November 9, 2023

High-Level Diplomatic Meetings in Tehran Address Escalation of Israel-Gaza Conflict, Renowned Iranian Traditional Music Singer Golpa Passes Away at 89, and More

Week of November 6, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

High-Level Diplomatic Meetings in Tehran Address Escalation of Israel-Gaza Conflict

Mohammed Shia Sudani, the Prime Minister of Iraq, traveled to Tehran on November 6 and met with Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The meeting was held amid growing concerns regarding the escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict. The Iranian President, Ibrahim Raisi, was also present at this meeting.

Sudani’s visit to Tehran follows the Iraqi Prime Minister meeting with Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, in Baghdad on November 5. Since October 17, the Pentagon reports that U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Syria have been attacked by rockets and drones 38 times since Oct. 17, leading to at least 46 injuries to service members. This includes 7 attacks over the weekend of November 3-5. 

During his meeting with Sudani, Blinken emphasized the need to prevent the spread of conflict throughout the region and the increasing attacks from Iran-backed militia groups on U.S. forces. According to General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesperson, rockets and drones were used in most of the attacks on U.S. forces, which are believed to have been launched by Iranian-associated groups. Iranian officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Interior, and the Iranian Ambassador, have rejected the statements of American officials and denied any involvement in attacks on U.S. forces in the region.

On November 8th, United States military forces announced another airstrike against a facility located in Eastern Syria allegedly utilized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and affiliated groups. The Pentagon stated the strike was carried out in self-defense following the series of surging attacks against U.S. forces by IRGC-Quds affiliates over the past month. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated “The United States is fully prepared to take further necessary measures to protect our people and our facilities. We urge against any escalation.”

During the meeting with Sudani, Ayatollah Khamenei called for “increased political pressure on the United States and Israel.” He continued, stating “The Zionist regime cannot carry out its activities without the support of the United States military and political forces.” According to him, Israel is the “real loser” in this conflict and cannot regain its lost dignity. Iran’s Supreme Leader has spoken of increasing efforts to exert political pressure on the United States and Israel, and said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq can play a role and have an impact on this issue when they work together.”

As reported by Iranian media, the Prime Minister of Iraq expressed deep sorrow over the Israeli ground attack on Gaza, which he referred to as “a collective revenge of this small region.” Further, he criticized the silence of the international community and human rights advocates regarding the developments in Gaza.

Iranian media outlets reported simultaneously that Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, stated that American authorities “have sent us a message in the past three days that we are seeking a ceasefire and have taken actions in this regard,” but he dismissed this assertion and cast the U.S. as complicit in the civilian toll in Gaza. In addition, Mr. Abdollahian was reported to have spoken over the phone with Faisal bin Farhan, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, concerning an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the developments in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

An increase in diplomatic activity in the region coincided with the visit of Iraq’s Prime Minister to Tehran. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, visited Tehran for the second time in recent days, where he met with Ayatollah Khamenei. Iran, according to regional observers, has adopted a “dual policy” in response to the Gaza developments, praising the attack on Israel on the one hand, while denying any direct involvement with the conflict on the other. After Hamas attacked Israel, Khamenei denied any Iranian involvement in the attack four days later and stated that it was “the work of the Palestinians.”

Former President Hassan Rouhani and former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued remarks on the Israel-Palestine war. Rouhani expressed concern over Iran being drawn into war, noting “We are not in a state of war, but we are not far from it either. A mistake, a wrong decision, or a miscalculation could ignite the flames of war.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, asserted that Hamas is not a proxy of Iran, but nonetheless praised the government’s policy of not expanding war. According to Mr. Zarif’s remarks on social media, Iran is obliged to defend the oppressed, but this does not imply that we will fight in their place. As with sanctions, Zarif cautioned that, in the event of a war, it is the people who will bear the costs, not the government.

Dozens Killed in Fire Incident at Addiction Rehabilitation Center in Langroud, Arson Suspect Arrested

At least 32 people were killed in a fire at an addiction rehabilitation center in Langroud, Gilan Province. A total of 12 additional individuals were reported to have been transported to hospitals.

On November 3, flames and smoke filled the streets in Langroud surrounding the rehabilitation facility at 5:45 AM. Unofficial sources put the death toll as high as 36 individuals, with some perishing in the fire and others succumbing to smoke inhalation. Images and videos came in one after another and painted a grim picture of the tragedy.

Addiction counselors, doctors, and substance abuse experts provided insight into different aspects of the incident. A therapeutic physician who visited the center once or twice a week for treatment purposes revealed that there were 42 residents there, and the building did not meet standard safety requirements because it lacked an adequate heating system. According to another expert, the center offers voluntary addiction rehabilitation services. The high number of fatalities, however, indicates that regulations for compulsory addiction treatment centers were likely in effect, as individuals were unable to exit the building since the doors were reportedly locked.

The Chief Justice of Gilan Province indicated authorities responded immediately to the news and issued necessary judicial orders, including transferring the bodies of the victims to the legal medical center of the province. A detailed report will be provided after a thorough investigation has been conducted into the cause of the incident.

The Welfare Organization of Iran called for immediate attention to be given to the injured individuals following the fire and called for an investigation into what caused the fire in the facility. Ali-Mohammad Qaderi, the Head of the National Welfare Organization, instructed the Director-General of Welfare in Gilan Province to investigate this incident promptly and to take action against those responsible. Upon this request, a team composed of the Assistant Director of Social Health, the Office of Inspection and Performance Management, and the Chief Inspector of the Welfare Organization was dispatched to investigate and report on the incidents in Gilan Province.

As reported by Mehr News Agency, General Azizollah Maleki indicated that detectives and police intelligence officers were investigating the fire incident. Ultimately, an individual suspected of arson at the facility was apprehended while attempting to flee the province in Rudbar district.

The senior law enforcement official asserted that the suspect had confessed to the crime attributed to him. During his initial confession, the 28-year-old suspect admitted that, on the day of the incident, around 5 a.m, He climbed over the back wall of the camp and set fire to the building. Continuing, General Maleki stated that the suspect blamed the fire on personal disputes with the owner of the addiction treatment camp.


Renowned Iranian Traditional Music Singer Golpa Passes Away at 89

At the age of 89, one of Iran’s most prominent traditional music singers, Akbar Golpayegani – known as Golpa –  has passed away. In the years before the Iranian Revolution, Golpa was one of the most famous music singers in the country, and his fame was associated with Iranian National Radio’s music program, “Golha.” Golpa, like many other Iranian artists, became inactive following the Iranian Revolution in 1979 as a result of performance restrictions, commonly referred to as “house arrest.”

In 1934, Akbar Golpayegani was born in Tehran. In 1951, he began formal music and instrument training with his father at Farhang Elementary School. For the first time, Golpayegani joined an orchestra group in 1947. His association with top music masters began in 1948 when he became a member of the Music Association of the School System.

Among his most popular songs are “Saghi” (The Wine Bearer), “Darvish,” “I’m Intoxicated,” “White Hair,” “Give Me a Kiss,” and “Oh Love, Everything is an Excuse because of You.” He introduced traditional Iranian music in a new form in order to both honor traditional music and make it contemporary. 

For nine years, he studied Persian music under the guidance of the great Iranian music master, Nour Ali Khan Boroumand. He recalled that era, saying, “Nour Ali Khan Boroumand was not proficient in reading music, but he had close friends like the late Taherzadeh, Amir Qasemi, Adib Khansari, and Abdullah Khan Davami who used to gather at his house on Wednesdays and teach the rows of Iranian music, and I met those great singers there, which was similar to a classroom.”

As a youth, he realized that he should not simply replicate the methods of the past but must be creative as well. According to him, “I introduced a fresh presentation for ‘Mast Mastam Saghiya,’ a celebratory couplet, and ‘Caravan,’ a short song…I did not sing songs during the first sixteen years of my artistic career. I sang melodies, and these melodies fell into people’s mouths like songs, such as ‘Mast Mastam Saghiya, take my hand’.”

As one of the first four singers of the “Golhaye Javidan” he was invited by Davood Pirnia, the founder of the radio program named Golha. In 1994 and 1999, Golpa performed in the United States and in London. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Tehran in 2005. In addition, one of his songs was featured in an Italian film directed by Pasolini titled “Medea.”

Reprimands and Disciplinary Actions: Over 50 Students Summoned in a Week

As a result of the increasing presence of ‘hijab enforcers’ within the campuses of the University of Tehran, the Telegram channel ‘National Student Guild Councils’ has reported an unprecedented wave of student summonses to disciplinary committees. National Student Guild Councils stated in their report: “In the past two weeks, a significant number of students have been summoned to disciplinary committees and have received severe penalties, mostly for violating the dress code.” 

The report continued: ‘In addition to students who received summonses for the first time and were forced to sign commitment forms, a substantial number of students whose penalties were pending were informed by a simple phone call from the disciplinary committee that their pending penalties had been enforced.’ Despite the peak of nationwide protests for women’s rights and freedom last year, the recent surge in summons is unprecedented.


Ghasem Abesteh Executed After 14 Years in Detention

According to the Kurdish Human Rights Network, Ghasem Abesteh was executed in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj on Monday, November 5th. In a joint trial with six other Kurdish citizens, Abesteh was previously sentenced to death on charges of “corruption on earth,” a charge that human rights activists considered unjust throughout the trial.

According to Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabai, their lawyer, “These seven individuals were arrested in Mahabad. Their primary charge was the murder of a Sunni cleric named Mullah Tina, which was alleged to be due to a difference of opinion. However, these seven claimed that they were not responsible.”

According to the Kurdish Human Rights Network, Abesteh was transferred to solitary confinement for the execution of his sentence on October 29th. In a telephone call on Monday, November 5th, prison authorities informed the family that he had been executed.

A 44-year-old father of two who hails from the city of Mahabad, Abesteh was detained by security forces on December 7, 2009 along with six other Kurdish citizens from the cities of Saqez and Mahabad: Davoud Abdollahi, Kamran Sheikhieh, Farhad Salimi, Khosrow Basharat, Anwar Khazri, and Ayoub Karimi. In this security detention center, these seven prisoners were interrogated for approximately eight months.

Following the conclusion of the interrogation period at the Urmia Information Office, these seven prisoners were transferred to the Evin Prison in Tehran and were placed in solitary confinement in cells 240 and 209 for a period of six months. In April 2012, they were transferred to Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj following the conclusion of their interrogations. The trial of these seven prisoners was conducted in March 2016 in Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Moghiseh, on charges of “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “corruption on earth.” Rajai Shahr Prison officially announced the death sentences of these prisoners on May 25, 2016.

Guterres: Islamic Republic Executions Alarming

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, expressed concern regarding the alarming increase in executions and death sentences in Iran since last autumn in his report to the General Assembly. The report was released on Wednesday, November 2nd, and covers approximately one year, from September of the previous year to August of the current year. 

According to the report, at least 419 individuals have been executed by the Iranian judicial system during the first seven months of the current year. It was noted in Guterres’ report that seven individuals were executed “in connection with or because of their participation in” nationwide protests. The protests, which began in September last year and were sparked by the killing of Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police, led to the execution of individuals including Mohsen Shekari, Majid Rezavand, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Mohammad Hosseini, Saleh Mirhashemi, Saeed Yaghoubi, and Majid Kazemi by the Islamic Republic’s judicial authorities, which were carried out subsequently.

According to Guterres, the UN Human Rights Office has received information regarding each of these cases indicating that “the judicial process does not consistently meet the requirements of a fair trial under international human rights law.”

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