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A Kazakh soldier patrols a street as relatives of arrested anti-government protesters gather near a police station in Almaty on January 14.

Kazakh officials say "secret graves" have been found in the Central Asian nation's largest city, Almaty, following deadly unrest in early January amid mass anti-government protests.

Saltanat Azirbek, a spokeswoman for the Almaty city police department, confirmed the existence of the graves on January 20 saying they were made by an unspecified group "to make it difficult to identify participants from the unrest."

Almaty city police chief Qanat Taimerdenov said there were several "attacks by possible terrorists" on Almaty morgues, with 41 bodies being taken away.

Kazakh officials, including President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, have blamed the violence that occurred during the protests, which were initially sparked by anger over a fuel price hike, on "terrorists" who aimed to overthrow the government. No evidence, however, has been put forward to back those claims.

Kazakh officials have said that 227 people, including 19 law enforcement officers, were killed during the protests.

Human rights activists, however, say the number of dead may be much higher as scores of people have gone missing since the unrest.

Based on reporting by KazTAG and Kazinform
Mohammad Taghi Fallahi

Mohammad Taghi Fallahi, the secretary-general of the Iranian Teachers Trade Association in Tehran, has been taken to Evin Prison to serve a six-month prison sentence.

Taghi Fallahi was arrested in February 2020 and held in Tehran’s Evin Prison for his participation in a peaceful teachers’ protest. He was later released on bail.

Last year, a court in Tehran sentenced him to two years in prison after convicting him of "conspiracy and collusion through membership in an illegal organization.”

The sentence, which Fallahi began serving on January 19, was reduced to six months by an appeals court.

Teachers in Iran have held a number of protests in recent years, demanding higher wages, better working conditions, and the release of their jailed colleagues.

Authorities have used force against some of the rallies, detaining protesting teachers.

Last week, teachers protested in more than 50 cities demanding higher wages and calling on the government to move quicker on a planned grading system for teachers based on experience and performance.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights In Iran said last month that authorities have sent to jail dozens of teachers' rights activists “on manufactured charges that reflect the criminalization in Iran of dissent, peaceful protests and assembly, and independent labor activism.”

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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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