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Yaghma Golruyi

A well-known Iranian poet and songwriter has been arrested in Tehran for reasons that remain unclear.

Forty-year-old Yaghma Golruyi was detained at his home in the Iranian capital on November 30, his wife, Athena Habibi, said via social media.

Habibi said security agents took her husband to an "unknown location."

"So far we don't have any news about him and we're deeply worried about his health," Habibi wrote on her Instagram account on December 1.

Iranian authorities frequently jail suspects or try defendants without public explanation.

Habibi urged friends and fans to spread the news while warning against "any comment" that could complicate his situation.

Several artists, journalists, and activists have been arrested in Iran in recent months in a crackdown seemingly led by hard-liners who oppose any opening of the country's political atmosphere.

Golruyi's work is known inside and outside the country.

His songs and poems have been performed by exiled Iranian pop and rap singers.

His arrest comes on the heels of a warning by Iran's Culture Ministry to artists who work with Persian-language television channels that broadcast to the country from abroad.

"They will be warned and there will be legal action if they insist on the cooperation," ministry spokesman Hossein Nushabadi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

Golruyi released a music video in March titled Liberation, which highlighted Iranian women who have made strides in various areas despite state-imposed restrictions and legal discrimination.

"We're happy, joyful, and smiling even though we're in a prison," Golruyi sings in the clip to images of Iranian female athletes, rights advocates, scientists, artists, and others, adding in the refrain, "We know we're free at the end of the story."

In October, two poets and a filmmaker were sentenced to a total of 26 1/2 years in prison and 421 lashes on charges that included "insulting sanctities" and shaking hands with unrelated members of the opposite sex.

Last month, five journalists were arrested in Iran by the intelligence branch of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which claimed to be fighting "infiltration" efforts by the United States following the landmark nuclear agreement reached in July.

Also in November, Iran's judiciary announced that jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was sentenced to an unspecified prison term.

Meanwhile, prominent cartoonist Hadi Heidari was jailed to complete a suspended prison sentence. Heidari was also jailed for several weeks during the crackdown that followed the disputed reelection in 2009 of then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The measures appear to be a push against the nuclear deal, which hard-liners fear will diminish their grip on power, and a preemptive blow ahead of February 2016 elections for parliament and the Assembly of Experts in which reformists are hoping to make a political comeback.

U.S. Philanthropist George Soros

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department says Washington is "troubled" by Russia's banning of a pro-democracy charity fund founded by U.S. billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.

Spokesperson Mark Toner said the November 30 designation of the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation as so-called "undesirable" organizations "will only further restrict the work of civil society in Russia for the benefit of the Russian people."

A spokesperson with Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office said the activities of the two branches of Soros's charity network represent a threat to both state security and the Russian constitution.

In a statement issued after the decision was announced, Toner said the move is yet another example of Russia’s "growing crackdown on independent voices and a deliberate step to further isolate the Russian people from the world."

The Open Society Foundations said in a statement posted on their website that they were "dismayed" by Russia's decision.

"Contrary to the Russian prosecutor's allegations, the Open Society Foundations have, for more than a quarter-century, helped to strengthen the rule of law in Russia and protect the rights of all," the November 30 statement said.

“We are confident that this move is a temporary aberration; the aspirations of the Russian people for a better future cannot be suppressed and will ultimately succeed,” the statement quoted Soros who chairs the Open Society Foundations as saying.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax

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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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