March 15, 2023

Iran and Saudi Arabia resume relations, attack on prisoners who support Mousavi, new wave of protests in Iran and more

Week of March 13th, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

After a seven-year break, Iran and Saudi Arabia resume relations

Iranian domestic media announced an agreement by publishing the joint statement of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the deal’s mediator,China. Iran’s National Security Council Secretary and his Saudi counterpart concluded the agreement in Beijing on Friday, March 10, according to ISNA.

The statement was signed by Ali Shamkhani, Mosaad bin Mohammad Al-Aiban, member of the Saudi Council of Ministers, and Wang Yi, member of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Shamkhani, Khamenei’s representative, has been in Beijing since Monday, March 6. The four-day negotiations followed Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to China in February.

According to the joint statement, “the Iranian side warmly welcomes China’s initiative for peace and stability which promotes dialogue between the governments of the Persian Gulf. It supports the efforts of regional countries to strengthen unity and harmony, resolve differences through dialogue, and foster good neighborliness.”

Some experts expressed cautious optimism about the agreement as a major shift by hardliners who currently control all parts of the Iranian government. Ahmad Zeidabadi explained: “Iran has placed itself in a position where any open conflict with China could have unprecedented consequences. China’s power is also used by the Arab countries of the southern Persian Gulf to balance out the influence of America, and as a result of Chinese oil dependence and the high level of trade with Beijing, they have no intention of destroying their relationship. As a result, China’s mediation between Saudi Arabia and Iran can be evaluated as a success until it reaches its final point, especially since the Chinese have probably defined their role to monitor the implementation process and put pressure on the uncoordinated side if necessary.” 

Zeidabadi continued, “Thus, it is unlikely that the forces opposed to this process, especially inside Iran, will be able to sabotage the process. The fact that some of these forces have now accepted the agreement in complete contradiction to their past positions is a clear indication that their conventional function and even their existential philosophy have ended!”

Abbas Abdi, another well-known expert, considers Iran’s entry into a new stage of foreign policy as its most significant achievement. “This new phase of ours should be accompanied by an internal evolution in the analysis of foreign issues as well, as until now the forces in favor of the status quo analyzed and interpreted foreign relations and issues ideologically and unrealistically, focusing on Islam and disbelief, right and wrong, and observing similar dualities, but the reality is completely different.” 

The Iranian newspaper Kayhan, which has often opposed relations with Saudi Arabia, welcomed the deal: “After seven years, Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassiesy and agency offices within two months. As a result of the agreement, the diplomacy of the West Asia region has changed, and America and Israel have been dealt a blow.”

The European Union, the United States, France, Russia, Turkey, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Syria have all officially welcomed this agreement, believing it could be an important step towards regional de-escalation.

John Kirby, White House spokesman, stated: “We support any efforts to de-escalate tensions there and in the region. We think it’s in our interests, and it’s something that we worked on through our own effective combination of deterrence and diplomacy.”

In prison, security forces pressure supporters of Mousavi’s statement

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a political activist who is imprisoned in Evin prison, wrote a letter about an attack on the cell where he is staying with Saeed Madani and Hossein Razzagh. This was considered a response to their support for Mir Hossein Mousavi’s statement calling for a referendum. Mr. Tajzadeh wrote the open letter from Ward 4 of Evin prison, addressed to the Islamic Republic’s leader, saying that on Saturday night ”prison inspectors again raided our room in Evin under your appointees’ supervision. During this lengthy and unusual search, they took personal notes from Saeed Madani and me.”

In the continuation of this letter, he emphasized that “the recording of notes clearly violates the law and regulations of the Prisons Organization,” and asked Ali Khamenei: “How does this measure fit with the announcement of amnesty for the prisoners? And why do you violate your critics’ inalienable and basic rights even after unjustly imprisoning them?”

Dozens of arrests in response to anti-government slogans on Chaharshanbeh Suri

In some Iranian cities, such as Tehran, Sanandaj, Mashhad, and Kamiyaran, protesters once again chanted slogans against the government on Chaharshanbeh Suri. Iran’s Ministry of Information announced the arrests of dozens of people simultaneously with the call for protest rallies. In addition, the agency warned against “multiple conspiracies” and “sabotage.”

A video of protests in Sanandaj was published on social networks, in which protestors chanted “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” and “Death to the dictator.” An organization that monitors the human rights situation in Kurdistan, Hengaw, published the video saying it took place on March 13.

Protest pictures were also published on March 13 in Tehran, Kamiyaran, and Mashhad. The protesters in Ekbatan chanted, “We are here again, the uprising continues.” The first day of the three-day protests in different cities of Iran began on Monday to coincide with Chaharshanbe Suri events.

Ekbatan girls dance on March 8

On March 8, International Women’s Day, a video was posted on social media showing a group of girls dancing to the song “Calm Down” by Rema and Selena Gomez in Ekbatan town. During the making of this video, the Security officers of Ekbatan settlement harassed the girls, but the residents of the settlement supported them and sent them kisses from their windows.

According to the Twitter account of “Shahrak Ekbatan”, the girls were arrested and forced to “confess”. According to a tweet published on Monday March 13, they were arrested by the “Judicial Authority” of the Islamic Republic and forced to confess in front of the camera after “two days of detention.” Video of the forced confessions of these five people was posted on their dance instructor’s Instagram account, according to the report.

Activists from “Feminists for Gina” network criticize “alternatives from above” at March 8 press conference

In a press conference at Suez University in London, feminist activists criticized “alternatives from above” and emphasized their relationship to Iran and regional movements. It was organized by the “Feminists for Gina” network, which has held protests and rallies outside Iran in the past few months.

The women’s movement activist Parvin Ardalan criticized “alternative governments from above” in this program and warned: “Finding an alternative government from above does not change the structure of society. Such an approach is contrary to a free woman’s life, and perpetuates the patriarchal structure. It doesn’t make sense that we oppose the Islamic dictatorship, and try to restore the monarchy under an individual or constitutional leader and a ‘good king.'” 

Ardalan argued: “The main question against alternative-ization from above and the imposition of any alternative government model such as republic, monarchy, constitutional monarchy, or federal system along with generalizations about secularism, federalism, and democracy is what happens after these alternatives are built? The main issue is how to act so that after passing through the tyranny of the Islamic Republic, we don’t get trapped in it again.”

More than 30 students prevented from entering Allameh Tabatabai University

Student activist Zia Nabavi says that more than 30 students have been barred from entering Allameh Tabatabai University after a protest rally against the chain poisonings was held at the university. On his Instagram, Mr. Nabavi wrote that yesterday when he went to enter the university, he noticed he was “banned” and blocked from entering.

Tuesday’s (March 7) demonstration against the poisonings at Allameh University was met with violence by the university’s security, according to reports. Previously, Mr. Nabavi wrote about this rally: “With the call of the teachers’ coordination council, students gathered in the university hall. Most of the time during the gathering, they were harassed and physically attacked by university security officers. The security officers repeatedly took a number of students from the crowd and dragged them on the ground to the exit door. Students refused to let them take each student out of the university door and hand them over to the security officers each time.”

Iranian artists protesting prohibited from buying or selling property

According to a list from the Real Estate and Documents Registration Organization obtained by BBC, dozens of people have been “banned” from buying or selling homes and properties by Tehran’s public prosecutor’s office, including artists and other figures who have participated in protests. In this list, well-known artists are included, such as Taraneh Alidousti, Asghar Farhadi, Kayhan Kalhor, and Mehdi Yerahi. Following the killing of Mahsa (Gina) Amini by the Iranian police, these artists, whose names appear at the top of the document registration organization’s list, accompanied protests.

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