June 7, 2023

Iran Addresses Key Nuclear Queries in recent IAEA Report, Khamenei Accuses Western Forces of Instigating Last Year’s Protests, Mysterious Circumstances Surround Death of Former Iranian Police Volunteer and Student, and more

Week of June 5, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

Iran Addresses Key Nuclear Queries in Recent IAEA Report

As global scrutiny over Iran’s nuclear ambitions intensifies, the nation has addressed two key inquiries from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concerning highly enriched uranium particles and a site linked with man-made uranium, according to classified documents obtained by The Associated Press. The confidential reports emerged amid escalating disputes between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program and its alleged supply of bomb-carrying drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.

IAEA reports, shared among member nations, clarified that questions about uranium particles enriched to 83.7% at Iran’s underground Fordo facility have been settled. Iran has attributed these particles to variations in its ongoing enrichment processes. The reports confirm that IAEA inspectors have no further queries on this matter. Moreover, the IAEA has also concluded its investigation of artificial uranium traces at Marivan, a site near Abadeh, southeast of Tehran. The IAEA described Iran’s technical explanation as “possible,” stopping short of thorough satisfaction. Previously associated with Iran’s secret military nuclear program, Marivan was suspected of being a site where high explosive tests with possible application to nuclear weaponry were conducted in the early 2000s. Regardless, this tentative progress somewhat eases the mounting pressure on Tehran since it ramped up its nuclear program after the U.S.’s 2018 exit from the international nuclear agreement.

Despite these clarifications included in the IAEA reports, Iran continues to stockpile uranium at near weapons-grade levels, exacerbating international tensions. Under the 2015 nuclear agreement, Iran’s uranium stash was limited to 300 kilograms, and enrichment capped at 3.67%. However, following the U.S.’s 2018 withdrawal, Iran retaliated by significantly escalating its nuclear activities. As of May 13, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was approximately 4,744.5 kilograms, with around 114.1 kilograms enriched to 60% purity.

Nevertheless, U.S. Intelligence agencies maintain that Iran is not actively seeking to develop nuclear weapons. At a Press Briefing, the U.S. State Department reaffirmed President Biden’s commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weaponry. Separately, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken labeled Iran as Israel’s most significant threat and reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to a diplomatic resolution. Similarly, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, during a New York conference, emphasized the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran and underscored Israel’s readiness to act, declaring, “We cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”

Simultaneously, the European Union (EU) has expressed grave concerns over Iran’s nuclear progress. The EU’s comments, which echoed the apprehensions of nine other countries, spotlight the increasing difficulty of maintaining diplomatic negotiations. The EU criticized Iran’s refusal to accept proposals to restore the JCPOA agreement and urged Iran to abandon its current nuclear course.

Despite the mounting tension, talk of diplomatic efforts continue to circulate. Last week, reports indicated Brett McGurk–President Biden’s Senior Advisor on Middle East Affairs– took a quiet trip to Oman last month, ostensibly to discuss a new diplomatic initiative concerning Iran’s nuclear program. 

Reviving Diplomacy: US and Iran’s Tentative Talks Amid Tensions over Nuclear Program

In what has been highlighted as the first direct communication since the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under Donald Trump’s administration, Robert Malley, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran Affairs, has reportedly held multiple meetings with Amir Saeed Irwani, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations. The London edition of the Financial Times indicated that the discussions revolved mainly around the prospect of a prisoner exchange with Iran, given that at least three Iranian-American citizens are currently imprisoned in the Islamic Republic.

Following the halt of diplomatic initiatives due at least in part to Iran’s internal crisis and protests in September 2022, the U.S. and European nations are now resuming conversations about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Their apprehension arises from the Islamic Republic’s increasingly aggressive nuclear activity, which many believe could ignite a regional war. Western diplomatic sources told the Financial Times that Iran’s decision-making process seems “chaotic,” raising concerns about a potential war with Israel.

As tensions escalated, Tehran seemed to reject draft proposals to reanimate the 2015 Nuclear Agreement leading up to September 2022 before executing a violent crackdown on anti-regime protesters, continuing to sell armed drones to Russia, and detaining several European nationals. However, recent months have witnessed contact between Iranian and European officials, including a meeting between representatives from France, Germany, and the U.K. (the E3) and Ali Bagheri Kani, Iran’s nuclear negotiator.

With the U.S. expressing a desire to “communicate with Iran and deliver messages when it is in America’s interest to do so,” speculation has increased about possible prisoner exchanges with Iran and potentially broader de escalation. Recent statements by U.S. officials indicate that reviving the 2015 nuclear deal is not currently on the agenda. Some potential scenarios include an interim deal or other de-escalatory measures by both parties that could see Iran reducing its enrichment levels in exchange for some sanctions relief.

Despite this, there is skepticism about Iran’s commitment to addressing the nuclear issue and President Biden’s willingness to negotiate a deal ahead of the next U.S. election cycle. As Tehran continues to enrich uranium to near-weapons-grade levels, the international community remains on high alert, closely monitoring the situation.

Khamenei Accuses Western Forces of Instigating Last Year’s Protests On the 34th commemoration of Ruhollah Khomeini’s passing

Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, notably labeled last year’s nationwide protests as “riots” and a product of “adversarial endeavors.” In comments which he has made before, Khamenei derided the demonstrators as foot soldiers for the revolt, blaming their efforts on western forces.

In his speech, Khamenei asserted: “Last fall’s riots in Iran were designed in Western Think thanks, & Western security services provided media & weapons support. Some senior, Western government officials even took commemorative photos with the rioters. They thought the Islamic Republic was done. Those fools were wrong.”

The 2022 nationwide protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in an Ershad Patrol detention center after she had been beaten in a police van. Human rights organizations report that nearly 500 individuals, including 70 children, were killed during the protests. However, Khamenei’s account of events does not align with the reality of these protests, which began in response to the death of Amini and public opposition to the actions of the Ershad Patrol.

According to the Judiciary, last year’s protests led to tens of thousands of arrests by the Islamic Republic’s security forces, with seven protesters executed so far. Moreover, around 100 journalists were arrested, tried, imprisoned, or summoned during these protests. Khamenei further emphasized that retreating from ‘arrogance’ and ‘global Zionism’ would not diminish external hostility towards the Iranian nation. He accused western forces of attempting to return Iran to a pre-revolutionary state of dependence and loss of identity.

According to Khamenei, the primary goal of these western efforts is to “weaken the faith of the people and extinguish the flame of hope in their hearts”. He called last year’s protests the latest in a string of efforts by enemies of the state. Khamenei also highlighted the importance of the upcoming elections, urging participation despite the “enemy” attempting to discourage participation. His comments came amid a record low voter turnout in the previous presidential elections, with less than 50% of the population participating. Critics within the Islamic Republic’s reformist faction argue that the Guardian Council’s supervisory powers over the elections deter public participation. Other analysts point to the lack of freedom across all sectors in the current system as the reason for the lack of widespread public participation.

Iranian Embassy in Saudi Arabia Reopens as U.S. Secretary of State Visits the Region

The Iranian embassy in Saudi Arabia is set to be officially reopened, following an agreement in March 2023 to resume relations between the two nations. This announcement coincides with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s upcoming three-day visit to Jeddah, just ahead of the embassy’s reopening. Nasser Kanani, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, confirmed that the Iranian embassy in Riyadh and its consulate in Jeddah would be operational beginning on June 7 and 8. 

Simultaneously, reports from Iranian media suggest that Iranian ambassador Ali Najafi has recently hosted his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq at the country’s embassy in Muscat, the capital of Oman. Oman has consistently played a mediating role in Iran’s interactions with its regional and international rivals.

Speculation suggests that Blinken’s visit aims to reinforce the U.S.-Saudi ties, which have been somewhat strained recently. As a long-standing ally of Washington, the highest U.S. diplomatic official apparently hopes to facilitate the normalization of Saudi-Israeli relations and propel peace talks to resolve conflicts in Sudan and Yemen. Blinken’s trip has attracted international media attention, with AFP highlighting the changing alliances and coalitions in the Middle East, specifically emphasizing the resumption of Iranian-Saudi relations–mediated by China–as a significant change in the regional landscape.

Before Blinken’s visit, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Benaim acknowledged to AFP that “we have a lot of work to do.” Blinken is expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, followed by a visit to Riyadh on June 7 to attend the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council meeting.

Iranian Military Movements in Kurdistan: A Strategic Maneuver or Escalation of Pressure?

Reports of heavy military equipment movement by the Iranian government within the Kurdistan regions of Iran have been confirmed by Abdullah Azarbar, a top-ranking official from the Kurdish Komle party. As images and news of this development emerged, Azarbar pointed toward the recently established security pact between Tehran and Baghdad, suggesting that the escalated pressure on Kurdish factions opposed to the Islamic Republic has led to their decreased media activities and gatherings.

Recent months have seen an upsurge in Iranian airstrikes against Kurdish parties, as well as collaboration between the Iranian government and Iraqi central administration to further restrict and apply pressure to these groups. This upsurge has led to the demise of 22 Kurdistan Democratic Party members and 8 Kurdistan Freedom Party members in the aftermath of lethal airstrikes launched by the Iranian government on the regional headquarters of Kurdish opposition parties.

Hengav, a human rights organization focused on issues concerning Iranian Kurds, released images demonstrating the mobilization of a substantial military apparatus “towards the borders of Kurdistan.” Additional reports of the movement of heavy military equipment from Diwandre and Bukan to the Bashmaq border have also been conveyed to BBC. Speaking to BBC Persian, Azarbar stated, “Given the Islamic Republic’s current confrontations along its eastern frontiers, it is determined to remind the West that Iran hasn’t been overlooked. Our camps are constantly under threat. They also staged a sequence of operations and military maneuvers amid the Azerbaijan Republic conflicts.”

Azarbar argued that the transferred artillery near Iran’s borders with the Kurdistan Region is not for long-range and appears to be more of a tactical maneuver. The Kodar Committee, an affiliate of Pejak — an Iranian Kurdish group in opposition to the Islamic Republic–announced that they are looking into the issue.

Azarbar insisted that the transfer of military gear cannot be divorced from the recent security agreement between Iran and Iraq in March, when both the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office and Iran’s Supreme National Security Council jointly declared an agreement targeting “border security.” This announcement came in the wake of the Islamic Republic’s extensive cross-border missile and drone attacks against various Kurdish opposition factions in northern Iraq. Azarbar claimed that, “The strategic security agreement signed between Iran and Iraq could potentially inflict more pressure on the Kurdistan Regional Government than on the actual execution of the pact.”

Amid the pressure, the Kurdish Komle leadership reiterated that their response has remained non-violent, even in the face of bombings. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Kurdistan Komle party, both based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, were accused by the Islamic Republic of Iran, along with Pejak, of having a hand in the nationwide protests that erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini. Azarbar confirmed an increase of that pressure on Iranian Kurdish parties and mounting “restrictions” following the security pact between Tehran and Baghdad. The Kurdistan Komle party leadership committee confirmed the limitations on their media activity and mobility. Both the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi government condemned these attacks.

Although Azarbar denied any explicit demand from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government to disarm, he did concede to being asked to reduce military activity and border traffic. He attributed most of the pressure to the central government of Iraq, emphasizing that the constraints have had a ripple effect on Iraqi Kurdistan due to its reliance on Baghdad for budget and international relations. Azarbar acknowledged the severity of the pressures, but highlighted the significant resistance put up by the Iranian Kurdish opposition, a testament to the ongoing strife in the region.

Mysterious Circumstances Surround Death of Former Iranian Police Volunteer and Student

In a recent development, Iranian authorities have announced the demise of a former female police volunteer and student – Mansoureh Sagvand – in an event some have labeled as “suspicious”. Sagvand, who had notably ceased her association with the police after the series of anti-regime protests this past fall, choosing instead to support the protesters, faced detainment and death threats as a consequence. In contrast, the Chief Justice of Ilam Province firmly rejected allegations of any summons or arrest made against her.

Medical officials from Abdanan city’s emergency department and Hazrat Rasool Akram hospital, based in Ilam province, confirmed on Sunday, June 4, the death of Mansoureh Sagvand. Sagvand was 18 years old and a law student at Payam Noor Abdanan University. The cause of death was formally reported as cardio-respiratory arrest.

Tasnim news agency, closely associated with Iranian security sources, reported on Monday that Sagvand had had ties to the police force. According to the Khorramabad governor, while Sagvand was not a police employee, she had a brief tenure as a “police assistant”. This position, originally created by the Iranian police to educate students about traffic rules, has faced criticism for allegedly being used to suppress recent protests.

Discussing Sagvand’s death, the governor of Khorramabad stated that further details would be shared with the province’s citizens. The Chief Justice of Ilam Province, during an interview with Islamic Republic of Iran Radio, stated that a preliminary forensic examination found “no marks and signs of conflict or trauma on the body”, and that samples had been taken to establish the cause of death.

The Dodban account, which stands with protesters in Iran, claimed that Sagvand had confided to a friend about “constant death threats from intelligence”. An Instagram post from an account attributed to Sagvand stated, “They are scaring us with death as if we were alive. One day forever, I will sacrifice my life for the country, the supporter of Iran.” According to the Chief Justice of Ilam province, Sagvand had alerted a friend that she was unwell, which prompted her friend and his wife to visit Sagvand’s house, where they found Sagvand on the floor, prompting a call to emergency services.

Emergency personnel from Ilam were dispatched to an Abdanan city residence on the evening of June 4, where they reportedly found Sagvand in a state of “cardiac and respiratory arrest and cyanosis”. Despite the attempted resuscitation at the scene and in the ambulance en route to the hospital, efforts to revive Sagvand were unsuccessful. The head of Rasul Akram Hospital, Abdanan, confirmed the arrival of the 18-year-old patient, and the cardiorespiratory arrest she had experienced. Despite an hour of attempted revival by the hospital’s emergency staff, the measures were ineffective, leading to the cessation of treatment procedures at 16:10, as per the doctor’s orders.

Unprecedented Trial of an Iranian Government Official in 2022 Protests: Deliberate Homicide of Mehran Samak Affirmed

In the singular case of judicial action taken in relation to the 2022 protests in Iran, the military court has affirmed the “deliberate murder” of Mehran Samak. According to Mehran Samak’s family lawyer, Majid Ahmadi, who relayed the information to “Shabake Sharq”, the former commander of the Bandar Anzali police force, identified as Jafar Javanmardi, is the primary suspect. Javanmardi had been relieved of his post in the Bandar Anzali police force subsequent to Samak’s demise. But given that he was serving in a military role during the time of the shooting, so his case was delegated to a military court. The defendant’s legal representatives contested the verdict, resulting in the case’s escalation to the Supreme Court.

Mehran Samak, 27, was fatally shot while honking his car horn to celebrate the defeat of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s national football team by the United States in the World Cup. Although Ahmadi did not specifically disclose the judgment, the penalty for deliberate murder under Iranian law typically involves execution.

This case represents the only trial amid the extensive fatalities incurred by protestors during the onslaught by Iranian government agents during the 2022 demonstrations. Numerous individuals have been apprehended or executed concerning the deaths of government personnel during last year’s nationwide unrest. Ahmadi has now confirmed that his client’s case has been forwarded to the Supreme Court, also noting that the ex-commander of the Bandar Anzali police force remains in detention.

Public demonstrations instigated by the killing of Mehsa Amini, a detainee at the Irshad Patrol, in September 2022 led to the death of hundreds of protestors. Amini’s death triggered widespread outcry among social media users, with agents reported to have disrupted the third and seventh day memorial events for her.

Mohammad Javad Zarif’s Fierce Defense of Iran’s Diplomacy

In the wake of Ayatollah Khamenei’s critique of the Rouhani and Khatami governments, former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif staunchly defended the administrations’ track record. Speaking on the Clubhouse platform, which garnered an audience of over 50,000, Zarif also addressed claims made by the judicial and security authorities of the Islamic Republic, affiliates of the People’s Mojahedin, and the Israeli lobby. 

Responding to Ayatollah Khamenei’s remark about Iran being labeled as the “Axis of Evil” under President Bush Jr.’s rule, Zarif suggested that the hardliners within Iran, known for their proximity to the leadership of the Islamic Republic, were deliberately undermining Iran-U.S. negotiations. He referenced the discovery of the “Karnei” ship allegedly carrying arms for Arafat in the West Bank, an incident that exacerbated tensions with Israel in January 2002 this incident became an excuse for branding Iran part of the “axis of evil”.

Zarif reminded listeners that Iran had previously worked with the U.S. in the Bonn conference to dismantle the Taliban’s rule and establish a new Afghan government, actions that had garnered only gratitude from American officials. He also mentioned that the cooperation to dismantle the Taliban was fully supported by General Ghasem Soleimani.

Additionally, Zarif unveiled that President Trump had extended an invitation to him for a meeting at the White House. However, this invitation was reportedly rejected by Tehran officials. Zarif alleged that despite Trump’s willingness to engage, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, alongside Benjamin Netanyahu and John Bolton, obstructed progress on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Further in his address, Zarif criticized the U.S. for resisting prisoner exchanges, citing his own efforts to secure the release of Siamak Namazi. He questioned the American administration’s failure to negotiate the exchange, considering the imbalance of prisoners between the two nations.

Finally, Zarif responded to the internal opposition’s allegations against the JCPOA. He questioned their desire to revive the agreement if they considered it a betrayal, declaring that those responsible for the country’s current state will be held accountable in due time.

Iran Unveils First Hypersonic Ballistic Missile Amid International Concerns

Iran has unveiled its first hypersonic ballistic missile, the “Fattah,” in a ceremony attended by President Ebrahim Raisi and top-ranking commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, according to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official news agency, IRNA. The missile, with a range of 1,400 km and a terminal velocity of Mach 13-15, was developed by the IRGC Aerospace division. Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, had previously announced in November that Iran had successfully created hypersonic missiles capable of evading missile defense systems.

Hypersonic missiles, like their ballistic counterparts, can be armed with nuclear warheads and can reach speeds many times greater than the speed of sound. These weapons can also travel at a lower altitude in the atmosphere and hit targets at a significantly faster speed. Currently, the U.S., China, Russia, and North Korea claim to have produced hypersonic missiles as well

The unveiling of the “Fattah” missile coincided with Iran’s Defense Ministry’s recent disclosure of its newest missile, the “Khyber.” With a 2,000 km range, this missile, produced by the Ministry’s Aerospace Industries Organization, is reportedly a part of the “Khorramshahr Ballistic” missile generation. In response to the revelation, the French government criticized the test of the long-range missile as a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The U.S. State Department echoed the sentiment, labeling Iran’s ballistic missile development as a “serious threat” to regional and global security.

The unveiling comes amidst ongoing debates over the Islamic Republic’s commitment to advancing its “defensive” missile program – a contentious issue between Iran and the nations involved in the negotiations to revive the JCPOA. Despite decades of U.S. sanctions, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) previously noted that Iran has managed to maintain the most extensive missile program in the Middle East, surpassing even Israel’s missile program.

Imprisonment of Zahra and Hoda Tohidi: Judiciary System Breaches Amnesty for Political Prisoners

The lawyers for Zahra and Hoda Tahidi, political activists who are currently being held in Iran’s Evin Prison, continue to contend their clients’ eligibility for the country’s declared amnesty. However, Iran’s Judiciary News Agency, Mizan, has refuted these claims. Mizan reported that based on the facts of the case and the prosecutor’s office interrogations, the Tahidi sisters had affiliations with hostile and subversive groups. This alleged affiliation breaches the terms of the Supreme Leader’s amnesty declared in February 2023, which stipulates non-membership in such groups as a prerequisite for amnesty.

Countering Mizan’s report, Saeed Khalili, representing the Tahidi sisters, took to Twitter to reject the claims. Khalili insisted that his clients had no association with opposing or subversive groups. He emphasized that there were no legitimate reasons or evidence to support the accusations against his clients, insisting that they met all the necessary conditions for amnesty. According to Khalili, the branch office manager in the Judiciary had informed him on two occasions that both sisters had been pardoned and that their case had been closed with a suspension of prosecution.

Khalili’s assertions followed a May 30 report from Shargh newspaper detailing the sisters’ arrest and subsequent transfer to Evin prison. This arrest reportedly followed a telephone summons to Branch I of the execution of sentences in Tehran. The report noted that the sisters’ sentences were not registered in the Sana system and their lawyers were not informed about the impending execution of the prison sentences. Responding to the report, Khalili expressed his confidence that his clients had been pardoned, with their prosecution being terminated. He further alleged that this situation arose due to improper communication of court judgments and potentially illegal pressure from security officers.

Mizan’s response, published on June 3, claimed that a written notice was sent to the sisters via the Sana system and that Zahra and Hoda’s brother, Ali Tohidi, was informed that the summons pertained to the execution of their sentences. However, Ali Tohidi, strongly denied these claims on Twitter. He emphasized that neither he nor his sisters had been made aware of the sentence execution during any of their interactions with the execution office.

Iran’s Judiciary System Announces International Inspection of Qarchak Prison Conducted Last Week

Amid emerging allegations of female political prisoners undergoing strip searches in facilities including Qarchak prison, an inspection tour by a 36-member delegation was reportedly carried out on Wednesday, May 31, according to Mizan news agency, affiliated with Iran’s Judiciary. This delegation included diplomats and ambassadors from 28 undisclosed countries, as well as representatives from various international organizations.

The three-hour tour, arranged by the Prisons Organization in conjunction with the Human Rights Headquarters of the Islamic Republic of Iran, permitted the visiting delegation to observe several sections of Qarchak prison, focusing particularly on the inmates’ skill training and employment workshops. As of yet, there have been no revelations regarding the identities of the countries or international organizations involved, and no images from the visit have been made public.

Kazem Gharibabadi, the Deputy of International Affairs of the Judiciary, justified the selection of this penitentiary for the visit, citing the desire to showcase the “assorted and undeniable services and facilities” offered to female inmates and to facilitate a “proper comprehension of the principles of Islamic prisons”. Qarchak women’s prison has been under international scrutiny, having been sanctioned by the United States, with the European Union following suit last year after a series of reports highlighting inadequate, inhumane conditions and both physical and psychological violence against prisoners.

In response to recent reports alleging strip searches of female political prisoners during their detention, Iran’s Judiciary Agency dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign against the government. However, the agency did partially confirm the reports, indicating that modern technological equipment is used for body searches of accused and convicted individuals prior to their admittance into the prison, aiming to prevent the smuggling of forbidden items, such as narcotics and mobile phones.

Earlier, a high-profile actress and two women’s rights activists had reportedly been forced to undress during their arrests or summons, describing the experience as distressing and a means to humiliate them. Following these claims, additional accounts have surfaced, including those from Mahnaz Afshar, a renowned Iranian actress currently residing abroad, and Zainab Zaman, a feminist activist and the daughter of the recently deceased Iranian pop singer Hossein Zaman. Both of these individuals also alleged being forced to undress during their interactions with the authorities in Qarchak Prison.

Southeastern Drought Predicted to Trigger Mass Migration from Sistan and Baluchistan, Iran

The escalating drought crisis in Sistan and Baluchistan is expected to displace over half a million people, according to reports from Mehdi Zare, the head of Iran’s Earthquake Prediction Center and a notable researcher. The situation has reached alarming levels due to the ongoing Hirmand conflict between Iran and Afghanistan, severely impacting residents’ livelihoods.

The dire water shortage in this southeastern province has reached unprecedented levels, with the majority of the region’s wells running dry. Over 13 cities in Sistan and Baluchistan are grappling with this severe water crisis. Zare stated that rural inhabitants, who account for over half of the region’s population, are particularly affected, leading to a significant number of them migrating to neighboring provinces and other areas in the country in search of better living conditions. Zare called on the government to adopt environmentally-friendly measures to alleviate the impacts of the drought on the populace, stressing the urgency of the situation and the need for immediate action.

Nahid Kiani Clinches First Ever Women’s World Taekwondo Gold for Iran

Iran’s Nahid Kiani made history at the World Taekwondo Championships by securing the first gold medal for Iranian women in the competition. The minus 53 kg category player displayed extraordinary prowess against her Chinese opponent in the finals, emerging victorious in two consecutive rounds.

Kiani kicked off her journey to the finals with triumphant first-round matches against competitors from South Korea, Hungary, and Croatia. The semi-finals saw her pitted against a Russian competitor, in a match that extended to three rounds, eventually ending in Kiani’s favor.

Kiani’s victory as the sole medalist among the 15-member Iranian delegation, marks a significant moment in the tournament. The World Taekwondo Championships, hosted by the Republic of Azerbaijan in Baku, came to a close on Sunday, June 4. Previously on January 8, Kiani had shared a video of herself in defiance of the obligatory hijab, accompanied by the hashtags Woman, Life, Freedom. She posted the statement: “My silence is not from satisfaction.”

Following the release of this image, government-aligned media speculated about her possible retirement from the national team. However, she has yet to confirm her departure from Iran’s national women’s taekwondo team.

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