cameras at certain nuclear facilities. The agency urged Iran to follow through on these commitments, including regarding the scope of past nuclear-related work at Varamin and Torghuzabad and to notify it of any present nuclear sites or equipment contaminated with uranium.

Previously, Iran claimed that it had provided answers to the agency and that the matter had been resolved. Despite these statements, some sources believe that the investigation could be snarled indefinitely.

Grossi said Iran has provided the IAEA with answers regarding the discovery of uranium particles at undeclared sites, but these answers do not resolve the issue and must be consistent with other information the agency has about Iran’s nuclear program. Germany, Britain, and France – three European countries that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal – issued a joint statement expressing concern over the recent report by the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and highlighting Iranian actions that they deem in violation of its commitments.

In a separate statement issued by the three European countries, they noted that Iran continues to pursue its nuclear program at alarming levels, and has failed to fulfill its commitments based on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency in March and hence, “the agency cannot rule out the possibility of a nuclear weapons program.”

Iran’s refusal to grant visas to IAEA officials is also viewed by European countries as a sign of Iran’s unwillingness to cooperate and as a hindrance to the establishment of trust between Iran and the international community. Iran began ceasing compliance with its JCPOA commitments in 2019, one year after the U.S. abandoned the deal and reinstated sanctions. Since then, Iran has expanded its activities to unprecedented levels for a nation without nuclear weapons. Additionally, both the European Union representative and the U.S. representative to the IAEA’s Board of Governors expressed concern about Iran’s nuclear program and warned of its consequences.

Nasser Kanaani, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson in Tehran, said: “Cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency continues within the framework of the joint statement issued by the Atomic Energy Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency on March 4th, and meetings and dialogues have been or will be held within that framework.” The IAEA, he asserted, is a specialized, technical, and professional organization that shouldn’t be used for political purposes.

According to Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iran is ready to negotiate to protect its rights and lift sanctions in accordance with the “September document,” referring to a non-concluded agreement on the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal that was produced last year. However, a temporary nuclear agreement has not yet been reached between Iran and global powers despite ongoing rumors of potential progress to deescalate the crisis.

Abdollahian asserted, “We have not reached a temporary agreement point, and Iranian assets have been returned from the United Kingdom and South Korea twice.” The reference relates to the United Kingdom’s return of the prepayment for canceled military purchases under the Shah’s government, which coincided with the release of Iranian-British citizens Anousheh Ashouri and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iranian prisons. The Islamic Republic of Iran will be able to spend the recently-transferred South Korean assets on non-sanctioned items under the supervision of Qatar and the United States once it is transferred to Qatar’s banks.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to negotiate in order to protect its rights and lift sanctions while maintaining red lines, but we are not limited to that, and sanctions removal is also on our agenda,” said Abdollahian. As a result of protests that began in Iran last September, and criticism by Ukrainian officials of Iran’s sale of drones to Russia and their use in military aggression against Ukraine, the United States declared that restoring the JCPOA was no longer on the agenda. A temporary nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States has been discussed in recent weeks, but the Iranian Foreign Minister has now stated that the two countries are not at this stage.


Political Prisoners Face Imminent Life-Threatening Peril as Bahareh Hedayat Ends her Hunger Strike

According to the Association of Iranian Writers, the transfer last week of 13 political prisoners from Evin Prison to Qazal Hasar Prison constitutes “intentional crimes.” The statement refers to news that Saeed Masouri, Jafar Ebrahimi, Kamiar Fekoor, Luqman Aminpour, Afshin Baymani, Sepehr Imam-Jomeh, Zartosht Ahmadi-Ragheb, Mohammad Shafi’i, Saman Seidi (Yasin), Hamzeh Savari, Ahmadreza Haeri, Reza Salmanzadeh, and Masoudreza Ebrahimi-Nejad were suddenly and without prior notice transferred from Evin Prison to Qazal Hasar Prison. It has been reported that the lives of these 13 prisoners are in danger, and the Association of Iranian Writers is concerned that another “intentional crime” may take place.

“The lives of these 13 prisoners are in danger based on the descriptions provided by some of these prisoners or their families regarding their dire conditions within Qazal Hasar Prison and the horrific circumstances within the prison,” as stated in the Association of Iranian Writers’ statement. Before being transferred to Qazal Hasar Prison, some of these prisoners, including Jafar Ebrahimi, a teacher and civil activist, were in critical physical condition, and reports indicate that they are still unable to receive medical treatment.

Separately, Bahareh Hedayat, a political prisoner who had been on a hunger strike in protest of increasing repression by the Islamic Republic, has announced the end of her hunger strike. In her letter, she stated that she has decided to end the hunger strike on the historic day of the ‘abduction’ of Mahsa Amini by the Guidance Patrol agents. Hedayat had been pressed to end her strike by prominent figures who were concerned with her health, including the mother of Mahsa Amini Mojgan Eftekhari, Javad Rouhi, university professors, journalists, students, artists, and activists.

Amid Regional Tensions, Iran Sets a Deadline for Disarming Kurdish Groups in Iraq

According to a spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the deadline for disarmament of Kurdish opposition parties in the Kurdistan region of Iraq will not be extended beyond the 28th of Shahrivar (September 19). Naser Kanaani, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, indicated the deadline for the disarmament of Kurdish parties opposing the Iranian government in the Kurdistan region of Iraq will not be extended by any means. He asserted, “the Iraqi government has taken positive steps in this regard and has stressed its commitment to this matter.”

When protests were taking place in Iran last year, the Islamic Republic initially launched missile attacks, and then repeatedly launched drone and missile attacks against Kurdish opposition groups inside Iraq. These deadly attacks resulted in the deaths of dozens of members of these parties. The Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region have repeatedly condemned these attacks as violations of Iraq’s sovereignty.

However, in March 2023, the Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq and the Supreme National Security Council of Iran jointly announced that Iraq and Iran had signed an agreement to ensure “border security.” In their attacks against Iranian Kurdish groups in Iraq, the Revolutionary Guards cited support for these parties as one of their reasons. After the Iranian government’s warning about the deadline for disarmament , the Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein stated during a visit to Tehran, “It is not wise for Iraqi soil to be threatened,” and stressed the importance of completing the “implementation of the security agreement” between Iran and Iraq within the next two days. Rather than threaten Iraqi or Iraqi Kurdistan’s soil, dialogue should be used.

In a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, the Iraqi Foreign Minister invited Iranian media to visit Iraq to observe the implementation of the security agreement. Furthermore, he stated that Iraq would not allow opposition Kurdish parties to cross the border or use weapons against the Iranian government. As part of his press conference in Tehran regarding the activities of anti-government Kurdish parties in Iraq, Hussein stated, “We do not allow any Iraqi or non-Iraqi group or party to launch an attack from Iraqi soil to another country in accordance with the Iraqi constitution.” Prior to his visit to Tehran, the Iraqi Foreign Minister announced that, in addition to meeting with and negotiating with his Iranian counterpart, he would also meet with the Iranian President, the Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.

Suppression of Baha’is Continues with Sealing of 12 Educational and Sports Centers in Babol

According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), 12 educational and sports centers in the Babol district have been sealed. According to the report, these centers were sealed due to what has been referred to as promoting “the Baha’i faith.” Mohammad Sadegh Akbari, head of the judiciary in the Mazandaran province, announced this news and also reported the arrest of two Baha’i citizens, who were referred to as “prominent Baha’i instructors in Iran.”

On the eve of the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death, and amid increased pressures on the families of protest movement victims and other civil and political activists, the pressures on the Baha’i community have risen. There were over 180 instances of oppression against Baha’is reported by the international Baha’i community last month, including the arrest of Jamaluddin Khanjani, a 90-year-old Baha’i, along with his daughter.

A resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday condemned Iranian government actions against the Baha’i minority and ongoing violations of international human rights commitments. A bipartisan group drafted and presented this resolution, which documents harassment, abuse, and suppression of Baha’is in Iran since 1979, and calls for an end to these practices. The resolution also recalls June 18, 2023, which marks the 40th anniversary of the execution of 10 Baha’i women in Shiraz, most of whom were in their twenties, with the youngest being only 17 years old. The resolution urges the United States to “condemn Iran’s persistent human rights violations and request the immediate release of prisoners detained solely for their religious beliefs.” The resolution also calls for sanctions “against Iranian government officials and others directly responsible for serious human rights violations, including against the Baha’i community.” 

The Morning Star magazine reported that over the course of a three-month period last year, there had been an increase in harassment, abuse, and torture of Iranian Baha’is. Over 300 Baha’is have been attacked in their homes and businesses, arrested, tried, convicted, confiscated, and denied higher education. As reported, this trend continued in recent weeks with nearly 60 Baha’is arrested or imprisoned, 26 convicted (including imprisonment), and 59 Baha’i businesses sealed.

The magazine wrote, “In a particularly cruel act, Tehran officials are preventing Baha’is from burying their loved ones in the Baha’i cemetery near Khavaran. As a result, intelligence officers forcibly bury deceased Baha’is in the Khavaran cemetery, which is also the burial site of hundreds of execution victims from the 1980s.” 

Iran Opens Accounts with Qatari Banks for Depositing Foreign Assets

Iranian banks have opened accounts with Qatari banks in order to deposit foreign funds that are being released in connection with the ongoing prisoner swap, according to the ISNA news agency. Six Iranian banks have opened accounts with Qatari banks to facilitate forthcoming financial transactions, according to ISNA. The United States has affirmed that it will have a special oversight role over the use of these resources as part of the cooperation with Qatar.

Through Qatar, the United States is indirectly providing Iran with access to $6 billion of its frozen assets in South Korea as part of the negotiations between Iran and the United States to exchange prisoners. Iran will soon be able to use these resources to purchase non-sanctioned goods and pay for them out of the accounts in Qatari banks.

A prisoner exchange agreement between Iran and the United States is nearing completion, according to Iran’s ambassador to Qatar, Hamidreza Dehghani. He is currently conducting farewell meetings with Qatari officials in light of the end of his mission in Qatar. Mr. Dehghani wrote, “I expressed my appreciation and gratitude for their (Mohammed al-Khulaifi, advisor to the Qatari Foreign Ministry) contribution to advancing bilateral relations, particularly with respect to the exchange agreement currently being implemented.”

According to the Associated Press, Antony Blinken signed an order late last week exempting banks from sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program. The US Secretary of State signed this order last week, one month after Tehran and Washington announced their prisoner exchange agreement. However, Congress members were reportedly informed about the waiver on September 11. 

The U.S. government also plans to release five Iranian prisoners in the United States in the forthcoming swap. Negar Mortazavi, a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent, indicates that these individuals are Kaveh Afrasiabi, Mehrdad Ansari, Amin Hasanzadeh, Reza Sarhangpour, and Kamran Aghaei, who the White House will turn over to Iran simultaneously with the release of its five citizens.

While Ansari, Hasanzadeh, Sarhangpour and Aghaei were charged in the U.S. with sanctions violations, Afrasiabi’s charges related to acting as an unregistered agent of the Islamic Republic. As reported by BBC Persian television on Sep 12, Afrasiabi expressed gratitude to Iran’s UN representation office but indicated he was not planning to return to Iran soon. 

A statement by more than 300 Iranian political and cultural activists on the eve of the anniversary of the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ protests cautioned against the ongoing threat of religious authoritarianism to the foundations of the Iranian nation and stressed the need for structural changes and referendums. Notable figures such as Abolfazl Ghadiani, Mehdi Nassiri, Parvaneh Salashouri, Keyvan Samimi, and Sediqeh Vasmaghi signed the letter, which stated: “The structure of religious oppression not only shakes the foundations of our nation but also paves the way for future transformations, leading from mobilization and movement toward a potential uprising.”

According to the signatories of the statement, many of whom reside in Iran, the country’s administration is in disarray. They stated that “a series of social, political, and economic crises have resulted from decades of mismanagement by the ruling authorities, which have resulted in bitter consequences for Iran.” As they explain further, “We will continue to advocate for structural changes and a referendum to establish a government arising from the people’s votes to ensure Iran does not suffer any more harm than it has already sustained.”

It follows similar statements from recent months, which were rejected by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to hold a referendum to prevent further damage to the country. The signatories of this statement emphasize, however, that multiple waves of protests have already caused “turbulence and ruptures” in the existing power structure. These have resulted in substantial costs for the government and significant internal turmoil. 

Further, the statement asserts that the government continues to stand firm in its confrontation with the people and treats even the slightest criticism as an act of hostility, resulting in the removal of citizens’ rights and imprisonment of all professionals and civil protesters in response to legitimate demands. Due to these circumstances, the signatories emphasize the importance of unity among all elements of civil society and the organized use of generational resources and national assets. In order to realize the citizenship rights of the entire Iranian population, they recognize their obligation to collaborate with them and support them.

On the verge of the first anniversary of the widespread protests last year, the regime has increased its repression of political, social, artistic, journalistic, and academic activists. Additional signatories include Abdullah Momeni, Ali Babachahi, Eisa Saharkheir, Alireza Rajaei, Hashem Aghajari, Fakhralsadat Mohtashampour, and Zahra Rabani Amleshi.

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