Iranians Killed and Arrested in Protests Across the Country

On Friday November 15, Iran’s government sharply raised gas prices, further hurting Iranians who have already been struggling economically due to government mismanagement, corruption, and the effects of harsh U.S. sanctions. The price hike sparked protests in cities across the country, as Iranians took to the streets to air their rightful grievances and express their frustrations. However, as seen in the past, Iranian authorities have confronted protestors with inexcusable violence and have worked to stifle the demonstrations.

 

Four days in, the protests have continued to rock different parts of the country, with banks and other buildings set on fire as Iranians resist the security forces who have killed at least 12 people, while other estimates, according to sources on Twitter, range as high as 200. Over 1,000 people have been reportedly arrested, one of which includes Sepideh Gholian, a 22 year old labor activist who had been released from prison only a few weeks ago. Gholian was first arrested in January of 2019 for her participation in workers protests at Haft-Tappeh Sugar Cane Company. After a video of her was posted online protesting the increase in gas prices, she was arrested again.

 

To add to their draconian assault on the rights of Iranians to assemble and protest, Iranian authorities have shut down internet services in an unprecedented online blackout, effectively cutting off Iranians from the outside world. Additionally, Iranian authorities have silenced domestic journalists to prevent Iranian media from criticizing the gas prices or covering the protests.

 

It is without question that the right to assemble, protest and express dissent is an inalienable right and recognized as such under international law. We condemn all use of lethal force and repression of the demonstrations. Iranian authorities cannot silence their people’s grievances through the use of force, or by controlling communications platforms such as news media and the internet. They will have to confront the calls of their citizens and address the economic burdens that ignited these protests.

NIAC Statement on Protests across Iran over Gas Price Hike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday, November 16, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mmostatabi@niacouncil.org 

WASHINGTON DC – Yesterday, protests erupted across Iran as the government announced an unexpected increase in and rationing of gasoline. Reports suggest that authorities have violently cracked down on the protests. 

In response to these developments, NIAC Senior Research Analyst Sina Toossi issued the following statement:

“NIAC is closely tracking reports of protests in many Iranian cities after the government announced an increase in the price of gasoline. NIAC condemns the Iranian government’s use of force used to disperse protestors, as seen in videos showing the deployment of riot police and tear gas in parts of Iran, as well as efforts to stifle communication by limiting internet access. The Iranian people have an inalienable right to peacefully demonstrate and express their economic and political grievances. The Iranian government denies them this right at its own peril.

“Ordinary Iranians have borne immense economic hardship due to government mismanagement and U.S. sanctions. Importantly, the Iranian political system is not monolithic and there are signs that more hardline elements seek to capitalize on public grievances to advance their own narrow aims. Rather than empower the Iranian people, the Trump administration’s fixation on ‘maximum pressure’ has served to embolden such forces. 

“The international community must push the Iranian government to abide by its human rights obligations, allow the Iranian people to peaceful demonstrate and air their grievances, and hold repressive forces to account for abuses. The protests are also occurring in the broader context of protests across the world and in the Middle East, as a consequence of government mismanagement and objections to price hikes on everyday commodities that hurt ordinary people. Under no circumstances should any government stifle the will of its people, and Iran arguably has a greater chasm of mistrust than most.

“NIAC also reiterates its call on the U.S. to end its policy of collectively punishing sanctions, which serve to impoverish ordinary Iranians and undermine hopes for democratic change. Starving the Iranian population only creates a destructive situation that eliminates avenues for the vital diplomacy necessary to secure a brighter future for the Iranian people.”

Rouhani Says a Deal was Possible at the UN

Week of November 11th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Rouhani Says a Deal was Possible at the UN

President Rouhani has said that during the UN General Assembly in September, “good proposals were given to break America’s sanctions.” Rouhani said Iran did not accept these proposals.

Rouhani said a deal could potentially have been reached if another U.S. president was in power: “We could have decided to break the sanctions. The situation was such that we had to trust the U.S. president which was a very difficult thing. Potentially if there was a different U.S. president, this could have been accomplished by September 23rd.”

In the leadup to the UN General Assembly in September, there were efforts from multiple sides to facilitate a new U.S.-Iran deal. This included an Iranian offer that it would return to full compliance with the JCPOA and agree to indefinitely to abide by the additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement—allowing for permanent intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities—in return for the complete lifting of U.S. sanctions.

At the time, there were also reports of the U.S. considering a French proposal for a credit line to Iran for oil purchases. As detailed in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered, after returning to Tehran from the UNGA, Rouhani said the U.S. had messaged its willingness to remove sanctions, but that the main hindering obstacle was on the sequencing of potential sanctions removal.

Rouhani further said in his speech this week that the country was not in a “normal condition and is in a difficult and complex situation.” He added: “When the country has problems selling oil, how are we supposed to govern the country? From the beginning of the revolution until now, we have not had such issues to sell oil and move an oil tanker.”

Rouhani also defended Iran staying in the JCPOA, both for security reasons and to benefit from the removal of a UN arms embargo next year. He stated: “We can exit the nuclear deal but the UN security council resolutions against Iran will return. Our interests are to stay in the JCPOA. We will preserve the JCPOA but at the same time gradually reduce our compliance.”

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Rouhani Spars with Judiciary Over Anti-Corruption Drive

President Rouhani and officials in his administration have criticized the judiciary for its approach to cracking down on corruption. Rouhani refenced the case of Babak Zanjani, who allegedly embezzled billions of dollars during the tenure of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani said regarding the case of the imprisoned Zanjani: “It is still not clear to us how someone stole 2.7 billion dollars and was sentenced to death, where this money has gone.”

Rouhani also accused the anti-corruption drive of not targeting the “big fish.” He further said to judiciary officials: “Our honorable prosecutors and judges should not be scared and should not focus on this faction or that faction. They should confront these cases with transparency.”

Rouhani added: “The people won’t be fooled by taking some people to court based on fighting corruption. The people need to know what happened to the enormous amounts of money taken from public funds.”

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, also censured the “propaganda” generated out of the judiciary’s anti-corruption crackdown. He said this media coverage was not in a way that showed the crackdown as “all-encompassing” [i.e. targeting people from all political factions].

In response, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi stated his institution won’t be distracted, stating: “We won’t be distracted by marginal disputes and will more resolutely than before continue our work confronting corruption.”

Raisi added: “Unity in our opinion is strategic and any division or disunity is the wish of the enemy.”

Since Raisi assumed the position of judiciary chief in March, his self-avowed primary aim has been to combat corruption. His critics say that he has partisan aims. Iran has an upcoming parliamentary election in February 2020, and candidates will begin to register for that election on December 1st.

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Gasoline to be Rationed, New Revenue Redistributed

The National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company announced that gasoline would begin to be rationed and the price set at different rates. The price of heavily subsidized gasoline will be increased by 50 percent (to 1500 tomans per liter). This price would hold for a consumption of 60 liters per month. Beyond that, a new “free rate” will be set at 3,000 tomans per liter (an increase of three times from the previous rate).

President Rouhani said that the proceeds from this gasoline price hike would go to help the poorer segments of society. Rouhani stated: “The main aim was, on one hand, for there not to be a lot of increased hardship for the people, and on the other, for people who have a normal daily consumption of gasoline for the price not to get expensive. For this reason, 60 liters is for one rate and the free rate is different.”

Rouhani said he would give a further explanation on how the increased revenue would help “approximately 75 percent” of society, or 60 million people. He said this segment of the population would receive the revenue from this gasoline price hike. He added: “We are making efforts to deposit this money monthly into the accounts of families. The first withdrawal can be made on November 22nd (the first of the month of Azar on the Iranian calendar.” 

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Officials Discuss Efforts at Negotiations with the UAE, Saudis

Abbas Mousavi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, said “political negotiations” are the only path to resolving regional problems. He said Iran would use “all of its capabilities” to create an environment for such negotiations.

Mousavi’s comments came in response to remarks by Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs. Gargash said that continued escalation in the region was to no country’s benefit and that the UAE believed space for “successful collective diplomacy” existed. He called for negotiations between Iran and regional and global powers on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to its regional policies.

Mousavi echoed the call for “dialogue and political negotiations” and reiterated several Iranian proposals. He called for a “forum for regional dialogue” and “non-aggression pacts.” He also cited the “Hormuz Peace Endeavor,” unveiled by President Rouhani at the UN General Assembly in September, as a sign of Iran’s “seriousness” in this regard.

In an interview on the sidelines of high-profile nonproliferation summit in Moscow, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi discussed regional developments. Araghchi said that Iran’s call for a “regional dialogue forum” had not been strongly welcomed by other regional states.

Araghchi said that “hidden hands” sought to increase divisions between Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. He said these actors wanted to take “things in a direction that the people do not want.”

Araghchi said that the Saudi King did not give a “positive response” to a recent letter from President Rouhani. He added that the only dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia now was on the Haj pilgrimage.

However, Araghchi acknowledged that there have been meetings between Iranian and Emirati officials. He stated: “The reactions of the Emiratis to the Hormuz Peace Endeavor was better [than the Saudis]. At the political level, reciprocal trips took place and in our belief, a greater understanding exists between Iran and the Emirates. We hope that a calmer atmosphere is created between Iran and the Emirates and this results in more calmness in the region.”

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Sweden Arrests Iranian Implicated in 1988 Executions

A court in Sweden ordered the arrest of an Iranian national implicated in mass executions in Iran in 1988. The accused, Hamid Nouri, reportedly used the alias “Hamid Abbasi.” The court has given complainants one month to provide their evidence against Nouri while he is in prison. 

Nouri’s arrest marks the first time an Iranian national has been arrested abroad in connection to the 1988 executions. Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, tweeted, “Important first step towards justice for the 1988 massacre #Iran: This would be the very first time that someone is charged in relation to the events that took place in 1988 in Iran, during which thousands of detainees were killed.”

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Outlet Analyzes Iran’s Options on JCPOA

Iranian reformist outlet Fararu analyzed the European response to Iran’s latest JCPOA reduction. Fararu also discussed three potential scenarios for Iran going forward.

After renewed Iranian enrichment at the Fordow facility was confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the E3 (Germany, France, and the UK) issued a statement. The E3 warned Iran that they would consider triggering the JCPOA’s dispute resolution mechanism, which would start a process that could lead to the reimposition of UN Security Council resolutions against Iran.

Fararu notes this marks the first time the E3 has “officially and openly” threatened Iran with triggering the dispute resolution mechanism. Fararu surmised that the Europeans no longer seek to preserve the JCPOA through attempts to provide Iran with economic benefits. Instead, they seek to prevent Iran from further decreasing compliance with the accord through “diplomatic pressure and warnings.”

Fararu then cited a recent interview of Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who said that if UN sanctions are reimposed, Iran would change its “nuclear doctrine.” Araghchi stated: “If the reward for Iran after all these negotiations and cooperation with the IAEA is that it again will be put under Chapter VII of the UN charter, this means that our ‘nuclear doctrine’ was wrong and that we have to review our nuclear doctrine.”

Fararu said there were three potential scenarios and options for Iran going forward: 1) continue its incremental steps to reduce compliance with the JCPOA and risk the dispute resolution mechanism being triggered; 2) Iran convinces Europe to secure its economic interests through nuclear and diplomatic leverage; 3) Iran remains in the JCPOA despite not receiving its economic benefits.

Fararu stated that the Rouhani administration supported the third option. According to the outlet, President Rouhani believes staying in the JCPOA still has security benefits. Fararu asserts that the first option risks Iran falling under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, opening the door for a potential military attack. The second option, it states, is also untenable due to U.S. sanctions.

Fararu then referred to comments by Rouhani saying that if Iran remained in the JCPOA, it would benefit from a UN arms embargo expiring next year. Rouhani said during a recent provincial trip in this regard: “With the expiration of arms sanctions on Iran, Iran will be able to buy and sell conventional weapons. The Americans have on multiple occasions expressed their worry about this and for this reason, are trying to destroy the JCPOA as soon as possible.”

Fararu ended on a skeptical note, stating that even if the arms embargo was lifted, Iran would be hard pressed to find partners to buy and sell weapons. It stated: “When out of the fear of [US] sanctions, countries stop buying Iranian oil, which is not a weapon, we can guess how much they will refrain from buying weapons from Iran.”

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Khamenei Pardons Prisoners

Ayatollah Khamenei has reportedly pardoned to 3552 prisoners, including 32 people held on “national security” charges, which includes journalists and students. The pardoning has come on a holiday marking the Islamic Prophet’s birthday and reportedly came at the request of judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.

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Iranian Man Arrested in Sweden for Alleged Role in 1988 Mass Executions

The Associated Press reported today that an Iranian man has been detained in Sweden on suspicion of taking part in mass executions that occurred in Iran in the summer of 1988. Though exact numbers are unknown, estimates for the executions range from 3,000-5,000 killed in the span of four weeks in prisons across Iran. 

The timing of the mass executions coincided with then Supreme Leader Khomeini’s decision to accept the UN ceasefire that ended the long and bloody Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a fringe Iranian opposition group, fought on the side of Saddam Hussein and continued their fight despite the ceasefire. Iranian authorities used the attacks and misdeeds of the MEK as a pretext to eliminate, in mass, political prisoners of all stripes, including former MEK.

The origins of the MEK in Iran in the 1960’s was a guerilla group resisting the authoritarian rule of the Shah, but most of its original leaders and founders had been killed by the time of the revolution. Their historical evolution to a cultish opposition group is complex. As historian Ervand Abrahamian notes [1], by 1987 the MEK “had its own revered leader…a rigid hierarchy in which instructions flowed from above…its own dress code and physical appearance” and “the burning conviction that its own radical version of Shiism was the one and only true interpretation of Islam.” 

Upon ending the war with Iraq, Iranian special courts were set up to purge the country of dissent and instill fear in all political rivals. Former MEK were targeted, but political prisoners of all backgrounds suffered the same fate in a horrifying mass killing, in a brazen show of disregard for due process or law and order.

Though some officials vocalized their condemnation of this appalling episode, such as Ayatollah Montazeri who resigned in protest, Iranian authorities have never investigated or held culpable any of the criminal participants of the “prison massacre.” Amnesty International has repeatedly called on Iran’s government to do justice by the victims of this massacre and their families, through reparations and by holding to account those who participated in the killings. 

If the man detained in Sweden was a party to this offense, then one small step towards justice has been taken. Ultimately, Iran’s government must stop trying to bury this injustice, undertake meaningful steps to acknowledge this tragedy and hold accountable those complicit in these crimes against humanity.

[1] Abrahamian, Ervand. Radical Islam : The Iranian Mojahedin. London: I.B. Tauris, 1989. Print.

Iran Increases Uranium Enrichment

Week of November 4th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Iran Further Reduces JCPOA Compliance

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced that Iran would begin to feed uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at the Fordow facility. The AEOI stated: “Feeding gas into centrifuges and stockpiling the enriched uranium has begun at Fordow.”

Behrouz Kamalvandi, the AEOI’s spokesperson, stated that enrichment at Fordow would be conducted up to the 4.5 percent level. The Fordow announcement marks Iran’s “fourth step” in reducing its compliance with the JCPOA. Iranian officials have announced the steps in 60-day increments since last May and have said they would be reversed if Europe returns to compliance with the JCPOA.

President Rouhani emphasized that the step was reversible and IAEA inspectors still had full access to Iran’s nuclear program. IAEA inspectors reportedly oversaw the transfer of nuclear material from the Natanz enrichment facility to Fordow.

Under the JCPOA, Fordow was converted from an enrichment facility to a “research” center. The deal permitted Iran to maintain 1,044 centrifuges at the facility for non-enrichment purposes.

Earlier, AEOI chief Ali Akbar Salehi had stated Iran had activated more advanced centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility. Salehi said this included a chain of 30 “IR-6” centrifuges, which had boosted Iran’s enriched uranium production to 5 kg a day.

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s Ambassador to the UK, stated in a press conference that Iran’s continued membership in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) was at stake. Baeidinejad said that some in Iran’s government believe that staying in the NPT “has no benefits.”

Baeidinejad stated that the Rouhani administration “is striving to convince these people that leaving the NPT is not to Iran’s benefit.”

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5.9 Richter Earthquake Strikes Northwest Iran

An earthquake struck northwestern Iran, killing at least 7 and injuring at least 720 more. The epicenter of the 5.9 Richter earthquake was near the city of Mianeh in East Azerbaijan province. According to official outlets, government teams have been sent to assess the damage and deliver aid.

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Khamenei Elaborates on Reasons for Opposing US Negotiations

Ayatollah Khamenei has once again strongly spoken against new negotiations with the United States. Speaking on the 40th anniversary of the 1979 hostage crisis, Khamenei said that Iranian officials who believe that negotiations with the U.S. would solve the country’s problems were “100 hundred percent wrong.”

Khamenei asserted that the U.S. seeks negotiations with Iran to validate its “maximum pressure” policy. He stated: “[The U.S.] wants to tell the international community that maximum pressure and sanctions finally had a result and the Iranians came to their knees.”

Khamenei said that the validating the U.S. pressure track would invite more pressure. He proclaimed: “If the Islamic Republic’s officials became simple and negotiated, none of the pressures or sanctions would be reduced. Instead, the path would be opened for official American plans for new demands and impositions.”

He further stated in this regard: “They say for now that we shouldn’t be active in the region, we shouldn’t help the resistance axis, we shouldn’t have a presence in some countries, and we should halt our defense capabilities and our production of missiles. After these demands, they will tell us to drop religious laws and will emphasize the hijab issue. As such, the demands of America will never end.”

Khamenei said that Iran’s missiles now have a range of 2,000 km, but the U.S. wanted to reduce this to 150 km. He stated: “Today, we have precise missiles with a range of 2,000 km that can hit a target within one meter.”

He added: “If we entered negotiations, the Americans would want to stop our missiles. For example, they would say that the range of Iranian missiles should be a maximum of 150 km. If our officials accepted this, the country would have been ruined. If they hadn’t, they would have repeated this same thing (maximum pressure).”

Khamenei also said that the experience of North Korea was instructive for Iran. He stated: “The American and North Korean officials talked about how much they loved each other but at the end, based on their norm in negotiations, the Americans have not reduced sanctions one bit and have given no concessions.”

Khamenei then dismissed French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to mediate between the U.S. and Iran: “The French president says one meeting with the U.S. president will resolve all of Iran’s problems. We have to say, this person is either very simple or an accomplice of the Americans.”

Khamenei also discussed the 1979 hostage crisis and said it was not the origin of U.S.-Iran disputes. He said the source of U.S.-Iran tensions stretched largely back to the 1953 U.S./UK coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh but before then as well.

He stated of the 1953 coup: “With that coup d’etat, they didn’t have mercy on the Mossadegh government which trusted them [the U.S.]. With collapsing that national government, they put in power a dependent, corrupt, and dictatorial government, and in this way committed the greatest form of enmity against the rights of the Iranian people.”

Khamenei then said that America had not changed since that era: “The same wickedness, the same ruthlessness, the same strive for global dictatorship and hegemony, today exists in America. Except it is more savage and obscener [today].”

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UN Human Rights Council Reviews Iran’s Human Rights Record

The United Nations Human Rights Council met for a periodic review of Iran’s human rights record. The meeting, which took place in Geneva, reviewed the human rights situation in Iran over the past five years.

The Iranian delegation at the meeting was led by Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of the “human rights commission” of the Iranian judiciary. In attendance were also Iranian parliamentarians and representatives from each branch of the Iranian government.

Three reports were unveiled at the meeting on the human rights situation in Iran. One from the Iranian government, one from independent human rights experts and groups, and one from “other stakeholders including national human rights institutions.”

A panel of 33 member states reviewed Iran’s human rights situation, and called on Iran to improve women’s and minority rights and cease capital punishment. The Iranian representatives engaged in a back and forth with the member states on Iran’s human rights record and what they said was progress made on human rights in Iran.

 

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Iranian Army Shoots Down “Unidentified” Drone

Alireza Sabahifard, the commander of the air defense force of the Iranian Army, announced that Iran had shot down a drone close to the city of Mahshahr. Sabahifard said the “unidentified” drone was shot down before in entered “sensitive” areas.

Mahshahr is a port city on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf and a major center for Iran’s petrochemical industry. According to Sabahifard, the drone was shot down by Mersad air defense system, an indigenous Iranian version of the I-hawk American missile system.

Gholam-Reza Shariati, the governor of Khuzestan province, said the drone “definitely” belonged to another country. He said Iran had recovered the wreckage of the drone and was investigating its origin.

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NIAC Hosts Congressional Panel on Sanctions with Iran Experts

“Maximum pressure hasn’t helped with opening political space in Iran but appears to have led to increased repression and closed space for human rights advocates on the ground,” according to Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher on Iran at the Human Rights Watch, speaking at a Capitol Hill briefing organized by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). She went on to say that “this administration has been very open about its double standards on human rights,” which has discredited claims by the administration that they are standing with Iranian dissidents and the Iranian public. 

Ms. Sepehri Far, who authored a Human Rights Watch report on the effects of U.S. sanctions on humanitarian aid to Iran, highlighted how the current sanctions regime has hampered banking channels used for humanitarian aid, “making aid much more difficult this time around.” Moreover, the Trump sanctions have “contributed to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that basically pushes companies, mainly banks, away from doing trade that should be legal under [the] U.S. sanctions regimes.” 

Concerning the implications of maximum pressure on regional dynamics, Dina Esfandiary, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center who focuses on Iran’s foreign policy, said that “from Tehran’s perspective, it is unclear what the main goal of maximum pressure is. As a result, [the campaign] has changed Iranian behavior, but for the worse rather than for the better. You see an Iran that is now more daring in the region.”

Sina Toossi, NIAC’s Senior Research Analyst, went on to argue that the U.S. pressure campaign has decimated reformist and moderate factions in Iran and emboldened hardline forces within Iran’s political milieu. “Maximum pressure led to the collapse of moderate and reformist elements in Iran’s political elite. The notion of a Trump-Iran summit amid maximum pressure without sanctions relief up-front is untenable given Rouhani’s current political position.” 

According to Mr. Toossi, Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s head of the judiciary and the former Presidential challenger to Rouhani, is “now overseeing an unprecedented corruption drive targeting all political spectrums. Hardliners hope it will remove moderates from power and strengthen their hand in a post-Khamenei era,” solidifying their control as the country begins its transition from old-guard political leaders to a new generation born after the revolution. 

Ms. Esfandiary also underscored that sanctions alone add little value provided they are never traded in. “Sanctions are useful only insofar as they can be lifted to obtain a change in behavior,” she said. “Iranians have been clear being able to sell oil is a big deal. Some kind of relief in the energy sector would help calm tensions and provide space for a diplomatic channel.”

The discussion concluded on comments from Ms. Sepehri Far on the Trump administration’s goal of instigating unrest in Iran that might topple the regime, stating that “it is hard to generalize how 80 million Iranians feel. Iranians have seen a revolution, an 8-year war and many years of sanctions over 40 years. Iranians are demanding greater social and political freedoms – but not calling for radical departures.”

Iran Releases Several Political Prisoners

In a welcome bit of news, a number of Iranian labor activists and journalists have been released from prison. This includes: Sepideh Gholian, Atefeh Rangriz, Marzieh Amiri, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amir-Goli, and Amir Hossein Mohammadi-Far.

These activists were a mix of labor protestors, journalists, and women’s rights activists. They were previously given heavy sentences and have now been released on large bails.

Earlier, a number of parliamentarians wrote a letter to Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi appealing for the release of some of these prisoners and others. They mentioned Rangriz, who had been sentenced to 11 years in prison and 74 lashes, and Amiri, who had been sentenced to ten-and-a-half years in prison and 148 lashes, among other political prisoners.

Rangriz and Amiri were arrested after being present during May Day labor protests in front of parliament this year. Amiri is a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, while Rangriz is a women’s rights activist. (Read more about the May Day protests in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.)

The MPs stated Rangriz and Amiri had a constitutional “right” to join the demonstration and a duty to “report” on it. The signatories included MPs Ali Motahari, Elias Hazrati, Mahmoud Sadeghi, Mostafa Kavakebian, Parvaneh Salahshouri, Tayebeh Siavoshi, Fatemeh Saeedi, Hamid Zarabadi. 

Days after these activists were released, labor activist Esmail Bakshi was also released on a heavy bail. Read more about the cases of Bakhshi and Gholian in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Many of these now-released labor activists were handed heavy sentences in September. At the time, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi said the sentences would be revised after widespread outcry.

Raisi has attempted to portray himself as a supporter of worker rights, stating recently: “The grievances of laborers in the country are not small and we are in the process of addressing them. Hearing the grievances of those who have problems is our duty. The concerns of workers are understandable, and the responsible institutions must resolve the problems.”

He added: “However, sometimes some people under the cover of labor issues, have other aims they are seeking. We must not blame their actions on workers.”

While the release of these activists is welcome news, Iranian authorities must continue in this vain and allow for a free space for activists to express their grievances. 

 

Political Prisoners Released

Week of October 28, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Political Prisoners Released

A number of Iranian labor activists and journalists have been released from prison. This includes: Sepideh Gholian, Atefeh Rangriz, Marzieh Amiri, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amir-Goli, and Amir Hossein Mohammadi-Far.

These activists were a mix of labor protestors, journalists, and women’s rights activists. They were previously given heavy sentences and have now been released on large bails.

Earlier, a number of parliamentarians wrote a letter to Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi appealing for the release of some of these prisoners and others. They mentioned Rangriz, who had been sentenced to 11 years in prison and 74 lashes, and Amiri, who had been sentenced to ten-and-a-half years in prison and 148 lashes, among other political prisoners.

Rangriz and Amiri were arrested after being present during May Day labor protests in front of parliament this year. Amiri is a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper and Rangriz is a women’s rights activist. (Read more about the May Day protests in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.)

The MPs stated Rangriz and Amiri had a constitutional “right” to join the demonstration and a duty to “report” on it. The signatories included MPs Ali Motahari, Elias Hazrati, Mahmoud Sadeghi, Mostafa Kavakebian, Parvaneh Salahshouri, Tayebeh Siavoshi, Fatemeh Saeedi, and Hamid Zarabadi. 

Days after these activists were released, labor activist Esmail Bakshi was also released on a heavy bail. Read more about the cases of Bakhshi and Gholian in previous issues of Iran Unfiltered.

Many of these now-released labor activists were handed heavy sentences in September. At the time, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi said the sentences would be revised after widespread outcry.

Raisi has attempted to portray himself as a supporter of worker rights, stating recently: “The grievances of laborers in the country are not small and we are in the process of addressing them. Hearing the grievances of those who have problems is our duty. The concerns of workers are understandable, and the responsible institutions must resolve the problems.”

He added: “However, sometimes some people under the cover of labor issues, have other aims they are seeking. We must not blame their actions on workers.”

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Iranian Outlet Predicts Next JCPOA Reductions

The Iranian outlet Mehr News has written a report on its predictions for Iran’s “fourth step” in reducing its JCPOA compliance, which is expected on November 7th. Starting in May, Iranian officials announced that the country would gradually reduce its JCPOA compliance in 60-day increments, until Europe returns to its commitments under the deal in terms of sanctions relief.

Mehr surmised that the next JCPOA-reduction step would include: unveiling a chain of 30 IR-1 centrifuges, increasing uranium enrichment capacity, activating the “secondary part of the Arak reactor and its refueling machine,” and unveiling a new generation of IR-7, IR-8, and IR-9 centrifuges.

Mehr based part of this on remarks made two months ago by Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). In these remarks, Salehi said a chain of 30 IR-6 centrifuges would be unveiled. He also stated that within one month, 3,500 separative work units (SWUs, a unit measuring uranium enrichment capacity) would be added to Iran’s current 5,600 SWU capacity.

Salehi had also said at the time: “Iran before the JCPOA had 2,300 kg of enriched uranium. Now this is 1,700 or 1,800 kg. We are close to reaching the pre-JCPOA amount.”

Mehr said that “some specialists” believe that because Iran has yet to take these actions, these actions will be apart of its fourth JCPOA-reduction step. Mehr also pointed to other previous comments by officials on the Arak reactor for its claim that advancements on the Arak reactor will be part of the next step.

Mehr also relied on comments made by President Rouhani on October 14th for its claim that Iran would unveil new centrifuge models. Rouhani had said then: “Very soon we will unveil and activate IR-7, IR-8, and IR-9 centrifuges.”

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Khamenei Comments on Protests in Iraq & Lebanon

Ayatollah Khamenei has stated that the U.S. and its allies seek to create instability in Iraq and Lebanon, which are in the midst of anti-government protests. He declared in a speech: “America and Western intelligence agencies, with financial support from the reactionary regional countries, are creating turmoil. This is the worst form of enmity and hatred towards a nation.”

Khamenei accused these countries of seeking to create insecurity, stating: “The worst damage that the enemies can do to a country is to take away its security. This is what they have started in some regional countries today. They are taking security away from the people.”

Khamenei then addressed the situation in Iraq and Lebanon directly, stating: “To those who care about Iraq and Lebanon, I suggest that you make remedying insecurity your priority.”

Khamenei added that the people of these countries had justified grievances. He proclaimed: “The people [of these countries] have demands, which are justified, but they must know that these demands are attainable within the framework of the laws in their countries. When the legal framework of a country is disrupted, no action can be taken. When a vacuum is created in a country, no positive actions can be carried out.”

Mahmoud Vaezi, President Rouhani’s chief of staff, also said that other countries seek to take advantage of the protests in Iraq and Lebanon. Vaezi stated: “A situation has been created, and America, Saudi Arabia, some other countries, and the Zionist regime [Israel] seek to coopt the people’s demands and they control social media. They give the lines [instructions] and financial support, and it seems this will be to the detriment of the people of Lebanon and Iraq.” 

Vaezi said that the demands of the people in these countries must be addressed by their governments. However, he added that the “demands shouldn’t be expressed in such a way that it results in chaos.” He also said that “foreign forces” seek to “weaken the incumbent governments.”

Vaezi further stated that “great efforts” were being made to create “distance” between the Islamic Republic and Iraq. He said both Iraq and Iran had to be “vigilant to not allow foreigners to reach this aim.”

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Debate Over Financial Transparency Bills Comes to a Head

The domestic fight over Iran passing laws to align its banking sector with global standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has come to a head after a review period has expired. Since 2016, FATF has suspended countermeasures against Iran, conditioned on Iran implementing an action plan to bring the country into compliance with the standards. Recently, FATF extended the deadline for Iran to meet the standards to next February, but has said it will reimpose countermeasures if Iran fails to do so by then.

Of the four bills introduced by the Rouhani administration to meet the FATF standards, two have been approved by the parliament and the Guardian Council, while the other two are still in limbo. The bill on reforming Iran’s laws on anti-money laundering (AML) and confronting terrorism financing have been passed. However, while parliament accepted the other two bills on Iran acceding to the terrorist financing (TF) convention and Palermo conventions, both bills were not approved by the Guardian Council.

The TF and Palermo convention bills have been under debate in the Expediency Discernment Council—a body constitutionally mandated with resolving disputes between the Guardian Council and parliament.

The one-year period for the Expediency Council to review the bills has now expired. The Rouhani administration now states that because the council did not reach a decision, the bills are de facto approved. However, opponents of the bill say the opposite and contend the bills have been defeated.

Rouhani first Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri has also spurred controversy by saying that Ayatollah Khamenei had approved the bills. The opponents of the bills have pushed back on his characterization of Khamenei’s position.

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Iran Joins Syria Constitution Talks in Geneva

In Geneva, representatives of the Syrian government, opposition, and civil society, along with the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey met and released a joint statement. The meeting occurred on the eve of Syrian “constitutional committee” talks.

In the joint statement, the parties emphasized “preserving the territorial integrity, government, independence and unity of Syria.” They also said that the Syrian crisis has no military solutions.

The Syrian constitutional committee held its first meeting in Geneva. The UN Secretary General’s special representative for Syria is also participating.

Two years ago, the Syrian government and part of the opposition agreed to form the 150-member constitutional committee. One-third of its members are representatives of the government, another third representatives of the opposition, and the last third representatives of “Syrian civil society.”

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Foreign Ministry Calls on Iranians to Postpone Iraq Trips

The Iranian foreign ministry has called on Iranian citizens to postpone trips to Iraq given unrest in the country. A foreign ministry statement said: “Given reports of an outbreak of disorder in Iraq we asked our dear compatriots and pilgrims to postpone visits to Iraq until further notice.”

The announcement comes as the Arbaeen Shia pilgrimage just ended. According to Alireza Rashidian, the president of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, 3,057,957 Iranians traveled to Iraq this year for Arbaeen.

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Iran Condemns U.S. Troop Presence in Syria Oilfields

The Iranian and Russian foreign ministers condemned the U.S. announcement that it would keep troops in Syria to control oil fields. Speaking from Geneva, Foreign Minister Zarif stated: “Apparently the Americans are staying to take care of oil … at least President Trump is sincere about American aims.” Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stated: “Any form of illegal exploitation of the natural resources of an independent country without the permission of that country’s government, is illegal.”

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Human Rights Watch Report on Impact of Sanctions on Iran

According to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), U.S. sanctions, reinstated after the United States pulled out of the landmark Iran nuclear deal, have had a detrimental impact on the situation of human rights in Iran. The findings of this report are corroborated by the findings the United Nations Special Rapporteur, which also recently noted the negative impact of sanctions. Both reports indicate how sanctions have exacerbated economic hardship for Iranians, which in turn impede their access to vital resources such as medicines and food.

The report clearly shows how such impediments go against the “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – ratified by Iran and signed by the United States – obliges states to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to ‘the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,’ as well as the right to an adequate “standard of living” that includes “adequate food.”

The HRW report notes that, despite stated exemptions for humanitarian goods by the United States, the nature of sanctions has prevented international banks from participating in any kind of financial transactions with Iran for fear of penalties due to secondary sanctions. The current sanctions system of the U.S. has thus made it nearly impossible for such humanitarian transactions to take place.

Contributing to this scenario is an atmosphere of hostile U.S. rhetoric, as the HRW report states, “US officials have indicated that the pain US sanctions are causing for ordinary Iranians is intentional, part of a strategy to compel Iranian citizens to demand their autocratic government to ‘change behavior’,” what HRW calls “a recipe for collective punishment that infringes on Iranians’ economic rights.” The aggressive language of some U.S. officials has created an environment of overcompliance, where companies and banks prefer not to risk U.S. punishment for facilitating even humanitarian transactions.

The HRW report discusses in detail the issue of medicine and medical supplies, a key human rights concern. While Iran manufactures 97% of its own medicines, critical life-saving medicines, especially for rare and complicated diseases are imported and now access to those medicines are affected by sanctions. In terms of medical supplies, 70% of supplies is reportedly imported, these imports are negatively impacted by sanctions and prevent the import of vital medical equipment such as MRI machines.

The full report from Human Rights Watch can be found here. While we continue to spotlight the issue of human rights in Iran and the reprehensible abuses of Iranian officials, we must also acknowledge abuses at the hands of foreign actors, especially when it is our government. It is incumbent upon us to call out these issues, particularly when we have the opportunity to make a real impact. As Americans, we can and must hold our government accountable when our policies violate human rights at home or abroad.

یک پیروزی برای زنان ایران و الگویی برای تغییر

مبارزه برای گرفتن حق حضور زنان ایرانی در استادیوم‌های فوتبال سالهاست که توسط مدافعان حقوق زنان و فعالان مدنی داخل کشور در جریان بوده است. همانگونه که در فیلم آفساید، محصول سال ۲۰۰۶ به کارگردانی جعفر پناهی به تصویر کشیده شد، مسئله تنها به برابری حقوق جنسیتی محدود نبوده و حس عمیق غرور ملی و عشق به ورزش و کشور را هم در بر می‌گیرد. در فیلم پناهی که بسیار هم مورد تجلیل قرار گرفت، گروهی از زنان هنگامی که سعی داشتند برای تماشای یک بازی مقدماتی جام جهانی، با گریم مردانه یواشکی وارد استادیوم شوند، گیر میافتند. در حالی که فیلم بر دیالوگ بین این زنان با ماموران محافظ استادیوم متمرکز است، پایان فیلم چالش‌هایی که کماکان زنان ایرانی با آن درگیرند را برجسته می کند. در پایانی تلخ و شیرین، تصاویری واقعی از جشن پیروزی ایرانی‌ها پخش می شود. در حالی که این زنان از ورودشان به استادیوم جلوگیری شده، در اتوبوسی که دارد از استادیوم آنها را می برد به خبر پیروزی تیم ملی کشورشان گوش می کنند.

اما بالاخره خبر خوبی از راه رسید. در هجدهم مهرماه، مقامات ایرانی نهایتا ً کوتاه آمدند و به زنان اجازه دادند تا برای نخستین بار بعد از روزهای اول انقلاب، برای تماشای یک بازی مهم فوتبال به استادیوم بیایند. برای تکمیل این پیروزی، تیم ملی ایران با نتیجه باورنکردنی ۱۴ گل در برابر تیم حریف به پیروزی رسید ــ شاید بواسطه انرژی مثبتی که از تصاویر زنانی که در استادیوم به جشن و تشویق مشغولند قابل لمس است ــ این قطعا ً روز خوبی برای ایرانیان بود.

مبارزه برای حقوق بشر در داخل ایران مسیری سخت و طولانی را طی کرده است. در بین ایرانیان خارج از کشور، تلاش‌های واقعی برای حمایت از این آرمان، به جای آنکه بر پیشرفت معنادار سیاسی و ارتباط سازنده متمرکز باشد، در بسیاری از موارد به شاخصی برای ارزش‌گذاری و آزمونی برای سنجش ائیدولوژیک تقلیل یافته است. پیروزی ــ هر چند کوچک ــ که در تضمین حق ورود زنان به استادیوم‌های فوتبال به دست آمد، فرصتی است برای ارزیابی اتفاقات درستی که به این پیروزی انجامید و اینکه چگونه می توان از این تحولات کوچک برای تحقق تحولات بعدی الگو برداری کرد.

نسبت به سایر جنبش‌های اجتماعی که برای تغییر رفتار حکومت ایران تلاش می کنند، این جنبش از آغاز بر پایه‌ای بهتر برای موفقیت استوار شد، به این دلیل که پیشبرد آن توسط ایرانیان داخل کشور و برای آنها انجام شد. نیل به این هدف هزینه عظیمی در برداشت؛ علاوه بر تمام زنان هوادار فوتبال که در تلاش خود برای به دست آوردن حقوق برابر جرأت کردند که از دستورات مقامهای حکومت سرپیچی کنند و به این خاطر زندانی هم شدند، حد نهایت آن، قربانی شدن سحر خدایاری، معروف به دختر آبی بود. تلاشهای آنها توسط سازمان‌های حقوق بشری و رسانه‌های برون مرزی که مبارزه این زنان برای حقوق برابر را بازتاب دادند تقویت شد. مجموع این تلاشها به اهرمی برای اعمال فشار افکار عمومی بر فیفا تبدیل شد. فیفا نیز به نوبه خود از وزن فدراسیون جهانی برای اعمال فشار بر مقامات ایران استفاده کرد تا این تغییر ایجاد شود.

البته فشار فیفا تنها به این خاطر موثر بود که ایران در این بازی یک سهمی داشت، یعنی به معنای واقعی کلمه امکان حضورش در بازی‌های بین‌المللی در گرو حل این مسئله بود. فرض کنید مثل بسیاری از تشکلها، شرکتها و حتی دولت‌هایی که هیچ ارتباطی با ایران ندارند و در نتیجه هیچ مشوقی هم برای مجاب کردن مقامات ایران به نرمش ندارند، رابطه فیفا هم بواسطه تحریمها با ایران قطع شده بود. در مورد ایران، طبق گفته مشهور جرج دبلیو بوش، آمریکا با اعمال تحریم، خود را از تاثیرگذاری بر داخل ایران محروم کرده است. و حالا، به بواسطه نظام تحریم‌های یک جانبه‌ای که توسط دولت ترامپ علیه ایران اعمال شده، آمریکا تضمین کرده که بخش اعظم سایر کشورهای جهان هم از تاثیرگذاری بر داخل ایران محروم شوند. در نتیجه، به جای آنکه بتوانند از موفقیت فیفا در تاثیرگذاری بر سیاستهای حکومت ایران الگو برداری کنند، مجموعه‌هایی که مایلند تغییری در رفتار حکومت ایران ایجاد کنند تنها می توانند همان کاری را بکنند که دولت آمریکا می کند: یعنی صدور اولتیماتوم و طرح درخواست‌های تخیلی، بدون ارائه مشوقی جز تهدید به اعمال مجازات‌های حتی شدیدتر، تهدیداتی که حکومت ایران تصمیم گرفته با آنها سر کند.
حالا تصور کنید که ایالات متحده به توافق هسته‌ای با ایران پایبند مانده بود، شرکت‌های آمریکایی حضوری تجاری در ایران داشتند، موسسات آموزشی دو کشور برای تسهیل ارتباطات آکادمیک می کوشیدند و دولتهای ایران و آمریکا در عرصه‌های علمی و پروژه‌های زیست محیطی با یکدیگر همکاری داشتند. اگر احتمالی بود که آن شرکتها، موسسات آموزشی و سایر نهادهای مشترک، همانند فیفا تهدید به قطع ارتباط کنند، در آن صورت ایران چیزی برای از دست دادن داشت. در عوض سیاست آمریکا در منزوی کردن ایران شرایطی ایجاد کرده که دولت ایران چیزی برای از دست دادن ندارد.

البته پیش از راهیابی زنان به استادیوم‌ها، پیروزی‌های دیگری در حوزه حقوق بشر به دست آمد. سازمان نایاک از تعیین یک گزارشگر حقوق بشر در سال ۲۰۱۱ برای ایران حمایت کرد. این تلاش یک تفاوت فرخنده با انواع فعالیتهای حقوق بشری معمول که ما در ایالات متحده شاهد آن هستیم دارد، فعالیتهایی که بعضا ً در حد صدور بیانیه‌های محکومیت، ژستهای سمبولیک یا شعارهای تحریک آمیز محدود می شود، اقداماتی که بعید است در رهبری هیچ کشوری انگیزه‌ای برای تغییر رفتار ایجاد کند. با تعیین گزارشکر ویژه حقوق بشر، سازمان ملل متحد یک مجرای ارتباطی مورد نیاز ایجاد کرد که مقامات ایرانی، بعد از سالها مقاومت، در نهایت آنرا پذیرفتند. هر چند به ندرت به آن اشاره می شود، اما تلاش‌های گزارشگر حقوق بشر سازمان ملل به پایان دادن به مجازات اعدام برای جرائم مواد مخدر کمک کرده و چون از این اتهام برای تسویه حساب‌های سیاسی و سرکوب مخالفان هم استفاده می‌شد، عملا ً جان هزاران نفر را نجات داده است. اینها پیروزی‌های کوچکی هستند که برای ایجاد تغییر به آنها نیاز است. تاثیر این اقدامات به مراتب بیشتر از بیانیه‌های ایدئولوژیک و محکومیت‌های از راه دور احساس می شوند.

بهترین کاری که ما می توانیم به عنوان ایرانی ساکن خارج از کشور و مدافع توسعه اجتماعی در ایران انجام دهیم، تشویق و ترغیب برقراری گفتمان چند جانبه، دو جانبه، غیر رسمی و هر نوع دیالوگ ممکن با ایران است، تا فضاهایی واقعی برای گفتگو درباره حقوق بشر ایجاد شود همراه با نتایج واقعی، ورای ژست‌های تو خالی. پایان دادن به انزوای اقتصادی ایران و ارتباط با این کشور موجب می‌شود که حکومت ایران در قبال عدم پاسداشت استانداردهای حقوق بشری، چیزی برای از دست دادن داشته باشد. این تحول اگر با اطلاع رسانی نسبت به موارد نقض حقوق بشر همراه باشد می تواند تلاش‌های فعالانی که در درون کشور برای ارتقای حقوق بشر تلاش می کنند را تقویت کند. آنچه که ما نمی‌توانیم انجام دهیم، مگر آنکه بخواهیم به جامعه مدنی ایران بیشتر لطمه بزنیم، مصادره به مطلوب تلاش‌ها و جنبش‌های مردم ایران است، و یا اینکه اجازه بدهیم دیگران برای مقاصد پنهان خود از این تلاشها سوء استفاده کنند.

به عنوان آمریکایی‌های ایرانی‌تباری که مشتاق کمک به تسریع پیشرفت مدنی در ایران هستیم، ما باید اینجا در ایالات متحده از دولت آمریکا به خاطر اقداماتش حسابرسی کنیم. هرچند عدم وجود روابط دیپلماتیک رسمی بین ایالات متحده و ایران، تاثیر ما را از ده‌ها هزار کیلومتر فاصله محدود می کند، اما ما می توانیم از دولت ایالات متحده بخواهیم تا با اقدامات سنجیده این امکان را برای ما فراهم کند که بتوانیم بخشی از تلاش‌های مشروع برای متعهد کردن دولت‌ها، از جمله دولت ایران، به استانداردهای جهانی باشیم.

برای آنکه ایرانیان بتوانند به حقوق بشری که حقشان است برسند، کارهای زیادی هست که باید انجام شود. به عنوان یک تشکل خارج از کشور، ما باید نسبت به آنهایی که داخل کشور کار واقعی را انجام می دهند، رویکردی راهبردی و توأم با شکیبایی اتخاذ کنیم. این دستاورد مهم زنان ایرانی به ما نشان داد که نه تنها در ایران راه پیشرفت وجود دارد، بلکه فداکاری صبورانه مردم ایران، همراه با حمایت متواضعانه خارج از کشور ــ در قبال طرح مطالبات حداکثری ــ می‌تواند تدریجا به شیرین‌ترین پیروزی‌ها منجر شود.

Report of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, has submitted a second report to the General Assembly. The full report can be found here. This second report is focused on the human rights situation of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, who are often treated as second class citizens and denied their full rights. The following is a brief summary of the report:

  • The overall economic situation has created increased hardships for all Iranians, such as inflation, rising cost of living, and unemployment. The report notes that these challenges have been further exacerbated by the reimposition of U.S. sanctions and have affected the most vulnerable groups, which include minorities.
  • The report further notes that the economic deterioration from sanctions have had secondary impact on access to basic human rights services, such as education and health.
  • The flooding disaster from early spring has also contributed to economic hardship, with severe damage to infrastructure, housing, livestock and agriculture. The floods have negatively impacted millions of Iranians.
  • The political situation is linked to increased repression and restrictions on basic rights, such as expression, press, and right to a fair trial.
    • While the report notes a sharp decrease in executions in 2018 due to a change in law related to drug offenses, Iran’s execution rate is still one of the highest in the world and is especially appalling for including child offenders.
    • The report also shows increased arrests of dual and foreign nationals, human rights lawyers, human rights activists, journalists, and workers assembling for legal protest.
  • In the case of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, the Special Rapporteur has raised concerns over disproportionate targeting for political activism, executions related to national-security charges, and discriminatory practices in business and employment.
    • One issue leading to such discriminatory practices is rooted in the legal framework of the constitution, which only recognizes Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians as religious minorities. Under this legal structure, conversion from Islam is also prohibited.
    • These inequitable practices have an impact on the daily life of minorities, for instance in the case of inheritance, in which non-Muslims cannot inherent from Muslims.
    • The case of Baha’is in Iran is especially concerning as they do not have protected status and have often been the targets of discriminatory practices. Baha’is are the largest unrecognized minority group in Iran, which the report estimates at about 350,000 people. The treatment of Baha’is goes beyond discriminatory practices, wherein Baha’is face constant persecution.
    • The report also notes the legal prejudice against the Iranian LGBTQ community, by highlighting not only the criminalization of same-sex relations, but the use of the death penalty in some cases.
    • The Rapporteur has also expressed his concerns over the legal status and treatment of women, as well as increased repression of women’s rights activists and anti-hijab activists.
    • In the case of ethnic minorities, Iranian Arab Ahwazis, Kurds, Baluchis, and Azeri Turks, which combined number approximately 30 million people, are sometimes subjected to discriminatory practices and are among the hardest hit by economic troubles.

The Iranian government’s continued repression of basic freedoms and discriminatory practices on the basis of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion must be condemned. While the work of the UN Special Rapporteur is a welcome and needed step, more must be done to bring Iran into the international community so that it can be held accountable for its deplorable actions against its citizens.

Iranian Women Enter Azadi Stadium

Week of October 7th, 2019 | Iran Unfiltered is a weekly digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council | Subscribe Here

Iranian Women Enter Azadi Stadium

On October 10th, for the first time in nearly 40 years, Iranian women were allowed inside Azadi stadium in Tehran to watch a soccer match. Roughly 4,000 women attended the game, which was a World Cup qualifier between Iran and Cambodia.

Even though the number of tickets allotted for women was limited, the number of women attendees outnumbered men. Four seating sections in the stadium were reserved for women, and a fifth was opened as the match began.

During the game, some female spectators chanted slogans in support of the “Blue Girl,” or Sahar Khodayari. Read more about her self-immolation and the outrage it spurred in a previous issue of Iran Unfiltered.

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesperson, said the administration supported women going to soccer stadiums. He stated: “We must try to increase our experiences in this regard that result in societal changes.”

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Protests Shake Western Iranian City

On October 1st, residents of the Chenar-e Mahmudi village in Western Iran protested outside of their county’s governorate building. The protesters said that a local physician used syringes infected with HIV to conduct blood-sugar tests and spread HIV in the village.

The next day, judicial authorities in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province took into custody a physician from Chenar-e Mahmudi and opened a judicial case. However, government authorities subsequently strongly denied that infected syringes had spread HIV in the village.

Ali Rabiee, the Rouhani administration’s spokesman, denied the claim that infected syringes were used in the village, stating: “I totally deny that any infected syringes were used by a Health Ministry physician. This claim is not correct in any way.”

Rabiee added that the arrested physician, whose name has not been made public, was being kept in custody for his own safety. However, he claimed the physician’s original arrest contributed to the ensuing unrest. He asserted that the source of the eventual unrest was that a physician in the village had ordered tests to diagnose why a patient had a weak immune system.

Rabiee said: “Events went astray when one of our good health workers, without any questions asked of him, was arrested by the judicial authority in the province.”

Rabiee claimed that “incorrect news” started from this point and that the physician was now being held for safety reasons. After the physician’s arrest, Health Minister Saeed Namaki wrote a letter to the Justice Minister and said the cause of HIV infections in the village was not infected syringes, but “addicts that inject and people with undesirable relations.”

Mohammad Hossein Ghorbani, a member of the parliament’s health and treatment grouping, said that the Chenar-e Mahmudi village had a population of roughly 1,800, with 26 diagnosed with HIV. Eqbal Abbasi, the governor of the province also said that less than five percent of the village’s population were afflicted with HIV.

Many residents in the village were not convinced and called for the resignation of the health minister. In protests, they chanted that they were “insulted” by the government response.

In response, provincial governor Abbasi stated: “We are seeking to resolve the issue and asked the people to trust officials and health teams and be certain that this issue will be resolved.”

He added: “Strong and standardized drugs have been prepared and will be supplied … no one intended to insult the people of this region. If insults have occurred, I apologize to the people.”

Abbasi further blamed “social media” campaigns for stirring unrest, stating: “Scientific experiment show that the statistics that are being spread on social media are not correct. They highlight these things to make people hopeless and to incite them into protesting. People should not pay attention to these statistics.”

However, protests continued and on October 5th, protesters gathered outside governorate building in the city of Lordegan, close to the village. They clashed with security forces, damaged the governorate building, and set fire to the office of the city’s Friday Prayer leader. According to official outlets, several of the protestors were arrested.

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Rouhani Feuds with Guardian Council Over Parliamentary Election

President Rouhani has said that Iran’s first post-revolutionary parliament was the “best parliament” and its election was the “best election.” This parliament was elected in March 1980 and was comprised of a wide-range of political groups, including the National Front, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, and other groups that were eventually excised by the Islamic Republic.

Rouhani said of the first post-1979 parliament: “Everyone from different factions came and registered. Even the munafiqeen (the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK) registered in that election. So did other groups like the Freedom Movement and the National Front. The best election and the best parliament were the result of this.”

Rouhani mentioned that the Guardian Council—which vets candidates running for office—did not exist at that time. He stated: “[At that time] supervision did not exist like this [today]. Even the Guardian Council or all these supervisory offices did not exist and everyone from different factions participated.”

Rouhani said that for Iran’s upcoming February 2020 parliamentary elections, all political factions should be allowed to participate. He said: “We have to allow all factions to feel victorious. We have to allow everyone the opportunity to participate in this assembly.”

Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council, strongly censured Rouhani for his remarks. He said that Rouhani was “ignoring the constitution” and was making a “call to not abide by the law.”

Under the current Iranian constitution, the Guardian Council vets candidates seeking political officials, approves the results of elections, and approves the date of elections. The exception is elections for city councils.

In past elections, the Guardian Council has disqualified many candidates, especially reformists and those critical of the ruling political system. During the 2016 parliamentary election, widespread disqualifications forced reformists to run lesser known and independent candidates.

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Iranian Oil Tanker Attacked in Red Sea

The National Iranian Tanker Company has reported that one of its tankers in the Red Sea has been attacked. In a statement, the company said the tanker was likely hit by two missiles. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi said Iran is investigating the attacks on its ships in the Red Sea and the “factors” that are involved.

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Iran Opposes Turkish Incursion in Syria

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has released a statement opposing any form of Turkish military incursion in Syria. The statement read: “If such an action happens, not only will it not resolve Turkish security concerns, but it will also cause widespread human and material costs and for this reason, the Islamic Republic of Iran opposes any potential military operation.”

The statement also said the presence of U.S. troops in Syria was “illegitimate” and U.S. forces should have been withdrawn from Syria “far sooner.” It added that Iran was “closely” following the “worrying news” of a potential Turkish military incursion into Syrian territory.

The statement also called for “immediate contact between Turkish and Syrian officials.” Before the statement was released, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke on the night of October 7th.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Cavusoglu-Zarif call covered the “most recent developments in northeast Syria.” The Iranian foreign ministry said the 1998 “Adana Agreement” was an “appropriate” basis for renewed Syria-Turkey talks.

The “Adana Agreement” was reached between Turkey and Syria on October 20, 1998. Iran and Egypt mediated the negotiations at the time.

Based on the Adana Agreement, Turkey and Syria agreed to prevent “terrorist groups” from entering each other’s territory. Under the Adana Agreement, Turkey also has the right to enter within five kilometers inside Syrian territory to confront terrorist groups.

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Khamenei Reiterates Opposition to Nuclear Weapons

Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated his opposition to Iran building nuclear weapons. He declared in a speech: “Even though we could have taken steps in this path, based on the rules of our dear Islam, we have declared the use of this weapon to be definitely forbidden according to Sharia (Islamic law). As such, there is no need to pay costs for producing or maintaining weapons that are categorically forbidden to be used.”

Khamenei added: “The courageous and absolute position of the Iranian government is not pay costs for building nuclear weapons.” Khamenei made a similar remark in May.

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Zarif Welcomes Diplomacy with Saudi Arabia

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif expressed openness for negotiations with Saudi Arabia but stressed the Saudis must stop “killing people.” He stated: “In the current situation where the Saudis are interested in negotiations with Iran, if they put regional issues on the negotiating table rather than killing people, they will definitely have the Islamic Republic along with them.”

Zarif added: “The Foreign Ministry has always been ready for cooperation with our neighbors for regional security, and has official announced this.”

Recently, the Houthis in Yemen stated that if Saudi Arabia ceases its attacks in Yemen, they will also end their missile and drone attacks inside Saudi territory. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman stated that he viewed this proposal positively.

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