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Britain Orders Closure Of Iranian Embassy In London, U.K. Embassy In Tehran

A protester kicks in a door at the British Embassy compound in Tehran on November 29.
A protester kicks in a door at the British Embassy compound in Tehran on November 29.
Britain has ordered the expulsion of all Iranian diplomats from the United Kingdom and ordered Tehran to close its embassy in London within 48 hours.

The move comes a day after hard-line Islamist university students stormed the British Embassy in Tehran, smashing windows, starting fires, and looting property while police largely looked on. Hundreds of protesters also stormed a residential compound for British diplomats in another part of Tehran, reportedly briefly seizing six British Embassy staff there.

Iran's government has expressed regret about what it called the "unacceptable behavior" of protesters, whose attacks began during an anti-British demonstration apparently authorized by the authorities.

The Iranian government has denied any connection to the demonstration. But Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on November 30 that the "wrath" of the attackers was the result of "several decades of domination-seeking behavior by Britain."

Addressing an open session of parliament in Tehran, Larijani also called the UN Security Council's condemnation of the embassy attack a "hasty move."

Iran's Mehr news agency also quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying the British decision was "hasty" and the result of the actions of "some angry protesters." He said Iran had begun an investigation into the matter and "will confront the intruders through legal channels."

In a statement, Iran's largest reformist student group condemned the attack on the British Embassy and said the attackers were not students.

Iranians express their opinions on embassy attack to RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Shameful Acts

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament the assaults were shameful acts by Iranians with direct links to the regime in Tehran.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague
British Foreign Secretary William Hague
"The majority of demonstrators were from a student Basij militia organization. We should be clear from the outset that this is an organization controlled by elements of the Iranian regime," Hague said.

"The demonstrators proceeded systematically to vandalize and loot the homes of staff located on the site and the ambassador's residence. They destroyed furniture, stole property, including the personal possessions of our staff, and set fire to the main embassy office building."

Hague said it was absurd for the Iranian authorities to claim the government in Tehran was not involved in an organized plot to attack British diplomatic facilities in Iran.

"No difficulty in relations can ever excuse in any way or under any circumstances the failure to protect diplomatic staff or diplomatic premises," Hague said.

"Iran is a country where opposition leaders are under house arrest, where more than 500 people have been executed so far this year, and where genuine protest is ruthlessly stamped on," he continued. "The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful."

Violation Of Vienna Convention

Hague also said the failure of Iranian authorities to stop the attackers means that Tehran has violated international law.

"The events are a grave violation of the Vienna Convention, which states that a host state is required to protect the premises of a diplomatic mission against any intrusion, damage, or disturbance," he said. "This is a breach of international responsibility for which any nation should be ashamed."

As of November 30, Hague said, the British Embassy in Tehran is closed and the last of the embassy's U.K.-based staff have been evacuated from Iran to protect their safety. About 24 British Embassy staff and dependents were living in Tehran. All are adults; Britain will not post diplomats to Iran with small children for security reasons.

The action marks the largest diplomatic retaliation against Iran since 1979, when the Iranian government endorsed the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by hard-line Islamists who held 52 embassy staff there hostage for 444 days.

It also follows a souring of relations between Tehran and the West amid deepening suspicions that Tehran is secretly trying to build nuclear weapons.

Despite the severity of the British government's response to the November 29 violence, Hague said Britain still wanted to maintain diplomatic ties with Tehran so that it can discuss concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

"This does not amount to the severing of diplomatic relations in their entirety," Hague said. "It is action that reduces our relations with Iran to the lowest level consistent with the maintenance of diplomatic relations."

Retaliatory Moves

On November 27, Iran's parliament approved a bill to downgrade relations with Britain, one of the United States' closest allies with diplomatic envoys in the Islamic republic. That legislation called for British diplomats to be expelled from Iran within two weeks.

The Iranian legislation is seen as retaliation against British moves last week to severe all financial ties between Britain and Iran following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that suggested Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.

Meanwhile, France, Germany and the Netherlands have recalled their ambassadors to Tehran for "consultations."

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement that France's ambassador, Bruno Foucher, had been recalled over Iran's "flagrant and unacceptable" violation of the Vienna Convention.

Earlier, Norway announced that it had temporarily shut its embassy in Tehran due to "security concerns" but said it was not withdrawing its diplomatic staff. And Germany said it was recalling its ambassador from Iran for consultations following what it called the "unacceptable" storming of the British Embassy.

Written by Ron Synovitz, with agency reports

More News

Candidate Registration Opens For Iran's Presidential Election

A journalist sits in front of the pictures of late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) and other officials during the first day of registration for the presidential election at the Interior Ministry in Tehran on May 30.
A journalist sits in front of the pictures of late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (right) and other officials during the first day of registration for the presidential election at the Interior Ministry in Tehran on May 30.

The registration of candidates for the presidential election next month began on May 30 as Iran looks to fill the vacancy left by the death of Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash. The registration period runs for five days, with the election scheduled for June 28. The IRNA state news agency reported that around 25 potential candidates have already submitted their registration requests, but all have been rejected. A final list of approved candidates will be announced on June 11 by the Guardians Council, whose members are either appointed or approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Iranian Rights Activists Slam UN For Planning Memorial For 'Butcher' Raisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023.

The United Nations has announced plans to hold a memorial ceremony for the late Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, this week, sparking sharp criticism from rights activists, who decried a move to honor a man they refer to as the "Butcher of Tehran."

UN General Assembly President Dennis Francis said he will convene the tribute on May 30, with member states "encouraged" to deliver statements at the meeting "to pay tribute" to Raisi, who along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several other officials, died in a helicopter crash on May 19.

The tribute has sparked a wave of criticism from activists who refer to Raisi's alleged role in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, when he was Tehran's deputy prosecutor.

In addition, they said that as president he oversaw a brutal, and sometimes deadly, crackdown on dissent during protests in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, who was in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation when she died.

"When the governments of the world elevate a blatant human rights violator and butcher from Iran's history to a position of honor, as if mourning a peace-loving and democratic figure, they set a dangerous precedent," Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi wrote from her prison cell in Tehran.

The UN has already been sharply rebuked by rights groups for observing a moment of silence for Raisi on May 22, and for flying its flag at half-mast in honor of the Iranian president.

Monica Grayley, the spokeswoman for Francis, said paying tribute to the memory of a deceased head of state is a diplomatic practice.

But Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi argued that the UN's decision flies in the face of its own protocols, as Raisi was not Iran's highest-ranking official, while pointing out that a UN fact-finding mission recently said that "crimes against humanity" were committed by the Iranian regime during the crackdown on protesters in 2022.

"[Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Ali Khamenei is the highest political and military official in the Islamic republic. Whenever they die, the United Nations can hold a quadruple memorial ceremony for them along with Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Hitler," Ebadi said in a post on Instagram.

“I want the respected Secretary General and President of the General Assembly to recognize Ebrahim Raisi as the people of Iran called him, the 'Executioner of Iran' and the 'Butcher of Tehran' after his death.”

The UN has also implicated Iranian officials in the "physical violence" that lead to Amini's death, raising further questions over honoring Raisi at the United Nations.

A group of 23 LGBTQ+ rights organizations also issued a statement condemning the UN's actions, describing them as a "disgrace to the body of the global community."

The group said Raisi played a role in the execution and killing of members of their community and that many Iranians "consider the likes of Ebrahim Raisi among the murderers, torturers, and violators of their loved ones.”

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

'I Want To See Justice,' Says Iranian Journalist Targeted By Assassination Attempt

'I Want To See Justice,' Says Iranian Journalist Targeted By Assassination Attempt
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Dissident Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad has told RFE/RL that she wants to see justice not just for herself, but for other exiled Iranians targeted by Tehran. Investigations are ongoing into a plot to assassinate Alinejad in New York in 2022.

Execution Spike In Iran Boosts Global Total To Highest In Almost A Decade, Amnesty Says

Iranian refugees rally against executions in Iran in front of the building of the Commissariat for Refugees in Brussels in June 2023.
Iranian refugees rally against executions in Iran in front of the building of the Commissariat for Refugees in Brussels in June 2023.

Executions around the globe rose to their highest number in almost a decade, spurred by a spike in cases of the death penalty being carried out in Iran, according to a new report by watchdog Amnesty International.

In the report, released on May 29, Amnesty said a total of 1,153 executions took place in 2023 -- not including the thousands believed to have been carried out in China -- marking an increase of more than 30 percent from 2022.

In particular, Amnesty highlighted Iran, where the authorities intensified their use of the death penalty "to instill fear in the population and tighten their grip on power" by carrying out at least 853 executions, a 48 percent rise from the previous year.

"The huge spike in recorded executions was primarily down to Iran. The Iranian authorities showed complete disregard for human life and ramped up executions for drug-related offenses, further highlighting the discriminatory impact of the death penalty on Iran's most marginalized and impoverished communities," said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's secretary-general.

"Despite the setbacks that we have seen this year, particularly in the Middle East, countries that are still carrying out executions are increasingly isolated. Our campaigning against this abhorrent punishment works. We will continue until we have put an end to the death penalty."

Amnesty chided Iran for the high number of executions -- at least 545 -- that were carried out "unlawfully" for acts such as drug-related offenses that under international law are not punishable by the death penalty.

The rights group said executions "disproportionately impacted" Iran's Baluch ethnic minority, who accounted for 20 percent of recorded executions even though they make up only around 5 percent of Iran’s population.

At least 24 women and at least five people who were children at the time they are accused of committing a crime were executed, the Amnesty report said.

Despite the higher overall total of executions, Amnesty said progress on stopping the usage of the death penalty was made.

Executions were carried out in only 16 countries last year, it said, the lowest total ever recorded.

Belarus, Japan, Myanmar, and South Sudan, all of which carried out executions in 2022, did not register any last year, Amnesty said.

"The inherent discrimination and arbitrariness that marks the use of the death penalty have only compounded the human rights violations of our criminal justice systems. The small minority of countries that insist on using it must move with the times and abolish the punishment once and for all," Callamard said.

YouTube Confirms Iranian Foreign Ministry Account Closed Over U.S. Sanctions

Iran blocked access to YouTube in 2012. (file photo)
Iran blocked access to YouTube in 2012. (file photo)

Internet video platform YouTube has confirmed terminating an account run by Iran's Foreign Ministry to comply with U.S. sanctions against the Islamic republic.

"Google is committed to compliance with applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws, and enforces related policies under our Terms of Service," YouTube spokeswoman Alzbeta Houzarova told RFE/RL in a written statement on May 28.

"If we find that an account violates our Terms of Service, we take appropriate action," she added.

Iran's official IRNA news agency said the account had been suspended after posting a video in English in support of Palestinians amid Israel's war against Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, in the Gaza Strip.

State-controlled IRNA accused YouTube, which has been banned in Iran since 2009, of "violating freedom of speech."

Asked about IRNA's claim that a pro-Palestinian video had resulted in the account's removal, Houzarova reiterated that U.S. sanctions were the reason for the channel's suspension.

The account "will remain terminated," according to YouTube, which is owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet.

"Due to established U.S. sanctions, Iran's state-owned channels are not permitted on YouTube," the platform said.

Iran has blocked all major social media platforms and outlawed the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass the ban. However, the authorities themselves continue to use the blocked platforms.

Iran has for years tried to encourage the public to use domestically developed alternatives to popular social media platforms, with little success. A survey in January by the state-affiliated ISPA polling agency found that Instagram, WhatsApp, and Telegram -- all of which are blocked -- are the most popular platforms among Iranians.

YouTube has previously suspended other Iranian state-owned accounts, including the English-language news service Press TV and the Spanish-language Hispan TV.

In February, Instagram removed accounts run by the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Instagram and Facebook for posts in support of Hamas.

A spokesperson for Instagram’s parent company, Meta, told RFE/RL the accounts had been shut down for "repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations & Individuals policy."

The policy includes organizations backlisted by the U.S. government.

Iranian Court Sentences Journalist To 21 Years For 'Propaganda Against Regime'

Iranian journalist Zina Modares Gorji (file photo)
Iranian journalist Zina Modares Gorji (file photo)

The Islamic Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj, western Iran, has sentenced journalist Zina Modares Gorji to a combined 21 years in prison for her advocacy of women's rights.

The Kurdish human rights portal Kurdpa reported that Judge Mohammad Karami, handed down a split verdict in the case, with Gorji receiving 10 years for "forming an illegal group aimed at overthrowing the regime" and another 10 years for "collaborating with hostile groups and governments." Additionally, she was given one year for "propaganda against the regime."

Under Iranian law, the longest sentence in cases where multiple punishments are handed down is enforced, meaning she will spend 10 years in prison. However, the court also enforced a 10-year exile period after that.

Her supporters said the sentencing was officially communicated on May 23 and that her legal team has filed an appeal. Her lawyers have requested a retrial and are challenging what they view as an overly harsh and politically motivated verdict aimed at intimidating voices within the country.

The exile portion of the punishment, analysts said, shows how far Iranian authorities are going to stifle dissent in the wake of nationwide unrest over the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged Islamic head scarf, or hijab, violation in September 2022.

Gorji was first detained during Amini-inspired protests.

After an initial 40-day detention period for "assembly and collusion against the system," Gorji was temporarily released on a bail.

She was rearrested in April 2023 and spent about a month in solitary confinement before being transferred to a general prison ward.

Last month Gorji said on Instagram that her bookstore in Sanandaj was forcibly closed for several days by local authorities for alleged noncompliance with mandatory hijab laws.

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

Lawyer For Family Of Executed Iranian Protester Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison

Lawyer Amir Hossein Koohkan represents the family of Mohammad Mahdi Karmi, who was executed during nationwide protests.
Lawyer Amir Hossein Koohkan represents the family of Mohammad Mahdi Karmi, who was executed during nationwide protests.

The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Karaj has sentenced Amir Hossein Koohkan, a defense lawyer for the family of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, who was executed during protests over the death of Mahsa Amini that rocked Iran in 2022, to six years in prison.

Koohkan faced several charges, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), including assembly and collusion and propaganda against the regime.

Koohkan's arrest comes after he was summoned by the Karaj Intelligence Department last year. He was detained at the time and held until he was granted a conditional release in December.

The charges come shortly after the sentencing of Mashallah Karami, Mohammad Mehdi Karami’s father, to six years in prison on charges of endangering national security and propaganda against the regime.

The cases highlight a pressure campaign, rights groups say, the government is using against those connected to protest movements in Iran.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was one of nine individuals executed by the Islamic republic in relation to the protests of 2022, which saw widespread unrest over government policies that protesters said curbed basic human rights and intruded too deeply in the lives of most Iranians.

His execution in January 2023, which was tied to the alleged murder of a Basij militia member during the nationwide upheaval, drew international condemnation.

The cases of Koohkan and Karami underscore the concern among Iranian authorities of the possibility of a new wave of unrest.

Following the death of Amini in September 2022, hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets nationwide to protest. The 22-year-old died under mysterious circumstances while she was in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation.

A clampdown by security forces against protesters has resulted in the deaths of approximately 600 demonstrators, as reported by human rights groups, and thousands of arrests.

The Iranian judiciary has also executed several protesters, further inflaming public outcry against the regime's harsh tactics.

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

Iranian Authorities Ratchet Up Crackdown On Critics After Raisi's Death

Factory owner Ali Reyhani Kajvar was reportedly detained and charged with "propaganda against the system and insulting Ebrahim Raisi" for his online posts regarding Raisi's death.
Factory owner Ali Reyhani Kajvar was reportedly detained and charged with "propaganda against the system and insulting Ebrahim Raisi" for his online posts regarding Raisi's death.

Rights groups say Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown on posts made by social media users following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19.

Raisi, who along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several others died in the helicopter crash in a mountainous region in northwestern Iran, had been accused of serving as a prosecutor for an "execution committee" that sent thousands of political prisoners and regime opponents to their deaths in the late 1980s.

He is often referred to by critics as "Ayatollah Execution" or "Ayatollah Massacre" due to his alleged role in mass executions during 1988.

The crash was mocked by many users of Persian-language social networks. In turn, Iranian security and judicial agencies have responded vigorously to the online activities of citizens and media activists.

The Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran highlighted an example of the crackdown with a report saying that factory owner Ali Reyhani Kajvar was detained and charged with "propaganda against the system and insulting Ebrahim Raisi" for his online posts regarding Raisi's death.

It was not clear which comments the charges referred to.

Similarly, human rights media outlets said Akbar Yousefi, a resident of Malekan in East Azerbaijan Province, is said to have been arrested on charges related to his social media commentary on the crash.

Others have been charged, rights groups say, for "spreading lies and insulting the sanctity of service martyrs," for their comments on Raisi’s death.

Reza Babarnejad, whose brother was a casualty in the Women, Life, Freedom protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged head scarf violation, was also arrested for his reactions to the incident.

Others say they have been warned by authorities for their online activities.

The Judiciary Information Center of Kerman province announced that 254 individuals received telephone warnings for posting "offensive" content, while eight people faced judicial summons.

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

Iran's Stockpile Of Enriched Uranium Continues To Increase, Says UN Nuclear Watchdog

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi (left) holds a news conference in Tehran with Iran's nuclear energy chief, Mohammad Eslami, on May 7.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi (left) holds a news conference in Tehran with Iran's nuclear energy chief, Mohammad Eslami, on May 7.

Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to near weapons-grade levels, according to a confidential May 27 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent purity is now 142.1 kilograms -- an increase of 20.6 kilograms since the watchdog's last report in February. The IAEA also said that the deaths of Iran's president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash on May 19 have forced a pause in the UN nuclear watchdog's talks with Tehran over improving cooperation.

Film Director Flees Iran On Foot, Receives Standing Ovation At Cannes

Film Director Flees Iran On Foot, Receives Standing Ovation At Cannes
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The Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof has received a special jury award and a 12-minute standing ovation after his new film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Rasoulof spoke to RFE/RL at the festival about how he escaped Iran on foot through a secret mountainous route just weeks earlier to avoid an eight-year prison sentence.

Director Who Fled Iran Gets 12-Minute Ovation, Special Jury Prize At Cannes Film Festival

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof poses for photographers after winning a special jury prize at the Cannes festival on May 25.
Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof poses for photographers after winning a special jury prize at the Cannes festival on May 25.

Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled a prison and flogging sentence in his home country, was awarded a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his tale of a court investigator whose family life is torn apart during anti-government protests.

In accepting the award in the French resort town, the 51-year-old Rasoulof said his heart was with his film crew, who were "still under the pressure of the secret services back in Iran."

The special jury prize was given to Rasoulof for "drawing attention to unsustainable injustice" in Iran, organizers said after a screening of the film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, led to a 12-minute ovation.

The festival's top prize, meanwhile, went to the film Anora, a sensual drama and comedy about an exotic dancer who becomes involved with a Russian oligarch's son.

Earlier at a news conference, Rasoulof recalled how he had to decide within hours whether to go into exile or serve a prison sentence, saying it was still difficult to talk about.

"I had to say to myself, well, do I want to be in prison, or should I leave Iran, geographic Iran, and join the cultural Iran that exists beyond its borders?" said Rasoulof, who is an outspoken critic of repression in Iran and has twice served prison terms.

Iran’s judiciary sentenced Rasoulof to flogging and eight years in prison after he was convicted of "collusion against national security," his lawyer, Babak Paknia, said on May 8.

Details of his escape from Iran are not totally known. He said the action was plotted by using contacts he had made during his prison stays.

"The more you spend time with interrogators, the secret police, the more you learn how to thwart them," he told the AFP news agency at Cannes.

"They show you your emails, so you learn how to write them. They show you your bank statements, so you learn when you should not have used your credit card."

Rasoulof said he also came up with the idea for The Seed Of The Sacred Fig while in prison.

Western rights advocates and film-industry groups had condemned Iran’s actions against Rasoulof and demanded his release.

Rasoulof won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize in 2020 for his film There Is No Evil, which tells four stories loosely connected to the themes of the death penalty in Iran and personal freedoms under oppression.

"I am also very sad, deeply sad, to see the disaster experienced by my people every day...the Iranian people live under a totalitarian regime," he said in Cannes.

With reporting by AFP and Variety

Self-Exiled Iranian Director Rasoulof Talks Of 'Mixed Feelings' At Cannes Festival

Director Mohammad Rasoulof holds pictures of cast members Missagh Zareh (left) and Soheila Golestani following the screening of his film The Seed Of The Sacred Fig in Cannes.
Director Mohammad Rasoulof holds pictures of cast members Missagh Zareh (left) and Soheila Golestani following the screening of his film The Seed Of The Sacred Fig in Cannes.

CANNES, France -- Self-exiled Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof -- who had to escape his home country to be able to appear at the Cannes Film Festival -- told RFE/RL that he has “mixed feelings” about the screening of his film and the attention he received during the famed event in France.

The May 25 screening of his film, titled The Seed Of The Sacred Fig, was greeted by a 12-minute ovation. He later received a special jury prize for "drawing attention to unsustainable injustice" in Iran, festival organizers said.

"It's interesting for me that I'm [in Cannes] after seven years in which I was banned from traveling,” he told RFE/RL in an interview prior to receiving the jury prize.

“I have mixed feelings. There were members of my team...who wanted to be here but didn’t have that possibility. So, there is a heavy sadness within me.”

“On the other hand, I'm glad that the movie is [being screened] here. It can be heard; the voices of those who wanted this movie to be made are being heard.

“Therefore, it is all a paradoxical situation."

In accepting the special jury prize, the 51-year-old Rasoulof had told the audience that his heart was with his film crew, who were "still under the pressure of the secret services back in Iran."

Iran’s judiciary had sentenced Rasoulof to flogging and eight years in prison after he was convicted of "collusion against national security," his lawyer, Babak Paknia, said on May 8.

Prior to Rasoulof's flight from Iran, Western rights advocates and film-industry groups had condemned Iran’s actions against the outspoken film director and demanded his release.

Details of his escape are not totally known. On May 13, he posted a short video to Instagram of an undisclosed mountainous location and wrote that he would talk about his journey out of Iran later.

In a Cannes news conference, he said the action was plotted by using contacts he had made during his prison stays.

"A few days after Norouz (the Persian New Year) -- I think it was around April 12 -- I learned from my lawyers that my prison sentence had been confirmed and then the case would be sent for enforcement and I would have to go to prison.”

Rasoulof said he felt that Iranian authorities wanted to send him to prison “for a long time.”

“I had to decide whether I wanted to go to prison…wait to see what happens, or leave and keep telling the story. I chose the second option."

The film by Rasoulof -- a longtime activist for human rights in his home country -- tells the tale of a court investigator whose family life is torn apart during anti-government protests.

Rasoulof, an outspoken critic of the Iranian government, has served two terms over previous films. His passport was revoked in 2017.

Russia, Iran Reaffirm 'Firm Commitment' To Strategic Partnership, Ministers Say

Iran's acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Iran's acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The Russian and Iranian foreign ministers reaffirmed their ties and “strategic partnership” in a phone call on May 25, less than a week after Iran’s president, foreign minister, and others died in a helicopter crash in northern Iran. Both Russia and Iran are bitter rivals of the West, and Tehran has supplied the Kremlin with deadly drones used in Moscow’s war with Ukraine. Following the call between Russia's Sergei Lavrov and Iran's new acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, Russia's Foreign Ministry said the “parties reaffirmed their firm commitment to the unconditional continuation of the course chosen by the leaders of the two countries on the formation of a strategic partnership between Russia and Iran and their readiness to implement all available agreements and projects in various fields.”

Key Iranian Assembly Elects 93-Year-Old Conservative As Its Leader

Mohammad Movahedi Kermani, 93, was elected the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts.
Mohammad Movahedi Kermani, 93, was elected the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts.

Mohammad Movahedi Kermani, 93, has been elected the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts, marking a continuation of traditional conservative leadership in a key institution responsible for selecting the nation's supreme leader.

The decision came during the Assembly's first session of its sixth term and follows the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in a helicopter crash last weekend.

The Assembly of Experts is a clerical body with significant power within the Islamic republic’s constitution.

Comprising 88 members, all of whom are male Islamic scholars, the Assembly not only elects the supreme leader but also theoretically oversees and could dismiss him, although this power has never been exercised.

Members are elected to eight-year terms from a list approved by the Guardian Council, ensuring that all candidates align closely with the conservative religious and political establishment.

Movahedi Kermani won the leadership with 55 votes out of 83 present members. His election underlines the notable age gap between the assembly's members and the general population, a point of frequent criticism by reformist opponents who argue there is a disconnect between Iran’s leadership and the issues that contemporary society are concerned about.

In addition to Movahedi Kermani’s election, Hashem Hosseini Bushehri and Alireza Arafi were elected as first and second vice-presidents, respectively.

The leadership election comes at a critical time for Iran.

With Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, 85, facing questions about his health and the future direction of the country, the role of the Assembly of Experts is poised to take a more prominent role.

Speculation has been rife about potential successors for Khamenei, with some expecting that the assembly might soon need to undertake its constitutional duty to appoint a new leader.

According to a Reuters report dated May 20, the assembly recently had removed Raisi, who died in a May 19 helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, from the list of potential successors to Ali Khamenei six months prior.

The report quoted two sources familiar with the matter as saying the Assembly of Experts had taken Raisi off the list about six months ago “because of his sagging popularity, reflecting economic hardship caused by U.S. sanctions and mismanagement."

However, the sources also indicated that there had since been significant lobbying by influential clerics and Raisi's supporters to get him back on the list.

For years, there also has been ongoing speculation regarding the potential selection of Mojtaba Khamenei, the son of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as the future leader of the Islamic republic.

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

Slain Iranian Protester's Father Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison

Mashalla Karami, the father of executed protester Mohammad Mehdi Karami (file photo)
Mashalla Karami, the father of executed protester Mohammad Mehdi Karami (file photo)

Iran’s judiciary has sentenced Mashallah Karami, the father of executed protester Mohammad Mehdi Karami, to six years in prison on charges of endangering national security and "propaganda against the regime."

The human rights groups HRANA and Hengaw reported the verdict, which was handed down by the Karaj Revolutionary Court.

His lawyer, Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani, said Karami has yet to receive the court's decision officially.

Additionally, he rejected accusations of fraud against his client on social media platforms, noting that related charges of money laundering and acquiring illicit wealth are still under review with no verdicts rendered so far.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was one of nine individuals executed by the Islamic republic in relation to the protests of 2022, which saw widespread unrest over governmental policies.

His execution in January 2023, which was tied to the alleged murder of a Basij militia member during the nationwide upheaval, drew international condemnation and highlighted the Iranian government's strict crackdown on dissent.

The sentence handed to Mashallah Karami also appears to be part of a pressure campaign on families of executed protesters.

Mashallah Karami has been a vocal figure in the protest movement, often seen at his son's grave in acts of remembrance that have symbolized the broader struggle for justice in Iran.

The government has been accused of stepping up the pressure on the victims' families through collective arrests and the summoning of grieving families by security agencies with the aim of keeping them from commemorating the lives of their loved ones, which the government fears will trigger further unrest.

Karami's arrest and subsequent sentencing also underline the risks faced by those who continue to oppose the regime.

Many Iranians took to the streets in 2022 to protest against declining living standards and a lack of freedoms.

The unrest grew after the death of Mahsa Amini in September of that year. The 22-year-old died under mysterious circumstances while she was in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation.

The clampdown has resulted in the deaths of approximately 600 demonstrators, as reported by human rights groups, and thousands of arrests.

The Iranian judiciary has also executed several protesters, further inflaming public outcry against the regime's harsh tactics.

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

Popular Iranian Rapper Tataloo Sentenced To Prison On Undisclosed Charges

Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, aka Tataloo, (right) in court earlier this month.
Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, aka Tataloo, (right) in court earlier this month.

Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, a popular Iranian rapper known by his stage name Tataloo, has been sentenced to prison, his lawyer and Iranian judiciary media reported, although specific details about the length of his sentence remain undisclosed.

Tataloo's attorney, Elham Rahimifar, informed the semiofficial ISNA news agency that the rapper faces both short and long-term imprisonment based on a recent verdict, which is still subject to appeal.

The charges and the details of the conviction have not been disclosed by the judiciary media or his lawyer.

The proceedings against Tataloo were overseen by Judge Iman Afshari and took place over three sessions.

According to the Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with Iran's judiciary, the rapper was sentenced to three years in jail in relation to an older case of "insulting the sacred," a charge that can encompass a range of perceived offenses, from blasphemy to disrespecting Iran's Islamic values.

Mizan also noted that no private individuals have filed complaints against Tataloo in this particular case, although the agency had earlier claimed that there were "multiple complaints" against him, including from minors and their families.

Tataloo's trial began in March on charges of promoting "obscenity," publishing "propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran," and disseminating "obscene content."

In a statement last month, the case investigator mentioned Tataloo's expression of "regret," stating that the rapper had written a repentance letter while also expressing his desire to marry, start a family, and pursue music in a more accepted manner.

The rapper, known for blending rap, pop, and R&B, and for his distinctive tattoos, has been a polarizing figure in Iran.

He previously released a song in support of Iran's nuclear rights, which coincided with the breakdown of a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Tataloo, 36, had been living in Istanbul since 2018 but was extradited to Iran by Turkish authorities in December 2024. He has been detained in Iran since his extradition.

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

Iranian President's Death Could Trigger 'Power Competition' For Next Supreme Leader

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left) was believed to have groomed President Ebrahim Raisi (right) to succeed him. (file photo)
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left) was believed to have groomed President Ebrahim Raisi (right) to succeed him. (file photo)

The sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi has thrown a wrench in the succession plans of Iran's elderly supreme leader.

The ultraconservative Raisi was a longtime protege of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was widely believed to be grooming the former judiciary chief as his successor.

Raisi's demise has boosted the prospects of other contenders, including Khamenei's own son, landing the most coveted job in the Islamic republic.

With no obvious front-runner to be the next supreme leader, Raisi's death in a helicopter crash on May 19 is likely to trigger a power struggle among members of the country's clerical establishment, experts say.

"If Khamenei can't control this power competition, then he might have to face a basic reality of the succession issue becoming a destabilizing factor for the regime while he is, in fact, still alive," said Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran Program at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

Who Are The Likely Contenders?

The 88-seat Assembly of Experts, whose members are elected for eight-year terms, is tasked with appointing the next supreme leader.

Dominated by hard-liners, the clerical body has been secretive about potential successors to the 85-year-old Khamenei, who became the supreme leader in 1989 after the death of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

A three-man panel in the assembly keeps a list of possible successors that has reportedly not even been seen by other members.

Some experts say Raisi's death has boosted the chances of Mojtaba Khamenei, a cleric and the supreme leader's second son.

Mojtaba Khamenei (center) lacks administrative experience and will likely face allegations of nepotism if he succeeds his father.
Mojtaba Khamenei (center) lacks administrative experience and will likely face allegations of nepotism if he succeeds his father.

The 55-year-old has shunned the limelight but is believed to have considerable influence behind the scenes and close ties with the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a prominent military, political, and economic role in Iran.

But the younger Khamenei is seen as lacking the leadership skills and religious credentials for the post. He is widely referred to as a hojatoleslam, a title that refers to mid-ranking clerics, although a news agency affiliated with seminaries has since 2022 called him an ayatollah, an honorific title reserved for high-ranking clerics.

In February, a member of the Assembly of Experts said the supreme leader was opposed to hereditary rule, which would appear to rule out the younger Khamenei.

"The optics of having a son succeed his father perhaps resembles the optics of a monarchy," said Farzan Sabet, a senior research associate at the Geneva Graduate School.

The Islamic Revolution in 1979 saw clerics loyal to Khomeini overthrow the U.S.-backed shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Sabet said the younger Khamenei is still likely to "play an important role in a future iteration of the Islamic republic."

Another cleric who is believed to be in contention for the role of supreme leader is Ayatollah Alireza A'rafi. The 67-year-old is close to Khamenei and serves as one of two deputy chiefs of the Assembly of Experts.

While not a household name, Alireza A'rafi is known to be close to Khamenei.
While not a household name, Alireza A'rafi is known to be close to Khamenei.

In 2020, Khamenei appointed A'rafi as the head of all of Iran's seminaries, suggesting that he meets the religious criteria to become the next supreme leader.

A'rafi is not a household name and lacks name recognition, but that does not necessarily hurt his chances.

"Something we have to note about high-level leadership positions in the Islamic republic...is that a candidate may often emerge from, let's say, relative obscurity," Sabet said.

IRGC Playing Kingmaker

Analysts say the IRGC is likely to play a key role in picking Khamenei's successor in an effort to protect its interests.

Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Raisi was the ideal candidate for the IRGC because he was a "malleable yes-man devoid of independent ideas."

"Ayatollah Khamenei, and the Revolutionary Guards must now try to identify an individual as artless as the late President Raisi," Alfoneh said.

In the early 1980s, Khomeini appointed Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri as his deputy. But they fell out and the latter was cast side and his position abolished.

In 2018, amid rumors of Khamenei's poor health, there was talk of reestablishing the position of deputy supreme leader but it led nowhere.

"This unwillingness to share the stage with anyone else -- in fear of losing his authority -- has kept everyone guessing about who might succeed Khamenei," Vatanka said.

"Khamenei's ambiguity around the succession issue is more likely now to be a liability for him than an asset."

Updated

Iran Buries President Raisi In His Hometown

The last day of funeral ceremonies for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi commenced on May 23 in the eastern city of Birjand.
The last day of funeral ceremonies for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi commenced on May 23 in the eastern city of Birjand.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was laid to rest in his home city of Mashhad on May 23 as many thousands of mourners packed the streets ahead of the burial ceremony.

Raisi was buried next to the mausoleum of the eighth Shi’ite Imam Reza, an important Shi’ite site, state broadcaster IRIB reported.

Ceremonies that preceded the burial commenced earlier in the eastern city of Birjand, where thousands of black-clad people marched along the main avenue holding portraits of the president and others killed in a weekend helicopter crash.

Throngs of mourners accompanied Raisi's casket draped in the Iranian flag and placed on a platform truck that also displayed a sign reading, "This is the shrine" before the ceremonies were to move to Mashhad.

Although thousands of people joined the procession, the attendance was lower than on other similar occasions, a likely indication of a deepening rift between the country's Islamic theocracy and ordinary citizens frustrated by the increasing repression of their rights and declining living standards.

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral
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Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who was also killed in the helicopter crash, was buried on May 23 in the Shah Abdul Azim shrine in the city of Rey, just south of Tehran. Ahead of the burial, Iranian officials and foreign diplomats paid their respects to Amir-Abdollahian at a ceremony in Tehran.

A day earlier, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led funeral prayers in Tehran, where thousands attended a funeral procession.

Some reports said Tehran residents received mobile phone messages urging them to attend the funeral procession.

Khamenei presided over the start of the ceremony, where he delivered a traditional "death prayer" for Raisi and then left the ceremony without giving a speech. Iran's acting president, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, was also in attendance.

Several foreign dignitaries attended, including Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani, and a delegation from Afghanistan's Taliban rulers led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi.

No Western leaders attended. Three former Iranian presidents -- Mohammad Khatami, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and Hassan Rohani -- were also not seen among dignitaries in attendance.

A presidential election to determine Raisi's successor was announced for June 28. The election is to be organized by a council consisting of the speaker of parliament, the head of the judiciary, and the first vice president.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani was appointed acting foreign minister.

Analyst Mehdi Khalaji, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that no matter who will become the next president, Iran's future leadership will not be endured by one person, but the regime will try to form a "special joint leadership stock company."

The ceremonies marking the deaths of those involved in the crash started on May 21 in the city of Tabriz, the capital of Iran's northwestern province of East Azerbaijan where the crash occurred, and the Shi'ite clerical center of Qom.

Beyond the official display of public grief, many Iranians who have been victims of acts of repression by Raisi and the Iranian regime or had relatives who suffered from such acts were adamant in voicing their satisfaction at Raisi's death.

A woman who lost 11 relatives, including two daughters, in executions allegedly coordinated by Raisi in 1988 told RFE/RL that she was celebrating his death.

"Truly, I cannot express how limitless my happiness is," Esman Vatanparast said. "When Raisi became president, it was very difficult for us hurting mothers, the survivors of the massacres committed by him."

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and had tightened many restrictions on Iranians through the enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code on head scarves.

Thousands of people, including protesters, journalists, lawyers, athletes, and artists have been arrested and at least 500 people have been killed in Iran's brutal crackdown on the protests.

Raisi also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Raisi's has pushed back nuclear negotiations to improve Iran's cooperation with the agency.

"Now Iran is in a period of mourning and it should be respected, but when this period is over, we want to re-engage with Iran to improve cooperation," Rafael Grossi said on May 22 in Helsinki.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Turkey Claims Its Drone Was Instrumental In Finding Wreckage Of Iranian Helicopter

An Akinci drone made by Turkey (file photo)
An Akinci drone made by Turkey (file photo)

Turkey says its Akinci drone deserves more credit for helping to locate the wreckage of the Iranian helicopter that crashed in a remote and mountainous area of Iran on May 19, killing President Ebrahim Raisi and other top Iranian officials, according to Turkish media reports on May 22.

The reports say that the Akinci drone was first to find the site of the wreckage and accused Iran of changing its narrative about the use of the Turkish equipment after it provided information about the location of the wreckage and then made counterclaims that its own drone found the site.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this week that the Akinci drone was sent at the request of the Iranian government.

According to Erdogan, despite the bad weather conditions the drone was able to conduct search operations in the region for seven and a half hours and fly a total of 2,100 kilometers.

After the Turkish drone identified the helicopter wreckage and detected heat sources believed to be the crash site in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province, the Iranian search team successfully located the downed helicopter and the bodies of Raisi and the others in the mountainous terrain, according to Turkish media reports.

However, Iran rejected the notion that there was foreign participation in the search operation despite data from the Turkish drone that revealed the coordinates of the crash, and confirmation of this data by some Iranian news agencies.

After the Akinci drone captured images of the wreckage using its night vision and thermal camera and released them on the Internet, Pirhossein Kolivand, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, called foreign participation in the search a rumor.

“We did not stop the search in the dark, fog, and rain, and when we discovered the wreckage of the helicopter with our own drone, we moved to the exact place where the helicopter fell," Kolivand said.

He claimed that rescuers from the Red Crescent found the wreckage at an altitude of 2,500 meters and "it took 40 minutes from the time of finding the wreckage of the helicopter to reaching the accident site.”

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral
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But during the overnight search, the Red Crescent said in a statement at around 4 a.m. local time on May 20 that after the Turkish drone identified two potential “hot spots” the Red Crescent rescue teams headed toward the sites.

The head of the East Azerbaijan Red Crescent also cited the Turkish drone report that a “burning spot” had been detected and said rescue forces were sent to that area.

The head of Turkey, Asia, and Indo-Pacific studies at the Institute for International Relations and Strategic Research (ULISA) said in an opinion piece published by the state news agency Anadolu that the drone’s role in finding the wreckage site demonstrated the need to recognize Turkey’s commitment to fulfilling its humanitarian responsibilities through its defense capacity.

Professor M. Nazmul Islam said that, after Iran accepted Turkey’s offer to send the drone, the Akinci took off from a Turkish base at around 11:30 p.m. local time and began searching nearly an hour later. Turkey claims that it transmitted the image of the wreckage of the helicopter at 3:06 a.m. Iranian time and shared the coordinates with the Iranian authorities.

But according to Iranian media accounts, an Iranian drone belonging to the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps found the remains of the helicopter at around 5:30 a.m. local time.

A statement issued by Iran's military said that, despite Turkey sending a drone equipped with night vision and thermal cameras, it "failed to accurately locate the crash site due to its lack of detection equipment and control points below the cloud," referring to the adverse weather conditions.

Iran Radio reported that it was “five o'clock in the morning when the correct coordinates were finally found with Iranian equipment and Iranian relief forces.”

Iran, whose military has its own drone program, was not able to deploy its drones because they were located in the northern part of the Indian Ocean at the time, the Iranian military said. Western powers have accused Iran of providing drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

With reporting by Anadolu and Reuters

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral

New Pictures And Account Emerge Of Raisi Crash As Thousands Attend Funeral
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As thousands attended a funeral procession in Tehran, new images and an official account of the final flight of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi have emerged. Raisi and seven others died when their helicopter crashed in northwestern Iran on May 19.

Updated

Khamenei Prays Over Coffins At Funeral For Raisi, Others Killed In Helicopter Crash

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) and other clerics pray over the coffins of President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in Tehran on May 22.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) and other clerics pray over the coffins of President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in Tehran on May 22.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led prayers in Tehran at the funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on May 22 as thousands attended a procession for Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and other officials killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend.

Khamenei presided over the start of the ceremony at a time of deepening crisis between the country's Islamic leadership and many citizens over a lack of freedoms and declining living standards. He delivered a traditional "death prayer" for Raisi and then left the ceremony without giving a speech.

Khamenei delivered a traditional "death prayer" for Raisi at the ceremony on May 22, three days after the accident in a remote, mountainous area of the country's northwest. Khamenei then left without giving a speech.

Crowds reached out to touch the caskets during the procession as Iran's acting president, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, stood nearby.

Besides Iran's top leaders, including the chiefs of the paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, several foreign dignitaries attended, including Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani, and a delegation from Afghanistan's Taliban rulers led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi.

No Western leaders attended. Three former Iranian presidents -- Mohammad Khatami, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and Hassan Rohani -- were also not seen among dignitaries in attendance.

After the ceremony, the caskets of Raisi and the other victims of the crash were carried out on the shoulders of people onto a platform truck amid chants of "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" from the crowds.

Some reports said Tehran residents received mobile phone messages urging them to attend the funeral procession, which headed toward Freedom Square in central Tehran.

The caskets were draped in Iranian flags with pictures of the deceased on them, while on Raisi's casket, a black turban was placed to mark his alleged direct descendance from Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Although Egypt and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry traveled to Tehran to attend the funeral. Tehran and Cairo have recently floated the possibility of reestablishing relations, which were cut after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing was to attend the memorial service, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, was also seen in live footage as attending. Iran has armed and supported Hamas during the ongoing war with Israel in Gaza. Sheikh Naim Qassem, the deputy leader of Hizballah, Iran's Lebanese proxy, was also present.

A presidential election to determine Raisi's successor was announced for June 28. The election is to be organized by a council consisting of the speaker of parliament, the head of the judiciary, and the first vice president.

According to Iranian media, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani was appointed acting foreign minister.

WATCH: A woman who lost 11 relatives in executions in 1988 told RFE/RL that she was celebrating Raisi's death. Raisi was accused of being on a "death committee" that ordered mass executions at the time.

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates
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The ceremonies marking the deaths of those involved in the crash started on May 21 with tens of thousands of mourners in attendance in the city of Tabriz, the capital of Iran's northwestern province of East Azerbaijan where the crash occurred, and the Shi'ite clerical center of Qom.

Beyond the official display of public grief, many Iranians who have been victims of acts of repression by Raisi and the Iranian regime or had relatives who suffered from such acts were adamant in voicing their satisfaction at Raisi's death.

A woman who lost 11 relatives, including two daughters, in executions allegedly coordinated by Raisi in 1988 told RFE/RL that she was celebrating his death.

"Truly, I cannot express how limitless my happiness is," Esman Vatanparast said. "When Raisi became president, it was very difficult for us hurting mothers, the survivors of the massacres committed by him."

The White House, too, had harsh words for Raisi.

U.S. national-security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that "no question, this was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands" for supporting extremist groups in the Middle East.

U.S. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said Raisi's rule was "barbaric" and marked by "terror, danger, and oppression."

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and had tightened many restrictions on Iranians through the enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code on head scarves.

Thousands of people, including protesters, journalists, lawyers, athletes, and artists have been arrested and at least 500 people have been killed in Iran's brutal crackdown on the protests.

Raisi also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the death of Raisi has pushed back nuclear negotiations to improve Iran's cooperation with the agency.

"Now Iran is in a period of mourning and it should be respected, but when this period is over, we want to re-engage with Iran to improve cooperation," Rafael Grossi said on May 22 in Helsinki.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

Director Mohammad Rasoulof, Who Fled Iran, Will Attend Cannes

Film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled Iran, is expected to attend the Cannes Film Festival.
Film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled Iran, is expected to attend the Cannes Film Festival.

Film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who made a dramatic on-foot escape from Iran, will attend the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of his new movie, organizers told AFP on May 21. The award-winning director will be on the French Cote d'Azur on May 24 when The Seed Of The Sacred Fig competes for the top prize Palme d'Or, festival director Thierry Fremaux said. An outspoken critic of the Iranian government, Rasoulof served two terms in Iranian jails over previous films and had his passport revoked in 2017. His new film tells the story of a judge's struggles amid political unrest in Tehran. He had come under pressure from the Iranian government to withdraw it from Cannes before the festival opened.

'A Symbol Of Murder Gone': Families Of Victims Of Mass Executions Express Relief After Iranian President's Death

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19, is accused of sending political dissidents to their deaths in 1988.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19, is accused of sending political dissidents to their deaths in 1988.

Esmat Vatanparast lost 11 members of her extended family during the mass executions of political prisoners and regime opponents in Iran in the 1980s.

For the last three decades, the elderly Vatanparast has been grieving and seeking justice for the deaths of her family members, including her two daughters and three brothers.

On May 19, when President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, Vatanparast says she obtained a semblance of justice.

Raisi allegedly played a role in the estimated execution of at least 5,000 members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), students, and leftist political parties and groups during the summer of 1988.

"My happiness has no limits," Vatanparast, who fled to Sweden after the massacre, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on May 20, the day Raisi's death was confirmed. "Today is a beautiful day for the people of Iran."

Raisi, known as the "butcher of Tehran," was accused of serving as a prosecutor on a "death committee" that ordered the executions. Many were executed in prisons, including in the Iranian capital's notorious Evin prison.

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates
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Vatanparast said it was "very difficult" for the families of the victims of the massacre to witness the rise of Raisi, a former judiciary chief who became president following a controversial election in 2021.

"I want to congratulate all the mothers and fathers whose children were killed by the Islamic republic and couldn't say or do anything," said Vatanparast, who is in her 80s.

The mass killing was ordered by the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In a fatwa, or religious decree, Khomeini declared that "apostates" and those who had taken up arms against the Islamic republic were "waging war against God" and should be sentenced to death. Some estimates of those executed run into the tens of thousands.

The fatwa was issued in the last days of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, during which members of the MKO switched sides and fought alongside Iraqi forces.

Only one Iranian has been convicted and jailed over the mass executions. Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian prison official, was sentenced to life in prison in Sweden in 2022 for his role in the massacre.

'Death Of This Executioner'

Mehdi Aslani was a former member of the leftist Fadayian-e Khalq organization who served time in Gohardasht prison near Tehran and Evin prison.

Aslani survived the mass executions in 1988 and then fled to Germany. He testified during Nouri's trial in Sweden.

"I'm happy at this moment because a symbol of murder is gone," the former political prisoner told Radio Farda. "I would be lying if I said the news of the death of this executioner did not bring me joy."

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right) issued a fatwa ordering the execution of "apostates" in the late 1980s. (file photo)
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (right) issued a fatwa ordering the execution of "apostates" in the late 1980s. (file photo)

As rescue teams were still searching for the wreckage of Raisi's helicopter, videos emerged on social media showing fireworks going off at night in what appeared to be celebrations.

Mihan Rusta, whose husband was among those executed in 1988, says the celebrations were the result of decades of anger and pain.

Celebrating a death may "not be humane," she said, but it is to be expected when "you've been under pressure" for years.

"It's a natural and human reaction to feel a sense of relief when circumstances intervene when you couldn't," Rusta told Radio Farda.

Like many other family members of the victims of the mass executions, Rusta bemoaned that Raisi's death meant that he would evade justice for his alleged crimes.

Raisi took "part of the truth" to the grave, she said. "For those who seek justice...you will always carry this thought with you. The knowledge that you'll never know the whole truth," she added.

As president, Raisi oversaw a bloody crackdown on unprecedented antiestablishment protests in 2022 and the tightening of the country's morality laws.

Vatanparast said it would be "good for the world" for people like Raisi to go on trial. But she added, "The sooner they die...the safer people's children."

Written by Kian Sharifi based on interviews by Fereshteh Ghazi of RFE/RL's Radio Farda

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates

As Raisi Funeral Ceremonies Begin, Mother Of Executed Iranians Celebrates
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As three days of funeral ceremonies began for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and others killed in a helicopter crash, a woman who lost 11 relatives in executions in 1988 told RFE/RL that she was celebrating his death. Raisi was accused of being on a "death committee," which ordered mass executions at the time. Later, his period in office was marked by a brutal crackdown on nationwide protests sparked by the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody.

Iranian-Danish Director Of The Apprentice Offers To Screen Movie For Trump

Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi (file photo)
Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi (file photo)

Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has called The Apprentice, a film about the former U.S. president in the 1980s, “pure fiction” and vowed legal action following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

But Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi is offering to privately screen the film for Trump.

Following its premiere on May 19 in Cannes, Steven Cheung, Trump's campaign spokesperson, said the Trump team will be filing a lawsuit “to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers."

Abbasi said he "would offer to go and meet [Trump] wherever he wants and talk about the context of the movie, have a screening and have a chat afterwards, if that’s interesting to anyone at the Trump campaign.”

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