October 19, 2023

Remembering Dariush Mehrjui and Vahideh Mohammadi Far, Khamenei Addresses Israeli Offensive, Iranian Activist and Singer Mehdi Yarrahi Released on Bail, and More

Week of October 16, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

Tragic Funeral Ceremony and Outpouring of Grief: Remembering Dariush Mehrjui and Vahideh Mohammadi Far

The brutal murder of one of Iran’s greatest film directors and his wife in their private villa in the Ziba Dasht neighborhood shocked Iranian society and had widespread repercussions. The funeral procession of Dariush Mehrjui and Vahideh Mohammadi Far was held on October 18, 2023, in front of Rudaki Hall in Tehran. Several renowned Iranian artists attended the ceremony, with actor Bahram Radan as host. Iranian media reported that the bodies of Dariush Mehrjui, the famous director, and Vahideh Mohammadi Far, the writer, were discovered in their home during the early hours of Sunday, October 15th.

Mona Mehrjui, Dariush Mehrjui’s daughter, spoke at the ceremony without donning the “mandatory hijab.” “As my father used to say, murderers are among us,” she stated. “I don’t know what I can express in words. I thank you for being here. Right now, Mom and Dad are standing beside me, holding my shoulders, and asking me to stand tall. I’m certain they are with me.” Marzieh Broumand, the CEO of the House of Cinema, said, “There was supposed to be a message written for me to read as the unfortunate CEO of the House of Cinema, but no one could write anything. I’m now speechless in the face of the immense sorrow the House of Cinema bears.”

In response to the murders, Zahra Rahnavard released a letter in which she wrote, “Just as Mehrjui protested the banning of his film ‘Laminar’ and defiantly said, ‘Come and kill me,’ – they did.” According to reports, a website close to Mir Hossein Mousavi quoted Rahnavard in her letter saying, “If a person does not bang their head against the wall and implore God for death and the end of these calamities in the grief and burning of this atrocious crime, it is a wonder.” She mentioned that Mehrjui’s cinema will remain “eternal,” but the assassination of Dariush and Vahideh is reminiscent of the slaughtering of Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar and the butchering of intellectuals like Puyandeh and Mokhtari, the deaths of Sharif and Dovani, and the suspicious deaths of artists and other protesters. Rahnavard concluded on a hopeful note that “this time, in this crime, the murderer will not remain unpunished.”

Today, Ahmad Vahidi, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, said the murder of Mr. Mehrjui and his wife as “fundamentally wrong.” But, he said, “It is questionable that some people are trying to turn any incident of this nature into something beyond its scope and interpretation.”

Iran Supreme Leader Declares “No One” Can Stop Resistance Forces if Israeli Offensive Continues

In a fiery declaration, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, issued a strong warning, asserting that the actions of Israel against Palestinians cannot go unanswered. He stated, “There is no one who can stop Muslims and resistance forces if the crimes committed by the Zionist regime persist.” Khamenei’s statement took place as many parties have warned about the risk of the conflict between Israel and Gaza expanding to new fronts.

In the address to a gathering in Tehran, Khamenei also suggested that recent developments in Israeli policy had been influenced by the United States. During his speech, he called for an immediate end to the ongoing bombardment in the region. It is Khamenei’s third public statement on the Israel-Hamas conflict since it began over a week ago.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s Foreign Minister, made a defiant statement while attending a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. According to him, all ties between Islamic countries and Israel must be severed immediately, with Israeli ambassadors expelled and any oil exports or projects related to the “illegitimate Zionist regime” halted. 

In response to the October 17th attack that produced a major explosion at a Gaza hospital, which reportedly killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians, an emergency session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was convened on October 18th to discuss the crisis. While numerous regional states have explicitly condemned Israel for the attack, U.S. President Joe Biden – while visiting Israel – indicated that U.S. intelligence assessed that Israel was not behind the strike but that it was “the other team,” implying Hamas.

According to Amir-Abdollahian, all resistance movements in the region are prepared for all possible scenarios. He stressed that “America’s incentive policies” towards Israel have contributed significantly to the escalation of the Gaza conflict. In response to Hamas’ Al-Quds Sword operation, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ali Fadavi, declared, “The Zionist and American conspiracy to normalize relations between Israel and regional countries has collapsed.” A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Naser Kanaani, added to the warnings, stating that there is still a political opportunity to prevent an escalation in the region, but cautioned that “the axis of resistance will not remain idle” if Israel continues its involvement in Gaza.

According to Iranian authorities, if Israeli ground forces enter Gaza, the battlefront may expand with the participation of Iranian-backed paramilitary groups. The international community is scrambling to find a solution to the escalating tensions in the region, with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Russia Asserts No Need to Comply with UN Security Council Restrictions on Missile Technology for Iran

According to a sunset clause in the JCPOA, UN sanctions against Iran related to “missiles and arms” in UN Security Council Resolution 2231 will expire on October 18, 2023. While many U.S. and other unilateral arms restrictions remain, several nations have made remarks related to this lapse of UN restrictions.

On Wednesday, Moscow indicated it does not need to adhere to the restrictions placed on it by the United Nations Security Council regarding the transfer of missile technology to and from the Islamic Republic. Moscow refrained from saying whether it intends to support Tehran’s missile program expansion in a statement issued on Tuesday, October 17th. It stated, however, that Iran does not require the approval of the Security Council for the supply of missile equipment. Additionally, Russia has urged the European Union and the United States to lift its unilateral sanctions, which it views as an attempt to “settle political scores with Tehran” and not applicable to “other countries that comply with international laws and commitments.” 

On Thursday, the European Union Council stated that there are “valid reasons” to refrain from lifting these restrictions. The council stated that this decision was made based on the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and the Islamic Republic’s non-compliance with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). There was an emphasis in the statement that previous sanctions against individuals and entities involved in nuclear, arms, and missile activities in Iran would remain in place.

According to Josep Borrell, the EU’s head of foreign policy, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany have no intention of lifting the arms sanctions against the Islamic Republic on October 18th as originally called for by the 2015 accord. Sources informed Reuters prior to this decision by the European Union Council that the EU took this decision because of three key factors: Russia’s use of Iranian drones against Ukraine, Iran’s potential transfer of ballistic missiles to Russia, and Iran’s noncompliance with the JCPOA.

The Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the European Union Council’s decision as a “blatant violation of the commitments of the EU and the three European countries.” The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Naser Kanaani, criticized the “unilateral, unlawful, and politically unjustified” nature of this decision, stating, “Such an action contradicts the claims and the approach of the EU and the three European countries, which are fully committed to the JCPOA.”

The three European signatories to the JCPOA – France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – had sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the UN Security Council on October 9th, labeling Iran’s satellite launch as a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, Annex B, Paragraph 3. In response, Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Amir Saeed Iravani, stressed Iran’s determination to continue its ballistic missile and space launch vehicle activities.

Prominent Iranian Islamic Scholar Calls for the Repeal of the Controversial Hijab Law

Iranian Islamic scholar Sedigheh Vasmaghi has raised her voice against the oppression of women in Iran and challenged the mandatory hijab in a recent video posted to her Instagram account. She questions the reasons behind the Islamic Republic’s legal requirement for women to veil their head in public.

Vasmaghi, an Islamic scholar, political activist, and former member of the Tehran City Council, stands without a headscarf or chador, demanding the end of Iran’s mandatory hijab law. She declared that it is unacceptable to remain silent in the face of tragic cases such as those of Mahsa Amini and Armita Geravand, young women who have paid tragic costs due to apparent enforcement of mandatory hijab laws.

In a different segment of the video, Vasmaghi states that any harassment or harm inflicted on women due to the compulsory hijab is “against humanity, justice, ethics, and even against Islam.” In her speech, she urges devout individuals bound by conscience, ethics, and humanity to refrain from remaining silent regarding the “outrageous” treatment of women by the Islamic Republic government. Vasmaghi calls the hijab law “wicked, costly, and detrimental,” and advocates its repeal. Her call resonates with those who believe it is time to challenge the status quo and reconsider Iran’s mandatory hijab regulations.

Iranian Activist and Singer Mehdi Yarrahi Released on Bail

Mehdi Yarrahi, a singer who was detained after releasing the song “Rosarito” in protest of mandatory hijab laws, was released on bail just one day after his first trial session. Yarrahi’s attorney, Zahra Minouyi, revealed the news of his release on bail on her Instagram account. In addition, Minouyi expressed her gratitude to the officials of the House of Music for their “support.”

The first trial session of Mr. Yarrahi was attended by music industry professionals and authorities. It lasted approximately three hours in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court Branch 26 on Tuesday, October 24th. Yarrahi, a 42-year-old singer from Ahvaz, has been charged with inciting corruption and obscenity, producing and disseminating immoral content, inciting and provocation to commit offenses against chastity, and promoting activities against the system.

Mustafa Nili, another of Yarrahi’s lawyers, announced prior to the trial that Yarrahi was being held in the “quarantine” section of Evin Prison. In early September, Yarrahi was arrested by the judicial authorities of the Islamic Republic. The song “Rosarito” was composed and written by him, in tribute to the “free women of his homeland who shine bravely on the front lines of the women’s movement, life, and freedom.” The song “Rosarito” begins: “Optional veiling is just one of the serious demands of the oppressed Iranian people. For freedom and democracy, we have sacrificed many dear lives.”

According to Mizan, the official news agency of the judiciary, “Rosarito” is “an illegal and immoral song contrary to the morals and customs of Islam.” In the wake of its release, “Rosarito” received widespread attention and support on social media platforms. Since Mahsa Amini’s tragic death and the arrest of many others by the authorities, the act of “taking off the headscarf and non-compliance with compulsory hijab” by Iranian women has increased dramatically. He has previously expressed his support for Iranian protests by releasing songs such as “Break the Cage,” “Song of Women,” and “Song of Life.” These songs were part of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.

Escalating Threats and Pressures Targeting Students and Professors

On Monday, October 15, 2023, the Telegram channel of student guilds across the country reported that students at Allameh Tabatabai University’s Faculty of Social Sciences had received threatening letters. A new wave of pressure and threats has been directed against students and faculty members in the wake of these alarming developments.

Students have shared many threats they received through text messages on their mobile phones or through letters from the university’s disciplinary committee. As reported by student guilds, these threatening messages are distinguished by the fact that they are written on official letterhead from Allameh Tabatabai University and do not bear any letter numbers or dates. Upon entering the university premises, students reported receiving these letters from security personnel. In addition to serving as warnings to female students who are deemed to have violated the university’s dress code, these letters also advise them that continued violations of the dress code will disrupt their academic career.

A staggering 32,000 adjunct professors have been removed from various departments and disciplines within the Azad University – one of the largest university systems in the world – since September this year, following a decision made by Mehdi Tehranchi, the university’s president. In a report published by the “Etemad” newspaper, these removed professors have been replaced by approximately 20,000 first- and second-semester doctoral students from the Azad University who are still pursuing their own studies. They are responsible for instructing undergraduate and graduate students at the university.

Following the completion of a 40-hour training course titled “Teaching,” these doctoral students have accepted teaching positions at the Azad University. For their participation, these “new instructors” are expected to receive “educational incentives” and pay reduced tuition fees.

As some adjunct professors who have been relieved of their teaching responsibilities have informed “Etemad,” this decision by the president of the Azad University has been implemented without prior notification, and they have lost their only source of income with no other employment opportunities in sight. In addition, many of them have taught at the Azad University for a decade or more and have exceeded the maximum age for employment in university faculties or government agencies.

Recent developments indicate an increased trend of threats against students and the sudden displacement of a significant number of professors, both of which are having a significant impact on the academic community in Iran.

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