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Thursday 30 March 2017

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A screen-grab from a video released by the militant group Islamic State (IS), which contains a rare message in Persian saying the extremists will conquer Iran

A screen-grab from a video released by the militant group Islamic State (IS), which contains a rare message in Persian saying the extremists will conquer Iran

The militant group Islamic State (IS) has threatened Iran in a grisly video message released in Persian.

The militant group Islamic State (IS) has vowed in a rare video message in Persian that includes the apparent beheading of four captured soldiers that it will conquer Iran.

In an appeal to sectarian divides, the group also calls on Iran's Sunni minority to rise up against the Shi'a-dominated Iranian establishment.

The 36-minute video, released this week by IS's Diyala Province propaganda arm, has been dismissed by Iran's state controlled media as an attempt the embattled group to divert attention from its losses in Iraq.

Iranians are among the foreign forces fighting IS in Iraq, although they describe fighters who travel there from Iran as volunteers defending holy Shi'ite shrines.

One of the IS fighters in the video, in uniform with a covered face, directly threatens the highest political and religious authority under Iran's 1979 constitution: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Oh, Khamenei, you cursed person, you who has the control of the idolatrous so-called Islamic Iranian regime in your unclean hands, rest assured that soon we will destroy your house like this on your head," the speaker says, pointing to ruins behind him.

Target Practice

In another scene, armed men use pictures of Iranian officials, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)'s Quds-force commander, Qassem Soleimani, for target practice.

IS has taken control of territories in Syria and Iraq, where Iran has assisted the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with military advisers and thousands of fighters.

Reports suggest Iranian forces have also been involved in the fight against IS in Iraq, where Soleimani has appeared alongside Iraqi troops and Shi'ite militias.

Iranian officials have said in the past that their forces have rebuffed attempts by IS to create insecurity in Iran and recruit fighters, although they have not provided details.

IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said in December 2015 that Iran's "security conditions" make it unlikely that IS could conduct a major attack in the country.

"It is possible that they would do something small, but they can't create insecurity in Iran like they do in in other countries," Jafari was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

The identities are unclear of the four uniformed captives who are shown beheaded in the video, although AFP described them as "captured soldiers."

The IS video appears to be an attempt to recruit among Iranian Sunnis, accusing the 90-percent-majority Shi'ite state of mistreating its Sunni minority and violating their rights.

'Religious War'

Sunnis and other religious minorities in Iran frequently complain of state persecution.

The video calls repeatedly on Sunnis to wage religious war while promising that one day Sunnis will gain control over Iran.

The video also criticizes Iran for allowing its Jewish population to live in safety and have their own temples.

Iran's state controlled television said that the IS "rant...in the last days of its life" were reminiscent of threats made by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against Iran.

"[Saddam Hussein] claimed that he could conquer Iran within a few days, but despite having the support of dozens of countries, including the United States, he failed to occupy even one inch of our country," the TV report said.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency called the IS threats "ridiculous" while adding that the group was trying "to compensate" for its defeat at the hands of Iraqi forces in Mosul.

The top commander of the international coalition backing tens of thousands of Iraqi forces to retake that city in the Kurdish region of Iraq from IS, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, recently described the battle as "the most significant urban combat to take place since World War II."

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blasted gender equality as a "Zionist plot" aimed at corrupting women's role in society.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blasted gender equality as a "Zionist plot" aimed at corrupting women's role in society.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is no fan of gender equality, which he routinely decries as a Western concept that damages women and distracts them from their vital roles as wives and mothers. (The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is no fan of gender equality, which he routinely decries as a Western concept that damages women and distracts them from their vital roles as wives and mothers.

And again this week, at a speech on March 19 marking the birth of the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, Fatima Zahra, Khamenei doubled down, suggesting that Westerners themselves are having second thoughts.

"Today, Western thinkers and those who pursue issues such as gender equality regret the corruption that it has brought about," said the man who has the final say in religious and political matters in a country of 83 million people.

He even blasted gender equality as a "Zionist plot" aimed at corrupting women's role in society.

"Making women a commodity and an object of gratification in the Western world is most likely among the Zionist plots aiming to destroy society," Khamenei was also quoted as saying.

Women in Iran are denied equal rights before the law in divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other areas. A woman's testimony in court is considered to be half the value of a man's. Women need the permission of their father or husband to travel. And women are forced to cover their hair and body.

There are rare reports of women being sentenced to death by stoning, although it is unclear how many such sentences are carried out under Iran's opaque justice system.

Khamenei suggested that Western views of women used to be "more decent," "more prudent," and "more suitable" with "the nature of men and women."

"When you look at the literature in European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was absolutely different from the 20th century," Khamenei said. He added that "it is obvious that there has been political work from the Zionist and the colonial system."

Khamenei went on to say that Iran's overwhelmingly male, clerically dominated establishment does not aim to keep women at home. Yet he added that, in his eyes, the roles of mother and wife are the most important a woman can play.

"The role a woman can play as a family member is in my view more important than all other roles that a woman can play," the Iranian leader said. "The question is whether a woman has the right to ruin her role as a mother and a wife because of all the good, interesting, and sweet [opportunities] that could be there for her outside the family environment."

Khamenei has said in the past that the effort to establish equality between men and women was "one of the biggest intellectual mistakes" of the Western world. "Why should a job that is masculine be given to a woman? What kind of honor is it for a woman to do a man's job?" he asked in a 2014 speech.

Iranian hard-liners routinely accuse women's rights champions of promoting "obsolete" feminist views and claim that such views and demands are anti-Islamic.

In December, the head of Iran's female Basij militia called the promotion of gender equality illegal and demanded that the country's powerful judiciary take action against people who speak out against gender discrimination.

Women's rights activists have been persecuted by the Iranian state through interrogation, arrest, and jail sentences. Many have been forced to leave the country.

Homa Hoodfar, a retired professor at Concordia University in Montreal known for her work on gender relations, was imprisoned in Iran last year for more than 100 days for what a state prosecutor called "dabbling in feminism and security matters."

Iran's lone Nobel laureate, lawyer and 2003 Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, now lives abroad following years of persecution for her work on human rights cases.

In a 2009 contribution to The Guardian, Ebadi noted that "despite the cultural, social and historical heritage of Iranian women, the Islamic republic has imposed discriminatory regulations against them."

She added, "The laws imposed on Iranian women are incompatible with their status and, consequently, the equality movement is very strong."

The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

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About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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