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Families Of Kidnapped Iranian Soldiers Demand Release

(RFE/RL) 17 January 2006 -- Some 50 family members of the nine Iranian soldiers who were kidnapped last month near the Iran-Pakistan border gathered today in front of Iran's presidential building to call for swift government action to release the hostages.

The semi-official Fars news agency reports today the protesters said the hostage-takers threatened to kill the kidnapped soldiers within three days unless Tehran frees four of their group's members and pays a ransom.


Iran says the kidnappers of the Iranian soldiers last month also abducted three Turkish citizens near the border with Pakistan. Agencies today said the Turks have now been released.


The hostage-takers claim they are members of a Sunni militant group called Jundollah, or Soldiers of God. But Iranian officials say they are drug smugglers with ties to terrorist groups.


(Fars, Radio Farda)

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Family Says Son Died After Torture By Iranian Security Agents

Shadman Ahmadi died in police custody in Kurdistan.

The family of a 22-year-old Iranian protester says their son has died in a detention center after being tortured for hours following his arrest during a protest in the western Iranian city of Dehgolan.

The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network quoted Shadman Ahmadi's family as saying that their son was killed after being taken into custody on December 8 "due to the torture of police forces at a police station."

A Telegram channel close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps appeared to confirm the death, saying a young "rebel" who "destroyed public property and created intimidation and disruption of public order" was arrested during the Dehgolan protests before dying of drug use. No evidence was given to back up the cause of death.

The protests, which have snowballed into one of the biggest threats to the clerical establishment that has ruled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, started after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died on September 16, three days after being detained in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly breaching Iran's strict rules on head scarves.

The unrest was initially centered in Amini's hometown of Saghez in Iran's Kurdistan region before quickly spreading to dozens of cities and towns across Iran.

Tehran has claimed, without providing evidence, that Kurdish groups in northern Iraq have been supporting the demonstrations.

According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, since the beginning of nationwide protests at least 115 Kurdish citizens, including 12 minors, have been killed by the military and security forces in protests in the cities of the western province of Kurdistan.

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

U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Turkish Businessman Over Iran Oil Trade

According to the U.S. Treasury, Sitki Ayan also used one of his companies to buy a Panamanian-flagged liquefied natural gas tanker for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. (file photo)

The United States has blacklisted prominent Turkish businessman Sitki Ayan for allegedly operating a trading network that facilitated oil sales on behalf of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Ayan's companies have established international sales contracts for Iranian oil, arranged shipments, helped launder the proceeds, and obscured the origin of the oil on behalf of Iran's Quds Force, an arm of the IRGC, the U.S. Treasury said on December 8 in a statement.

Ayan, his son, Bahaddin Ayan, and Kasim Oztas, a senior official of ASB Group, a Gibraltar-registered holding company for several businesses controlled by Ayan, were all designated for sanctions in an action that the Treasury said supplements one in May targeting other elements of the network.

That network facilitated the sale of Iranian oil for both the IRGC Quds Force and Hizballah with the backing of senior levels of the Russian government and state-run entities, Treasury said.

Ayan used the network of his Gibraltar-registered ASB Group, which was also blacklisted by the Treasury on December 8, to hide the origins of the oil and the destination of the payments, Treasury said.

Bahaddin Ayan directs and owns shares in at least five ASB Group-associated companies, while Oztas "directly handles much of Ayan's business," the department said.

It said Ayan has helped the Quds Force by arranging the sale and shipment of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of oil the IRGC controls to China and other East Asian buyers, Europe, and the United Arab Emirates.

He has also helped move the proceeds from the sales to the IRGC, the Treasury said.

Ayan also used one of his companies to buy a Panamanian-flagged liquefied natural gas tanker for the IRGC, it said.

The Treasury also placed around 20 companies in the ASB Group and Ayan-affiliated companies on its blacklist. The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals or companies have under U.S. jurisdiction, inhibits their access to global financial markets, and bars people based in the U.S. from dealing with them.

Ayan, his son, and Oztas were not immediately available for comment, Reuters reported. Ayan's ASB Group and Turkey’s Directorate of Communications did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Washington maintains sweeping sanctions on Iran and has looked for ways to increase pressure as efforts to resurrect a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran have stalled.

The agreement limited Iran's uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms in return for lifting international sanctions. U.S. President Joe Biden sought to negotiate the return of Iran to the nuclear deal after former President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Brother Of Iranian Doctor Handed Death Sentence Says Wife's Confession Came After She Was Tortured

Radiologist Hamid Qarahasanlou and his wife, Farzaneh

The brother of Iranian doctor Hamid Qarahasanlou says interrogators severly tortured his brother's wife to extract a confession from her against her husband as security forces looked to pin the blame on protesters for the death of a member of the Basij paramilitary force during nationwide demonstrations.

Iran's judiciary said on December 6 that it had sentenced 16 people to sentences ranging from long-term imprisonment to death for their alleged roles in the killing of Ruhollah Ajamian, who was part of the Basij, a volunteer militia under the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Hamid Qarahasanlou, who is in hospital recovering after reportedly being tortured as well, was one of five accused to be handed death sentences over the killing of Ajamian.

Qarahasanlu's brother said in an interview with RFERL’s Radio Farda that, during the interrogations, Farzaneh, Hamid’s wife, was tortured to the point where to save herself, she lied and said that her husband may have kicked the victim.

“She resisted the first day. On the second day, they told her that we know your son is in the dormitory of Tabriz University, and if you don't confess by tonight that Hamid hit the victim, we will arrest your son and he will suffer the same torture that you are suffering, and he may be killed,” Farzaneh Qarahasanlou’s brother in law told Radio Farda.

“This is the only evidence they have against Hamid, and Farzaneh later recanted the statement and told the court that her confession was obtained under torture and has no validity,” he added.

Hassan Qarahasanlou also told Radio Farda that the judicial authorities threatened their lawyers and finally, upon the withdrawal of the lawyers, they forced them to accept a public defender.

"The public defender spoke against my brother in court. He told Hamid that you are lying, and that you hit Ajamian and were not tortured."

According to Qarahasanlou’s brother, the public defender personally went to the hospital where Hamid was admitted and without taking into account medical opinions, determined that Hamid Qarahasanlou was capable of appearing in court.

“The forensic doctor had said that Hamid could not be present in the court, that he could not even have a video call. That’s why he was absent from the first session of the trial, but still, they took him to the court for the second session,” Hassan Qarahasanlou said.

Prosecutors said Ajamian, 27, was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi, during ceremonies marking the 40th day since her death.

The four others sentenced to death were not named. Of the 11 people sentenced in the case, three were minors, judiciary spokesman Massud Setayeshi told a news conference, adding that the sentences can be appealed.

Hamid Qarahasanlou, who is a radiologist, was seriously injured during the arrest and interrogation.

According to his brother, one of Hamid's ribs was broken during detention and five more during interrogation. Finally, these fractures resulted in internal bleeding and he was taken to hospital.

After Qarahasanlou regained consciousness following surgery, judicial authorities came to the hospital in the middle of the night to wake him and hand him the death sentence, Hassan Qarahasanlou said.

The cases were rushed through three hearings within six days before the sentences were handed down.

Human rights organizations have strongly objected to the death sentences being issued against protesters in Iran after "sham trials."

The verdict comes after weeks of increased threats by authorities that they will react harshly to any unrest. Lawmakers have pushed the judiciary to render harsh penalties -- including the death penalty -- in trials for those arrested during protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

The Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with the judiciary, reported on December 8 that 24-year-old Mohsen Shekhari had become the first protester to be executed after an appeal of his sentence was rejected by the Supreme Court.

Iran is currently in the throes of unrest as people take to the streets across the country to protest Amini's death on September 16.

Police have met the unrest with deadly force.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran exceeds 500 this year.

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

U.K. Says It Has Sanctioned 30 More Political Figures, Rights Violators

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (file photo)

The United Kingdom has announced a new wave of sanctions that targets 30 individuals and entities -- including several Iranian and Russian officials -- it says are oppressing fundamental freedoms around the world.

This British Foreign Office said the announcement on December 9 to mark International Anti-Corruption Day and Global Human Rights Day includes 18 designations targeting individuals involved in violations and abuses of human rights, six perpetrators behind conflict-related sexual violence, and five individuals for their involvement in "serious corruption and illicit finance."

Among those sanctioned are Andrey Tishenin and Artur Shambazov, Moscow-installed officials in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and Valentin Oparin and Oleg Tkachenko, from the Rostov region of Russia that borders Crimea. All four are accused of using torture on prisoners or of obstructing complaints of torture.

Ten Iranian officials connected to Iran’s judicial and prison systems are on the list, including six individuals linked to courts that have been responsible for prosecuting protesters with "egregious sentences including the death penalty."

"It is our duty to promote free and open societies around the world," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.

"Today our sanctions go further to expose those behind the heinous violations of our most fundamental rights to account. We are committed to using every lever at our disposal to secure a future of freedom over fear."

In total, the new sanctions include targets from 11 countries across seven sanctions regimes -- "the most that the U.K. has ever brought together in one package."

All of the individuals are subject to an asset freeze and travel ban, while all entities are subject to an asset freeze.

The statement said that five individuals, including Slobodan Tesic, "a significant arms dealer based in Serbia," Milan Radojcic, an ethnic Serb businessman from Kosovo, and Zvonko Veselinovic, a construction magnate in Kosovo, were on the list for corruption. The other two are Ilan Shor, a Moldovan politician, and Vladimir Plahotniuc, a businessman and a former politician who is a fugitive from Moldovan justice.

"Lining their pockets through corruption and theft, corrupt actors have a corrosive effect on the communities around them -- undermining democracy and depriving countries of vital resources for their own gain," the statement said.

"As a result, over 2 percent of global [gross domestic product] is lost to corruption every single year," it added.

Iranian Shopkeepers Clash With Police Trying To Seal Shops Closed

Women protest on the streets of Tehran on December 8.

Following the call for three days of nationwide strikes in Iran, shopkeepers in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj have clashed with police forces who came to seal the strikers' shops on December 8.

Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, reported that following the clashes, shopkeepers defied the move by authorities to keep their businesses closed by breaking the seals and reopening.

The protests, which have snowballed into one of the biggest threats to the clerical establishment that has ruled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, started after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died on September 16, three days after being detained in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly breaching Iran's strict rules on head scarves.

The unrest was initially centered in Amini's hometown of Saghez in Iran's Kurdistan region before quickly spreading to dozens of cities and towns across Iran. Tehran has claimed, without providing evidence, that Kurdish groups in northern Iraq have been supporting the demonstrations.

Shopkeepers, workers, and students in dozens of Iranian cities joined a call to broaden the unrest even further by joining three days of nationwide strikes from December 5 to 7.

A video received by RFE/RL's Radio Farda from the central Iranian city of Isfahan appeared to show threats from security forces written on the shutters of some of the shops. The words "under watch" and "traitor to the country " could be seen on some storefronts.

Security forces reportedly raided several markets during the strike as they tried to prevent the move from gaining steam.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors.

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

Iran's Chief Of Police Threatens Harsher Crackdown On Protesters

Iranian police arrive to disperse a protest in Tehran.

The chief of Iran's Law Enforcement Command has threatened to crack down more decisively on protesters as Iran enters its fourth month of unrest touched off in mid-September by the death of a young woman in police custody over how she was wearing a head scarf.

In a speech at the Amin Police Academy, Hossein Ashtari said security forces have exercised restraint in dealing with the protesters so far, a claim that flies in the face of estimates by human rights groups that say more than 450 people, including dozens of minors, have been killed so far in the uprising, one of the biggest challenges to the authorities since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

Ashtari said police will draw a "red line" at the safety of regular citizens, and that they will "deal decisively with those who target people's safety and will not hold back."

The warning from the country's top police official comes after weeks of increased threats by authorities that they will react harshly to any unrest. Lawmakers have pushed the judiciary to render harsh penalties -- including the death penalty -- in trials for those arrested during protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

The Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with the judiciary, reported on December 8 that 24-year-old Mohsen Shekhari had become the first protester to be executed after an appeal of his sentence was rejected by the Supreme Court.

Ashtari added that during the recent unrest, the police did not allow "enemies and counter-revolutionaries to achieve their ominous and fake goals."

Iranian officials have blamed foreign countries and intelligence services of orchestrating the unrest, though they have not provided evidence to back up the claim.

The activist HRANA news agency says that as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest. The figure includes 64 minors.

Amnesty International says at least 28 people, including three children, could face execution in connection with the nationwide protests as Iranian authorities use the death penalty "as a tool of political repression to instill fear among the public and end the popular uprising."

Several thousand people have been arrested since Amini's death on September 16, including many protesters, journalists, lawyers, activists, and digital-rights defenders.

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

Belgian Court Suspends Controversial Prisoner Exchange Treaty With Iran

Iranian government opponents have said the treaty is "tailor-made" to permit the release of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat convicted of supplying explosives for a foiled plot targeting Iran's exiled opposition.

Belgium's constitutional court on December 8 suspended a prisoner exchange treaty with Iran criticized for opening the way for a bomb-plot mastermind to return to Tehran. Iranian government opponents have said the treaty is "tailor-made" to permit the release of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat convicted of supplying explosives for a foiled plot targeting Iran's exiled opposition. The Belgian government has said the treaty is the only way to secure the release an aid worker detained in Iran. The court ruled that the treaty was suspended pending a final ruling within three months.

A 'Martyr's' Death: Iranian Security Forces Attempt To Cast Protester They Shot As Their Hero

Omid Moayidi was shot after joining others to help a protester who was being beaten, eyewitnesses say.

Five Iranian security officers pounced on a young protester after he fell to the ground, beating him severely. As a crowd approached to intervene, one officer held a gun to the man's head, threatening to shoot him if anyone came closer.

The several dozen demonstrators backed away, but the officers, reinforced with additional manpower, fired three warning shots into the air and charged toward the crowd.

Two more shots rang out. When the smoke cleared on Zerhi Street, 20-year-old Omid Moayidi was dead.

Eyewitnesses to what happened on the evening of November 13 during protests in the southwestern city of Shiraz said the university student was first shot in the back as he and other protesters fled. After he fell from the first bullet, he was then shot at close range in the head.

"They shot him. They shot him in the forehead," one of two witnesses to the shooting told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on condition of anonymity out of concerns for their safety.

Both of the eyewitnesses said Moayidi was shot after joining others to help the protester who was being beaten. A third said Moayidi's body was taken away shortly after he was shot.

Sources with knowledge of the situation, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the family got the runaround from the authorities as they tried to determine Moayidi's fate, and were only able to confirm that he had died three days after he was shot by security forces.

The authorities, meanwhile, have attempted to use Moayidi's death to their advantage by portraying him as an innocent victim, claiming that he wasn't participating in the street demonstrations and was hit by a bullet fired by demonstrators as he drove on another city street.

The authorities' claims, combined with pressure on the family to follow the official line that Moayidi was a "martyr" of the country's clerical regime, have only convinced his relatives that they are attempting to cover up his killing by security forces.

Sources with knowledge of the situation told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that there was no doubt Moayidi had joined protests taking place in Shiraz on November 13. The demonstrations in the city that day honored the anniversary of "Bloody November," a deadly crackdown on anti-government protests in 2019 that rights groups said left as many as 1,500 protesters dead.

The protests in Shiraz were also a local continuation of ongoing antiestablishment demonstrations that erupted across the country following the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died shortly after she was arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating the country's head-scarf law.

Rights groups say at least 458 protesters have been killed by government forces during the state's crackdown on the demonstrations, which have posed one of the most serious challenges to Iran's clerical establishment that has ruled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

'You Killed My Child'

Sources with knowledge of the situation said that Moayidi's brother was with him, but they were separated when the security officers attacked. His brother returned home safely and the family immediately set out to determine Moayidi's whereabouts.

Omid Moayidi
Omid Moayidi

After repeated calls from Moayidi's mother on the night of November 13, a man answered Moayidi's mobile phone and told her that her son had been arrested and she should contact the information office of the local branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to the sources.

Repeated follow-ups led to further referrals to the local police, Intelligence Ministry branch, and other government offices, the sources with knowledge of the situation said. Finally, after three days, the family received a call directing them to visit the morgue to identify Moayidi's body.

When his father arrived, he was shown only his son's face, which he said had a bullet hole in the forehead. But Intelligence Ministry officials later told Moayidi's father that the official forensic report only mentioned a bullet wound to the back, according to the sources with knowledge of the situation.

The sources told Radio Farda that representatives of various agencies went to the family home and told Moayidi's parents that he was shot by protesters while driving his car, an account that the family did not accept.

According to the sources, at the insistence of Moayidi's mother, she was allowed to see her son's body prior to his burial on November 23. But when she was presented with Moayidi's body, it was completely covered except for the face, with his forehead wrapped in a flag.

Security officers later told the family that Moayidi was shot while driving by someone who fired at close range, leading to an accident, in an apparent attempt to explain the head wound.

That claim prompted the family to file an official complaint with the local branch of the Intelligence Ministry in which they demanded to know who killed Moayidi.

As Moayidi's funeral approached, according to the sources, the family was pressured to allow him to be buried as a martyr in a funeral to be paid for by the state. "They went to Omid's house...and said that they were burying Omid and would have a ceremony for him," the sources said.

The intention, the sources believe, was to use Moayidi's name to highlight the death of a member of the Basij paramilitary force who shared Moayidi's last name and died in Shiraz the same night. "They declared Mohammad Moayidi [the Basij member] a martyr and wanted to hold up Omid as well and say that we have lost two martyrs," one of the sources told Radio Farda.

But despite threats that his brother and father could face arrest if the family did not comply with the authorities' wishes and abide by the official line that Moayidi had been killed by protesters, the family refused to go along. "His mother said, 'You killed my child...do whatever you want [to us for refusing],'" one of the sources close to the family said.

Moayidi was eventually buried in a private ceremony, in accordance with the family's wishes. But the anonymous sources said that the ceremony was limited to close relatives. The family was not allowed to announce Moayidi's funeral, the sources said, and the 50 people who attended were watched over by hundreds of security personnel.

Since then, the sources with knowledge of the situation told Radio Farda, the family has been pressured to speak publicly on radio and television to repeat the official narrative that Moayidi was a victim of protester violence. But the family has not given in.

Prosecutors in Fars Province, of which Shiraz is the capital, have continued to claim that Moayidi was killed by "rioters." They have said that his death had led to multiple arrests at the scene and that a criminal investigation continues. State media has reported that Moayidi's death occurred on November 14, the day after the protests.

'The Color Of Dreams': Museum Releases Photos Of A Vanished World

Stunning color images recently made available in high resolution by a French museum capture much of the world as it was transformed by technology and geopolitics 100 years ago.

This image of a young Serbian man butchering a sheep in 1913 in Krusevac, in central Serbia, is one of tens of thousands of historic color photos recently made available in high resolution by France’s Albert Kahn Museum.

Three women in Openica, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.
Three women in Openica, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.

The museum, in the west of Paris, reopened in April after a years-long architectural renovation during which they also transformed their digital portal.

A Senegalese sniper without his weapon in Fez, Morocco, in 1913.
A Senegalese sniper without his weapon in Fez, Morocco, in 1913.

Some 72,000 high-resolution photos from a project called the Archives of the Planet have been made available for download by the museum.

A Catholic shepherd boy in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1912.
A Catholic shepherd boy in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1912.

The images had been possible to view previously but only in low quality through a difficult-to-navigate website.

Budapest’s City Parish Church in 1913. In the background are the arches of the Elizabeth Bridge, which was destroyed during World War II. Today, a simplified suspension bridge spans the Danube at the same point.
Budapest’s City Parish Church in 1913. In the background are the arches of the Elizabeth Bridge, which was destroyed during World War II. Today, a simplified suspension bridge spans the Danube at the same point.

The Archives of the Planet project was launched in 1909 by French banker Albert Kahn soon after autochrome, the first viable color film technology, became commercially available.

Seed sellers on the rough cobblestones of a street in Pristina, in today's Kosovo, in 1913.
Seed sellers on the rough cobblestones of a street in Pristina, in today's Kosovo, in 1913.

Kahn was a French banking titan who funneled much of his fortune into philanthropic projects.

Two dancers in Seville, Spain, in 1914.
Two dancers in Seville, Spain, in 1914.

With his massively ambitious photography project, Kahn sought to document the world as it was being transformed by globalization.

A Serbian man with his son in Konjic, Bosnia, in 1912.
A Serbian man with his son in Konjic, Bosnia, in 1912.

In some cases, Kahn's photographers were making the first-ever color photos of the countries they were working in.

A man poses next to his village’s communal oven in Openica, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.
A man poses next to his village’s communal oven in Openica, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.

Jean Brunhes, who was Kahn’s director for the project, summarized the Archives of the Planet as "using the instruments which have just been born, to capture and preserve the facts of the planet that are about to die.”

A Catholic woman in Sarajevo shows off her tattoos in 1912. The Balkan Catholic practice of traditional tattoos on women was effectively ended under communism in Yugoslavia following World War II.
A Catholic woman in Sarajevo shows off her tattoos in 1912. The Balkan Catholic practice of traditional tattoos on women was effectively ended under communism in Yugoslavia following World War II.

A dozen of France’s best photographers were tasked by Kahn to travel the world in order to "preserve once and for all certain aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is only a matter of time," the banker explained.

Horses graze on the hills around Openica, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.
Horses graze on the hills around Openica, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.

A spokesperson for the Albert Kahn Museum says the revamped online archive will “allow the discovery of a wide selection of works.”

A man in traditional clothing in Kestri, Greece, in 1912. The photographer noted the man was "at least 1.8 meters" tall.
A man in traditional clothing in Kestri, Greece, in 1912. The photographer noted the man was "at least 1.8 meters" tall.

The museum spokesperson added that “reuse of images will be widely encouraged thanks to the online availability of a large part of the collections under a Creative Commons license.”

A guard at the Soviet Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on December 30, 1922, the day of the establishment of the Soviet Union.
A guard at the Soviet Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on December 30, 1922, the day of the establishment of the Soviet Union.

The autochrome color film technology used by Kahn's photographers was first introduced in France in 1907 and immediately caused a sensation.

A leather tanner pauses his work to pose on a riverbank in Skopje, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.
A leather tanner pauses his work to pose on a riverbank in Skopje, in what is now North Macedonia, in 1913.

One commentator noted in 1908 that the autochrome technique replicated “the colors of nature in a most startlingly truthful way.”

A family in Paris in 1914.
A family in Paris in 1914.

Autochrome film used millions of “pixels” of dyed grains of potato starch pressed into emulsion to create color photos.

Armed men apparently guarding an Armenian pharmacy in Adana, in today’s eastern Turkey, in 1919. The original caption reads: “Syria, Adana, Armenian Pharmacy.”
Armed men apparently guarding an Armenian pharmacy in Adana, in today’s eastern Turkey, in 1919. The original caption reads: “Syria, Adana, Armenian Pharmacy.”

The pastel-shaded, slightly speckled images that autochrome produced were described as being “the color of dreams.”

A lemonade seller in Belgrade in the winter of 1913.
A lemonade seller in Belgrade in the winter of 1913.

The original caption on the photo above notes that the two lemonade containers were painted in the vivid blue, red, and white of the Serbian flag, which indicates the colors of the autochrome photographs are significantly muted when compared with reality.

An Armenian man poses in Djulfa, in today's Azerbaijan, in 1927.
An Armenian man poses in Djulfa, in today's Azerbaijan, in 1927.

Autochrome photographic plates were easy to use but expensive to buy and difficult to exhibit.

Iran’s Naderi Throne is seen in the Golestan Palace in Tehran in 1927. The jewel-encrusted throne is around 300 years old and was last used during the coronation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1967. It is currently in storage.
Iran’s Naderi Throne is seen in the Golestan Palace in Tehran in 1927. The jewel-encrusted throne is around 300 years old and was last used during the coronation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1967. It is currently in storage.

The main disadvantage of the autochrome technology, users said, was its low sensitivity to light, which necessitated long exposures.

A “wandering ascetic,” with his body coated in ash, and a companion in Lahore in today’s Pakistan in 1914.
A “wandering ascetic,” with his body coated in ash, and a companion in Lahore in today’s Pakistan in 1914.

Exposure times for autochrome photos even on bright days stretched into seconds, meaning bustling street scenes were impossible to capture adequately and portraits needed to be strictly posed.

A Bulgarian girl in Vladaya, Bulgaria, in 1918.
A Bulgarian girl in Vladaya, Bulgaria, in 1918.

In total, the photographers commissioned by Kahn traveled to more than 50 countries and captured not only the color photos, but around 100 hours of black-and-white film footage, as well.

Engineer H. Sassey, whose nationality is not specified, at the entrance to his tent during a surveying mission for the Afghanistan Railways Survey in 1928. Early 20th-century attempts to establish major rail connections across Afghanistan were abandoned, largely due to civil unrest.
Engineer H. Sassey, whose nationality is not specified, at the entrance to his tent during a surveying mission for the Afghanistan Railways Survey in 1928. Early 20th-century attempts to establish major rail connections across Afghanistan were abandoned, largely due to civil unrest.

Film footage was used by Kahn's photographers to capture the candid daily life that the color photographs were unable to freeze into a clear photo.

The stainless steel Soviet Worker And Kolkhoz Woman statue looms above the Seine in Paris. The monument was the showpiece of the U.S.S.R.’s pavilion during the World’s Fair in Paris in 1937.
The stainless steel Soviet Worker And Kolkhoz Woman statue looms above the Seine in Paris. The monument was the showpiece of the U.S.S.R.’s pavilion during the World’s Fair in Paris in 1937.

Kahn was forced to end the photographic project soon after the Great Depression shattered the world's financial markets.

An aerial view shows the Worker And Kolkhoz Woman monument on the left, facing the Imperial Eagle atop Nazi Germany’s pavilion on the right. Four years after this 1937 photo was taken, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.
An aerial view shows the Worker And Kolkhoz Woman monument on the left, facing the Imperial Eagle atop Nazi Germany’s pavilion on the right. Four years after this 1937 photo was taken, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Kahn went bankrupt in 1932. He died in 1940, soon after Nazi forces occupied France.

The visual record he and his photographers left behind have been called some of the most important color images ever made.

Updated

Iran Carries Out First Execution Of Amini Protester Despite Outcry From West, Rights Groups

Mohsen Shekari was accused by Iranian authorities of blocking a street and attacking a member of the security forces with a machete in Tehran.

Iran has carried out its first execution of a protester from the unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, carrying out a death sentence handed to a man who was accused of "warfare" for allegedly injuring a security officer.

The Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with the judiciary, said Moshen Shekari was hanged on December 8 after his appeal against his sentence was rejected by Iran's Supreme Court.

Shekari was accused of brandishing a weapon with the "intention of killing and causing terror and depriving the freedom and security of people," as well as "intentionally injuring" a security officer with a weapon and "blocking the street."

Shekari was one of thousands of Iranians to take to the streets nationwide since Amini died while in police custody in September. She was being held for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

The government has launched a brutal, and often deadly, crackdown on demonstrators, while lawmakers have pushed for harsh punishments to try and quell what has become the biggest challenge to the country's leadership since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Rights groups and Western governments have warned Tehran about issuing death sentences to protesters after hasty trials some have called "sham" justice.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price called the execution a "grim escalation in the Iranian regime's attempt to suppress dissent" and vowed that the clerical regime would be held to account.

Price said earlier this week that the death sentences were a tactic in the regime's "brutal crackdown on what can only be described as peaceful protesters -- individuals who are exercising their universal rights."

The sentences are meant to intimidate people and "simply underscore Iran’s leadership’s fears of its own people and the fact that Iran’s government fears the truth,” he said.

Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden's national-security adviser, reacted to the execution of Shekari on Twitter.

"The unjust and cruel execution of #MohsenShekari is a cynical attempt to intimidate the brave Iranian people. Our hearts are with his family. We will hold the Iranian regime accountable for the brutal violence it’s committing against its own people," he said.

Sister Of Iran's Supreme Leader Pens Open Letter Hoping For End To 'Tyranny' Of Brother's Rule

Badri Hosseini Khamenei (second from left)

Badri Hosseini Khamenei, the estranged sister of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has criticized her brother and his "despotic caliphate" in an open letter in which she also says she hopes to see him overthrown.

Badri Khamenei’s letter, published on her son's Twitter account on December 6, expressed sympathy to the mothers who lost their loved ones because of their opposition to the Islamic republic in the last four decades and declared that she opposes the actions of her brother.

Badri Hosseini Khamenei
Badri Hosseini Khamenei

“The regime of the Islamic Republic of Khomeini and Ali Khamenei has brought nothing but suffering and oppression to Iran and Iranians,” she added, referring to Ayatollah Khomeini, who served as the first supreme leader of Iran from 1979 until his death in 1989. “I hope to see the victory of the people and the overthrow of this tyranny ruling Iran soon.”

Khamenei's sister, who lives in Iran, wrote that her brother “does not listen to the voice of the people of Iran and wrongly considers the voice of his mercenaries and money-grubbers to be the voice of the Iranian people."

In recent years, as a humanitarian duty, she said she has tried to raise the voice of the Iranian people to her brother's ears but was disappointed and cut off contact with him.

Badri Khamenei also used the letter to address the violent arrest of her daughter, saying that if her daughter is arrested in this way, “it is clear that they will inflict thousands of times more violence on the oppressed sons and daughters of others."

Badri Khamenei’s daughter, Farideh Moradkhani, who is the supreme leader’s niece, was arrested a week ago after being summoned to Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office. In the last video she recorded before her arrest, she called on the international community to cut ties with the Iranian government.

Anger over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets nationwide to demand more freedoms and women's rights.

Amini died while in police custody after being detained for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab. Her parents and friends say she was beaten. The widespread unrest represents the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest. The figure includes 64 minors.

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

Iran Sentences Five Protesters To Death Over Alleged Involvement In Basij Officer's Death

One of those sentenced to death is Hamid Qarahasanlou, a radiologist that human rights groups say was tortured during interrogation and is now in a hospital. He is seen here with this wife, Farzaneh Qarahasanlou, who was sentenced to 25 years. (file photo)

Iran's judiciary has sentenced to death five people -- including one who is in the hospital recovering after reportedly being tortured -- over the killing of a member of the Basij paramilitary force during nationwide protests.

The judiciary said on December 6 that it had also sentenced 11 others to prison sentences for their alleged roles in the death of Ruhollah Ajamian, who was part of the Basij, a volunteer branch under the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

One of those sentenced to death is Hamid Qarahasanlou, a radiologist that human rights groups say was tortured during interrogation and is now in a hospital as a result.

The three others sentenced to death were not named. Of the 11 people sentenced, three were minors, judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told a news conference, adding the sentences can be appealed.

Farzaneh Qarahasanlou, Hamid Qarahasanlou's wife, was sentenced to 25 years and exiled to a prison in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz.

Both of the Qarahasanlous denied any wrongdoing in court and said they were merely participants in protests over the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, who died while in custody over allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

Several of the defendants were charged with "corruption on Earth," which is punishable by death and often leveled in cases allegedly involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran's government.

The cases were decided within six days and after three court hearings.

Prosecutors said the 27-year-old Ajamian was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi, during ceremonies marking the 40th day since her death.

Human rights organizations have strongly objected to the death sentences being issued against protesters in Iran after "sham trials."


Amnesty International wrote in a statement that, according to informed sources, the Iranian authorities tortured Qarahasanlou and forced Farzaneh Qarahasanlou to accuse her husband of wrongdoing.

"On 1 December, [Hamid Qarahasanlou] was removed from hospital, where he had undergone surgery for internal bleeding, and taken to court for trial while he was heavily sedated and recovering from surgery and then returned to hospital afterwards," Amnesty said in the statement.

"The couple’s first two lawyers dropped their case after intelligence and security agents threatened them," it added.

The BBC quoted an informed source as saying that, during the interrogations, Farzaneh was hit on the head with a baton so many times that, to save herself, she said that her husband may have kicked the victim. She later recanted the statement.

Iran is currently in the throes of unrest as people take to the streets across the country to protest Amini's death on September 16.

Police have met the unrest with deadly force.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters have been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran exceeds 500 this year.

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

Iranians Strike For Third Day Amid Nationwide Protests Against Government

Iranians Strike For Third Day Amid Nationwide Protests Against Government
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General strikes to protest against the government have been held for a third day in Iran, with shops and factories closed across the country. Meanwhile, students at Tehran University said they were beaten by security forces ahead of a speech on campus by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The protests erupted in September over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained over an alleged Islamic dress-code violation.

Iranian Students Say They Were Beaten Back Ahead Of Speech By Raisi At Tehran University

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a ceremony marking Student Day at Tehran University on December 7.

Students at Tehran University say they were beaten back by security forces as they tried to hold a protest as President Ebrahim Raisi arrived to deliver a speech amid anti-government unrest that has rocked the country since the September death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

The Students' Union Council Telegram channel on December 7 said several students were injured and left bloodied by the attacking security forces.

Each year on December 7, which is Student Day in Iran, demonstrations are organized by many universities at which students put forward democratic demands.

WATCH: General strikes have been held for a third day in Iran, with shops and factories closed across the country. Meanwhile, students at Tehran University said they were beaten by security forces ahead of a speech on campus by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Iranians Strike For Third Day Amid Nationwide Protests Against Government
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Besides such issues as academic rights, freedom of speech, and academic independence from the government, the demands also often reflect broader democratic movements in Iran, including this year's protest movement that has built up across the country since Mahsa Amini died in Tehran on September 16.

Students have been one of the main forces behind the unrest, which has been met by security officials with a brutal, and often deadly, crackdown.

Raisi, an ultra-conservative leader, arrived at the school and in a speech held in front of a selected group of pro-government students said that "protest is different from rioting" and that it was rioters who were "unjustly killing our loved ones."

While Raisi spoke, many students gathered in different parts of the university and chanted slogans against the government, as well as the slogan "Women, Life, Freedom."

Reports from other universities, including AmirKabir University in Tehran, and other universities in Mashhad said students were severely beaten there as well.

An eyewitness from Ferdowsi University in Mashhad said that a gathering of students there was "attacked" by security forces.

Meanwhile, nationwide strikes at businesses and shops continued for a third day.

Videos received by RFERL’s Radio Farda showed shopkeepers in Isfahan, Bukan, and Tehran on strike in support of the protests.


The government has responded to almost three months of unrest with deadly force as it tries to suppress one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors.

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

The Farda Briefing: Iran's Apparent Disbandment Of Morality Police Prompts Skepticism And Confusion

Morality police take down the name of a detained woman during a crackdown on "social corruption" in north Tehran in 2008.

Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Hannah Kaviani, a senior broadcaster and editor at RFE/RL's Radio Farda. Here's what I've been following and what I'm watching out for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

In a surprise move, Iran's chief prosecutor said on December 3 that the country's notorious morality police had been "closed," although he prompted confusion a day later by adding that the force "had nothing to do with the judiciary." Mohammad Jafar Montazeri also said parliament and the judiciary were "working" on reviewing the law requiring women to wear the hijab in public.

Ali Khan Mohammadi, the spokesman for the official Headquarters For Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, which oversees implementation of Islamic edicts, said on December 5 that the mission of the morality police was over, but that new methods would be used to enforce Iran's Islamic dress code. But the Interior Ministry, which oversees the force, has not commented.

The confusion and mixed signals have led to speculation that the authorities are considering concessions in an attempt to appease antiestablishment protesters and end the ongoing monthslong demonstrations that have raged across the country.

The rallies were triggered by the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died days after she was arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating the hijab law. The dreaded force, also known as the Guidance Patrols, enforces the strict dress code.

Why It Matters: The apparent decision by the authorities to disband the morality police has been met with widespread skepticism. Amnesty International on December 6 said the international community should not be "deceived" by the authorities' "vague and conflicting statements." Activists have also said that it is unlikely that the authorities will scrap or radically change the hijab law. The head scarf remains one of the key pillars of the Islamic republic.

It remains unclear if the apparent dismantling of the morality police and potential reforms to the hijab law will even be enough to appease anti-regime protesters.

The protests began as a rebuke against the brutal enforcement of the mandatory head scarf. But they have snowballed into one of the biggest threats to Iran's establishment in years, with demonstrators calling for an end to clerical rule and demanding their social and political freedoms.

What's Next: Some observers say that any concessions that the authorities make to the antiestablishment demonstrators now might be too little, too late, especially after a brutal government crackdown that has killed at least 448 protesters.

A popular slogan chanted by female protesters -- "With or without hijab, we are going toward a revolution" -- appears to capture the uncompromising mood among women, who have played a prominent role in the protests. Many women appear likely to continue protesting despite efforts by the authorities to appease them.

Stories You Might Have Missed

Two Iranian women who fled to neighboring Armenia with their families have told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that they fear for their lives should they be forced to return home. The faces and voices of the two women were disguised to protect them. "I was forced to come to Armenia because of social and political problems," one of the women said. "Women [in Iran] have faced problems with [the country's] laws for more than 40 years." The two women fled Iran amid the protests and subsequent government crackdown.

An Iranian theater group, comprised of men and women without their head scarves, recently released a silent video with a message of resistance and hope. Two senior members of the group, Hamid Pourazari and Soheila Golestaneh, were detained shortly after the video was released on November 27. Playwright Naghme Samini wrote in an Instagram post that despite the detentions, "theater itself cannot be detained." Various artistic groups in Iran and Europe have paid tribute to the detained artists by recreating their silent act.

What We're Watching

Anti-regime protesters staged a three-day nationwide strike on December 5-7. In posts on social media, demonstrators urged businesses to close and called on residents to stop using banks. Videos uploaded on social media appeared to show that some shops were closed in cities across the country. A heavy security presence was reported in many of those cities, including Tehran.

During the strike, university students staged sit-ins in various cities. Truck drivers and factory workers, meanwhile, refused to work.

Why It Matters: This was the second three-day strike announced since the protests erupted in September. The level of participation during the latest strike appears to be higher. The strikes have added pressure on the authorities in Iran, where the economy has been crippled by years of U.S. sanctions and government mismanagement.

Larger and more regular strikes could have significant ramifications, especially if workers in Iran's key energy sector participate. Major strikes by public employees preceded the Islamic Revolution in 1979, bringing large parts of the economy to a halt.

Avril Haines, the head of U.S. intelligence, said on December 3 that the Iranian authorities do not see the protests as "an imminent threat to their stability." But she added that the government's deadly response to the protests combined with other factors, including the bleak economic situation in Iran, "will lead to a greater risk of unrest and instability over time."

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Hannah Kaviani

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Wednesday.

Iran Rebroadcasts 'Confessions,' Raising Fears Four Kurds May Have Been Executed

Iranian state television has aired for the second time the "confessions" of four Kurdish political prisoners -- admissions their families and supporters say were coerced -- raising fears that they may have been executed.

Pejman Fatehi, Vafa Azarbar, Mohsen Mazloum, and Hajir Faramarzi have been detained for four months and are thought to be part of a group of people who were identified by security police in November as allegedly being "Mossad-related agents."

On December 5, Javana Teymasi, the wife of Mohsen Mazloum, wrote in a tweet that she has no information about her husband's condition and that the rebroadcast of what she called his forced confession has added to her worries.

"We don't even know if their trial was held and if a verdict was issued or not. What is clear is that the link in their case is with the accusations of 'espionage,'" she wrote.

"Rebroadcasting forced confessions and raising these accusations has worried the families."

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has previously identified the group as operatives from the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, but the party itself has denied the claim. It has said previously that several of its members have been arrested.

In early November, the judiciary of the Islamic republic announced the indictment of 10 people who were identified as "Mossad-related agents" and announced that four of them were accused 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.

Earlier this week, Iran executed four people it accused of working for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.

The four were identified as Hossein Ordukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmudabadi, Milad Ashrafi, and Manuchehr Shahbandi. They were accused of receiving weapons and funds in the form of cryptocurrency from Mossad.

Israel, as is its policy, has not commented on the accusations.

Iran is currently in the throes of unrest as people take to the streets across the country to protest against the death on September 16 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was detained by the notorious morality police for wearing a head scarf improperly.

Amini, who was taken into custody in Tehran, was from the Kurdish region of western Iran and many of the largest protests have taken there.

Police have met the unrest with deadly force.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters have been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran this year exceeds 500.

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

Iranian Lawmaker Says Government Is Seeking Alternative Punishments For Hijab Violators

Iranian parliamentarian Hossein Jalali

A member of the Iranian parliament has unveiled the government's plan for alternative punishments -- including financial ones -- to try and force women to wear a hijab in public despite massive protests across the country over the issue.

Hossein Jalali, a member of the Cultural Commission of the Iranian parliament, said that under the new plan, the actions of morality police would be curbed, allowing for less intrusive methods to be used for ensuring compliance.

"It is possible to notify nonhijab wearers in the form of a text message that they did not observe the hijab rule and that they must respect the law," Jalali said in an interview with Iranian media.

He added that after two warnings, the government would move to block the bank account of the offender as a way of punishing them. He did not explain how the government intends to recognize the identities of those who are supposedly in violation of the hijab law.

The issue has sparked massive protests across the country after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in police custody. She was detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab, or head scarf, improperly.

The government has responded to almost three months of unrest with deadly force as it tries to suppress one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979.

Since the outbreak of the unrest, morality police have been less visible in cities. Still, their status is unclear since the country's chief prosecutor said over the weekend that the notorious force had been closed, only to then walk it back by saying it was a decision for the Interior Ministry, which has jurisdiction over the force.

On December 5, a spokesman for the morality police said that the mission of the police unit has ended and that new methods should be used to enforce the country's mandatory hijab law, but the ministry itself has not commented on the issue.

The hijab -- the head covering worn by Muslim women -- became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls over the age of nine after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and Jalali said that there will be no backing away from the hijab and chastity plan laid out by the state.

"Moving away from the hijab means a retreat of the Islamic republic," Jalali added.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 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.

Iranian Sunni Cleric Says He Has Received Reports Of Sexual Assaults On Female Prisoners

Iranian Sunni cleric Molavi Abdolhamid (file photo)

Iran’s top Sunni cleric, a vocal critic of the government, says he has received reports of sexual assaults on female prisoners in Iranian prisons.

Molavi Abdolhamid wrote on his Twitter account on December 6 that the assaults on female prisoners were being committed with the intention of humiliating, suppressing, and obtaining forced confessions from them.

"If proven, the real corrupters on earth are the perpetrators of these crimes," Abdolhamid added, and asked the judiciary to punish these people severely.

"Corruption on Earth," is a common charge often leveled by Iran’s judiciary in cases involving attempts to overthrow the government.

Molavi Abdolhamid is regarded nationwide as a spiritual leader for Iran’s Sunni Muslim population, who are a minority among the mainly Shi'ite population of Iran. He is the director of the main Sunni seminary in Iran and has been under pressure for his comments against the Islamic republic.

CNN first published an investigative report last month about the "sexual assault and rape" of some of the detainees from recent protests while they were being held in Iran's prisons. Citing the testimony of a number of released detainees or hospital sources, CNN said it has confirmed that young women and teenage boys and girls have been raped in prisons.

In response to the report, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the Iranian authorities' use of sexual violence as a tool for protest suppression.

Price said on November 23 that the United States “is disgusted by the reports and eyewitness accounts of protesters, including minors, being sexually assaulted while in the custody of law enforcement.”

Previously, in an open letter to Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison, called for a special investigation into the assault of detained women.

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

Iran Sentences Five To Death Over Killing Of Basij Paramilitary

Basij militia members (file photo)

Iran has sentenced to death five people over the killing of a member of the Basij paramilitary force during nationwide protests, the judiciary said on December 6. Another 11 people, including three children, were handed lengthy jail terms over the death of Ruhollah Ajamian, judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told a news conference, adding the sentences could be appealed. Prosecutors said Ajamian, 27, was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi, during ceremonies marking 40 days since her death.

Iran Arrests 12 With Alleged European Links: Report

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps logo

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have arrested 12 alleged members of a European-linked group accused of planning acts of sabotage in the country, Tasnim news agency said. Iran has been rocked by more than two months of what it calls deadly "riots" that it says have been fomented by the United States, its allies, and foreign-based opposition groups. In a statement quoted by Tasnim, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Markazi Province, southwest of Tehran, said it had arrested "a network with 12 members with links abroad."

Iranian Women Who Fled To Armenia Fear Returning Could End In Death

Iranian Women Who Fled To Armenia Fear Returning Could End In Death
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Two Iranian women who fled to Armenia with their families have told RFE/RL they fear for their lives should they be forced to return home. The faces and voices of the two women have been disguised to protect them.

Iranian Official Appears To Admit To Killing Of Women, Children On Recording

The recording seems to have caught Iranian official Reza Davari admitting on tape that women and children have been killed during Tehran's crackdown on ongoing protests in the country. (file photo)

A leaked audio recording from the Iranian pro-regime Coalition Council of Islamic Revolution Forces, appears to show the secretary of the council admitting to the accidental killing of women and children during a bloody crackdown in the southeastern city of Zahedan on September 30.

The document was published on December 4 after the hacktivist group Black Reward announced that it had succeeded in hacking the hard-line Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The group released dozens of documents and videos it said were prepared by the news agency.

In the meeting involving the alleged admission of random killings, Reza Davari, the secretary of the Coalition Council of Islamic Revolution Forces, said that an agent who was on top of the police station "mistakenly" targeted an area where a number of people, including women and children, were killed.

"They were not even part of the protests," Davari added.

Almost 100 people were killed and hundreds injured by security forces in the incident, which came during protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police and the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl by a local police commander.

Last month, Molavi Abdolhamid, a spiritual leader for Iran's Sunni Muslim population, said senior officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were "responsible" for the killing of protesters during the so-called "Bloody Friday" massacre in Zahedan.

He also called for an immediate referendum with the presence of international observers to "change policies based on the wishes of the people."

Earlier, another leaked document from the Fars agency published by Black Reward shows Khamenei telling security and military officials to try and disgrace Molavi Abdolhamid, who is a vocal critic of the government, instead of arresting him.

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

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Sunni Muslims make up the majority of the population in Sistan-Baluchistan Province in southeastern Iran where Molavi Abdolhamid is based, but make up only about 10 percent of the population in Shi'a-dominated Iran overall.

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

Angry Iranians Launch Three-Day Protest As More Death Sentences Issued

Shops at a Tehran bazaar were shuttered on December 5 as a sign of support for the protests that have swept the country.

Iranian protesters have begun three consecutive days of protests and nationwide strikes as the judiciary continues to follow through on a government crackdown by issuing three more death sentences in its response to unrest sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

Reports from across the country on December 5 said shopkeepers and businesses had stopped working in dozens of Iranian cities in a concerted effort to bolster the daily demonstrations that have erupted after the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran.

The opposition activist collective 1500tasvir reported that several protest rallies have taken place in the center of Iranian capital on December 5, with protesters chanting slogans against the ayatollah and the government forces that have carried out a brutal crackdown that has left hundreds dead.

Security forces reportedly raided a market in the south of Tehran early on December 5 in an apparent attempt to try to prevent businesses there from joining the nationwide strikes.

Iran's state media, meanwhile, has reported that the restaurant and jewelry store owned by former Iranian soccer star Ali Daei has been sealed for joining the three-day strikes in Iran.

Since the start of the protests, Daei, a former forward with German soccer giant Bayern Munich and a former Iranian national team captain, has been a vocal supporter of the protesters and has repeatedly criticized government officials for suppressing the protests.

At the same time, the head of Iran’s judiciary announced at his weekly news conference the imminent execution of some protesters.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Iranian authorities have threatened to carry out death sentences for protesters arrested during the unrest. Several death sentences have been handed out already for some of those arrested in protests, but it has not been announced if the penalty has been carried out.

In October, 227 lawmakers from the 290-seat, hard-line parliament urged the judiciary to approve death sentences for some of the protesters arrested.

Human rights organizations strongly object to the issuance of death sentences, which they say were issued without valid proceedings and in a short time.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors.

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

Mission Of Iran's Morality Police Has Ended, But New Methods Sought To Enforce Hijab Law

An Iranian policewoman, part of the country's morality police, looks out from a police van in Tehran. (file photo)

The spokesman for Iran's morality police has said that the mission of the police unit has ended but new methods should be used to enforce the country's mandatory hijab law.

The spokesman, Ali Khan Mohammadi, said in an interview published on December 5 that various institutions in the country are looking into having appropriate mechanisms to be able to deal with the issue of veiling.

"For us, the basis is that it should be within the framework of Shari'a, and at the same time, our people must adhere to the law so that we can create a peaceful atmosphere," Mohammadi said in the interview, which was published on the website Entekhab though it was not clear that he spoke with that news outlet.

He noted that a discussion of chastity and the hijab is currently popular in the country and decisions are being made “in a more modern framework.” He didn’t elaborate but mentioned the use of technologies.

The status of Iran's morality police has been unclear since the country's chief prosecutor said the notorious force had been closed in the wake of continuing protests following the September death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on December 3 as saying the morality police "had been closed," but a day later the state IRNA news agency quoted him as saying that "the morality police has nothing to do with the judiciary" after he was asked why the morality police were being shut down.

Prior to the interview with Mohammadi, there had been no word from officials -- including the Interior Ministry -- on the status of the controversial morality police, which began patrols in 2006 under hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to enforce the country's Islamic dress codes, particularly the requirement to wear the hijab, or female head covering.

The squads of men in green uniforms and women in black chadors initially issued warnings but soon began arresting women for alleged violations.

Montazeri also was quoted on December 3 as saying parliament and the judiciary were "working" on whether the law requiring women to wear the hijab in public should be changed. He added that "the results will be seen in a week or two."

The Iranian government has said more than 200 people had been killed in the protests sparked by Amini’s death in September. Iranian rights groups put the figure at more than double that, while the United Nations has said more than 300 have been killed as the national protests have evolved into one of the most serious challenges to the country’s theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

While the government had taken a hard line in its stance toward the protests over the past several months, some officials have started to strike a more conciliatory tone as they talk about problems being experienced in Iran, which is struggling under the weight of crippling U.S. sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.

In a December 4 interview with Iran’s state broadcaster, Deputy Security Minister Majid Mirahmadi said the "main cause" of the protests was not economic.

"This is an issue but not the main cause," Mirahmadi said. "It is a protest against injustice."

President Ebrahim Raisi said on December 3 that Iran's Islamic foundations were enshrined in the constitution.

"But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible," he said.

U.S. Focus On Iran Is Thwarting Weapons Aid To Russia, Not Nuclear Talks

Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran (file photo)

Washington will focus on preventing the supply of Iranian weapons to Russia and supporting Iranian protests instead of continuing deadlocked negotiations with Iran on restoring the nuclear deal, said Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, in an interview with Bloomberg. "Iran is not interested in a deal and we're focused on other things," Malley said on December 3. To read the original story by Bloomberg, click here.

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