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Amnesty International has urged Russian authorities to probe the circumstances of the police raid on the Memorial rights group's Research and Information Center Memorial.

In a statement issued on December 5, Amnesty International calls "this raid with its violations...a further indication of the climate of harassment faced by civil society and human rights defenders in Russia."

The group claims that "there appear to be more and more limitations on the right to freedom of expression, as well as the rights to freedom of assembly and association in the Russian Federation," adding, "The space for dissenting views, independent media and independent organizations to operate is shrinking."

The institution at the center of the raid researches Soviet-era rights abuses, including a project to highlight Stalin-era treatment within the Gulag through a "virtual museum."

Iran's morality police are back on the beat. (file photo)
Police in the Iranian town of Qaemshahr have arrested some 40 young people for wearing "satanic" clothes and for sporting “Western” hairstyles.

Police Chief Mahmud Rahmani told Iranian news agencies that there are two reasons behind the crackdown -- to strengthen public security and to confront a “satanic culture.”

Punishment was not specified. Usual penalties for such behavior range from warnings to fines.

Rahmani said Iran's enemies want to deprive the country's youth of a decent life by promoting foreign cultures.

Women in Iran are required to cover their heads and wear loose-fitting clothes to hide their bodies. Men are not allowed to wear so-called Western-style T-shirts and spiky hairstyles.

Morality police arrest and fine dress-code offenders, including women who are showing their hair or wearing tight coats.

Neda, a 24-year-old resident of Tehran, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda she was recently detained by police for wearing a white coat, a color that the morality officers found unsuitable.

“It is not clear what exactly the police want,” Neda said. “We cover our heads and bodies. We wear head scarves and long coats. But apparently nothing satisfies morality police officers. They always find a reason to punish us for violating their vague dress code.”

Neda said authorities are trying to further tighten an already restrictive dress code.

(by RFE/RL correspondent Farangis Najibullah)

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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