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German Economy Minister To Press Tehran On Rights, Role In Syria

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel

Germany’s Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel says he plans to raise concerns about Iran’s human rights record and its role in the war in Syria when he visits Tehran this weekend.

Germany’s weekly Der Spiegel news magazine quoted Gabriel in its September 30 edition as saying that Iran can only have normal and friendly relations with Germany when Tehran accepts the right of Israel to exist.

Gabriel is scheduled to arrive in Tehran on October 2 for a two-day visit.

Gabriel said he was skeptical about imposing fresh sanctions against Iran but said Tehran needs to realize it would be difficult under current circumstances to find lasting partners for business deals in Germany or other European countries.

No business would invest in Iran in the longer term if it believes sanctions could be reinstated, he said.

"And part of that is the situation in Syria, where Iran is playing a decisive role," he said. "We cannot just go with business as usual in our relationship with countries who are involved in this murderous war."

Based on reporting by Der Spiegel and Reuters

All Of The Latest News

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

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

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

Iranian Activist Hossein Ronaghi Released On Bail, Transferred To Hospital

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

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

Cyberattack Hits Iran's Fars News Agency

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

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

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

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo)

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

Iran Sends More Troops To Kurdish Region As New Protest Flares

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

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

Rights Groups Say Iran Forcing Families To Bury Dead At Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran Rejects UN Probe Into Deadly Crackdown On Protests

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

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

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

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

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

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

It added that it would not recognize the mission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran Regime Supporters Confront Protesters At World Cup Game

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

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

Iran Arrests Outspoken Player Amid World Cup Scrutiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Australia, Netherlands Confirm Citizens Detained In Iran, Access Denied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN, Diplomats Demand End To Deadly Iran Crackdown

A scene from an anti-government protest in Andimeshk, Iran, on November 22.

The bloody repression of peaceful demonstrators in Iran must end, the UN rights chief insisted on November 24, as countries discussed launching an investigation into Tehran's deadly crackdown. Volker Turk opened an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council, where countries were called to discuss Iran's "deteriorating human rights situation" and determine if a high-level international investigation is warranted. The meeting follows two months of protests in Iran sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country's strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law. To read the original story from AFP, click here.

Jailed Rights Advocate Asks UN To Document 'Killing And Repression' In Iran

Narges Mohammadi was briefly released from prison for medical treatment in February.

A prominent Iranian human rights advocate incarcerated in the notorious Evin prison has published a letter saying that Iran's authoritarian theocracy has prevented people from achieving their rights, including democracy and freedom, and a normal relationship with the world.

Narges Mohammadi sent the letter on November 23 to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. Mohammadi's letter was published a day before a special meeting of the council on Iran.

Mohammadi asks the council to "document the repression and killing of the Islamic republic" and requests "permanent supervision of the UNHRC on the government's behavior" to include respect for human rights in relations of the government.

Mohammadi's letter also notes the high number of prisoners and says that brave and innocent young people are killed every day in the streets.

"They have gone from killing women to killing children, but people's resistance continues," she says in the letter.

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

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

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

At least 416 people, including 51 children, have been killed by security forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group.

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

U.S. Places Sanctions On Iranian Officials Amid Crackdown On Protests

Iranian protesters rally in the western city of Sanandaj.

The United States has targeted three Iranian security officials under human rights-related sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department said on November 23, citing Tehran's ongoing crackdown on protesters and "increased aggressive actions against the Iranian people." To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Iranian Rights Groups Say Dozens Killed In Kurdish Region In Police Crackdown

Three Iranian girls show their solidarity with protesters in the Kurdish city of Mahabad earlier this month amid the nationwide protests.

Human rights sources say that dozens of people have been killed by Iranian security agents in recent weeks as a deadly crackdown intensifies in the country's western Kurdistan region, which has been the epicenter of anti-establishment protests that have raged for months following the death of a young woman in police custody.

Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, reported that the security forces killed at least 42 Kurdish citizens between November 15 to November 21 while using live ammunition against protesters.

The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network wrote in a report that government forces killed at least 14 Kurdish citizens in the cities of Javanrud, Piranshahr, Sanandaj, Dehgolan, and Bukan during three days from November 19 to 21.

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

What began as protests against the brutal enforcement of the mandatory head scarf has snowballed into one of the biggest threats to Iran's clerical establishment since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

At least 378 people, including 47 children, have been killed by security forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group. At least 83 people have been killed in Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan, three provinces with significant Kurdish populations, IHR said.

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

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

Iran Says IRGC Colonel Killed In Roadside Bombing Attack In Syria

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with the IRGC members involved in the arrest of U.S. sailors in the Persian Gulf in January 2016.

Iran says that Colonel Davoud Jafari, a senior commander with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been killed in Syria by a roadside bomb in an attack Tehran blamed on Israel.

The IRGC-affiliated Tasnim news agency on November 23 published a statement from the group in which it said Jafari was an adviser to the IRGC's aerospace division. The statement added that Israel was responsible for the operation, though it presented no evidence to back up the claim.

Tasnim published a photo of Jafari next to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which showed that he was involved in the arrest of U.S. sailors in the Persian Gulf in January 2016.

Independent sources have not yet confirmed the Tasnim report and Israel has not reacted to it either.

Tehran admits it has provided military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in a civil war since at least 2012 in the form of military advisers and volunteers, but denies sending its own troops.

Even so, Iranian media have reported the death of a handful of Iranian commanders along with hundreds of Iranian fighters in Syria.

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a shadow war for years, worsening already strained relations between them.

Further heightening tensions are deadlocked negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

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, raising concern in Israel.

The news of Jafari's death comes after an Israeli official blamed Iran for a November 15 strike on the Pacific Zircon tanker, which is managed by Israeli-controlled Eastern Pacific Shipping.

Tehran has also accused Israel of carrying out a recent spate of assassinations and sabotage attacks inside the Islamic republic.

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

The Farda Briefing: Iranian Officials Claim Foreign Enemies Are Plotting A Civil War; Analysts Say Tehran Is To Blame  

A screen-grab from a video taken earlier this month that apparently shows protesters throwing a small explosive device at a banner depicting the Islamic republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the central city of Isfahan.

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

Authorities in Tehran have accused Iran's foreign enemies of stoking unrest in the country with the goal of inciting a civil war.

Officials made the accusations following what they called “terrorist” attacks that took place on November 16 in Izeh, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, and in the central city of Isfahan, where they said gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on security forces and civilians, killing seven in Izeh and two in Isfahan.

The incidents followed an October 26 attack at the Shah Cheragh shrine in Shiraz that left 13 dead. The Shiraz attack was claimed by the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Speaking on November 18, Mohsen Rezai, Iran's vice president for economic affairs, blamed Tehran's enemies for the “bitter” incidents and claimed that they’re trying to create a civil war in the country. "Iran cannot be turned into another Syria or Lebanon by carrying out violent acts similar to the ones in Shah Cheragh, Isfahan, and Izeh," he said.

A day earlier, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abollahian accused Israel and Western countries of plotting a "civil war" and the “disintegration” of the Islamic republic.

“Security services, [Israel], and Western politicians who have made plans for a civil war and the destruction and disintegration of Iran must know that that Iran is not Libya or Sudan,” Amir-Abdollahian said on Twitter, while failing to provide any evidence to back his claim.

Why It Matters: The warnings come amid nine weeks of antiestablishment protests in Iran triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran. Iran has blamed foreign countries and intelligence services of orchestrating the unrest, which has turned into the most significant challenge to the clerical establishment in the past four decades.

Ali Alfoneh, an Iran analyst at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told RFE/RL that the Islamic republic has only itself to blame for the situation it faces, “but lacking the courage to look into the mirror and admit their own mistakes, regime officials cowardly blame the foreign powers.”

Others said Tehran could use the attacks as an excuse for a harsher crackdown on the protests. “We don't have a good sense of what happened in Izeh and Isfahan -- was it a terrorist group, or potentially the regime itself?" said Henry Rome, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute. "Either way, the government will probably use the attacks to send the message that the protests are undermining national security and opening the door for Western-backed terrorism," Rome added.

What’s Next: Statements by Iranian officials who have vowed a crushing response to those behind the "terrorist" attacks could provide clues about the country’s next steps. Authorities have said that the perpetrators of the attacks and their leaders who are allegedly based outside the country would be "introduced to the people."

Stories You Might Have Missed

• Activists say Iran has intensified its crackdown in the Kurdistan region in an attempt to spread fear among protesters and quell the nationwide antiestablishment protests that have rocked the country for the past two months.

• At least 47 children have been killed amid Iran’s ongoing crackdown on the protests that were sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. Among them is 9-year-old Kian Pirfalak who was killed on November 16 in the southwestern city of Izeh amid the antiestablishment protests. State media claimed that the boy was killed in a "terrorist attack." But his mother says he was shot dead by Iranian security forces. His tragic death led to an outpouring of grief and anger.

• Protesters in Iran set fire to the ancestral home of the Islamic republic's late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in the central Iranian city of Khomein, according to amateur videos posted online. Images of Khomeini have also been torched in past weeks amid the ongoing unrest.

What We're Watching

Iran said on November 22 that it had begun producing uranium enriched to 60 percent at its Fordo underground facility. The announcement was part of Iran's response to the UN nuclear watchdog's adoption last week of a resolution accusing Tehran of noncooperation. Tehran condemned the resolution as politically motivated while vowing retaliation.

"We had said that Iran would seriously react to any resolution and political pressure...that is why Iran has started enriching uranium to 60 percent purity as of Monday [November 21] at the Fordo site," the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, was quoted as saying by state media.

Why It Matters: Enrichment at 60 percent is one step away from the 90 percent level required for nuclear weapons. Iran had already been enriching to 60 percent purity at other facilities.

The 2015 nuclear deal -- which has been on life support following the U.S. withdrawal from the international agreement in May 2018 -- had limited Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities to 3.7 percent for civilian purposes.

Tehran’s latest escalation is likely to lead to more concerns about the country’s nuclear activities from other countries that were party to the stalled nuclear deal and are working to revive it. The EU trio of Britain, France and Germany said in a joint statement that Iran’s increased enrichment “carries significant proliferation-related risks [and] has no credible civilian justification.”

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.

Britain Says Russia Has Nearly Exhausted Its Stock Of Iranian-Made Drones

Britain said Russia is likely using the UAVs to make up for a "severe shortage" of cruise missiles.

Russia has likely launched hundreds of Iranian-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) against Ukraine since September, Britain's Ministry of Defense said on in its daily intelligence update on November 23. It's also likely that Russia has nearly exhausted its current stock of Iranian-made weapons and will seek resupply, the ministry said. It said Russia is likely using the UAVs to make up for a "severe shortage" of cruise missiles, but that the strategy has not been effective, as most UAVs have been shot down.

Iranian Lawmakers Propose Punishments For Protesting Students

Lawmakers have also proposed a fine under which protesting students would be required to pay their entire tuition. According to the Iranian Constitution, education in public universities is free.

Iranian lawmakers have proposed banning student protesters from traveling abroad for 10 years as the Islamic republic struggles to suppress the biggest show of dissent in years.

The Fars news agency, which is affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said that in addition to members of parliament some "experts" played a role in the preparation of this plan. No explanation was given about the "experts," but some observers say they appear to be agents of the intelligence and security institutions.

This plan was presented days after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke about the "immodesty" of the demonstrators.

During recent protests, some students, including those at the prestigious Sharif University in Tehran, attacked Khamenei with strongly negative slogans.

The proposal comes after 227 lawmakers from Iran's 290-seat, hard-liner-led parliament urged the judiciary to approve the death sentence for some protesters arrested amid a wave of demonstrations across the country sparked by the death of a young woman in September while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

Radical political activist and former lawmaker Hamid Rasaei, referring to the students' desire to continue their studies abroad, suggested on Twitter a ban on student protesters leaving the country in order to calm the protests in the university.

The International Monetary Fund says more than 150,000 educated Iranians leave the country each year in hopes of finding a better life abroad.

Earlier this month, students at Sharif University staged a demonstration, singing one of the protest anthems that refers to the high number of students who leave Iran, asking them "to stay and take the country back."

Lawmakers have also proposed a fine under which protesting students would be required to pay their entire tuition. According to the Iranian Constitution, education in public universities is free.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16 has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others. At least 378 people, including 47 minors, have been killed by government forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights.

UN Rights Chief Warns Iran's Crackdown On Protests At 'Critical' Point As Deaths Rise

The protests have snowballed into one of the biggest threats to the clerical establishment that has ruled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk has warned that the situation surrounding the Iranian government's crackdown on unrest sparked by the death of a young woman in police custody has reached a "critical" point, with more than 300 people killed by security forces in recent weeks.

Speaking at a news briefing in Geneva on November 22, a spokesperson for Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said the "rising number of deaths from from protests in Iran, including those of two children at the weekend, and the hardening of the response by security forces, underline the critical situation in the country."

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

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

At least 378 people, including 47 children, have been killed by government forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights.

Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, reported that the security forces killed at least five Kurdish citizens in Javanrud with live ammunition on November 21.

Recent reports said that Iranian authorities have intensified their deadly crackdown in the Kurdistan region, with activists saying the violence is an attempt by the authorities to create fear among protesters and quell the dissent.

Some rights activists have warned that a lack of blood and medicine in the Kurdish cities of Javanrud and Mahabad could turn the situation into a humanitarian crisis in the coming days.

The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network published images of the landing of several Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) helicopters in a military area of Javanrud on November 21 and reported that hundreds of IRGC forces were deployed in areas of the city.

There have also been reports of plainclothes forces raiding the homes of citizens in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj and arresting protesters along with beating and destroying their property.

Hengaw also said that these attacks had made it very difficult to provide the basic necessities, including water and electricity, to people in the area.

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

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

Iran's Judiciary Says More Than 2,400 Convicted During Protests So Far

Massoud Setayeshi did not give a total for the number of people arrested, though he did say 40 foreign nationals were among those who have been detained.

Iran's judiciary says that more than 2,400 people have been convicted of offenses related to unrest sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody for a dress-code violation, while another 1,118 people have been indicted as part of a government crackdown on dissent and are waiting for their cases to be heard.

Judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told reporters on November 22 that in total, 2,432 protesters across the country had received preliminary verdicts from courts for playing a role in the demonstrations, which have swept across the country since Mahsa Amini died in mid-September after being detained for allegedly improperly wearing a head scarf.

Setayeshi did not give a total for the number of people arrested, though he did say 40 foreign nationals were among those who have been detained. Some reports by human rights organizations indicate that more than 15,000 people have been detained during the nationwide protests.

He also confirmed the detention of some prominent figures -- including actresses Katayon Riahi and Hengameh Ghaziani -- in recent days and threatened that other celebrities will be prosecuted if they say "false and unsubstantiated words."

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

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

Anger over her death has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights.

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

Western countries have repeatedly charged that Iran is trying to take advantage of foreign countries by taking dual and foreign nationals hostage.

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

Iran Says Fordow Nuclear Plant Now Enriching Uranium To 60 Percent

The interior of the Fordow uranium conversion facility in Qom in 2019.

Iran has announced it is now enriching uranium at a 60 percent purity level at its Fordow underground nuclear facility after the United Nations nuclear watchdog condemned Tehran's failure to cooperate over visits by the agency.

The official state-run news agency IRNA reported on November 22 that the Fordow site, which is buried in the side of a mountain, was producing uranium with an enrichment level of 60 percent -- one technical step away from weapons-grade levels -- "for the first time."

Iran already produces uranium at 60 percent at two other plants.

IRNA did not say how much of the 60 percent-enriched uranium had been produced at Fordow.

The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Iran has also begun to replace first-generation centrifuges (IR-1) with advanced IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow, which would allow it to escalate its enrichment activities further.

The IAEA later confirmed Iran's claim that it has started enriching uranium up to 60 percent at its Fordow plant. This is in addition to production that has taken place at Natanz, another uranium enrichment plant in Iran, since April 2021, the IAEA said. Iran continues to advance its enrichment activities there "and now plans to install a second production building," the IAEA said.

White House national-security spokesman John Kirby told a briefing on November 22 that the administration of President Joe Biden was "going to make sure we have all options available."

"We certainly have not changed our view that we will not allow Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability," he said.

Britain, France, and Germany also condemned Iran's nuclear advances.

"Iran’s step is a challenge to the global nonproliferation system," the three nations said in a joint statement. "This step, which carries significant proliferation-related risks, has no credible civilian justification."

The statement added that the three countries "will continue to consult, alongside international partners, on how best to address Iran’s continued nuclear escalation."

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting last week in Vienna criticized Iran for failing to allow inspections of nuclear sites, while the UN agency's chief, Rafael Grossi, recently said he was "seriously concerned" over uncertainty surrounding Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran claims is purely for civilian purposes.

Exacerbating tensions, the IAEA has been waiting for an explanation from Tehran about the origin of undeclared uranium particles that were detected at three locations. The issue has been a key sticking point in wider talks between Iran and global powers seeking to revive a 2015 deal that curbs Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from Western sanctions.

The United States unilaterally pulled out of the accord in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered Iran's economy and its currency. After Washington withdrew, Iran began to breach some of the pact's nuclear limits, saying they could no longer be enforced.

The deal capped enrichment at 3.67 percent.

With reporting by Reuters

Iran's Christians Say Officials Are Pressuring Them To Stay Out Of Protests

Yonathan Betkolia, the head of Assyrian Society of Tehran (file photo)

A senior member of the Iranian Christian community says that security officials are pressuring religious minorities to remain silent and not participate in anti-government protests.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Yonathan Betkolia, the head of Assyrian Society of Tehran, as saying that the intelligence and security authorities of the Islamic republic have asked the representatives of Christians, bishops, and Assyrian priests to prevent the participation of Christian and Assyrian citizens in nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

With the protests in Iran now in their third month, Iranian authorities have blamed the West for the demonstrations and vowed to crack down even harder on protesters.

While Betkolia previously has publicly agreed that foreign provocations are the cause of the protests, it is the first time he has acknowledged some Iranian Christians are supporting anti-government policies.

Betkolia, a five-term member of the Iranian parliament, has been criticized many times by Iranian Christians for being close to the authorities of the Islamic republic.

In an earlier statement, the Council of United Iranian Churches condemned the "systematic suppression of women and human rights violations in Iran" and demanded "freedom, justice and equal rights for all Iranians."

The council also stated that "like many people of our country who protested in the streets with unparalleled courage after Mahsa's death, we oppose the imposition of the mandatory hijab (head scarf) on the people of Iran, who have religious, ethnic, cultural and ideological diversity. We know that they are a definite violation of human rights.

The protests, which are demanding more freedoms and women's rights, pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand 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.

'A Nightmare': Iran Intensifies Deadly Crackdown In Kurdistan Region As Protests Rage

Protesters rally in Mahabad in Iran's West Azerbaijan Province on November 19.

Iranian authorities have intensified their deadly crackdown in the country's western Kurdistan region, which has been the epicenter of the anti-establishment protests that have raged for months.

Human rights groups say government forces have killed more than a dozen people in predominately Kurdish cities in the past 24 hours. The bloodshed comes amid reports of heavily armed troops being deployed in the region.

Activists say the violence is an attempt by the authorities to create fear among protesters and quell the nationwide protests that have rocked the country for the past two months.

The rallies erupted following the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who died shortly after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s hijab law.

What began as protests against the brutal enforcement of the mandatory head scarf has snowballed into one of the biggest threats to Iran’s clerical establishment, which has ruled since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

“The Islamic republic is using such intense violence in Kurdistan to silence the protests all over Iran,” Zhila Mostajar from Hengaw, a rights group registered in Norway that reports on Iran's Kurdish region, told RFE/RL.

“The authorities think that by suppressing the protests in Kurdistan they will send a warning to people in other parts of the country,” added Mostajar, who is based in neighboring Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region.

'Intense Confrontations'

Hengaw said that at least 13 people have been killed in mainly Kurdish cities since November 20, including seven in Javanrud, four in Piranshahr, and one each in Dehgolan and Bukan.

At least 378 people, including 47 children, have been killed by government forces across the country, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights (IHR). At least 83 people have been killed in Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan, three provinces with significant Kurdish populations, IHR said.

There were "intense confrontations" between protesters and security forces in Javanrud, a city in Kermanshah Province, according to Hengaw. Videos uploaded on social media on November 21 purportedly showed several wounded protesters lying on the streets amid the sound of heavy gunfire.

People also rallied in the streets of Kermanshah, the provincial capital, chanting "death to [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei," according to a video posted by IHR.

IHR also shared footage that it said showed security forces using live gunfire against protesters in Piranshahr, a city in West Azerbaijan Province. Among those killed in the city on November 20 was a 16-year-old boy.

Fatemeh Karimi, the president of the France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network, told RFE/RL that the Kurdistan region has turned into “a nightmare” for the authorities.

“People are paying a heavy price -- the death toll is high, and many have been injured -- yet they keep protesting,” she said.

'Militarized' City

The violence comes amid mounting fears about the situation in Mahabad, a city in West Azerbaijan Province where videos on social media appeared to show military forces and vehicles being deployed. Activists have claimed that the authorities were imposing martial law in the city.

Mostajar from Hengaw said security forces had “militarized” Mahabad for the past few days and directly shot at protesters.

Jalal Mahmudzadeh, a lawmaker from West Azerbaijan Province, said 11 people have been killed in the city since October 27, according to Iran's Etemad daily.

He said five people were killed at the funeral of Esmail Moludi, who was shot dead on October 26 during a ceremony marking 40 days -- the official end of the mourning period -- since Amini’s death. The authorities said they are investigating his death.

"Some of these protesters have livelihood and economic problems and others feel discriminated against. But instead of listening to the protestors, the authorities use harsh methods,” he said.

The Islamic republic has long been accused of suppressing and discriminating against the country’s ethnic minorities, including Kurds, which make up about 10 percent of Iran's 84-million population. Most Kurds in Iran, a predominately Shi'a country, are Sunni Muslims.

Prominent Sunni cleric Molavi Abdolhamid called on government forces on November 20 to refrain from shooting at protesters. He warned that repression will only deepen the dissatisfaction among people in the region.

Iranian authorities have accused “terrorist and separatist groups” and Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in Iraq of stoking the unrest in the region. In response, Iranian forces have fired drones and missiles at the headquarters of Iranian groups based in northern Iraq.

Updated

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Fire On Headquarters Of Opposition Groups Inside Northern Iraq

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani claimed that Tehran had acted to “protect its borders and the security of its citizens based on its legal rights.”

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has fired on the headquarters of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in northern Iraq, the latest in a series of attacks as Tehran accuses them of fomenting a wave of unrest inside the Islamic republic.

At least one person was reported killed in the attack late on November 20 that hit buildings of Kurdish parties opposed to Iran, including the headquarters of Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan and the residence of the leaders of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.

A senior official of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan said Mohammed Nazif Qaderi, a member of the Kurdish Iranian group exiled in Iraq, was killed in the IRGC strike, while the Jengikan and Gardehchal camps near Irbil International Airport were the targets of the most-intense drone and missile attacks. Members of the group asserted that the strikes also had hit a hospital in Koya.

The Norway-based Hengaw rights group said Iranian forces also shelled the cities of Marivan and Javanroud in western Iran on the night into November 21. It said 13 people had been killed in the region by security forces over the previous 24 hours, including seven in Javanroud.

Hengaw said that amid the "intense confrontations" between protesters and security forces in Javanroud, there was a shortage of blood for the wounded, and in Piranshahr there was a "heavy barrage of bullets" after nightfall on November 21.

It was not possible to verify the claims.

Internet monitor NetBlocks reported a "major disruption" to online services during the protests.

The attacks in northern Iraq and in western Iran come amid a deadly crackdown in Iranian Kurdish cities in recent days over the spread of protests connected to the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman who died in police custody in September for "improperly" wearing a head scarf. Weeks of demonstrations have become some of the biggest and most sustained since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani told reporters that Tehran had acted to “protect its borders and the security of its citizens based on its legal rights.”

He alleged that the government in Baghdad and the Irbil-based administration of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region had failed to implement purported commitments to prevent threats against Iran from Iraqi areas.

The IRGC issued a statement in September saying such attack operations would continue as long as the bases of "terrorist groups" were not removed and as long as regional authorities "do not act according to their commitments."

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

The 22-year-old died on September 16, three days after being detained in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly breaching Iran's strict rules on head scarves.

The protests started in Amini’s hometown of Saghez in Iran's Kurdistan region and spread to dozens of cities and towns across Iran. Tehran has claimed, without providing evidence, that Kurdish groups in northern Iraq have been supporting the demonstrations.

The wave of protests and the government crackdown that followed have left scores of demonstrators dead and seen thousands detained.

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

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