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Iran Denounces Protest At Herat Consulate

The Iranian Consulate in Herat has been the scene of several violent demonstrations in recent years. (file photo)
Iran has denounced a protest outside its consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, where one person was reportedly killed on September 7.

Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham as saying on September 8 that "police and security forces should have been at the scene quickly to prevent the illegal gathering, the damaging of the mission, and disruption of the staff's work."

Afghan police said that hundreds of people gathered outside the Iranian consulate in Herat city on September 7 to protest visa delays and that the protesters subsequently tried to storm the consulate.

Police tried to stop them, but they attacked the police throwing stones.

The protesters accused consulate officials of seeking bribes and delaying visas.

The protest ended when Afghan security forces dispersed the demonstrators.


Based on reporting by AFP and IRNA

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Over 500 Dead Since Start Of Unrest In Iran, Activists Say

Among the dead were 71 minors and 70 members of the police and other security forces, according to the group's tally.

At least 527 people have been killed in Iran since the beginning of the anti-government demonstrations more than four months ago, said a report by the U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency on January 29. Among them were 71 minors and 70 members of the police and other security forces, according to the group's tally. In total, nearly 20,000 people have been arrested. More than 100 of them are facing death sentences. Several demonstrators have already been executed. The Iranian authorities have not yet provided information on the total number of deaths and arrests.

Azerbaijan Evacuating Embassy In Iran After Fatal Shooting

The Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran was the scene of a fatal shooting on January 27.

Azerbaijan will evacuate embassy staff and family members from Iran on January 29, the Foreign Ministry said, two days after a gunman shot dead a security guard and wounded two other people in an attack Baku branded an "act of terrorism." Police in Tehran have said they have arrested a suspect. Iranian authorities condemned the January 27 incident but said the gunman appeared to have had a personal, not a political, motive. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Earthquake Strikes Northwestern Iran, Killing At Least Three

The shallow quake hit the city of Khoy in West Azerbaijan Province.

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Iran near the border with Turkey late on January 28, killing at least three people and injuring 816, state media said. The shallow quake hit the city of Khoy in West Azerbaijan Province at 9:44 p.m., the Seismological Center of the University of Tehran said. Iran sits astride the boundaries of several major tectonic plates and experiences frequent seismic activity. To read the original story by AFP, click here.

Updated

Armed Drones Attack Iranian Defense Factory; Tehran Says Only Limited Damage

The Iranian Defense Ministry offered no information on who it suspected carried out the attack.

Drones equipped with explosives targeted an Iranian defense factory in the central city of Isfahan overnight, the Iranian Defense Ministry announced on January 29, causing some damage at the facility.

The Iranian Defense Ministry released few details on the attack and did not say who it suspected was behind it.

Iran has been targeted in the past by suspected Israeli drone strikes. Israeli officials declined to comment on the attack in Isfahan.

"This cowardly act was carried out today as part of the efforts made by enemies of the Iranian nation in recent months to make the Islamic republic insecure," Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said.

In a statement, the Iranian Defense Ministry said three drones had reportedly targeted the facility, with two of them shot down.

A third apparently made it through to strike the building, causing “minor damage” to its roof and wounding no one, the ministry said.

Video footage downloaded on social media showed what appeared to be the moment the drone struck along the Imam Khomeini Expressway that heads northwest out of Isfahan.

The Iranian Defense Ministry described the site as a “workshop” but did not elaborate on what type of work it was engaged in.

Isfahan is located some 350 kilometers south of Tehran. It is home to both a large air base built for its fleet of American-made F-14 fighter jets and its Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center.

Separately, Iran’s state TV said a fire broke out at an oil refinery in an industrial zone near the northwestern city of Tabriz. It said the cause was not yet known, as it showed footage of firefighters trying to extinguish the blaze.

The attack comes after Iran's Intelligence Ministry in July claimed to have broken up a plot that it said was aiming to target sensitive sites around Isfahan.

Iranian state TV in October broadcast what it claimed to be confessions by alleged members of Komala --a Kurdish opposition party that is exiled from Iran and now operates out of Iraq -- that they planned to target a military aerospace facility in Isfahan after being trained by Israel's Mossad intelligence service.

The incident at Isfahan is the latest attack on Iranian military or nuclear facilities.

Last year, Iran said an engineer was killed and another employee was wounded in an unexplained incident at the Parchin military and weapons development base east of the capital, Tehran. The ministry called it an accident, without providing further details.

Parchin is home to a military base where the International Atomic Energy Agency has said it suspected Iran conducted tests of explosive triggers that could be used in nuclear weapons.

The attack comes with Tehran facing challenges at home and abroad.

The country has witnessed nationwide protests since the September death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman detained by the country's morality police. Its rial currency has plummeted to new lows against the U.S. dollar.

International talks on reviving an accord with world powers have broken down, and now Tehran is reported to have enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to arm Russia with the bomb-carrying drones that Moscow uses in attacks in Ukraine on power plants and civilian targets.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Iranian Wrestler Seeks Asylum In Germany After Enduring 'Constant Threats' For Backing Protests

Iranian wrestler Mohammad Namjoomotlagh is the latest athlete to seek refuge in the West after failing afoul of the clerical establishment.

Wrestler Mohammad Namjoo-Motlagh has represented Iran on the local and international stage, where he won medals for his homeland.

But the 26-year-old is now seeking asylum in Germany after being threatened by the Iranian authorities over his support for the ongoing anti-regime protests that have rocked the Islamic republic.

The authorities have waged a brutal crackdown on the nationwide demonstrations that erupted in September, the biggest threat to the Islamic regime in years, killing hundreds of people and arresting thousands of others.

Namjoo-Motlagh, who did not reveal how he left Iran and traveled to Europe, is the latest athlete to seek refuge in the West after failing afoul of the clerical establishment.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Namjoo-Motlagh said he faced "constant threats and psychological pressure" from the Iran Wrestling Federation and other state bodies.

"It was clear where this was going," said Namjoo-Motlagh, who is believed to have posted social-media posts that were critical of the authorities and supportive of the protests. "I would either lose my life or they would blind me, or in the best-case scenario, I would be sent to prison."

The antiestablishment protests have attracted support from all corners of Iranian society, including athletes. Several well-known athletes and sports figures, including soccer legend Ali Daei, have been summoned or arrested in recent months by the police after showing support for the demonstrations.

Some Iranian athletes who have participated in international events have failed to return to their homeland and sought asylum in the West.

That includes Sara Khadem, a top female Iranian chess player who competed without a head scarf at an international tournament in Kazakhstan in December, in an apparent gesture of solidarity with the anti-regime protests. Khadem refused to return to Iran for fear of retribution and moved to Spain with her husband.

The Islamic head scarf, or hijab, is mandatory in Iran. Women who travel outside the country are also expected to observe it.

In October, Elnaz Rekabi, Iran's female rock-climbing champion, competed in the Asian Championships in South Korea without a head scarf, in apparent support for the protests.

Rekabi's supporters had expressed concerns about her safety after she returned to Iran in November. Weeks later, her family said police officers had destroyed their home. Her family was also reportedly fined.

Namjoo-Motlagh told Radio Farda that while some Iranian athletes had spoken up, many have remained silent in fear over their safety.

"It was extremely sad to see that members of the national wrestling team, soccer team, and others were condemned to silence for fear for their lives and the lives of their families," said the lightweight wrestler.

Namjoo-Motlagh said Iranian athletes who "stand on the side of the truth" will end up like 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari, who was hanged in 2020 after being controversially convicted of killing a government employee during mass anti-government protests in 2018.

Afkari maintained that his confession was obtained through torture and his death sparked an international outcry.

Namjoo-Motlagh said he hopes to stand up to Iran's clerical regime and fight for his compatriots from self-imposed exile.

"I will remain their voice until Iran is freed from oppression," he said.

Iranians Use End Of 40-Day Mourning Period To Protest Against Government

The end of the traditional 40-day mourning period following a protester's death has been turned into a stage for anti-government demonstrations.

Iranians continue to gather at the graves of those who have been killed by security forces in ongoing nationwide protests that have rocked the country since the death of a woman in police custody, calling for regime change despite a brutal crackdown on dissent by the authorities.

Since Mahsa Amini's death, Iranians have flooded into the streets across the country to protest against a lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of support in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In response, the authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on dissent, detaining thousands and handing down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.

In recent weeks, protesters have turned the end of the traditional 40-day mourning period following a protester's death into a stage for anti-government demonstrations.

Videos published on social media on January 26 showed crowds at the grave of Hamidreza Rouhi, a university student who had a modeling career since childhood and was shot dead during a demonstration in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on November 18.

They chanted "Death to the dictator!," a reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as they gathered to honor Rouhi.

In the western city of Khorramabad, people flocked to the cemetery where Nika Shakrami -- a 16-year-old killed after participating in anti-government protests in Tehran on September 20 -- was buried.

Similar scenes were repeated in the central city of Arak, where Mehrshad Shahidinejad was buried. Shahidinejad was a 19-year-old aspiring chef who was reportedly killed after being arrested during a protest.

Reports also indicate that a group of people and family members of Mohammad Mehdi Karami visited a cemetery in the city of Eshtehard to lay flowers at the graves of Karami and another protester, Mohammad Hosseini.

The were hanged in prison on January 7 following threats by Iranian authorities of harsher penalties to those who participate in the unrest.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of January 15, at least 522 people had been killed during the unrest, including 70 minors, as security forces muzzle dissent.

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

Two Iranian Professors Dismissed After Supporting Student Protests

Anger over Amini's death on September 16 has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights.

Two Iranian university professors have been fired from their jobs following their support of students in nationwide protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody.

The Hakim Sabzevari University Students Union Council announced on January 26 that Hassan Bagherinia, a member of the psychology faculty, had been suspended.

In a letter to the president of the university, the council described Bagherinia's suspension as unfair and said that "in these days when the truth is clouded, he has not remained silent and has always supported the people."

Meanwhile, the Union Council of Iranian Students announced that Amir Nikpey, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Beheshti University, had also been dismissed.

According to the council, Nikpey is the fourth professor to be fired from Beheshti University after Negar Zilabi from the faculty of theology, Mohammad Ragheb from the faculty of literature, and Eslam Nazemi from the faculty of computer engineering.

Anger over Amini's death on September 16 has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights.

Numerous protests have been held at universities, particularly in Tehran, where many students have refused to attend class. Protesting students have chanted "woman, life, freedom" and "death to the dictator" at the rallies. Some female students have removed and burned their head scarves.

In most of the protests, students have asked the professors to support them, and some university professors and lecturers have expressed solidarity with the protesters.

In a rare act of protest, Encieh Erfani resigned from her post at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences, which is located in the northwestern city of Zanjan.

"Student protesters were chanting, 'the streets are soaked with blood, our professors are silent,'" she told RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "So I submitted my resignation."

Universities and students have long been at the forefront of the struggle for greater social and political freedoms in Iran. In 1999, students protested the closure of a reformist daily, prompting a brutal raid on the dorms of Tehran University that left one student dead.

Over the years, the authorities have arrested student activists and leaders, sentencing them to prison and banning them from studying.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of January 26 at least 700 university students had been arrested during the recent unrest.

Many have faced sentences such as imprisonment, flogging, and dozens of students have been expelled from universities or suspended from their studies, 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

One Person Shot Dead At Azerbaijan's Embassy In Iran; Baku Evacuates Staff

One person was killed and two others were wounded when an attacker opened fire on a guard post outside Azerbaijan's embassy in Tehran on January 27.

One security official has been shot dead and two guards wounded when an attacker armed with a Kalashnikov-style automatic rifle stormed Azerbaijan's embassy in Iran's capital, Tehran.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the January 27 assault "an act of terrorism" and Baku quickly announced it was evacuating the embassy while blaming Iran for the incident.

"The attacker broke through the guard post, killing the head of security with a Kalashnikov assault rifle," Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said.

Iranian state TV quoted Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi as saying the attacker was arrested and that he had "personal and family problems."

Rahimi said the attacker entered the embassy with two children. However, surveillance footage from inside the embassy released in Azerbaijan appeared to show the shooter entering the building alone. The footage bore a timestamp matching the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry's statement.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said Tehran strongly condemned the attack, which was under investigation with "high priority and sensitivity."

Iran and Azerbaijan have a common border. Relations between the two countries have been tense amid the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

"I fiercely condemn the terrorist attack perpetrated against our embassy in Tehran today," Aliyev said on Twitter.

"We demand that this terrorist act be swiftly investigated and the terrorist be punished.... Terror against diplomatic missions is unacceptable!"

Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Ayxan Hacizada told local media that "all responsibility for the attack lies with Iran" as a recent anti-Azerbaijani campaign in Iranian media had "emboldened the attack."

"Unfortunately, the latest bloody terrorist act demonstrates the serious consequences of the failure to give the necessary attention to our constant appeals in this regard," Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

Self-Exiled Brother Of Senior Iranian Official Says Only 'Regime's Overthrow' Will Bring Justice

Meghdad Jebeli is a younger brother of the head of Iranian state TV, Peyman Jebeli.

In early 2020, lawyer Meghdad Jebelli took the drastic decision to leave Iran and seek asylum in the West.

Jebelli, whose elder brother is a key figure in the clerical regime, left his homeland just weeks after Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane over the capital, Tehran.

All 176 people on board, mostly Iranians and Canadians, were killed after the Kyiv-bound plane was hit by surface-to-air missiles on January 8, 2020. Among them was Jebelli’s nephew, a 29-year-old medical student.

After three days of denials and amid growing international pressure, the IRGC admitted to shooting down the plane “unintentionally” after misidentifying it as a threat amid heightened tensions with the United States. Tehran's delayed claim of responsibility for the shootdown sparked angry protests in Iran and increased distrust in the clerical regime.

The incident did not affect the loyalty of Jebelli’s eldest brother, Peyman Jebelli, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the state-run entity that runs all radio and TV broadcasting in the Islamic republic.

But for 39-year-old Meghdad Jebelli and his 43-year-old brother, Meisam, the tragedy was a turning point. The two siblings soon went into self-imposed exile in Canada.

The brothers have become critics of Iran’s clerical establishment and members of the Canada-based Association of Victims’ Families of Flight PS752 that is seeking justice for the victims of the tragedy.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Jebelli said cracks within his family emerged soon after he expressed his suspicions over the authorities’ initial denial.

“Within the first couple of days, due to the videos that emerged, it was evident to us that the plane had been hit. We said it. I remember we had fights and arguments [with my family members] during those days,” he said.

“They reacted harshly and said that we were being fooled by the [foreign] media,” he said, adding that his relatives took “the position of the establishment.”

'Tense Atmosphere'

In response, Jebelli accused his family members of “ignoring” what he described as the “murder” of his nephew.

“They [said] it’s a war after all and it is possible that someone gets [killed]. With such justifications, they were ignoring the murder of their own child,” he said.

Days before the tragedy, a U.S. drone strike had killed IRGC commander General Qasem Soleimani in neighboring Iraq. Hours before the Ukrainian plane was shot down, Iran had launched missile strikes on U.S. bases in Iraq to avenge Soleimani’s killing, and Tehran's air defenses were on high-alert in case of a U.S. retaliation, which never came.

Iranian officials later said several people had been detained and charged over the "disastrous mistake." No senior officials were dismissed and none resigned over the incident.

Jebelli said he "couldn't take it any longer" and decided to leave his homeland.

“I was married, and my life was separate [from my family]. Meisam used to sleep [at my parent’s home] at night but he changed his place of residence,” he said, adding that they left the country weeks later.

Even before the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane, Jebelli said he had clashed with members of his family over their political differences. He said he participated in the mass street protests following the 2009 disputed presidential election despite opposition from his family.

“My mother found out about it, and it led to a tense atmosphere at home,” he recalled.

'Do Not Think You Are Safe'

Jebelli said he has returned twice to Iran since moving to Canada. During his second trip, he said, he was threatened over the phone by an individual who introduced himself as a friend of his brother, Peyman Jebelli.

He said the individual questioned him about his life in Canada and his visits to Iran.

“At the end, he said very seriously, ‘I am now telling you in a friendly way, watch your behavior, watch what you are doing. Do not think that you are safe [because] you are not in Iran,’” he said.

Jebelli said the individual reminded him of the fate of Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, the manager of the popular opposition Telegram channel Amad news who was executed by Iran in 2020 after being convicted of "corruption on Earth," a charge often leveled in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow the regime.

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

Jebelli said the phone call removed any doubts he had about his decision to move to Canada. “I became assured that I didn’t belong in Iran anymore,” he said.

Jebelli said he and his younger brother, Meisam, are not just seeking justice for those killed in the 2020 downing of the Ukrainian plane.

“I have always said that real justice will only be achieved when the perpetrators of the crimes of the past 44 years are punished," he said, referring to the clerics who came to power following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. “This can only happen with the overthrow of the Islamic regime.”

Peyman Jebelli has downplayed his brothers’ decision to leave Iran.

“Similar incidents have happened in the past,” he was quoted as saying by Iranian media. His comments came soon after TIME magazine interviewed Meisam Jebelli, who accused his elder sibling of being “in charge of the regime’s biggest propaganda machine” and lying “to my face.”

Peyman Jebelli (file photo)
Peyman Jebelli (file photo)

“I saw his comments,” Peyman Jebelli said. “I’m not sure to what extent it was of his own free will, but these incidents are not new.”

Peyman Jebelli was directly appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is accountable to nobody but him. IRIB has come under criticism from rights activists and dissidents and has been accused of airing forced confessions and carrying political and religious propaganda.

Meghdad Jebelli said many Iranian families have become divided as more people turn against the regime.

Iran has been rocked by nationwide antiestablishment protests since the death of a woman soon after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police. The ongoing demonstrations are the biggest threat to the regime in years.

“In many families, children and young people participate in protests while telling their parents that they’re going to a party,” Jebelli said.

Written by Golnaz Esfandiari based on an interview conducted by Babak Ghafooriazar.

Death Sentence Protest Turns Violent Outside Iranian Prison As Security Agents Disperse Crowd

An undated photo of the Ghezel Hesar prison near the capital, Tehran

A gathering of the families of drug-related prisoners sentenced to death in Iran has turned violent as law enforcement and security officers tried to break up the demonstration in front of the Ghezel Hesar prison near the capital, Tehran.

The U.S.-based activist group HRANA reported that the families, holding placards with the slogan "No To Execution," demanded a reduction in the punishment of those accused of drug crimes and a halt to the carrying out of their death sentences. Many protest rallies have been held in Iran in recent years, but one opposing the death sentence is a rare act of defiance.

In videos of the January 25 protests posted on social media police officers can be seen dispersing the demonstrators, who identified themselves as relatives of those on death row, arresting some of them.

There were no details on whether anyone was injured or how many people were detained.

Iran has seen a sharp rise in the number of executions since September 2021 after Ebrahim Raisi, a former head of the judiciary, became president and former Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei took over the judiciary.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran exceeded 500 last year, and officials have been pushing for harsh penalties, including the death sentence, for protesters at the center of unrest sweeping the country over the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged violation of the country's head scarf law.

On January 10, UN human rights chief Volker Turk accused Tehran of "weaponizing" the death penalty to quell dissent amid months of unrest over the death of Amini.

Four convicted protesters have already been executed, and others remain on death row after being handed death sentences.

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

France Demands Release Of Citizen In Iran As Health Worsens

Diplomats said Bernard Phelan, 64, a tourism consultant, recently ended a hunger strike that had hit his health, but he remains fragile.

France's Foreign Ministry demanded on January 26 the immediate release of Bernard Phelan, a Franco-Irish citizen detained in Iran whose health situation has worsened, with Paris saying he has been denied urgent medical care. Ties between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent months with Tehran detaining seven of its nationals in what Paris has said are arbitrary arrests that are equivalent to state hostage taking. Diplomats said Phelan, 64, a tourism consultant, recently ended a hunger strike that had hit his health, but he remains fragile. To read the original Reuters story, click here.

Imprisoned Iranian Activist Sadeghi, Who Is Ill With Cancer, Sentenced Again

Arash Sadeghi (left) and his wife, Golrokh Iraei

Iranian political activist Arash Sadeghi, who is already in prison serving a 19-year sentence despite being diagnosed with cancer, has been handed another sentence of more than five years for his participation in protests over the death of a young woman in police custody.

Ramin Safarnia, Sadeghi's lawyer, said on Twitter on January 25 that his client was also banned from living in Tehran and the northern Iranian provinces, and cannot carry out activities via the Internet for two years after being found guilty of "gathering and collusion against national security" and "propaganda activity against the Islamic republic."

Safarnia added that Sadeghi cannot be a member of any political or social party or group, and that all of his personal belongings will be confiscated "for the benefit of the government."

Sadeghi, who has been imprisoned several times and was diagnosed with cancer during his previous incarceration, was released from prison a year and a half ago after enduring more than five years behind bars on two separate terms totaling 19 years that were handed down in 2013 on charges of propaganda against the government, defamation of the supreme leader, and threatening national security.

A political activist while a student at Allameh Tabatabaei University in Tehran, he has gone on hunger strike several times, including in 2016 to protest the arrest of his wife, who was detained on a charge of writing fiction that had not yet been published.

Sadeghi was released in 2021 before being arrested again in October during protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was being detained by morality police for allegedly improperly wearing her hijab.

Anger over Amini's death on September 16 has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets nationwide to demand more freedoms and women's rights.

The widespread unrest represents the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The activist HRANA news agency said that as of January 15 at least 522 people had been killed during the unrest, including 70 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Many high-profile activists, rights advocates, and intellectuals have also been arrested in recent months because of the protests, including Fatemeh Sepehri and Majid Tavakoli.

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

Iran Sanctions Europeans In Tit-For-Tat Move; Protests Continue

Iranians are continuing to protest across despite the harsh reaction by authorities.

Iran has announced tit-for-tat sanctions against more than 30 European individuals and entities in response to a similar move by the European Union over Tehran's deadly crackdown on protesters who continue to take to the streets in anger over the death of a young woman while in police custody for an alleged dress-code violation.

Those hit by the Iranian sanctions on January 25 include Britain's attorney general and army chief of staff, along with several European parliamentarians and European military officials.

Three staff members from the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo were also on the list. Last month, the controversial weekly published dozens of cartoons mocking Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest religious and political authority in Iran.

Two days earlier, EU ministers agreed on a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the "brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters."

Despite the harsh reaction by authorities, Iranians continue to protest with videos published on social media showing them taking to windows and rooftops to show their anger at the government. Many chanted slogans against the country's leaders amid an outcry that erupted in mid-September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was being held by police for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

The unrest, which has spread across the country, is proving to be one of the biggest threats to Iran's leadership since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Protesters in Tehran's Ekbatan neighborhood showed how deep their hatred of the government's intrusion on their freedoms is bychanting the slogan “death to the dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Similar chants could be heard in Narmak, a neighborhood in the east of the capital.

Meanwhile, the Telegram channel of the country's students' union councils published pictures of a rally held at Tehran University's Fine Arts Campus, where students protested rulings against them from the disciplinary committee because of their demonstrations.


In recent months, the Tehran University of Arts has been a center of creative performances in support of protests in Iran. Among them, a performance of symbolic tombstones in the university campus in memory of the protesters killed by the security forces, which has gone viral on social media.

The government's brutal crackdown on the demonstrators has seen thousands arrested, including journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others voicing opposition to the government.

Lawmakers have demanded an even sharper reaction, calling for heavy penalties, including death sentences, for protesters.

Four public executions have already taken place, according to authorities, and rights groups say many others have been handed death sentences, while at least two dozen others face charges that could carry the death penalty.

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

Iranian Film Producer Summoned By Police Over Banned Movie

Javad Norouzbeigi produced the film Leila’s Brothers, which was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year. (file photo)

Iranian film producer Javad Norouzbeigi says a legal case has been filed against him due to the production of his banned prizewinning film, Leila’s Brothers.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Javad Norouzbeigi as saying that he was summoned to the prosecutor's office, "where the title of the accusation against me was the production of Leila’s Brothers."

Before its release last summer, Iran's Cinema Organization of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance banned the film due to the "producer and director violating and disobeying regulations."

The ban came after the critically acclaimed film won the FIPRESCI Prize from international critics at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in May. It was also nominated for the Palme d'Or award.

While accepting the FIPRESCI award, director Saeed Roustayi said it was in honor of the grieving people of Abadan after the deadly collapse of a tower building in the southwestern Iranian city killed 43 people. The collapse of the partially finished 10-story Metropol building sparked angry protests in solidarity with the families of the dead.

Roustayi's speech angered authorities who quickly moved to prevent the film from screening in Iran.

Since then, government officials have kept up the pressure on filmmakers amid a renewed crackdown on dissent over the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged clothing violation in September.

Several Iranian cinematographers and prominent public figures have been summoned by the police or arrested, including actress Katayoun Riahi and director Hamid Pourazari. Other celebrities, including actor Hamid Farrokhnejad, have been interrogated and have had their passports confiscated after showing support for the protests.

The unrest over the 22-year-old's death has put women's rights -- and a lack of freedoms in general -- in the Islamic republic in the spotlight. Daily protests and symbolic gestures across the country have demonstrated the built-up anger that many Iranians feel toward the system of rule and pose one of the biggest threats to authorities since the revolution in 1979.

Officials, who have blamed the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

Actor Hossein Mohammadi, 26, faces a death sentence after he was reportedly tortured into making a confession to security forces who were looking to pin the blame on him and 15 others for the death of a member of the Basij paramilitary force during a demonstration.

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

The Farda Briefing: Europe's Position On Iran Hardens As It Mulls Terror Listing

IRAN -- Members of a special IRGC force attend a rally marking the annual Quds Day on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran on April 29, 2022.

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

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

The Big Issue

The European Parliament on January 19 voted for Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to be added to the European Union's list of terrorist organizations in "light of its terrorist activity, the repression of protesters, and its supplying of drones to Russia."

The vote was nonbinding, but it came amid calls by some European governments to blacklist the elite branch of Iran's armed forces. The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that would only happen if a court in an EU nation determined that the IRGC was guilty of terrorism.

Since the vote, the EU has imposed fresh sanctions against Tehran. Iran has expressed outrage at the possibility of the EU blacklisting the IRGC, which would lead to sanctions against the force. Tehran has warned of unspecified "consequences."

Why It Matters: The EU's potential blacklisting of the IRGC has exposed the bloc's hardening position on Iran.

European powers have long pursued engagement with Iran, even as tensions between Tehran and the United States soared in recent years. But Europe's approach has shifted due to the war in Ukraine and unrest in Iran.

Tehran has been accused of supplying combat drones to Russia, which has allegedly used them to target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

Iranian authorities have also waged a brutal crackdown on the monthslong anti-establishment protests inside the country, killing hundreds of civilians and detaining thousands more. As Iran's ties with Europe dip, hopes of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers have sunk.

What's Next: Even as calls for the EU to blacklist the IRGC increase, the bloc is far from united on the issue. Two European diplomats who spoke to Radio Farda on the condition of anonymity said France was "not very keen" on the move.

While Germany's foreign minister has supported it, the mood in Berlin appears to be uncertain. According to one diplomat, some Southern European countries such as Portugal and Malta are also opposed to the IRGC being designated.

A senior EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels on January 20 that blacklisting the IRGC "is not a good idea because it prevents you from going ahead on other issues," including Iran's nuclear program. Another diplomat who spoke to Radio Farda said the EU's decision to blacklist the IRGC will "depend on how Iran will act over Russia."

Stories You Might Have Missed

  • A 39-year-old Iranian poultry worker and martial arts coach who was executed by Iran earlier this month in connection with the antiestablishment protests has become a symbol of state oppression, with many Iranians grieving his death in absence of his family. Mohammad Hosseini was convicted of killing a member of Iran's paramilitary forces as mourners demonstrated in a city outside the Iranian capital in November. Hosseini was hanged on January 7 along with 22-year-old Mohammad Mehdi Karimi.
  • Iranian officials held a controversial six-day conference that began on January 20 called the International Congress for Women of Influence. The conference was hosted by Jamileh Alamolhoda, the wife of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The event was attended by the first ladies and politicians from a number of friendly countries including Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Serbia, and Nigeria. Some Iranian media outlets criticized the extravagance of the event as well as its timing, coinciding with the nationwide protests that have largely been led by women.

What We're Watching

Iran's national currency has lost around 30 percent of its value since the protests erupted in September. On January 21, the rial fell to a new record low against the U.S. dollar. The dollar was selling for as much as 447,000 rials on Iran's unofficial market, according to the foreign exchange site Bonbast.com.

Why It Matters: Political instability triggered by the current wave of protests has worsened the economic situation in Iran, where the economy has been crippled for years by tough U.S. sanctions and government mismanagement.

Reports suggest that U.S. efforts to curb the flow of dollars to Iran have borne fruit and exacerbated the currency crisis. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has enforced tighter controls on dollar transactions by banks in neighboring Iraq, one of Iran's main sources of hard currency. For years, front companies and smugglers have facilitated the flow of dollars from Iraq into Iran.

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

Until next time,

Hannah Kaviani

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

Families Of Detained, Killed Iranian Protesters Beaten, Warned To Keep Silent

Iran has cracked down on anti-regime protests sparked by the September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, arrested for allegedly violating strict dress rules for women.

Iranian authorities are beating, firing, and threatening the families of protesters who were detained or killed during the violent suppression of the four-month-long anti-government demonstrations to force them to remain silent, the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said on January 25. "In addition to hanging, shooting, and imprisoning Iranians to crush the protests, Islamic republic authorities are attacking the family members of those they have killed and jailed to silence cries for justice and freedom," CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi said in the statement.

Iran Athlete Says 'No Regrets' After Losing Eye At Protest

Protesters hold placards at a march in central London on January 21 against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

An Iranian archer who lost sight in her left eye after being shot by security forces has said she has "no regrets" about joining nationwide protests. Iranian authorities have cracked down on more than four months of anti-regime protests sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, arrested for allegedly violating strict dress rules for women. Kosar Khoshnoudikia, a member of Iran's national archery team, had been shot at a rally last year in her hometown of Kermanshah, in the Kurdish-populated west, said the Norway-based rights group Hengaw. "I have felt no regrets for being there on that day, at that time," Khoshnoudikia said.

Iranian Supreme Court Rejects Death Sentence Appeal By Protester

Amnesty International has blasted Iran for the trial of the 22-year-old Mohammad Ghobadloo, who was sentenced to death after a trial where his lawyers were not present. (file photo)

Iran's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Mohammad Ghobadloo against his death sentence on a charge of "corruption on Earth," raising fears among his legal team that he may be executed in the near future.

Mahdakht Damghanpour, Ghobadloo's lawyer, said in a post on Twitter that the court accepted the appeal of his conviction on the charge of murder, but on a separate charge of "corruption on Earth," the appeal failed.

"We have registered the appeal four times, and each time the court has refused to register and accept it," Damghanpour said.

Ghobadloo was charged for his alleged involvement in an attack on police with a car, which resulted in the death of one officer and the injury of five others.

"Corruption on Earth" is a charge often leveled by Iran's judiciary in cases allegedly involving espionage or attempts to overthrow the government.

But with months of unrest over the death in September of a young woman for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly rattling the country, courts have taken to using the charge against protesters who have flooded the streets in mass demonstrations.

Amnesty International has blasted Iran for the trial of the 22-year-old Ghobadloo, who was sentenced to death after a trial where his lawyers were not present.

The rights watchdog says the "sham trials" of protesters are "designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran."

Ghobadlou, who is said to suffer from mental problems, was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in custody, according to his supporters.

His mother has pleaded for his life in a video message posted online, while three European politicians who have sponsored Ghobadloo in an attempt to protect him from prosecution have urged Iran overturn his death sentence.

Iranians have flooded streets across the country in protest since Mahsa Amini's death, with women and schoolgirls putting up unprecedented shows of defiance in what appears to be the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In the face of mass protests around the country since Amini's death in mid-September, Iranian authorities have warned of harsher penalties to participants in the unrest.

Four convicted protesters have already been executed and others remain on death row after being handed death sentences.

Earlier in January, following a report of the imminent execution of Ghobadloo and another protester, Mohammad Broghani, hundreds gathered in front of the Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj chanting anti-government slogans.

The regime has blamed Western governments for the unrest and has responded to the protests with a bloody crackdown that human rights groups say has left almost 500 dead and hundreds more injured.

Thousands more have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, and others, amid concerns about the charges against them.

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

Iranian Soccer Player Scores Goal, Doesn't Celebrate, Gets Banned By Government

Iranian soccer player Reza Shekari (file photo)

An Iranian professional soccer player has been summoned to face a disciplinary committee and banned from participating in the country's Premier League after he showed solidarity with protesters by not celebrating after scoring a goal.

Reza Shekari, who plays with Golgohar FC, said in a post-game interview that he did not celebrate his goal after scoring "due to the conditions of the country and the mourning of the people."

It was not immediately clear how long the player has been banned.

Shekari, 24, also emphasized that he and his teammates are “forced to play football” these days.

Since the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged clothing violation in September, several celebrities and sports personalities, including retired soccer star Ali Daei, have been interrogated and had their passports confiscated after showing support for the protests.

The unrest over the 22-year-old's death, has put women's rights -- and a lack of freedoms in general -- in the Islamic republic in the spotlight. Daily protests and symbolic gestures across the country have shown the built-up anger many Iranians feel toward the system of rule and pose one of the biggest threats to authorities since the revolution in 1979.

In the face of this deep-seated resentment, authorities have pushed a brutal, and often deadly, crackdown.

Another Iranian professional soccer player Amir Nasr-Azadani, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison on a charge of "assisting in waging war against God."Nasr-Azadani had faced the possibility of a death sentence.

The case has provoked a strong reaction from the international soccer community, including an announcement from the global professional soccer players union FIFPRO that it was "shocked and sickened" by such a punishment for campaigning for women's rights and basic freedoms in one's own country.

Ali Karimi, a former soccer player with Bayern Munich and once the captain of Iran’s national soccer team, has also been a target of the government for his support of the protesters and his posts on social media, including on Instagram, where he has nearly 12 million followers.

Karimi, widely regarded as one of the greatest Iranian players of all time, has condemned Amini’s death while lending his support to the protesters, particularly women. He has also urged security forces not to allow “innocent blood to be shed.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described efforts by celebrities to support the protesters as “worthless” and has called for judicial action against them.

Since Amini's death, more than 500 people have been killed in the police crackdown, according to rights groups. Thousands more have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

Iran Charges 16, Including Several Teens, For Protests Amid Reports Of Forced Confessions

A group called the Detainees Followup Committee, which was set up to monitor the arrests, said that among those detained were several teenagers -- including a 15-year-old girl -- and eight women.

Iran has charged 16 people, including several teenagers, in the northwestern Iranian city of Urmia for planning demonstrations and accusing them of espionage amid reports those detained gave confessions after being beaten.

In November, 25 people were arrested for allegedly having connections with "spy organizations" and "attempted to deceive and incite youth and teenagers through social networks to join protests" against the government after the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody in September.

A group called the Detainees Followup Committee, which was set up to monitor the arrests, said on January 22 that among those detained were several teenagers -- including a 15-year-old girl -- and eight women.

It added that 16 of the 25 are now being prosecuted in the case, and that even though none of them knew each other before being held by police, they went through "intense pressure during interrogations."

"None of them knew each other before and during the interrogations. They were forced to confess against each other after being beaten and threatened with rape," the committee said.

It added that the cases were being held in the Urmia Revolutionary Court even though some in custody should be in courts set up for minors.

Public anger erupted after the September 16 death of the 22-year-old Amini, who was in custody after being detained by morality police in Tehran for "improperly" wearing a hijab.

Since Amini's death, Iranians have flooded streets across the country to protest against a lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of support in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In response, the authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on dissent, detaining thousands and handing down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.

Protests in Iran do not have a centralized leadership, and protest calls are planned by people and often anonymous groups on social media. The country's leaders have blamed Western governments for the unrest.

One of the anonymous groups that has played a role in driving the protests is called "Youths of Tehran's Neighborhoods." Other cities have seen similar initiatives.

The role of younger Iranians in the unrest has been accompanied by reports of mass arrests of teens and heavy sentences for those convicted in adult courts.

The U.S.-based activist group HRANA quoted an informed source on January 4 as saying that the Revolutionary Court in the northern city of Sari handed down a death sentence to 18-year-old Arshia Takdastan after he was accused of throwing a bottle and a stone at a police car during a protest in the city of Nowshahr in September.

The court said Takdastan's actions constituted "corruption on Earth," a charge often leveled in cases allegedly involving espionage or attempts to overthrow the government and which the courts have taken to using in recent months against protesters angered over Amini's death.

The same court sentenced to death another teenager, 19-year-old Mehdi Mohammadifard, who was arrested during the same demonstration as Takdastan. Mohammadifard's offense was helping to organize and lead a September 21 rally in the city of Nowshahr.

Human rights groups say the crackdown has left nearly 500 people dead and hundreds more injured, in addition to the arrests.

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

U.S., U.K., EU Level New Sanctions Targeting Those Linked To Iran's IRGC

Pedestrians walk past graffiti daubed on a wall outside the Iranian Embassy in London on January 14.

The United States, Britain, and the European Union have issued new sanctions on dozens of Iranian individuals and entities for Tehran's deadly crackdown on dissent following the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

The sanctions, announced on January 23, include several officials linked to Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), but did not go as far as putting the military force on terror blacklists.

In Brussels, EU foreign ministers said they had agreed to impose travel bans on officials including Abbas Nilfrushan, a deputy commander in the IRGC who has led a unit that has taken a major role in quelling unrest sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September.

Minister of Sport and Youth Hamid Sajjadi was also placed on the list for his role in going after athletes who spoke out against repression and the authorities amid reports from rights groups that almost 500 protesters have been killed in a crackdown over the unrest, seen as one the biggest threats to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Britain said it had placed sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities over the country's "brutal repression" of its people, including a crackdown on anti-government protests and the recent execution of British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari.

The move freezes the assets of Deputy Prosecutor-General Ahmad Fazelian, who the British Foreign Office said was "responsible for a judicial system characterized by unfair trials and egregious punishments, including use of the death penalty for political purposes."

"Those sanctioned today, from the judicial figures using the death penalty for political ends to the thugs beating protestors on the streets, are at the heart of the regime's brutal repression of the Iranian people," British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.

"The U.K. and our partners have sent a clear message through these sanctions that there will be no hiding place for those guilty of the worst human rights violations."

In Washington, the U.S. Treasury said a further 10 people had been added to its sanctions list, all of whom are linked to the IRGC or officials around it.

The unrest that has swept Iran since Amini's death on September 16 has been met with thousands of arrests by security forces and calls from lawmakers for harsh penalties.

At least four people have been executed so far in relation to the protests, while several others have been handed death sentences and are on death row.

While the sanctions once again tighten around Tehran and its leadership, EU foreign ministers debated, but did not put the IRGC on its terrorist blacklist.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who headed the meeting in Brussels, said such a designation could not be applied until a court in one of the bloc's 27 members makes a ruling against the IRGC for acts of terror.

"It is something that cannot be decided without a court decision first," he told reporters.

The bloc had already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iranian officials for their response to the unrest.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

Iranian Female Political Prisoners Publish Letter Demanding Halt To Executions

(file photo)

A group of 30 female political prisoners incarcerated in Iran's notorious Evin prison have published a letter demanding a halt to executions of those protesting the death of a young woman while in police custody, as well as an end to unjust sentences in response to the unrest.

The letter, signed by Friba Adelkhah, Faezeh Hashemi, Hasti Amiri, Narges Adib, Sepideh Gholian, Gelareh Abbasi, Farangis Mazloum, and other prisoners emphasizes concerns over the "unfair and nontransparent" judicial procedures being used in Iran.

The signatories to the letter, published on January 22, noted that they "have come together to say no to the death penalty and defend the people's right to live in justice."

Iran has been rocked by unrest over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of defiance in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Amini died after being detained in Tehran by the country's notorious morality police for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly. Authorities have said she died of illness but her family and supporters say she was beaten while in detention.

A brutal government crackdown on dissent has seen thousands of people arrested, including journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others voicing opposition to the government.

Four protesters have already been executed for their alleged actions, while two others, Mohammad Ghobadlou and Mohammad Broghani, had their sentences upheld by the country's Supreme Court and remain in prison on death row.

More than 500 people have been killed in the crackdown, according to rights groups. Some lawmakers have demanded a harsh response to the unrest, saying heavy penalties, including death sentences, are warranted for protesters.

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

EU Ministers Agree On New Package Of Sanctions Against Iran

People take part in a rally against the Iranian regime in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on January 16.

EU ministers on January 23 agreed on a new package of sanctions against Iran, the Swedish EU presidency said. "Ministers adopted a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the repression. The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters," the presidency said in a tweet, without giving further detail. Sources told Reuters last week that EU foreign ministers would add 37 individual entries to the EU's sanctions against Iran on January 23. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

EU Says It Cannot Brand Iran's IRGC As A Terror Group Before Court Ruling First

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (file photo)

The European Union cannot list Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity until an EU court has determined that it is one, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on January 23. The European Parliament last week called on the EU to list the IRGC as a terrorist entity, blaming it for the harsh repression of domestic protests and the supply of drones to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine. "It is something that cannot be decided without a court, a court decision first," Borrell told reporters before a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. To read the original Reuters story, click here.

Iran Warns EU Of 'Reciprocal' Response To Guards Terror Label Vote

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (file photo)

Iran has warned the European Union that it would take "reciprocal" measures after the European Parliament voted to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group. "The parliament [of Iran] is working to place elements of European countries' armies on the terrorist list," Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Twitter on January 22. Members of the European Parliament voted on January 18 to include the IRGC on the 27-nation bloc's terror list in "light of its terrorist activity, the repression of protesters and its supplying of drones to Russia."

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