October 6, 2023

Uncertainty Surrounding the Condition of the Female Student at Shohda Metro in Tehran, Iran Judiciary Refuses Sepideh Rashno Entry to Trial for Hijab Noncompliance, and More

Week of October 2, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

NIAC welcomed the news that Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. You can read our post on her award here.

Uncertainty Surrounding the Condition of the Female Student at Shohda Metro in Tehran

On October 1st, a young female student in Tehran reportedly fainted at Shahed metro station on her way to school and was transferred to a local hospital, where she is receiving treatment. While her identity has not been officially confirmed, individuals on social media have identified her as 16-year-old Armita Geravand. The official narrative on precisely what occurred to Geravand has been challenged by accounts claiming a direct confrontation with morality police. It appears that Geravand may be in a coma, though news regarding her health has been difficult to confirm given the obstruction of Iranian authorities. Separate reports indicate that the mother of Geravand may have been detained by Iranian authorities, though the veracity of this claim has not been confirmed.

For several hours, Maryam Lotfi, a social reporter from the Shargh newspaper, was detained at the Fajr Air Force Hospital after seeking to report on the incident and Geravand’s health. The Shargh newspaper, which previously reported on the detention of Ms. Lotfi on social media, stated that the identity of the detaining agency was unknown. There have been no further details released regarding Lotfi’s detention, though she was released after a few hours.

In a statement welcoming Narges Mohammadi’s recognition with the Nobel Peace Prize, President Joe Biden noted concern on the reports surrounding Geravand. He stated, “Sadly, Ms. Mohammadi’s award comes the same week that horrifying reports have emerged about Iran’s so-called morality police assaulting 16-year-old Armita Geravand for not wearing a headscarf.  The people of Iran refuse to be silenced or intimidated as they fight for a free and democratic future for their nation, and their peaceful movement— ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’—demanding respect for their human rights has brought hope to people the world.”

The student’s incident has been widely discussed on social media, with initial speculation indicating that Geravand had been injured in a confrontation with morality police, drawing parallels to the 2022 killing of Mahsa Amini. This speculation has only been fueled by Iranian authorities’ lack of transparency on the case and previous lies surrounding cases of police brutality. Among the reactions, Mohsen Barhani, a legal expert, commented on the social network “X” (previously known as Twitter), suggesting that for transparency, “plainclothes should not be present around the Air Force’s Fajr Hospital” and allow reporters there to cover the story. Mr. Barhani stressed that according to the laws, reporting on such an incident is not a crime.

The state news agency, quoting her parents, reported that they have viewed the Metro’s camera footage and confirm that the incident was an accident. However, it seems the interview was edited, and the context in which it was conducted is unclear. The family reportedly attributed her “fainting” due to “low blood pressure.” Speaking to Iran’s state news agency (IRNA), they said their daughter hit her head against the “edge of the train” and is currently hospitalized. The official coverage of the incident has so far been exclusively reported by the Islamic Republic News Agency. Geravand’s family has asked the public to pray for her wellbeing and expressed gratitude to the medical staff for their care. 

Additionally, during an interview with Iran’s state news agency (IRNA), the CEO of Tehran Metro, Mr. Dorosti, confirmed this incident but denied that metro operational staff confronted the girl. As a result of a request from Tehran, the metro staff reportedly provided the girl with initial medical treatment before transferring her to a hospital. It was not specified in the reports quoting IRNA which Tehran hospital she was admitted to.

It has been reported by eyewitnesses and social media users that no one is able to approach her in the hospital. As a result of the arrest of Lotfi, the reporter for Shargh newspaper, it appears that the information posted on social media about the hospital where the student is being treated is accurate.

Video of the incident shows three female students without veils enter the metro carriage in the video. A few seconds later, some passengers pull one of them off the train, who appears to be unconscious. The girl was taken out of the train by her friends and another passenger who may have been a doctor, Mr. Dorosti told IRNA. When asked by IRNA’s reporter if there might have been a confrontation with operational staff, he responded that CCTV footage dismisses any claims of a physical or verbal altercation between the passengers and the staff or their agents, although the moment of entry into the carriage is not shown on this recording.

In the past, images from the metros have been shared on social media and Iranian state media. Female passengers without hijab are shown in these images being reprimanded by officers. There have been instances in which these warnings have led to confrontations. After nationwide protests following Mahsa Amini’s death, Elaheh Mohammadi, a journalist for Hammihan newspaper, and Niloufar Hamedi, a journalist for Shargh newspaper, were arrested by the Iranian government and remain in prison for their coverage of Mahsa Amini’s death and funeral. In a joint statement, the Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic accused these two journalists of publishing “biased news” about Mahsa Amini. They remain imprisoned as they face charges. 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Opposes Normalization with Israel Amid Broader Middle East Diplomatic Shifts

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, stated in a meeting with ambassadors from Islamic countries on October 3rd that normalizing relations with Israel would be a “complete loss” and that “Israel must leave.” The remarks coincide with the fact that Saudi Arabia is hosting its second Israeli minister within the next week, and the United States is working towards normalizing relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

Khamenei, who focused much of his address on Israel, asserted, “The definitive stance of the Islamic Republic is that governments that normalize with the Zionist regime will incur losses; they are making a mistake by betting on the losing horse, as the Europeans would say.” According to the Iranian leader, the Palestinian movement is now “more vibrant than ever.” He reminded his audience of the words of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, who described Israel as a cancer that will be uprooted by Palestinians and resistance forces throughout the region.

According to Ayatollah Khamenei, Israel is not only hostile to Iran, but also bears grudges against Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, and does not approve of neighboring countries. He stated, using the Qur’anic metaphor, “Die in your rage,” suggesting that this is becoming a reality for Israel. His speech was also attended by high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic. This statement coincides with the intensification of American efforts to normalize relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia hosted Shlomo Kerai, the Israeli Minister of Communications, who arrived in the country.

The Israeli government announced last month that a framework agreement, facilitated by the United States, for normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia could be reached by the beginning of next year. Saudi Arabia has never officially recognized Israel since its establishment in 1948, and it now appears one condition of normalizing relations with Israel is an improvement of the Palestinian issue and a number of other assurances. However, progress toward this end appears to be moving rapidly, with the United States considering security guarantees and cooperation on a nuclear program for the Saudi kingdom as part of the deal.

By contrast, Iran has repeatedly expressed its opposition to normalizing relations between Israel and regional and Islamic countries. Khamenei’s speech follows the opening of the Israeli embassy in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. In addition to Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan also normalized relations with Israel as a result of a series of agreements mediated by the United States in 2020, dubbed the “Abraham Accords.”

Qassem Soleimani Statue Leads to Cancellation of Iran’s Sepahan vs. Saudi Al-Ittihad Match

An Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League match between Sepahan and Al-Ittihad was canceled on Tuesday night after the Saudi Arabian team left the stadium and headed for the airport. Reports indicate that the Saudi team left the stadium in protest against the installation of a statue of Qassem Soleimani adjacent to the field, which the AFC described as “unforeseeable circumstances.” As a result of the cancellation of the football match between Isfahan’s Sepahan and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Arabian team declared that they had left the field upon receiving permission from the match referee and demanded that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) protect their club’s rights.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation released a statement expressing support for Al-Ittihad and emphasizing its commitment to pursuing its rights. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, stated that he had been in contact with the Saudi Foreign Minister during the cancellation of the Sepahan and Al-Ittihad match.

According to the Iranian Foreign Minister, “Tehran-Riyadh relations are progressing on their own course, and sports should not be used as a political tool.” In addition, Mr. Amir-Abdollahian stated, “Our view, along with Saudi Arabia, is to repeat the Sepahan and Al-Ittihad match, and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) should also make a decision based on technical factors…We and Saudi Arabia agree that this match should be rescheduled.”

In this stadium, the Qassem Soleimani statue has been in place since 2019, and it is unclear why the Al-Ittihad team decided to cancel the match prior to its start. After receiving notice from the AFC match supervisor that the game would not be played on the specified date, Al-Ittihad announced their departure from the stadium in a statement published on social media. On the basis of the referee’s decision, the Sepahan club had previously announced that the match would be canceled.

As seen on Iranian television, Sepahan players entered the stadium, bid farewell to the spectators, and left the field. Spectators were heard chanting slogans such as “We do not want politics in football.” The Sepahan club has also stated that it will file a complaint with the AFC. Sepahan club CEO Mohammedreza Saket told Iranian television news yesterday that all aspects of the match were approved for a smooth conduct, including the presence of representatives of the AFC, security representatives of the AFC, and team managers.

Saket stated, “In the coordination meeting before the match, no ambiguities were raised, and nothing was written in case of a problem…The stadium has been approved by FIFA and has hosted dozens and hundreds of matches in this manner.”

He continued, “Al-Ittihad trained in the same conditions the day before. The situation today was well organized. AFC supervisors announced some issues in the vicinity of the match. In this case, the Al-Ittihad team demanded issues that went beyond the norms of sports matters and were contrary to principles raised throughout the world. Upon seeing this team leave the stadium, the referees canceled the game halfway through. We will file a complaint against Al-Ittihad with the AFC as soon as possible.”

According to the Isfahan Governorate, “while apologizing to the Sepahan fans and people, the cost of the tickets purchased will be refunded.” On social networking sites, images have been shared showing members of the Al-Ittihad team at Isfahan Airport, conducting their departure procedures. 

Previously, a separate image of Qassem Soleimani had sparked protests among Saudi officials and resulted in a change in the seating arrangements at a joint press conference of the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers.

Iran’s Judiciary Refuses Sepideh Rashno Entry to Trial for Hijab Noncompliance

An art student, writer, and outspoken critic of the compulsory hijab in Iran has been prohibited from entering the complex of the Judiciary’s Moralization Court in Tehran after posting a photo without a hijab. Sepideh Rashno announced on Tuesday, October 10th, sharing a photo without hijab, “I will attend court with my lawyer, Mr. Panahipour, wearing the same attire.” 

Rashno is charged with encouraging corruption and indecency and propagandizing against the system. She claims that her first Instagram post, in which she shared a photo without a headscarf, was the basis for these allegations, and she explained that she has been suspended from Al-Zahra University in Tehran as a result. Although the official news agency of Iran’s judiciary reported that Sepideh Rashno “did not appear in court and her lawyer submitted her defense statement to the case’s branch,” Fars News Agency reported that she was “prevented from entering the judiciary complex.”

As part of her Instagram account, Ms. Rashno previously posted a photo of herself in front of the Moralization Court building. She stated that she would be attending the court “to defend herself against unfounded accusations, to defend the right to choose one’s clothing and to write about my experiences…To defend being a woman, a part of the body called ‘hair,’ which is naturally present in everyone, both men and women.”

According to Mizan News Agency, the Judge has stated that the “verdict of the case will be issued next week.” Rashno has been suspended for two semesters for “not observing Islamic dress code” at Al-Zahra University in Tehran. In the summer of 2022, three months before Mahsa Amini was murdered by the Morality Police during her detention and the outbreak of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement protests, Rashno was arrested for “improper clothing” and “confrontation with a woman promoting virtue” on a city bus. 

Despite the fact that the woman promoting “virtue” was not arrested, Rashno was identified and detained. A video of her “forced confession” and expressions of regret was broadcast on Iranian state television after a period of silence about her situation. During the broadcast, Sepideh’s face showed signs of torture, and she later stated that she had been severely beaten.

As a result of her family’s efforts, she was released on bail. As of now, it appears that she is facing a new case, which is related to her Instagram post in which she explained her “two-term suspension from Al-Zahra University” and shared a photograph. As a result of her insistence on freely choosing her clothing, she was suspended: “After the disciplinary committee said, ‘Take two terms off.’ I replied, ‘I will not be forced to leave.’ They suspended me. I told them I would return after two terms with the same attire. They informed me that you would not be permitted to return by then. Under the name of suspension, they expel you. You are not permitted to attend classes.”

Sepideh Rashno’s family encouraged her to give up her fight against compulsory hijab, but she remains committed to her cause.

Iranian Official Discounts Removal of IAEA Inspectors

Mohammad Islami, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, commented on the cancellation of permits for several inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to him, no inspectors have been expelled; it was the result of political actions taken by three European countries against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their inspectors have been removed from the list of individuals able to access Iran’s nuclear program for the agency’s inspections.

According to Islami, after a government meeting, the IAEA has 127 approved inspectors in Iran. He described the actions of these three European countries as ‘political behavior and psychological operations,’ stating that their pressure is aimed at forcing Iran to fully comply with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) while they fail to fulfill their own commitments. The reference to these European countries by Mr. Islami can be attributed to Britain, France, and Germany, which are signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement.

On September 15th, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran had removed several experienced inspectors from its list of inspectors. Rafael Grossi, the Director-General of the IAEA, had previously stated that Iran’s decision to cancel permits for its inspectors effectively meant that the country was not accepting “about one-third of the agency’s inspection team.” In this manner, Iran has severely restricted the agency’s ability to conduct “effective inspections and verify the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.” He called on senior Iranian officials to reconsider this decision.

Furthermore, the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany jointly called on Iran in September to “immediately” reconsider its decision to cancel the permits of IAEA inspectors and “fully cooperate” with it. According to Grossi, Iran’s actions are unprecedented and unilateral, which will have a severe impact on the agency’s ability to verify all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. As the Director-General of the IAEA noted during the opening session of the agency’s Board of Governors meeting, Iran has not implemented its bilateral agreements with the agency, and the agency is not currently in a position to verify the peaceful nature of all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. 

In memory of Ferdous Kaviani: A life of artistry and resilience

On October 1, Ferdous Kaviani, who had been ill for some time, passed away at his Tehran residence. The 82-year-old actor was part of famous films such as “Shahr-e Ghesseh,” “Ajarnehshin-ha,” “Banoo,” “Mix,” and “Dog Killing,” as well as popular television series such as “Hamsaran” and “Agency of Friendship” of the 1990s. In 2014, he performed a play as his last artistic work.

Ferdous Kaviani, a member of the Zoroastrian community in Iran, was born in Kerman on October 25, 1941. As an actor, he has appeared in film, television, and theater productions. He held a bachelor’s degree in acting from the University of Tehran and was a former student of German at the University of Berlin. With the series “Hamsaran,” he gained recognition for his work in the theater.

Having received a scholarship to study abroad, he traveled to Austria. Initially, he enrolled in chemistry but soon abandoned it due to his passion for theater and acting, which he discussed with the university administration. He changed his field of study to theater after receiving their approval. Eventually, due to the start of a new semester and the change in the language of instruction back to German, he had to change his major again. Several weeks later, however, his roommate stole his money, resulting in a financial crisis.

After leaving Vienna, Austria, due to a lack of support, he was forced to return to Iran. In 1961, at the age of 20, began acting in theater in Iran after completing a course under the guidance of Hamid Samandarian. In 1970, at the age of 29, he appeared for the first time in front of the camera in the film “Tajavoz.” He earned his bachelor’s degree in acting from the University of Tehran the following year. In 1973, at the age of 32, he played in his second film, “Shahr-e Ghesseh.”

After his performance in the series “Mahalleh-ye Behdasht” became widely recognized, in 1980 he returned to cinema with the film “Chopanan-e Kavir” and entered the world of television with the series “Hamshahri.” Kaviani’s most notable role was as Kamal in the highly-watched TV series Hamsaran in 1994, alongside Mehraneh Mahin-Torabi as Mahin. Later, a six-year absence from the world of art was marked by his presence at the 14th Theater Actors’ Festival in April 2017.

He managed to speak despite physical weakness and mobility issues by saying, “I am very happy today.” It is believed that Kaviani had suffered from Parkinson’s disease. In spite of Kaviani’s extensive career in theaters, films, television series, and tele theaters, he received fewer acting offers in the 1990s and spent most of his later years at home. The last film he appeared in was “Saken-e Khane Choobi” directed by Hossein Ali Lialstani in 2012, and his last theater performance was in the play “Tango-ye Tokhm-e Morgh Dagh” written by Akbar Radi and directed by Hadi Marzban in 2014. Some of his close associates expressed dissatisfaction with the indifference and neglect of the cultural authorities toward veteran artists during his later years, despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Two Sons of Judiciary Official Mohammad Mosaddegh Detained for Eight Months

Tasnim News Agency and Farhikhtegan newspaper confirmed that the sons of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the First Deputy of Iran’s Judiciary, have been arrested. In his press conference on September 26, Masoud Soltani, the spokesperson for the Islamic Republic’s judiciary, confirmed that such a case was under consideration within the judiciary, stating that “Information regarding the case will be disseminated as soon as the legal proceedings are ready.”

Farhikhtegan, citing an informed source, reported in its Tuesday edition that the involvement of the senior Judiciary official’s son in a criminal case required the approval of the head of the Judiciary. Tasnim, a news outlet closely associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), indicated that Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, the head of the Judiciary’s security and intelligence unit, is overseeing the case.

These reports indicate that the detention of these senior Judiciary officials’ sons has been ongoing for eight months. According to reports, eight individuals are being held in this case. Farhikhtegan reported that Mr. Mohseni-Ejei had requested an “investigation” by the Judiciary and an “inspection” into this case, and that following these inquiries, “two of Mr. Mosaddegh’s sons were detained along with six others.”

Tasnim indicates the case is related to the Rostami Safa group, a major Iranian business that has been investigated for financial crimes in recent years. Earlier this year the Judiciary announced that Mohammad Rostami Safa – the owner of the Rostami Safa Industrial Group – has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and assets worth approximately 181 million euros were confiscated. 

Mohammad Mosaddegh’s rise and progression in the judicial system is primarily attributed to Ebrahim Raisi, the current President of Iran and former head of the judiciary. Initially, he was a member of the Special Court for Clergy alongside Raisi in the early 2010s. Approximately seven years later, he moved to the Judiciary along with Mr. Raisi, achieving the position of Legal Deputy. Additionally, he briefly served as the head of the Administrative Justice Court of Iran from March to June 2021, following the appointment of Ebrahim Raisi to that position. His appointment to such a specialized position was not widely anticipated at that time.

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