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Iran Soccer Suspended For 'Government Interference'

Iran's team at the World Cup in Germany (Fars) PRAGUE, November 23, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- FIFA, world soccer's governing body, has suspended Iran from all international competition.

In an interview with RFE/RL, FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola said the decision was made on November 22 and that it was due to Iranian government interference in soccer matters.

"The FIFA Emergency Committee took this decision after determining that the Iran Football Federation was not adhering to the principles of the FIFA statutes regarding the independence of member associations, the independence of the decision-making process of the football governing body in each country, and the way in which changes in the leadership of associations are brought about," Odriozola said.

Earlier this year, Mohammad Dadgan, the Iranian federation's elected president, and his board were forced out of office by Iranian authorities.

Odriozola said the Iranian federation then failed to meet a FIFA deadline of November 15 to reinstate Dadgan and his board and to comply with FIFA rules.

"In this respect, FIFA and the AFC [Asian Football Confederation] adopted the clear position that Dr. Dadgan and the members of his board remained the recognized and legitimate president and leadership of the Iran football federation," Odriozola said. "This deadline was not met by the Iran Football Federation."

Iran took part in the 2006 World Cup in Germany and last week beat South Korea 2-0 to qualify for next year's Asian Cup.

To play in that cup and other events, FIFA said in a statement that the Iranian federation must meet a "road map" of conditions, including drafting new statutes based on FIFA rules and holding elections to appoint a new president and board under the supervision of FIFA and the AFC.

The Zurich-based FIFA also called on the Iranian federation to set up a "normalization committee." Its members would be appointed by FIFA and the AFC to oversee Iran's full compliance and implementation of the road map.

Iran is the second country to face recent FIFA sanctions. Last month, Kenya was also suspended for failing to respect signed agreements and for recurrent problems in its federation.

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Iran Sentences Five To Death For Alleged Spy Operations With Israel

A man who identified himself as Mansur Rasuli admitted he wanted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat working in the country's consulate in Istanbul, as well as a U.S. general stationed in Germany and a journalist in France. (video grab)

Five Iranians -- four men and one woman -- in the northwestern Iranian city of Urmia have been sentenced by a court to death for allegedly engaging in intelligence cooperation and espionage activities that benefited Israel.

Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, said one of those sentenced to death is Mansur Rasuli, whose interrogation by Mossad agents in Iran made headlines last year.

At least five other people have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the case, the report added.

Last year, Israeli media reported that agents for the Mossad security service captured and interrogated a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps inside Iran.

Later, a video was released in which a person who identified himself as Rasuli admitted he wanted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat working in the country's consulate in Istanbul, as well as a U.S. general stationed in Germany and a journalist in France.

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war. Tensions have been nearing a boiling point in recent years.

In November, the semiofficial Mehr News agency reported that Iran sentenced to death four people accused of collaborating with Israel. The four were accused of having interrogated people in Iran with intelligence cooperation from Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

Tensions have also flared between the two countries as negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers remain deadlocked. In the absence of a deal that would curb Iran's sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions, Tehran has reduced its commitments and expanded its nuclear activities.

Iran has been roiled in recent months by nationwide protests sparked by the death of a young woman while she was being held in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

Tehran has blamed Israel, the United States, and other Western countries for the unrest, which has seen security forces kill more than 500 people, according to human rights groups, including dozens of minors.

Officials have not shown any evidence to back up their accusations that the West has been involved in the anti-government uprising.

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

The Farda Briefing: Iranians Celebrate Norouz Under The Shadow Of An Economic Crisis And State Crackdown

People celebrate the Persian New Year in Tehran this week.

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 RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I've been following over the past week, and what I'm watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

Iranians are celebrating Persian New Year, Norouz, under the cloud of a dismal economic situation and currency drop, and amid a brutal state crackdown on antiestablishment protests that rights groups say has claimed the lives of more than 500 people.

Many Iranians, already struggling to make ends meet, can't afford to treat their families during the Norouz holidays due to soaring prices. Domestic media have reported that there's little holiday cheer due to an economy that has been crushed by U.S. sanctions and years of mismanagement.

"The spirit of Norouz is not flowing in society," the daily Taadol said in a recent report, adding that astronomical prices have broken people's backs. Others have said they're not in the mood for celebration due to the blood spilled in the deadly state crackdown.

In recent days, relatives of some of those killed have gathered at their loved ones' graves to keep their memories alive, while others have turned their traditional Haftsins into altars for victims of the state crackdown.

Why It Matters: This Persian New Year has arrived in an atmosphere of gloom and growing frustration with the clerical establishment. Yet Iranians fighting for freedom and democracy, particularly women, should be proud of their bravery and defiance against the repressive Iranian establishment.

"It's true that we have become poorer, but at the same time we became more united, and our fight received international attention," a woman in the Iranian capital told me.

What's Next: There are few signs that the economy will improve in the new Iranian year amid warnings by economists that the inflation rate, currently at about 50 percent, could worsen. Talks on the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled, and Tehran has become more isolated due to its deadly crackdown on protesters and its supply of drones that Russia is using in its unprovoked war against Ukraine.

Stories You Might Have Missed

Hundreds of people, including scores of children, have been killed in Iran's brutal crackdown on antiestablishment protests. Here, we look back at the significance of the demonstrations and list the more than 300 people whose deaths we have independently verified.

Women in the Iranian capital, Tehran, burned their head scarves during celebrations of the annual fire festival known as Chaharshanbe Suri ahead of Persian New Year, as parliament proposed new measures to enforce the compulsory wearing of the hijab, including the use of surveillance cameras.

What We're Watching

Iran has been engaged in increased regional diplomatic outreach, as evidenced by the Chinese brokered agreement between Tehran and Riyadh announced on March 10 and other recent steps.

A senior Iranian official said President Ebrahim Raisi has welcomed an invitation by King Salman to visit Riyadh. There has been no confirmation from Saudi officials.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on March 19 that Tehran has proposed to Saudi Arabia three locations for a meeting with his Saudi counterpart.

Amir-Abdollahian also said Tehran hopes for improved relations with Bahrain and the removal of some of "the obstacles" between Tehran and Manama. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were among countries that followed Saudi Arabia in severing ties with Iran in 2016 in the wake of attacks on Saudi missions in Iran and the execution of a prominent Shi'a cleric by the kingdom.

Separately, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, visited the United Arab Emirates to improve ties, while also signing a border-security agreement with Iraq to increase coordination and the "strengthening of cooperation in several areas of security."

Why It Matters: Iran appears determined to improve its relations with regional foes and neighbors and to strengthen diplomatic and trade relations in an attempt to decrease its isolation and lessen the impact of U.S. sanctions that have crippled the country's economy.

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

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

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.

From Our Regions: Norouz Celebrations Welcome Spring

U.S. Announces Sanctions Aimed At Iranian Network Used To Purchase Drone Parts

The U.S. Treasury Department announced the new sanctions on March 21. (file photo)

The United States has imposed new sanctions on Iranian firms and individuals accused of procuring equipment used to make drones.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) coordinated with the FBI to designate four entities and three people in Iran and Turkey for allegedly buying equipment to be used for Iran’s drone and weapons programs.

“Iran’s well-documented proliferation of [drones] and conventional weapons to its proxies continues to undermine both regional security and global stability,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a news release issued on March 21.

“The United States will continue to expose foreign procurement networks in any jurisdiction that supports Iran’s military industrial complex," he said.

Among those blacklisted in the new round of sanctions are the Iran-based Defense Technology and Science Research Center (DTSRC), its procurement firm Farazan Industrial Engineering, and two other firms along with the companies’ purchasing agents.

The Treasury Department said this procurement network operates on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), which oversees several firms involved in drone and ballistic missile development.

U.S. defense officials say Iran is supplying Russia with drones, which have been used on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine as the Kremlin presses its invasion.

The action follows OFAC’s designations on March 9 of a network based in China in connection with Iran’s drone procurement efforts, as well as several previous OFAC actions targeting Iran’s UAV manufacturers and their executives since September 2022.

The individuals named are Amanallah Paidar, who has served as a commercial manager and procurement agent for the DTSRC; Murat Bukey, a procurement agent who has supported Paidar and his DTSRC-related procurement; and Asghar Mahmoudi, who has facilitated the supply of items, including marine electronics, to Paidar and the DTSRC, according to the OFAC.

Bukey attempted to provide European-origin engines with drone and surface-to-air missile applications to Paidar and Farazan Industrial Engineering, OFAC said, adding that he separately sold more than 100 European-origin drone engines and related accessories worth more than $1 million to companies that likely shipped the items to Iran.

The sanctions freeze any property held in U.S. jurisdiction by the three individuals and the entities. In addition, people in the United States who engage in transactions with those designated may themselves be exposed to sanctions, the Treasury Department said.

With reporting by AP

Protests In Western Iran Met With Force Despite New Year Holiday

People attend a protest on the Persian New Year holiday in western Iran on March 20.

Fresh anti-government protests in several Kurdish cities in western Iran, held as the country celebrates the Persian New Year holiday, have been met with violence from security forces.

Reports published on social media show that in the western cities of Iran, including Mahabad, Oshnavieh, Bukan, Piranshahr, Saqez, Sanandaj, and Dehgolan, people took to the streets on March 20 with several of the gatherings encountering attacks by government forces.

According to local sources, including the website of the Hengaw human rights group, people in the western Iranian city of Saqez gathered at the grave of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody last September -- an event that sparked months of protests across the country.

Those who gathered to protest chanted anti-government slogans, as well as "The martyr will never die."


Meanwhile, protesters in Tehran's Ekbatan neighborhood and elsewhere in the capital chanted "Death to the dictator," a reference to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, from windows and rooftops as the Persian New Year began.


Amini's death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests that authorities have met with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed -- without providing evidence -- the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

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

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

Iran's Protest Anthem Played At White House Norouz Celebration

First lady Jill Biden accepts the award for best song for social change on behalf of Shervin Hajipour for Baraye at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on February 5.

A video of Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour performing the protest anthem Baraye played on March 20 at a White House celebration marking Norouz, the Persian New Year. The video was played just before President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden hosted the event. Biden told the audience that the traditional New Year inspired "hope for women of Iran who are fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms." The song instantly became associated with the political upheaval in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody for an alleged violation of Iran's hijab law.

EU Extends Iran Sanctions To Judges, Clerical Council

European ministers agreed to add eight Iranians and one of the Tehran government's most powerful bodies to EU sanctions lists, alleging human rights violations. The individuals -- including clerics, judges, and a broadcaster -- are accused of playing leading roles in Iran's crackdown on anti-government protests. The EU said it was in particular "sanctioning members of the judiciary responsible for handing down death sentences in unfair trials and for the torturing of convicts." The government institution, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, was said to have "promoted several projects undermining the freedom of girls and women and discriminating against minorities."

Iranian Teachers' Union Warns Government Over Failing To Meet Its Demands

In recent years, Iranian teachers have taken to the streets across the country to demand better pay and working conditions.

A teachers' union in Iran has warned the government that if its demands are not met, its members will take to the streets in May, adding to the social and economic unrest that has plagued the country for almost a year.

The Coordinating Council of Teachers' Syndicates said in a statement on March 19 that imprisonment, dismissal, deportation, and court sentences have failed to deter teachers from their desire to accompany the people of Iran in the direction of fundamental changes in the Islamic republic.

"The tyranny can no longer stand against The Power of Powerless", the statement added, referring to a political essay written by the Czech communist-era dissident Vaclav Havel.

In recent years, Iranian teachers have taken to the streets across the country to demand better pay and working conditions. In response, the authorities have summoned, detained, and jailed a growing number of protesters and activists, actions that have failed to stop the rallies.

The statement, published just ahead of the beginning of the Persian New Year on March 21, referred to the last year as "a year full of glory and complaints" and added that "the stance of teachers and students together will promise days full of awareness."

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into demonstrations, which officials across the country have since tried to quell with harsh measures.

The activist HRANA news agency said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Thousands have been arrested in the clampdown, with the judiciary handing down harsh sentences -- including the death penalty -- to protesters.

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

Iranian Rights Violations May Amount To Crimes Against Humanity, UN Expert Says

Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran (file photo)

Iran's authorities have committed violations in recent months that may amount to crimes against humanity, a UN-appointed expert told the Human Rights Council on March 20, citing cases of murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, sexual violence, and persecution. Iran has been swept by protests since the death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody last September. Addressing the Geneva-based council, Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said he had evidence that Amini died "as a result of beatings by the state morality police." To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Britain Sanctions More Iranian Officials Involved In Rights Abuses, Financing IRGC

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly

Britain on March 20 sanctioned more Iranian officials responsible for financing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and for committing human rights abuses. They include five members of the body that manages the IRGC's investments and two IRGC commanders from Tehran and Alborz provinces who committed "gross human rights violations," the Foreign Office statement said. "Today we are taking action on senior leaders within the IRGC who are responsible for funneling money into the regime’s brutal repression.... We will continue to stand with the Iranian people as they call for fundamental change in Iran," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

Jailed Iranian Activist Says 'Overthrow' Of The Regime Is 'Logical' Step

Iranian political activist Bahareh Hedayat

In a message on the eve of the Persian New Year to honor the hundreds of victims killed in recent nationwide protests, leading jailed Iranian political activist Bahareh Hedayat said the "overthrow" of the Islamic regime as a "logical" step following months of unrest.

In a letter written from the women's ward of Tehran's notorious Evin prison, Hedayat said on March 19 that while toppling the Islamic government was not the initial intent of the movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged violation of the hijab law, "this demand has become the objective on a scale that cannot be ignored.”

Hedayat, who is currently in prison for participating in the anti-government protests that erupted after Amini's death last September, listed the names of several protesters who were killed during the unrest, as well as four protesters who were sentenced to death and then executed as part of the judiciary's crackdown aimed at intimidating the demonstrators, thousands of whom have been arrested.

She added that the Islamic authority "has become the most immoral element of Iranians' daily lives and its survival is a denial of our survival, our children's survival, and our land. Therefore, the logic of overthrow is still in place."

The letter emphasizes the protesters' determination to "take back Iran" after the death of Amini.

Along with the execution of four protesters, Iran's judiciary has handed several others death sentences after what rights groups and the U.S. government have called "sham trials."

The executions and death sentences are part of the government's brutal, and often violent, crackdown on demonstrators. 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.

Hedayat is a student activist and women's rights campaigner in Iran who has been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms several times. Most recently, she was arrested on October 3 during the nationwide protests.

The activist HRANA news agency has said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 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's Foreign Minister Says He Has Agreed To Meet Saudi Counterpart

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (right) greets his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, in Tehran on January 29. In recent weeks, Iran has expressed interest in holding meetings with regional leaders.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on March 19 that he had agreed to meet his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir, proposing three locations during a news conference. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on March 10 to reestablish relations and reopen embassies within two months after years of hostility, following talks in China. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Zelenskiy Announces Sanctions On Hundreds Of Individuals, Including Syrian President, Iranian Drone Makers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Iranian and Syrian individuals -- "those who help terror" -- are also among the newly blacklisted.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has announced sanctions against hundreds of individuals and companies, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranians associated with the production of Shahed drones.

Zelenskiy said on March 18 that most of the more than 400 individuals and companies designated for sanctions are Russian and are involved in the defense industry, but Iranian and Syrian individuals -- "those who help terror" -- are also among the newly blacklisted.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war, click here.

According to a decree issued by Zelenskiy, the sanctions against Assad are imposed for 10 years. The new sanctions also list Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous and Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

In addition, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' drone force was placed on the sanctions list. Sanctions were also introduced against other Iranian citizens.

Ukraine severed diplomatic relations with Syria last year. Assad recently visited Moscow and declared his full support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling Russia's war against Ukraine a struggle "with "old and new Nazis."

Russia has backed the Syrian Army in its fight against rebel forces in northern Syria, and Assad has said the presence of Russian troops in Syria is legitimate as his government has requested Moscow's support.

Zelenskiy's sanctions decrees list 141 legal entities, including companies from Russia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.

Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian sanctions are part of the global pressure on Russia.

"We study in depth each of our sanctioning steps," he said on Telegram. The sanctions are aimed at "all those who produce weapons for terror against Ukraine, who help Russia incite aggression, in particular by supplying Shahed drones, and who support Russia’s destruction of international law."

Russia has used Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones to attack critical Ukrainian infrastructure, including electrical substations and water facilities.

Iran Court Sentences Two To Death Over Deadly Shrine Attack

Workers clean up the scene following an armed attack at the Shah Cheragh mausoleum in the Iranian city of Shiraz on October 26, 2022.

An Iranian court has handed death sentences to two men over an attack on a Shi'ite shrine in Iran that killed 15 people in October and was claimed by the militant group Islamic State (IS), the official news agency IRNA reported on March 18. Fars Province judiciary head Kazem Mousavi said the two men had been found guilty of charges including "spreading corruption on Earth" and acting against national security, IRNA reported, adding that the sentences can be appealed. The men are alleged to have collaborated with IS members in the attack. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Fresh Protests Break Out In Western Iran Amid Reports Of Man Dying In Custody

People took to the streets on March 15 chanting anti-government slogans after 41-year-old Shirzad Ahmadinejad, a resident of Bukan, died while being held at an IRGC Intelligence Detention Center in the nearby city of Urmia.

The death of a man while in the custody of security forces has sparked fresh anti-government protests in the northwestern Iranian city of Bukan.

According to local sources, including the website of the rights group Hengaw, people took to the streets on March 15 chanting anti-government slogans, as well as "The martyr will never die" in Kurdish after 41-year-old Shirzad Ahmadinejad, a resident of Bukan, died while being held at an IRGC Intelligence Detention Center in the nearby city of Urmia.

It is unclear why Ahmadinejad was detained, but Hengaw, citing "informed sources," said he was supposed to be temporarily released on bail but then his family was informed that he had died of a heart attack.

"However, we have learned from our sources that Ahmadinejad died under torture, and the security forces have not yet handed over his body to the family," Hengaw said, quoting sources close to Ahmadinejad's family.

Bukan, located in West Azerbaijan Province, was one of the cities that saw numerous protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini during her detention by the Islamic republic's morality police in Tehran last September.

Amini's death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests that authorities have met with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed -- without providing evidence -- the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

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

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

Iranian Activist Gholian Rearrested Hours After Release From Evin Prison

Sepideh Gholian, 28, is one of the most prominent female activists held in Iran. She was released early on March 15 after being behind bars for four years and seven months. (file photo)

Iranian labor activist Sepideh Gholian has been rearrested by security forces just hours after her release from Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, where she served almost five years after being forced to confess to treason.

According to reports on social media, Gholian was detained by security forces late on March 15 while traveling back to her hometown in Khuzestan, between the cities of Qom and Arak.

There was no official comment on the reports, which came after video footage released on social media showed her supporting protests against the mandatory hijab law by shouting: "Khamenei, the tyrant, we will bury you in the ground."

Reports on social media also suggested that those who filmed Gholian's rearrest were detained by security forces.

Gholian, 28, is one of the most prominent female activists held in Iran. She was released early on March 15 after being behind bars for four years and seven months.

"I was released from the Seven Hills case. This time I came out hoping for the freedom of Iran!" she wrote in the post, which showed a video of her leaving the prison with a bouquet of flowers.

Gholian was arrested along with more than a dozen activists, protest organizers, and workers during the Haft Tappeh Sugar Factory strike in November 2018. While most were released on bond the next day, Gholian was imprisoned for a month.

Her release from prison in Ahvaz in December 2018 was short-lived as she was again arrested in January 2019 after Iranian state television aired footage in which it purported to show Gholian confessing to taking part in alleged Western-backed efforts to overthrow the government. She promptly countered those accusations on social media by saying she had been beaten and forced to make a false confession.

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of insurance support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into demonstrations, which officials across the country have since tried to quell with harsh measures.

The activist HRANA news agency said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Thousands have been arrested in the clampdown, with the judiciary handing down harsh sentences -- including the death penalty -- to protesters.

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

Child Protesters Have Suffered 'Horrific Acts Of Torture' In Iran, Amnesty Says

The protests in Iran began on September 16, 2022, with the death of Mahsa Amini from injuries she allegedly sustained in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police.

Child protesters in Iran have been subjected to "horrific acts of torture" by security forces amid a crackdown on anti-government demonstrators, Amnesty International said in a statement on March 16 marking six months since the start of nationwide protests triggered by the death of a young woman in police detention. "Iran’s intelligence and security forces have been committing horrific acts of torture, including beatings, flogging, electric shocks, rape, and other sexual violence against child protesters as young as 12," Amnesty said, adding, “The authorities must immediately release all children detained solely for peacefully protesting."

Saudi Arabia Could Invest In Iran 'Very Quickly' After Agreement, Says Minister

Saudi Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jadaan (file photo)

Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jadaan said on March 15 that Saudi investments in Iran could happen "very quickly" following an agreement to restore diplomatic ties. "There are a lot of opportunities for Saudi investments in Iran. We don't see impediments as long as the terms of any agreement would be respected," Al-Jadaan said during the Financial Sector Conference in Riyadh. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on March 10 to reestablish relations and reopen embassies within two months after years of hostility. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Iranian Activist Gholian Released As Protests During Fire Festival Continue

Iranian activist Sepideh Gholian (file photo)

Iranian protesters have staged fresh demonstrations by taking to the streets across the country to protest during a night that is traditionally an ancient festival of fire as one of the country's well-known activists, Sepideh Gholian, said she had been released from prison.

Gholian, 28, is one of the most prominent female activists held in Iran. She announced on her Instagram page on March 15 that she had been released after being behind bars for four years and seven months.

"I was released from the Seven Hills case. This time I came out hoping for the freedom of Iran!" she wrote in the post, which showed video of her leaving the prison with a bouquet of flowers.


Gholian was arrested along with about 20 activists, protest organizers, and workers during the Haft Tappeh Sugar Factory strike in November 2018. While most were released on bond the next day, Gholian was imprisoned for a month.

Her release from prison in Ahvaz in December 2018 was short-lived as she was again arrested in January 2019 after Iranian state television aired footage in which it purported to show Gholian confessing to taking part in alleged Western-backed efforts to overthrow the government. She promptly countered those accusations on social media by saying she had been beaten and forced to make a false confession.

The labor activist's release came hours after videos published on social media showed people taking to the streets overnight as they used celebrations of the traditional Festival of Fire to continue months of protests, chanting anti-government slogans, such as "Death to the dictator" and "Death to Khamenei," a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Saghez is the hometown of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death during her detention by Iran's morality police for an alleged head scarf violation triggered nationwide protests.

The festival, which took on extra meaning this year after several months of unrest that threatens to tear the country apart as protesters battle for the government to respect women's and human rights, is seen as an opportunity to make wishes for the upcoming Persian New Year, which begins on March 21.

Reports also indicated that in several neighborhoods of Tehran, including Ekbatan in the west of the capital, people burned pictures of the leader of the Islamic republic and chanted slogans against the government.

Similar scenes were repeated in the Iranian cities of Zanjan, Rasht, Sanandaj, Piranshahr and Tabriz.

Iranian Women Burn Head Scarves Amid Fire Festival
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Amini's death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests that authorities have met with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed -- without providing evidence -- the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

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

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

Iranian Women Burn Head Scarves Amid Fire Festival

Iranian Women Burn Head Scarves Amid Fire Festival
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Women in the Iranian capital, Tehran, burned their head scarves amid the annual fire festival known as Chaharshanbeh Suri. Videos posted on social media showed anti-government protests erupting in several Iranian cities as celebrations ahead of the Persian New Year, Norouz, turned to defiance.

Iranian Government Proposes New Measures To Enforce Hijab Law, Including Surveillance

Many Iranian women and schoolgirls have been flouting Iran's hijab rules in a show of defiance following the death of a young woman in police custody for allegedly wearing the head scarf improperly. (file photo)

Iranian authorities have proposed new measures to enforce the compulsory wearing of the hijab in the country, including the use of surveillance cameras to identify and punish women who fail to comply with the dress code amid months of nationwide unrest sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly not wearing her head scarf properly.

In a public session of the Iranian parliament on March 14, Bijan Nobaveh a member of the Cultural Commission revealed that the body has proposed seven new measures related to the hijab, which have been fully endorsed by the leadership and discussed at the National Security Council.

Under the new proposals, physical punishment will not be allowed. Violators instead will be punished according to a predetermined table. The surveillance cameras will be used to monitor public spaces for women not wearing the hijab, and offenders will be punished subsequently with measures that include cutting off their mobile phone and Internet connections. Police and judicial authorities will be tasked with collecting evidence and identifying violators.

The Cultural Commission said shop owners and operators of businesses such as shopping malls and accommodation centers will be responsible for implementing the rules.

Officials have recently moved to seal off the businesses of some "violators," including this week when a hotel in the city of Kashan and a shopping center in the capital, Tehran, were closed because employers were not observing the mandatory hijab rule.

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 Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Many Iranian women have flouted the rule over the years in protest and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Long-simmering tensions boiled over after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while being detained for an alleged hijab infraction.

Tens of thousands of Iranians have flooded streets across the country in protest.

Women and even schoolgirls have put up unprecedented shows of defiance in the unrest, considered one of the biggest threats to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In response, authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on dissent, detaining thousands and handing down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters. Rights groups say more than 500 people have died in the protests.

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

The Farda Briefing: Under Pressure At Home And Abroad, Tehran Gets 'Breathing Space' From Iran-Saudi Deal 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (center) poses with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (right) and Saudi Arabia's national security adviser, Musaad bin Muhammad al-Aiban (left), in Beijing on March 10.

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 RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I've been following during the past week and what I'm watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations, seven years after the regional foes cut formal ties.

In a statement issued on March 10, Tehran and Riyadh pledged to reopen their embassies within two months and reactivate a security cooperation pact. The sides also confirmed their "respect for the sovereignty of states and noninterference in their internal affairs."

The deal was brokered by China, a major buyer of Iranian and Saudi oil. Beijing is also one of the few allies of Iran's clerical regime, which has come under mounting pressure from the West.

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran in 2016, when protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran after Riyadh executed a revered Saudi Shi'ite cleric.

Since then, tensions between Shi'a-majority Iran and Saudi Arabia, a predominately Sunni Muslim kingdom, have soared. The two rivals have fought proxy wars across the Middle East, including in Yemen and Syria. Pro-Iranian armed groups have been blamed for drone and missile attacks on Saudi soil.

Why It Matters: If the agreement holds, it could help deescalate tensions in the Middle East, where the two longtime foes have competed for influence for decades.

For Iran, repairing relations with a regional foe would alleviate the growing pressure it has faced at home and abroad recently. The clerical regime has been rocked by months of anti-regime protests, the biggest challenge the authorities have faced in decades. Tehran has also been under mounting Western pressure over its supply of combat drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine.

"The Islamic republic is under significant pressure, both domestically and regionally," Thomas Juneau, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, told RFE/RL. "By stabilizing its relations with its Saudi rival, even if only partially, it provides it with some breathing space."

What's Next: It's unclear if the Iran-Saudi deal will lead to a lasting rapprochement between the countries.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan struck a cautious note, saying on March 13 that "agreeing to restore diplomatic ties does not mean we have reached a solution to all disputes between us."

Juneau of the University of Ottawa expressed doubts that there would be a "significant improvement" in Iran-Saudi ties, although he added that tensions might be "better managed." "The pattern in Saudi-Iranian relations in recent decades has been fairly consistent: Tension ebbs and flows, but never goes below a high floor," he said.

Stories You Might Have Missed

Women have played a major role in the antiestablishment protests in Iran. Even as the demonstrations have mostly subsided in recent weeks, a growing number of women are appearing in public without the mandatory hijab, in a direct challenge to the authorities. The brutal enforcement of the hijab law triggered the anti-regime protests that erupted in September.

Five Tehran girls were warned by the authorities after posting a dance video that went viral among Iranian social media users. It is illegal for women to dance in public in Iran, but the video has inspired others across the country to post similar videos with the same song, in a potentially dangerous act of open defiance toward the regime.

What We're Watching

Six members of Iran's exiled opposition, including the former crown prince, Reza Pahlavi, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, issued a charter for a transition to a new, secular democratic system that would be followed by free elections.

The Charter of Solidarity and Alliance for Freedom also called for international efforts to isolate Iran's theocratic regime.

Why It Matters: The charter is among several proposals made by opposition figures and civil society groups inside and outside Iran that would transform or even replace the current theocratic system with a democracy.

The proposals for a post-Islamic republic system come amid growing calls for political change in Iran.

Last month, some 20 labor unions, student organizations, and civil society groups inside Iran published a joint charter. On March 8, a group of women's rights activists released a Women's Bill of Rights they said should form the basis of a new constitution once the regime is removed.

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

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

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.

The Protests That Shook Iran's Clerical System

Iran's Top Security Official Shamkhani To Visit The U.A.E. On March 16

The visit to Abu Dhabi by Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani (right) comes on the heels of a March 10 meeting in Beijing with Saudi Arabia's state minister, Musaad bin Muhammad al-Aiban (left).

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani will visit the United Arab Emirates on March 16, Nour News, which is affiliated with the Iranian top security body, reported on March 15. His visit to Abu Dhabi comes at a time of growing rapprochement between Iran and Gulf countries. Last week, Shamkhani took part in talks brokered by China that resulted in Saudi Arabia and Iran resuming diplomatic ties after they were suspended in 2016. The United Arab Emirates sent an ambassador back to Iran in September, more than six years after the Gulf Arab state downgraded ties with the Islamic republic. To read the full story by Reuters, click here.

Lawyer For Amini Family Summoned To Tehran Prosecutor's Office For 'Propaganda'

Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht has called on investigators to study the two-hour period of Amini's arrest and transfer instead of pushing him and her family to accept the "late arrival and failure" of the medical staff as the cause of her death. (file photo)

The lawyer for the family of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian woman whose death in mid-September while in police custody has led to months of nationwide unrest, has been summoned to the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office at Tehran's Evin prison and accused of "propaganda against the Islamic republic."

The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network quoted an informed source as saying the charge against Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht is a result of interviews he has given with foreign media.

In an interview with the Faraz website in January, Nikbakht said that four months after Amini's death, "incomplete investigations have been carried out without [the family's] presence or participation as the complainant."

Amini was detained by the morality police while visiting Tehran in September because she was allegedly wearing a head scarf, or hijab, improperly. Iranian authorities say she died of natural causes, but eyewitnesses and her family say the young woman was beaten by security agents.

Nikbakht called on investigators to study the two-hour period of Amini's arrest and transfer to the Morality Police Center instead of pushing him and her family to accept the "late arrival and failure" of the medical staff as the cause of her death.

Amini died on September 16, prompting thousands of Iranians to take to the streets nationwide to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread unrest, which continues, represents the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Protests over Amini's death have been met with a violent government crackdown.

The activist organization HRANA said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent by detaining thousands, including several foreigners.

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

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