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Iran's Nuclear Program Must Be Stopped, Says Bush

Bush acknowledged mistakes in pre-war intelligence (CTK) 19 December 2005 -- U.S. President George W. Bush said today Washington remains committed to diplomacy to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.


Bush also acknowledged that mistaken intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs in Iraq makes it more difficult to persuade the public that Iran's nuclear program poses a threat.


Bush's remarks, at a press conference in Washington, came two days before Britain, France, and Germany are due to have fresh talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program.


A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said today the talks would take place "discreetly" in Vienna.


Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said his country will bring new proposals to the talks. But he said Iran's right to develop a nuclear power program must be recognized.


(AP/dpa)

RFE/RL Iran Report

RFE/RL Iran Report


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U.S. OKs $1 Billion Arms Sale To Qatar During Key World Cup Match With Iran

The Biden administration approved a $1 billion arms sale to Qatar in a transaction unveiled on November 29 during halftime of the World Cup 2022 match between Iran and the United States. The State Department announced it had signed off on Qatar’s purchase of 10 defensive drone systems, 200 interceptors, and related equipment just as the second half of the U.S.-Iran game began. Qatar, along with other Gulf Arab states, faces threats from Iranian-backed proxies in the region. To read the original story from AP, click here.

Belgian Aid Worker's Family Concerned Over Son's Hunger Strike In Iranian Prison

Olivier Vandecasteele was detained by Iranian authorities in February, apparently without charge.

The family of a Belgian aid worker says their son, who is jailed in Iran, has gone on a hunger strike to protest the "inhumane" conditions of his incarceration, which they say "amount to the equivalent of torture."

Olivier Vandecasteele, 41, was detained by Iranian authorities in February, apparently without charge.

His family said in the statement on November 29 that their last contact with him was at the start of September and that they feared that his detention in solitary confinement, along with his hunger strike that started about two weeks ago, are causing his health to fail.

They added that he finally was in contact with representatives of the Belgian Consulate in Iran.

Vandecasteele has been at the center of a controversy in Belgium over a fiercely criticized treaty allowing prisoner exchanges with Iran.

Tehran is reportedly seeking a prisoner exchange with Brussels to take back Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was last year sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with a plot to bomb a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, outside Paris in June 2018.

The Belgian opposition has alleged that the agreement with Tehran was tailor-made to permit Assadi's release, while Iranian exiles have also mounted a fierce campaign against the deal, leading a group of 11 human rights organizations to appeal to Brussels to cancel the agreement.

Western countries have repeatedly charged that Iran is trying to take advantage of foreign countries by taking dual and foreign nationals hostage and then using them in prisoner swaps.

During a current wave of unrest sparked by the death of a young woman while she was detained for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly, Iranian security forces have taken some 40 foreign nationals into custody.

Iranian cities continue to be the scene of anti-government protests, with videos published on social media showing protesters taking to the streets in different areas of Tehran and chanting slogans against the country's leaders amid an outcry that erupted in mid-September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Protesters in Tehran's Ekbatan neighborhood chanted the slogans for the release of rapper Toomaj Salehi from custody.

Salehi is one of 21 people who face the death penalty after being charged with what a UN official told Reuters on November 29 are "vague and broadly formulated criminal offenses."

Javaid Rehman, a UN-appointed independent expert on Iran, told Reuters in an interview that Salehi was indicted for "corruption on Earth for publication of lies on a large scale."

Meanwhile, Ali Karimi, a former player with Bayern Munich and once the captain of Iran’s national soccer team, said in an interview that due to frequent threats from Tehran authorities, he had to leave Dubai, the city where he lives.

In an interview published by Manoto TV, a London-based Persian-language television station, the Iranian soccer star said that after his support for the protests, he was sent a message through his close relatives that a death sentence had been issued against him and could be carried out at any moment.

Iran is known to have assassinated and abducted multiple exiled opposition figures in the past, including Iranian-German dual citizen Jamshid Sharmahd and journalist Ruhollah Zam.

Karimi is one of several high-profile Iranians to support the protests.

Several Iranian celebrities have been interrogated and had their passports confiscated after showing support for the anti-government protests that have occurred daily since Amini's death.

Voria Ghafouri, who has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian establishment and was surprisingly left out of this year's World Cup squad, was reportedly arrested on November 24, just days after expressing sympathy for Amini's family and calling for an end to the violent crackdown on protesters in his and Amini's native western Kurdistan region.

Iranian media reported that Ghafouri was released on bail on November 29.

Pressure has also been placed on an Iranian soccer legend, Ali Daei, who said he chose not to travel to Qatar for the World Cup due to the government's crackdown and said on social media on November 28 that he had received "numerous threats against myself and my family in recent months and days."

Several thousand people have also been arrested, including many protesters, journalists, lawyers, activists, digital-rights defenders, and others.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 23, at least 445 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 61 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Exclusive: Iranian Dissident Journalist Who Disappeared In Turkey Ends Up In Custody Of Iran's Revolutionary Guards

Mohammad Bagher Moradi fled to Turkey in 2014 after he was sentenced to five years in prison in Iran for collusion against the state. (file photo)

An Iranian dissident journalist who disappeared in Turkey in May is now in the custody of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), sources with knowledge of the case told RFE/RL.

Mohammad Bagher Moradi was deported to Iran in early November after being kept in "illegal" detention in Turkey for five months, the Turkish lawyer representing his family, Salih Efe, told RFE/RL.

Moradi's family said he left his home in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on May 30 to buy bread and never returned. The next day, his car was found abandoned near his residence, Turkish media reported.

Turkish media reported that Moradi's family, who were visiting from Tehran, had filed a criminal complaint over their son's disappearance and told the local prosecutor's office that they suspected he had been abducted. Despite the launch of a formal investigation, Moradi was not found.

In June, Turkish media quoted the journalist's father, Mohsen Moradi, as saying that his son had been "kidnapped" by "Iranian intelligence."

Following months of silence, Moradi on November 4 made a brief telephone call to his family and informed them that he was in Iran in the custody of the "intelligence bodies," sources with knowledge of the case told RFE/RL. Moradi told his family that he was moved to Iran just days prior to his call, the sources said, adding that the journalist has since made two other calls to his family.

The sources said that Moradi was being held by the feared intelligence branch of the IRGC, which has been behind the arrests of scores of journalists, activists, environmentalists, and dual nationals in recent years.

Last week, Moradi's father was questioned by the IRGC about his son's activities in Turkey, the sources said. They added that the IRGC told him to advise his son to make a live television confession.

Iran has a record of forcing political detainees to confess to crimes that are often dictated to them by their interrogators. Many former detainees have denounced the practice following their release and said they had confessed under duress.

'Secret Deportation'

The 34-year-old Moradi fled to Turkey in 2014 after he was sentenced to five years in prison in Iran for collusion against the state.

Efe, the Turkish lawyer representing his family, told RFE/RL that Moradi had been granted asylum in Turkey. He said Moradi's secret deportation to Iran was a blatant violation of Turkish and international law, including the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Efe said Moradi had told his family that he had been kidnapped by Turkish intelligence officers and kept in an unknown location until his deportation. The lawyer said Moradi had been interrogated and tortured during his detention in Turkey.

"This may be the fourth or fifth such illegal and secret deportation of an Iranian political refugee from Turkey by our government," Efe said. "I think Turkey cannot be considered a secure country for Iranian refugees."

Turkey, which lies on Iran's western border, is one of the main destinations for Iranian dissidents and activists fleeing the country. But it has also become a prime hunting ground for dissidents by Iranian intelligence, or those who work for Tehran's security agencies, leading to concerns about the safety of Iranian nationals. Moradi's fate is likely to heighten those fears.

London-based Iranian activist Peyman Aref, a former refugee in Turkey, told RFE/RL that Moradi said a year before his kidnapping that he felt threatened by Turkish intelligence agents.

"He spoke on Clubhouse last year and revealed that an individual...who works for Turkish intelligence is trying to recruit Iranians," Aref said, referring to the audio-based, social-media application that has become a major platform for dialogue among Iranians. "He ended his remarks by saying that 'from now on Turkish intelligence will be directly responsible if anything happens to me.'"

Peyman Aref
Peyman Aref

In 2017, Aref was deported from Turkey to Lebanon after being detained by Turkish security forces, his lawyer told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. Aref claimed he was deported after refusing to cooperate with Turkish intelligence.

Iran is known to have assassinated or abducted multiple exiled opposition figures in recent years, including journalist Ruhollah Zam.

Zam, the manager of the popular opposition Telegram channel Amad news, was executed by Iran in 2020 after being convicted of "corruption on Earth," a charge often leveled in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran's government.

Zam had been living and working in exile in France before being arrested in 2019 under still unclear circumstances. According to media reports, the dissident was allegedly lured to neighboring Iraq by Iranian agents.

Habib Chaab, a founder and former leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) separatist group, went missing during a trip to Istanbul in 2020.

A month later, Chaab appeared in a video on Iranian state television in which he claimed responsibility for launching an attack and working with Saudi intelligence services. Chaab, who had lived in Sweden for 14 years, was later put on trial.

Iranian Teachers' Union Official Says He Was Chained To A Hospital Bed For 12 Days

Iranian teachers union activist Jafar Ebrahimi (file photo)

The jailed spokesman of the Iranian Teachers' Union's Coordination Council has published a letter saying that, after he was transferred from Tehran's infamous Evin prison to hospital due to illness, authorities chained him to the hospital bed for 12 days and denied him access to his lawyer and family.

The Iranian Teachers' Union's Coordination Council published the letter written by Jafar Ebrahimi on November 28, saying it shows the "disastrous behavior of prison officials toward a sick prisoner."

"They made the hospital a worse place for me than the prison," Ebrahimi said in the letter as he described being held incommunicado from his relatives and legal team.

The Evin prison has a long history of brutal behavior toward it inmates.

In March, the hacktivist group Edalat-e Ali, which claims to work inside Iran to expose the "true face of the regime," released video footage highlighting the inhumane conditions in the country's most-notorious prison.

Leaked Video Exposes Extreme Conditions In Notorious Iranian Prison
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Ebrahimi, along with Rasul Bodaghi, Ali Akbar Baghani, and Mohammad Habibi, all teachers' union activists, were arrested by security agents on April 30, just ahead of demonstrations held in several cities on May Day, which coincided with Teachers' Day in Iran.

They were also accused of coordinating the protests with French teachers' union official Cecile Kohler and her partner, Jacques Paris.

Iran has attempted to link the French nationals to the protesting Iranian teachers. The arrests were largely seen as an attempt to discredit the rallies and increase pressure on the Iranian teachers' union to stop the protests.

Iranian officials have accused the French couple of "entering the country to sow chaos and destabilize society."

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Man Who Ran Onto Field During World Cup Game Defends 'Breaking The Rules'

Mario Ferri is detained by officials after encroaching onto the field of play during Portugal's World Cup game against Uruguay on November 29

An Italian who ran on to the field during a World Cup game wearing a T-shirt in support of Ukraine and Iranian women is a football player with a history of similar stunts. Mario Ferri, 35, who calls himself "The Falcon," interrupted the Portugal-Uruguay game on November 29 when he sprinted on to the field wearing a blue Superman T-shirt with "Save Ukraine" on the front and "Respect for Iranian Woman" on the back. He also carried a rainbow-colored flag adorned with the words PACE, meaning peace in Italian. To read the original story by AFP, click here.

Political Fever Pitch Looms Over U.S.-Iran World Cup Match

Iran fans hold a "Women, life, freedom" Iranian flag and a replica shirt in memory of Mahsa Amini inside the stadium in Qatar before the match with Wales on November 25.

The coaches of the U.S. and Iranian soccer teams have said that they do not want to get caught up in a game of political football when their sides clash for a chance to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup.

"I envision the game being hotly contested for the fact that both teams want to advance to the next round -- not because of politics or because of relations between our countries," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said ahead of the November 29 showdown at Al-Thumama Stadium in Qatar.

"Our preparation starts with a good rest, refresh the minds, and put all the complementary and garbage things outside of our minds," said Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese head coach of Iran's national team.

But as the two coaches attempt to keep the focus on the playing field with either team assured of advancing to the next round with an outright victory, a political fever pitch looms over the game pitting two countries that severed relations more than 40 years ago and are open rivals on the world stage.

The World Cup has been a showcase of discord in Iran since the tournament kicked off on November 20, with Tehran's deadly crackdown on ongoing anti-government demonstrations leading to fresh U.S. sanctions against Iranian officials and dividing the country's fan base.

The Iranian team has faced immense pressure from the authorities and protesters alike to take sides amid the demonstrations, which are seen as one of the greatest threats to Iran's clerical establishment since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The nationwide demonstrations erupted following the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman who died shortly after she was arrested for allegedly violating the state-mandated requirement that women wear the hijab, or head scarf.

According to rights watchdogs, at least 450 people have been killed and more than 15,000 detained in the government crackdown.

Some fans have honored Amini's memory by wearing "Mahsa Amini-22" shirts in a nod to her age when she died.

In an apparent sign of solidarity with demonstrators, members of the Iranian team did not sing the country's national anthem ahead of their first game, a 6-2 loss to England that was blamed partly on outside distractions. But the players did join in singing what anti-government demonstrators have called the "blood anthem" ahead of the second game, a 2-0 win against Wales on November 25.

Iran's national soccer team chose not to sing their country's anthem before their opening World Cup match against England on November 21, in an apparent show of support for protesters back home.
Iran's national soccer team chose not to sing their country's anthem before their opening World Cup match against England on November 21, in an apparent show of support for protesters back home.

While that result was cause for mass celebration, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reported from Qatar that a group of pro-government fans who waved the flag of the Islamic republic harassed and intimidated a group of Iranian supporters who aired their grievances against the clerical regime.

Following the Wales match, a former coach of the U.S. team, Jurgen Klinsmann, came under fire for his postgame comments. Speaking as a pundit on the BBC, Klinsmann said the Iranian team "worked the referee." "They work the linesman and fourth official, they are constantly in their ear," he said. "There were a lot of incidents we didn't see. This is their culture, they take you off your game."

Queiroz -- who coached Iran during two stints from 2011 to 2019 and was once hired by U.S. Soccer to develop a road map for the United States to win a World Cup by 2010 -- responded with a torrent of tweets defending Iranian culture and his team. He said Klinsmann's comments were a "disgrace to football."

Just days before the decisive group match, the U.S. Soccer Federation triggered a row when it temporarily displayed Iran's green, white, and red flag without the emblem of the Islamic republic in a social-media post.

The Iranian government responded angrily, with Iran's hard-line Tasnim news agency calling for the U.S. team to be kicked out of the World Cup and suspended for 10 games.

The post was eventually removed, with U.S. Soccer explaining that the intention had been to show "support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights" by displaying the Iranian tricolor without the emblem for 24 hours.

A fan wears a black ribbon and a T-shirt reading "Woman, life, freedom" in memory of Mahsa Amini prior to the match with Wales on November 25.
A fan wears a black ribbon and a T-shirt reading "Woman, life, freedom" in memory of Mahsa Amini prior to the match with Wales on November 25.

Back in Iran, former members of the Iranian national soccer team have apparently been punished for supporting the ongoing demonstrations.

Voria Ghafouri, who has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian establishment and was surprisingly left out of this year's World Cup squad, was reportedly arrested on November 24, just days after expressing sympathy for Amini's family and calling for an end to the violent crackdown on protesters in his and Amini's native western Kurdistan region.

Iranian state media reported that the 35-year-old Ghafouri had been arrested for "insulting the national soccer team and propagandizing against the government."

Ghafouri earlier this month tweeted that "it is better to die standing than to live kneeling." In June, he was accused by an Iranian official of being a Kurdish separatist after the player tweeted the word "Kurdistan" twice.

Iranian media reported that Ghafouri has been released on bail. But rights groups said he had been transferred from western Iran to a prison in the capital, Tehran.

Pressure has also been placed on an Iranian soccer legend, Ali Daei, who said he chose not to travel to Qatar due to the government's crackdown and said on social media on November 28 he had received "numerous threats against myself and my family in recent months and days."

The Black Reward hacktivist group, which has targeted Iranian government institutions and infrastructure, added to fears that Tehran was targeting fans by leaking recordings this week purporting to reveal an Iranian pro-government militia commander saying that Qatar had provided a list of Iranians who had purchased tickets to the World Cup, allowing the Iranian authorities to identify 500 individuals known for anti-government activities.

While Iran could progress with a draw on November 29, it cannot afford to lose if it wants to advance to the last 16. The United States has no option but to win.

The U.S. players have said they were unaware that U.S. Soccer had planned to publish its controversial flag post, while also publicly declaring their support for women's rights.

The day before the big match, U.S. coach Berhalter was apologetic for the flag post but also insistent that he was not focusing on the controversies leading up to it.

"Of course, our thoughts are with the Iranian people, the whole country, the whole team, everyone, but our focus is on this match," he said on November 28.

Iranian Truckers Strike For Third Day In Support Of Protesters

Truck drivers go on strike in Ravand in Kashan on November 28.

Iranian truck drivers have continued to strike for a third day, with more joining their ranks across the country despite threats from security agents over undelivered cargo.

Trucks in the central Iranian city of Isfahan remained parked while reports published on social media indicated that drivers in the cities of Qazvin, Kermanshah, Marand, and Bandar Abbas joined the protest, sparked by the death of a young woman in Tehran after being detained in mid-September for a violation of the country's strict head-scarf law.

Unrest among workers in many sectors of Iran's economy is causing pressure to mount on the government after a summer of unrest over poor living conditions and a flagging economy wracked by U.S. sanctions imposed because of Tehran's nuclear program.

The death on September 16 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody sparked a new wave of unrest that authorities have met with lethal force across the country.

Strikes have also been reported in several cities in recent days, with reports that workers at the Safe Khodro, an auto manufacturer in the city of Karaj, just northwest of the capital, went on strike on November 27.

Images published on social media also showed that workers at the Pars home-appliance factory in Qazvin were also on strike, chanting, "Workers, shout, shout for your rights."

Meanwhile, three labor organizations, the Haft Tapeh Workers' Union, the Coordinating Committee to Help Establish Labor Organizations, and the Retirees' Union Group issued a joint statement condemning the bloody repression of people in the Kurdish cities of western Iran.

They also demanded the immediate withdrawal of all armed forces from Kurdistan, the unconditional release of all prisoners and those detained, and the cessation of rocket fire into Iraq's Kurdish region.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has accused Kurdish groups of "attacking and infiltrating Iran to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest" amid the protests that erupted over Amini's death.

Her death has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread demonstrations represent the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 23, at least 445 protesters had been killed during the uprising, including 61 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Updated

Iranian Hard-Liners Propose Punishment For Cooperation With 'Hostile' Countries

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in mid-September while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Hard-line Iranian lawmakers have proposed a plan to enact harsher punishments against protesters who they say are cooperating with "hostile" foreign countries.

According to the plan, any interaction with any Western institutions and media, including social media, will be considered cooperation and criminalized under the title of "corruption on earth" -- a charge that is punishable by death and often leveled in cases allegedly involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran's government.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In recent months and especially amid the latest weeks of protests, Iranian legislators have repeatedly tried to facilitate the suppression of protesters by passing harsher and harsher laws while accusing Western countries of being directly involved in fomenting the unrest, despite giving no evidence to back up their claims.

Last month, 227 lawmakers from the 290-seat, hard-liner-led parliament urged the judiciary to approve the death sentence for some protesters arrested amid the recent wave of demonstrations.

They also proposed banning student protesters -- who along with women have formed the backbone of the demonstrations demanding more freedoms -- from traveling abroad for 10 years as the Islamic republic struggles to suppress the biggest show of dissent in years.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, journalists, lawyers, activists, digital-rights defenders, and others.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 23, at least 445 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 61 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

An Iranian general was quoted on November 28 by a website close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as saying that more than 300 people had been killed.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the commander of the aerospace division of the IRGC, did not provide an exact figure or say where his estimate came from, but he said the 300 killed included what he said were "martyrs," in an apparent reference to security forces. He also suggested that many of those killed were ordinary Iranians not involved in the protests.

Hajizadeh also reiterated the official claim that the protests have been fomented by Iran's enemies, including Western countries and Saudi Arabia, without providing evidence.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda. With reporting by AP

Somalia Questions Iranian, Pakistani 'Hostages' Found Near Al-Shabaab Territory

Al-Shabaab militants (file photo)

Somali police on November 27 launched an investigation after 20 foreigners, who were claiming to be fishermen who had been held hostage for years, were discovered near territory controlled by the Al-Shabaab militant group. Police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said the men -- 14 Iranians and six Pakistanis -- were apprehended for questioning after they wandered from a part of Galmudug state under militant control. "Some of these people were kidnapped by Al-Shabaab in 2014, while others were abducted on the Harardhere coast, near Qosol-tire, in southern Somalia in mid-2019," Dudishe said.

Prominent Iranian Actress Reportedly Released After Arrest For Supporting Protests

Hengameh Ghaziani was arrested by security forces on November 20. (file photo)

Iranian actress Hengameh Ghaziani, who was detained last week after expressing support for anti-government protesters, has been released from custody, state news agency ISNA reported on November 27.

Ghaziani, a film and theater actress, was arrested by security forces on November 20 along with fellow actress Katayoun Riahi after they removed their head scarves in public in an apparent act of defiance against the regime.

ISNA did not give details of Ghaziani's release or mention Riahi’s status in its report.

Reports by human rights organizations indicate that more than 15,000 people have been detained during protests that have swept the country since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in September after being detained for allegedly improperly wearing a head scarf.

Authorities have said Amini died from a sudden heart attack while denying claims by activists that she was beaten.

Riahi was one of the first Iranian celebrities to remove her hijab in protest of Amini's death, while Ghaziani published pictures of herself standing on a Tehran street without a hijab and tying her hair in a ponytail. Tying one's hair in a ponytail in public has become an act of defiance in Iran in recent weeks.

Ghaziani and Riahi were detained after being summoned by prosecutors in a probe into their "provocative" social media posts and media activity, the state-run IRNA news agency said at the time.

The moves came amid a brutal crackdown by the government after weeks of unrest -- one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979 -- that erupted following the September 16 death of Amini.

Prior to her arrest, Ghaziani posted along with her photos a statement saying that "maybe this is my last post. From this moment on, whatever happens to me, know that I am with the People of Iran until the last breath."

Earlier in an Instagram posting, Ghaziani called Iran a "child-killing state."

Many members of the Iranian cinematic and artistic community have been summoned and interrogated by security agencies for supporting protesters.

Prior to the recent wave of nationwide protests, three prominent Iranian cinematographers -- Mostafa al-Ahmad, Mohammad Rasulof, and Jafar Panahi -- were arrested after they joined a group of more than 300 Iranian filmmakers in calling on the security forces to "lay down arms" in the face of public outrage over "corruption, theft, inefficiency, and repression" following a building collapse in May in the city of Abadan, which killed 41 people.

The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran on October 3 announced a sentence of six years against Ahmad.

Panahi and Rasoulov reportedly have been in Tehran's notorious Evin prison for several months.

Iran Arrests Khamenei's Niece After She Condemns 'Murderous Regime'

Farideh Moradkhani (file photo)

Iranian authorities have arrested a niece of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after she recorded a video describing the authorities led by her uncle as a "murderous and child-killing regime.” Farideh Moradkhani comes from a branch of the family that has a record of opposition to Iran's clerical leadership and has herself been jailed previously in the country. Her brother, Mahmoud Moradkhani, wrote on Twitter that she was arrested on November 23 after going to the office of the prosecutor following a summons. Then, on November 27, her brother posted a video on YouTube in which she condemned the "clear and obvious oppression" Iranians have been subjected to.

Iran Charges Dissident Rapper Toomaj Salehi With Spreading 'Corruption On Earth'

A U.S.-based rights group said Toomaj Salehi's trial had begun "without a lawyer of his choice," and his family said his "life is at serious risk.” (file photo)

Iran’s judiciary has charged dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi with spreading “corruption on Earth,” a serious offense that could result in a death sentence in the Islamic republic.

Isfahan’s judicial chief, Asadollah Jafari, was quoted on November 27 as saying that Salehi faces other charges, including “propaganda activity against the establishment, forming an illegal group with the intention of disrupting the security of the country, cooperating with hostile governments, and spreading lies and inciting others to commit violence.”

A U.S.-based rights group said on November 26 that Toomaj Salehi's trial had begun "without a lawyer of his choice," and his family said his "life is at serious risk.”


But Jafari said no court session has been held so far for Salehi, who was arrested in late October after denouncing the clerical establishment and expressing support for the protests triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

His detention came shortly after he told the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation: "You are dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation...in order to keep its power, money and weapons."

State media then published a video purporting to show the rapper blindfolded and apologizing for his words. Family members and supporters accused the authorities of torturing Salehi in prison to force him to make a false confession.

Family members have expressed concern about Salehi’s health and the charges against him. Earlier this month, over 100 musicians, poets, artists, and activists called for his release.

Salehi, 32, gained notoriety for lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty, state executions, and the killing of protesters in Iran. His songs also point to a widening gap between ordinary Iranians and the country’s leadership, accusing authorities of “suffocating” the people without regard for their well-being.

Last year, Salehi was arrested at his home after releasing several protest songs. A few days later, the rapper was released on bail amid widespread condemnation of his arrest by his supporters and by rights groups.

Salehi is among thousands, including protesters as well as journalists, lawyers, artists, athletes, activists and others arrested in Iran’s ongoing state crackdown on the antiestablishment protests that have rocked the country for the past two months. Iran's judiciary says more than 2,000 people have been charged since the start of the protests.

With reporting by AFP

At World Cup, U.S. Soccer Scrubs Islamic Emblem From Iranian Flag

An Iranian fans hold a "Woman. Life. Freedom" flag and a shirt in memory of Mahsa Amini before the Iran-Wales match on November 25.

The U.S. soccer federation briefly displayed Iran's national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic republic, saying the move supports protesters in Iran ahead of the two nations' World Cup match on November 29. Iran's government reacted by accusing America of removing the name of God from their national flag. The decision by the U.S. Soccer Federation adds yet another political firestorm to the Middle East's first World Cup, one which organizers had hoped would be spared off-the-field controversies. To read the original story from AP, click here.

Iran Bank Manager Reportedly Fired For Serving Unveiled Woman

Women in the country of more than 80 million people are required to cover their heads, necks, and hair, a law enforced by the country's morality police. (file photo)

An Iranian bank manager who served an unveiled woman has been fired, local media reported on November 27, as demonstrations triggered by the mandatory head-covering rule shake the Islamic republic. Women in the country of more than 80 million people are required to cover their heads, necks, and hair, a law enforced by the country's morality police. The September 16 death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, for allegedly breaching the dress code rules sparked nationwide demonstrations, which authorities call "riots.” Mehr news agency reported that the bank manager in Qom Province, near the capital, Tehran, "had provided bank services on November 24 to an unveiled woman.” To read the story from AFP, click here.

Queiroz Tells Klinsmann To Quit FIFA Role Over 'Outrageous' Iran Rebuke

Iranian players celebrate with coach Carlos Queiroz after the match against Wales on November 25.

Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz lambasted German soccer icon Juergen Klinsmann for criticizing his team's World Cup conduct, calling his remarks a "disgrace to football" and urging him to resign from his role with world governing body FIFA. In comments as an analyst with broadcaster BBC, 1990 World Cup winner Klinsmann accused Iran of systematic gamesmanship during their stunning 2-0 stoppage time win over Wales on November 25 and said Queiroz's record with other national teams made him the right match for Iran. "That's their culture and that's their way of doing it and that's why Carlos Queiroz, he fits really well in the Iranian national team," said Klinsmann, a former United States coach. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Iranian Activist Hossein Ronaghi Released On Bail, Transferred To Hospital

Hossein Ronaghi has been transferred to a hospital after refusing to eat for 64 days, his father said.

Iranian authorities on November 26 released activist Hossein Ronaghi on bail, his brother said. Ronaghi was among thousands arrested in the crackdown on protests rocking the country over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was taken into custody by morality police for the alleged improper wearing of a head scarf. Concern had been growing about Ronaghi’s health after he went on a hunger strike last month. "Hossein was released tonight on bail to undergo treatment," Hossein Ronaghi's brother Hassan said on Twitter. Their father, Ahmad, said Ronaghi had been transferred to a hospital after refusing to eat for 64 days. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, click here.

Cyberattack Hits Iran's Fars News Agency

The headquarter of the Fars news agency in Tehran (file photo)

Hackers have disrupted the work of Iran's Fars news agency, one of the main sources of news disseminated by the state during protests over the death of a young woman in police custody in September, the agency said. Fars said its website had been disrupted late on November 25 by a "complex hacking and cyberattack operation...Removing possible bugs...may cause problems for some agency services for a few days," it said in a statement posted on November 26 on its Telegram channel. To read the original story by AFP, click here.

Iran's Khamenei Praises Basij Forces For Confronting 'Riots'

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on November 26 that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in "riots" sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September. The Basij force, affiliated with the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Iran Sends More Troops To Kurdish Region As New Protest Flares

Protesters take to the streets Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have built up their presence in restive Kurdish regions, state media reported on November 25 amid a crackdown on mass protests, as video showed demonstrations in minority Baluch areas of the southeast. Activist website 1500Tavsir posted footage it said was from protests in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan Province, with the sound of gunshots and, in one video, demonstrators running for cover. Reuters could not independently verify their authenticity. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Rights Groups Say Iran Forcing Families To Bury Dead At Night

Shamal Khediri, 32, was reportedly targeted with direct fire by the IRGC during the bloody suppression of protests in the northwestern Iranian city of Mahabad. He died on November 24.

Human rights groups say Iranian authorities have forced the family of one of the victims killed by security forces during protests in the Kurdish city of Mahabad to bury their son's body in the middle of the night under strict security measures.

The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network claimed in a report on November 25 that forces from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) targeted 32-year-old Shamal Khediri with direct fire last week during the bloody suppression of protests in the northwestern Iranian city of Mahabad. He died after being transferred to hospital on November 24.

The Norway-based Hengaw rights group said that after handing over Khediri's body to his family, several security forces escorted them to Mahabad and forced them to bury his body "in the middle of the night."

Activists say the increasingly violent suppression of protesters in western Iran is an attempt by authorities to create fear among protesters and quell the nationwide protests that have rocked the country since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died on September 16 while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

They added that forcing families to bury those killed by security forces is an attempt to cover up the incidents and limit the chances of funerals turning into massive demonstrations.

The Kurdistan Human Rights Network and Hengaw, two groups that monitor the human rights situation in Kurdistan Province, reported on November 25 that Heman Aman, a man from the Iranian-Kurdish city of Bukan, was tortured to death after being shot and kidnapped by government forces.

According to the reports, the 26-year-old Aman died on November 23 "as a result of severe torture by agents of the Urmia Intelligence Department" at a detention center.

The report added that Aman's body was also buried at the middle of the night under the pressure of security forces after being handed over to his family.

The IRGC has accused Kurdish groups of "attacking and infiltrating Iran to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest" amid protests that erupted over Amini's death.

Anger over Amini's death has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread demonstrations represent the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 23, at least 445 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 61 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iran Rejects UN Probe Into Deadly Crackdown On Protests

A picture from social media purportedly showing an anti-government protest in Abdana in Ilam Province on November 17

Iran has rejected a decision by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to form a fact-finding committee to investigate human rights violations amid a violent crackdown on anti-government protests that erupted over the death of Mahsa Amini.

At a special session initiated by Germany on November 24 at the Geneva-based UNHRC, which has 47 members, the resolution was approved in a 25-6 vote, with 15 members abstaining.

The resolution provides for an independent investigative mission to document human rights violations in Iran in the context of the protests, which erupted in mid-September after the death of a young woman being held by police for allegedly improperly wearing a head scarf.

Tehran has blamed several Western countries of fomenting the protests even though it has not provided any evidence to back up its claim.

Following that narrative, the Foreign Ministry on November 25 rejected the probe as "an anti-Iran move by a small group of Western countries to impose a resolution on the Human Rights Council against Iran."

It added that it would not recognize the mission.

The death of 22-year-old Amini in Tehran on September 16 sparked the wave of unrest now sweeping across the country.

Officials said she died of natural causes, but eyewitnesses and Amini's family say she was beaten after being taken into custody by Iran's notorious morality police.

The government has since launched a brutal crackdown on protesters, especially in the western regions of Iran, where Amini was from.

At least 416 people, including 51 children, have been killed by security forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group. At least 83 people have been killed in Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan, three provinces with significant Kurdish populations, IHR said.

Despite Tehran's reaction, many countries and human rights groups welcomed the investigation, saying it will facilitate the gathering of evidence of human rights violations that could lead to the prosecution of criminals in international courts.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the United States continues to support the people of Iran "in the face of this brutal repression and work to see to it that those engaged in the ongoing violent suppression are held accountable.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on Twitter immediately after the UNHRC meeting that "the result is clear: unity for justice, for the people of Iran."

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Iran Regime Supporters Confront Protesters At World Cup Game

Iran fans hold a banner reading "Women, Life, Freedom" inside the stadium during Iran's first match in the World Cup in Qatar on November 21.

Iran's political turmoil cast a shadow over Iran's second match in the World Cup on November 25, with pro-government fans harassing anti-government fans outside the stadium in Qatar. Unlike in their first match against England, the Iran players sang along to their national anthem before the match against Wales as some fans in the stadium wept. Some Iran fans confiscated Persian pre-revolutionary Iranian flags from supporters entering the stadium and shouted insults at those wearing shirts with the slogan of Iranian protest movement, Women, Life, Freedom. To read the original story from AP, click here.

Iran Arrests Outspoken Player Amid World Cup Scrutiny

Voria Ghafouri, former captain of Esteghlal Tehran, visits the daughter of Fereshteh Ahmadi, a woman who was killed in the protests in Kurdestan Province.

Iran arrested a prominent former member of its national soccer team on November 24 over his criticism of the government as authorities grapple with nationwide protests that have cast a shadow over its competition at the World Cup. The semiofficial Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported that Voria Ghafouri, who was not chosen to go to the World Cup, was arrested for “insulting the national soccer team and propagandizing against the government.” To see the original AP story, click here.

Iran Asks UN Security Council To Close Headquarters Of Kurdish Groups In Iraq

This video grab from September 29 reportedly shows a missile launch from the Iranian Kurdistan (Komalah) region directed toward Sulaimaniyah in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

Tehran has asked the United Nations Security Council to close the headquarters of Kurdish groups based in Iraq and disarm them for their "subversive actions" against Iran.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had repeatedly fired on the headquarters of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in northern Iraq in recent months. Tehran accuses them of fomenting a wave of unrest inside Iran.

According to the semiofficial ISNA news agency, the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic to the United Nations claimed in a letter to the Security Council on November 24 that the attacks on targets inside Iraq were carried out with the aim of "protecting national security" and defending against the "subversive and terrorist acts" of Kurdish groups.

Activists say the violence is an attempt by the authorities to create fear among protesters and quell the nationwide protests that have rocked the country since Mahsa Amini died on September 16 after being detained by police for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

The IRGC has accused Kurdish groups of "attacking and infiltrating Iran to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest" amid protests that erupted over Amini's death.

Anger over the death of the 22-year-old Amini has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread demonstrations represent the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Kurdish parties opposing authorities in Iran have repeatedly announced in the past weeks that the Islamic republic is seeking to push its internal tensions outside its borders by attacking parts of Iraq.

Khaled Azizi, the spokesman of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, said in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the party "will not be drawn into the armed war that the government of the Islamic republic is seeking and supports the peaceful protests held by the people of Iran."

"The Islamic republic intends to make the people of Kurdistan an imaginary enemy for the whole of Iran because it has no solution to confront the struggle of the Iranians," Azizi added.

Iran's letter to the UN Security Council was sent on a day when the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is scheduled to hold a special session about the ongoing protests in Iran and the harsh crackdown launched by authorities on the protesters.

Germany initiated the special session of the UNHRC, which has 47 members, in order to discuss the human rights violations that have taken place during the nationwide protests in Iran.

A resolution is set to be introduced at the November 24 session that will call on Iran to end repression and violence against its own people. The resolution also provides for an independent investigative mission to document human rights violations in Iran in the context of the protests.

At least 416 people, including 51 children, have been killed by security forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group. At least 83 people have been killed in Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan, three provinces with significant Kurdish populations, IHR said.

Activist reports also indicate that hundreds of people have been arrested and scores injured, with many people missing after being detained by security forces.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Australia, Netherlands Confirm Citizens Detained In Iran, Access Denied

Protesters hold a vigil for 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Sydney, Australia, on September 25.

Australia and the Netherlands have confirmed the arrests of dual nationals in Iran and say the detainees have been denied consular access.

A spokesperson for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs on November 24 said an Iranian-Australian had been detained, though not for participating in protests over the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly that are sweeping across Iran.

The Netherlands made a similar announcement late on November 23 saying one of its citizens had been detained in Iran. It gave no further details.

Both countries confirmed their officials had been denied consular access to the detainees.

Australia’s Department for Foreign Affairs noted that Iran refuses to accept the right of consular access in such cases because Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship.

Many countries have urged their citizens to leave Iran because of the high risk of arbitrary detention.

The arrests come amid widespread protests in Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran's morality police after being detained for "improperly" wearing the hijab, a mandatory head scarf.

Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of stoking the protests without showing any evidence to back up its claim.

Earlier this week, Judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told reporters that 40 foreign nationals were among those who have been detained during the unrest, which began after Amini's death on September 16.

Some reports by human rights organizations indicate that more than 15,000 people overall have been detained during the nationwide protests.

The activist group Iran Human Rights said on November 23 that "at least" 416 people, including 51 children and 27 women, have been killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests.

Iranian Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said that some foreigners arrested during the protests had played "a major role" in the unrest. He said these people "are in the hands of the judiciary and are to be dealt with according to the law."

Western countries have repeatedly charged that Iran is taking dual nationals and foreigners into custody on false charges for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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