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Iran Says Waiting For IAEA To React To 'Israeli Attack' On Nuclear Site

Mohammad Eslami, the chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (file photo)
Mohammad Eslami, the chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (file photo)

Iran is calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to clarify its position regarding an alleged Israeli attack on a centrifuge-component manufacturing workshop near Tehran in June, amid a dispute with the UN nuclear agency over access to the site.

Speaking to journalists on October 3, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, deplored that the Vienna-based IAEA and Western powers have not condemned the "terrorist act" in which the TESA Karaj facility was “severely destroyed.”

Eslami’s comments come after the IAEA said on September 26 that it was denied “indispensable” access to the site contrary to a September 12 agreement under which Tehran allowed international inspectors to service surveillance cameras at its sensitive nuclear sites and to continue filming there.

The United States and European Union have called on Iran to allow UN inspectors access to the site.

Tehran has claimed that the facility is exempt from the agreement, which averted the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors issuing a resolution criticizing Iran for stonewalling the IAEA.

“The IAEA representatives in both Tehran and Vienna were told about these important details: the facility was severely destroyed, in particular where the cameras were supposed to be located,” Eslami said on October 3.

“It is regrettable that neither the IAEA nor the countries that have made monitoring claims against us condemned that terrorist act,” he added.

Satellite images appeared to show damage to the TESA Karaj facility after the June incident, and reports suggested that one out of four IAEA cameras at the site were destroyed during the incident.

Iran has accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear program and assassinating its nuclear scientists, including top scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who was killed near Tehran last year. Fakhrizadeh was credited with beginning an alleged military nuclear program decades ago that U.S. intelligence and the IAEA say was abandoned in 2003.

Eslami’s comments also come amid stalled nuclear talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal under which Tehran significantly limited its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.

That deal started to fall apart in 2018 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it and reinstated crippling economic sanctions. Iran reacted by gradually ramping up its nuclear activities.

U.S. President Joe Biden has promised to rejoin the deal if Tehran returns to full compliance.

Iran’s new Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that Tehran would resume the nuclear talks “very soon” while being vague about the time frame.

Speaking on October 4, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh suggested that talks with world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 deal could resume by early November.

"The government of [President] Ebrahim Raisi has been in power for 50, 55 days...I don't think that the [return to talks] will be less than the 90 days that it took the Biden administration to return to negotiations," he added, indicating that Iran believes talks will be under way again by the second week of November.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned last week that time was running out for Tehran to return to the deal.

“The ball remains in their court, but not for long," Blinken told reporters, adding that "there is a limited runway on that, and the runway is getting shorter."

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Iran Hangs Teenage Boy Convicted Of Murder, Rights Groups Say

Iran has seen a surge in executions this year, drawing widespread condemnation, with critics saying many judgments are rushed through the judiciary while "sham" trials and forced confessions are routine.
Iran has seen a surge in executions this year, drawing widespread condemnation, with critics saying many judgments are rushed through the judiciary while "sham" trials and forced confessions are routine.

Iran has executed a 17-year-old boy who had been tried and convicted of murder, the Norway-based Hengaw and Iran Human Rights (IHR) groups said. IHR said the execution of Hamidreza Azari took place on November 24. "It is important to note that in his previously aired forced confession and state media report, his age was given as 18," the IHR said. It quoted the Tasnim news agency as saying the youth was convicted in an alleged "honor" killing. Iran has seen a surge in executions this year, drawing widespread condemnation, with critics saying many judgments are rushed through the judiciary while "sham" trials and forced confessions are routine.

Five Dead, Four Injured In Avalanche In Western Iran

The group began their expedition on November 23 despite warnings by local authorities about a possible avalanche risk.
The group began their expedition on November 23 despite warnings by local authorities about a possible avalanche risk.

Five people were killed and four injured in an avalanche on western Iran's Oshtrankuh Mountain, state media reported. The bodies of five climbers were found by rescuers near the 4,150-meter San Boran peak, located some 300 kilometers southwest of Tehran. Four other climbers were rescued and taken to hospital. The nine-member team consisted of two climbers from Melair, a city in Hamadan Province, and seven from the cities of Borujerd and Durood in Lorestan Province. The group began their expedition on November 23 despite warnings by local authorities about a possible avalanche risk. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Iran 'Secretly Executes' Man Convicted Of Killing Member Of Security Forces

Milad Zohrevand (undated photo)
Milad Zohrevand (undated photo)

Iran has secretly executed a man convicted of killing a member of the security forces during mass protests that swept the country last year, the Norway-based Hengaw organization said on November 23. Milad Zohrevand, 21, was executed at dawn in a prison in the western city of Hamadan, the rights group said. Zohrevand received no prior notification that his execution was imminent and was not granted a final meeting with his family, the group added. It was the eighth execution carried out in cases related to protests that erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini in morality-police custody.

Students At Tehran's Beheshti University Strike Over Tightened Measures Limiting Freedoms

Psychology students hold a strike in Tehran's Beheshti University on November 21.
Psychology students hold a strike in Tehran's Beheshti University on November 21.

Students from the Psychology Department of Tehran’s Beheshti University staged a strike on November 21, marking a significant escalation in ongoing student-led protests against increased security measures on campuses across the country and stricter enforcement of the mandatory hijab law.

Students said the strike was a response to incidents where masked individuals, alongside university security forces, reportedly entered classrooms on November 20 and confiscated the IDs of female students who were not wearing the hijab, or Islamic head scarf.

Eyewitness accounts indicate that the security personnel, whose identities and affiliations remain unclear, specifically targeted female students whose scarves had slipped from their heads, confiscating their student identification cards during lectures.

The strike mirrors a growing trend of student activism across Iran, most notably at the Tarbiat Modares University, where students boycotted classes to protest against what they say are the repressive tactics of the university's security forces.

Student activists have highlighted the increasingly oppressive atmosphere within Iranian universities since the start of the new academic year. This includes widespread summonses issued by intelligence and security agencies, disciplinary actions, temporary suspensions, and even expulsions of students and faculty members.

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 newspaper, 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 says at least 700 university students have been arrested during the nationwide protests sparked by the September 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly breaking the country's hijab rule.

Many have faced sentences such as imprisonment and 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

Iranian Activist Says Judiciary Switches Suspended Sentence To Prison Time For Refusing Amnesty

Atefeh Chaharmahalian, Iranian poet and dissident, is going to prison-- 21 Nov 2023
Atefeh Chaharmahalian, Iranian poet and dissident, is going to prison-- 21 Nov 2023

Iranian poet and civil rights activist Atefeh Chaharmahalian says Iran's judiciary has ordered her previously suspended prison sentence to be executed, meaning she now faces spending the rest of her two-year, eight-month penalty behind bars.

Chaharmahalian, once a member of the Iranian Writers' Association's Board of Secretaries, was initially detained in October 2022 during the "Women, Life, Freedom" protests in Tehran and held in the notorious Evin prison's Ward 209.

Chaharmahalian announced via Instagram that her lawyer, Saeedeh Hosseinzadeh, has been informed of the decision to enforce the full term of her imprisonment, which she attributes to her refusal to accept an amnesty from Iran’s leader and her commitment to writing and defending people's rights.

"I neither accepted an amnesty -- I'd never consider writing and defending people's rights as a crime that requires an amnesty -- nor put down the pen," she wrote.

In February 2023, state media reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an amnesty for "tens of thousands" of prisoners, including protesters arrested during the anti-government rallies sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody after allegedly breaking the law on the mandatory Islamic head scarf, or hijab.

Many lawyers, human rights activists, imprisoned protesters, and former political prisoners have dismissed the amnesty decree as an empty gesture aimed at quelling a wave of dissent that has rocked the country for more than a year.

Since the widely publicized issuance of the decree, which resulted in the release of several political and civil prisoners, a number have been rearrested and are now facing fresh charges.

PEN America’s 2022 Freedom To Write Index put Iran second only to China in the number of the detained writers and artists at 57. The result was worse than the previous year, when Iran ranked fourth globally.

In a related incident, the activist HRANA news agency reported that film editor Fatima Zahraei has been given a two-year suspended prison sentence by Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Court.

Zahraei was arrested on October 29 during the funeral of 17-year-old Armita Garavand, who had succumbed a day earlier to injuries suffered in an alleged confrontation with Iran's morality police in the Tehran subway over a head-scarf violation.

The death of Amini in September 2022 while in police custody for an alleged hijab violation released a wave of anger that has presented the Islamic regime with its biggest challenge since the revolution.

Garavand's case, and suggestions of a cover-up by the authorities over what transpired in the teen's last living moments, have drawn parallels with the events leading up to the death of Amini, which was also shrouded in mystery.

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

U.S. Concerned Iran May Provide Ballistic Missiles To Russia For Use In Ukraine

An Iranian Khorramshahr ballistic missile called Khaibar with a range of 2,000 kilometers is launched at an undisclosed location.
An Iranian Khorramshahr ballistic missile called Khaibar with a range of 2,000 kilometers is launched at an undisclosed location.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has voiced concern that Iran may provide Russia with ballistic missiles for use in its war against Ukraine. Iran already has been providing drones, guided aerial bombs, and artillery ammunition and may be preparing “to go a step further in its support for Russia,” Kirby said on November 21, noting a meeting in September in which Iran hosted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to show off a range of ballistic-missile systems. Kirby told reporters that in return for ballistic missile support, Russia has offered Tehran “unprecedented defense cooperation.”

Inmate Backs Up Claim Iranian Rapper Yasin Has Been Tortured, Faced Mock Execution In Prison

Iranian rapper Saman Yasin has detailed harrowing accounts of physical and psychological torture he says he has endured since being taken into custody.
Iranian rapper Saman Yasin has detailed harrowing accounts of physical and psychological torture he says he has endured since being taken into custody.

Ahmadreza Haeri, a political prisoner in Iran's Qezelhesar Prison, has backed up claims that fellow inmate dissident rapper Saman Yasin had been tortured, saying the artist was put through a mock execution by prison guards even though his death sentence was quashed and a new trial ordered in his case.

Yasin was arrested by security forces during nationwide protests in October 2022.

The judiciary's news agency said the rapper had been accused of "waging war against God," a charge that came with a death sentence from the Tehran Revolutionary Court when it found him guilty. However, Yashin appealed to the Supreme Court, which in December 2022 accepted his argument and referred his case back to the Revolutionary Court, where a retrial was to be held in May.

However, the retrial has yet to occur and he has been awaiting his court session without access to a lawyer.

In a letter obtained by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Haeri describes how Yasin was taken from his cell in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison last year, told to write his last wishes, and then blindfolded and handcuffed to the gallows. A guard said that since he is "young," they would "throw the rope crookedly so that his neck breaks instantly and he does not suffer."

However, after receiving a phone call, the guards informed Yasin that he was given another chance for "cooperation" and would not be executed at that time.

In an audio file released by the Kurdistan Human Rights Network on August 23, Yasin detailed harrowing accounts of physical and psychological torture he says he has endured since being taken into custody. He also says prison officials threatened to harm his family if he didn't admit to being involved in the shooting of a paramilitary officer during the protests.

In the audio clip Yasin said he was transferred to the Amin Abad Psychiatric Hospital, tied to a bed, and drugged.

"I was forcibly tied to the hospital bed by some prison guards and prison personnel. My hands were handcuffed and my feet were bound. I was given an injection in the arm and I was unconscious for 24 hours," he said.

Haeri's letter also reveals the tragic consequences of these events on Yasin's family. Following the communication of the real execution order, Yasin's pregnant wife lost their nearly full-term baby due to stress.

In his concluding remarks, Haeri wrote about the lack of fair legal process, stating that Yasin has not been brought to any court since a “mock trial” last year, and that his lawyer has been denied access to case files, leaving Yasin in a state of uncertainty for over 14 months.

Yasin has consistently maintained his innocence, releasing multiple audio files to publicize his claims. He has also reportedly launched at least one hunger strike in protest.

Since the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in custody after she was detained for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly, Iranians have protested 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.

The judiciary, at the urging of lawmakers, has instituted harsh penalties, including the death sentence, for anyone found guilty of dissent.

Meanwhile, judges have also recently begun sending offenders to psychiatric centers as part of their punishment, a move prominent psychiatry boards in Iran have said is an abuse of judicial authority.

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

Three Iranian Teachers Begin Serving Prison Sentences For Union Activities

Teachers protesing in Iran's Fars Province (file photo)
Teachers protesing in Iran's Fars Province (file photo)

Three Iranian teachers sentenced to imprisonment by the Revolutionary Islamic Court in the southern city of Shiraz for participating in union activities were unexpectedly arrested on November 20 and taken to prison to begin serving their sentences, a move some said was aimed at intimidating educators amid a crackdown over their support for protests for civil rights.

The arrests of Mohammadali Zahmatkesh, Afshin Razmjoui, and Mojgan Bagheri are part of a broader crackdown following the participation of teachers in union gatherings. In June, eight teachers were put on trial at the Shiraz Revolutionary Court for their involvement in such activities. All of them were convicted.

The Iranian Teachers' Union's Coordination Council said in a report that the arrests were made without prior notification. Abdolrazagh Amiri and Zahra Esfandiari, two other educators, were subjected to "two years of house arrest with electronic tagging," as ordered by the Fars Province Judiciary, the union added.

The spate of convictions and the carrying out of sentences are part of a larger pattern of suppression against educators in Iran.

Several protests have been held by teachers over the past year in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

That campaign has been coupled with a wave of repression against educators for their involvement in protests over the past year in support of the Women, Life, Freedom movement, which was triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody for an alleged hijab infraction.

According to a report published by the Council in June, "over 250 teachers and cultural union activists have been arrested, imprisoned, dismissed, or exiled" in the past year alone, and "cases have been fabricated against many teachers."

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

Iranian Activist Gets Back Passport, Phone Upon Arrival From Germany

Parastoo Forouhar (file photo)
Parastoo Forouhar (file photo)

Iranian activist Parastoo Forouhar has confirmed to RFE/RL the return of her passport and electronic devices, which were confiscated when she arrived at Tehran airport from Germany last week for a trip to commemorate the anniversary of the death of her parents, who were both vocal critics of Iran's religious leadership.

Forouhar arrived in Tehran on November 15 for the 25th anniversary of the deaths of her parents, Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, two political activists who were stabbed to death in their Tehran home on November 21, 1998.

The death of Forouhar's parents was part of a series of extrajudicial killings of dissidents and intellectuals that later came to be known as the "Chain Murders of Iran."

The individuals who confessed to the murders were affiliated with the Intelligence Ministry and admitted that the murders were termed a "physical elimination" of the dissidents as directed by the ministry.

The authorities said the agents responsible for the killings had acted "arbitrarily" but an investigative journalist and activists have suggested that senior officials authorized the killings.

In an interview with Radio Farda, Forouhar said she had never received any official instruction prohibiting her from holding an annual memorial for her parents. No reason was given for the seizure of her passport and phone.

However, she noted that there have been insinuations of "misuse" concerning the memorial ceremonies, rhetoric she said she had faced for the past 25 years. In recent years, she added, the authorities had hindered commemorations by blocking streets leading to their home and trying to intimidate those participating in the ceremony.

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

Iran's Proxies, Partners Flex Weapons-Manufacturing Capabilities In Middle East

 A Lebanese Hizballah fighter holds an Iranian-made antiaircraft missile on the border with Israel.
A Lebanese Hizballah fighter holds an Iranian-made antiaircraft missile on the border with Israel.

Iran's strategy in the Middle East is essentially a take on an old proverb: Give your proxies and partners weapons and you can sustain their battles for a day. Teach them to make weapons and they can fight your enemies for a lifetime.

With Iranian-backed militant groups taking the charge in the Islamic republic's fight against Israel and the United States, Tehran is seeing its effort to help them acquire their own weapons-manufacturing capabilities pay off.

"Iran has established a network of allies and partners throughout the Middle East, from the Huthis in Yemen, to pro-Iranian groups in Iraq, to pro-Iranian groups in Syria, to Hizballah in Lebanon, to Hamas in Gaza," said Samuel Bendett of the Virginia-based Center for Naval Analyses. "And [Tehran] basically feeds some of its technology there directly, or provides kits and parts and other assistance to the local developers from those units, from those groups, and either gives them training in Iran or trains them on their location."

Increasingly, those Tehran-backed militant groups are turning to weapons they have produced themselves, often based on Iranian blueprints or manufactured or assembled with Iran's assistance. "Those groups now have a lot of know-how which was provided to them by Iran," Bendett said. "And they're now using them against the U.S. and its allies in the region."

The Iranian-backed Islamic Resistance Movement -- better known as Hamas and considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union -- utilized a vast array of indigenously produced weapons and employed advanced battlefield tactics during its surprise multipronged attack on Israel on October 7 that left around 1,200 people dead.

The Israeli Defense Forces said they recovered Iranian-manufactured mortars and explosives used by the Palestinian extremist group after the assault, and Israeli military officials have reportedly estimated that up to 10 percent of the weapons used in the attack were made in Iran.

But most were produced or refined by Hamas indigenously in the Gaza Strip, including assault rifles, missiles, rockets, mortars, shells, and ammunition, according to Israeli defense officials.

Some of the at least 19 Iranian proxies and partners in the region that help make up Iran's so-called axis of resistance have also used Iranian-derived or indigenously manufactured weapons built with Tehran's help against Israel as well as U.S. troops based in the region since the Hamas assault.

These militant groups boast varying levels of firepower in their respective arsenals made up of Soviet-era, Russian, Iranian, and indigenously manufactured weapons based on Iranian designs. While Iran denies delivering arms to the groups directly, many of the missiles, rockets, and other weapons are similar to those produced by Iran.

Lebanese Hizballah boasts the most formidable arsenal of projectiles among Tehran's proxies -- including its own manufactured or refitted missiles and rockets. Since October 7, Hizballah has launched hundreds of rockets and missiles at Israel.

The Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen claim to have launched ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as drones, at Israel. On November 8, the Pentagon announced that a U.S. military surveillance drone was shot down off the coast of Yemen by Huthi forces.

In an apparent response to U.S. support for Israel's retaliatory land invasion and aerial bombardment of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria have launched 58 attacks against U.S. forces in the past month, according to the Pentagon.

Tehran has denied involvement in the Hamas attack, and in early November Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly pressed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to silence those calling for Iran and Lebanese Hizballah to join the Israel-Hamas war.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) during a meeting in Tehran in 2012.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (left) during a meeting in Tehran in 2012.

According to sources cited by Reuters, Khamenei said during the meeting with Haniyeh in Tehran that Iran would continue to offer political and moral support but would not directly enter the conflict.

But Iran has publicly boasted about the military aid it has provided to Hamas in recent years. And despite international sanctions and a sea and land blockade on the Gaza Strip that was imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2005, experts say it is clear that Tehran has provided assistance to boost Hamas's fighting capabilities.

Middle East political analyst Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib told RFE/RL that Hamas built up its arsenal by looting weapons from former stockpiles of the Palestinian Authority or illegally purchasing them decades ago from Israeli sources through straw-man sales, smuggling arms and materials across the border with Egypt, and domestically producing drones, rockets, and various munitions.

But there is little evidence that any seaborne smuggling of arms has taken place since Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007, he said. And the smuggling from Egypt that reached its height after the Egyptian revolution in 2011 declined sharply after the Muslim Brotherhood government there was overthrown in 2013 and has since "been reduced to a trickle."

Nevertheless, Alkhatib said, "the weaponry and the arsenal that Hamas has right now has been building up for over a decade" and benefited from thousands of tons of smuggled arms and materials that could be used to manufacture its own weapons.

"Even if the smuggling stopped, those are still significant and vast enough to offer Hamas and other groups the ability to inflict damage as we saw on October 7 and as we're seeing in their defensive battle with advancing Israeli ground troops," said Alkhatib, a U.S. citizen from Gaza.

Whereas Hamas historically focused on building up a stockpile of rifles and machine guns, he says, it turned its attention to developing kinetic capabilities -- including mines, targeted explosive warheads, improvised explosive devices, anti-tank missiles, and rocket propelled grenades.

Hamas has also invested heavily in developing longer-range rockets and guidance and targeting capabilities as well as a range of unmanned aerial vehicles, including fixed-wing and weaponized commercial-grade drones.

Hamas had a falling out with Tehran, including over the extremist group's support of the Syrian uprising in 2011, Alkhatib says. But Yahya Sinwar, Hamas's leader in Gaza, realigned the organization with Tehran "because they have realized that without Iran, their military capability won't stand a chance in continuing to evolve."

The realignment "with Iran, with the Syrian regime, and certainly with [Lebanese] Hizballah," he added, "are directly related to Hamas's needs and reliance on Iran to procure materials and, more importantly in the era of limited to no smuggling, technologies and know-how to domestically produce [weapons] systems."

Aided by Iranian weapons blueprints and the use of modern digital platforms for remote training, Hamas has learned how to upgrade old rockets and missiles to expand their range and lethality, he said.

Smuggling through tunnels beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border is now a "trickle."
Smuggling through tunnels beneath the Egyptian-Gaza border is now a "trickle."

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hizballah have also been able to remotely teach Hamas fighting tactics and how to develop its massive tunnel network. "And, more importantly, Iran is also teaching Hamas how to use strategic capabilities," Alkhatib said, such as how to integrate drones on the battlefield.

"What was particularly spectacular about the October 7 attack," Alkhatib said, "is that Hamas for the first time demonstrated a combined-arms approach to guerrilla warfare, whereby intelligence was linked with the artillery barrage, was linked with the aerial capabilities of using the paragliders, was linked with the ground troops with the elite forces, with the logistical networks to transport the hostages back to Gaza and to send the attacks in waves with internal operational security.

"This was a qualitative leap forward in Hamas's fighting doctrine. And it could have only been learned and developed through assistance from Iran, broadly, and more specifically, its proxies and its arms in the region such as Hizballah and the IRGC," he added.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran's support for proxies and its involvement in the Syrian civil war now leaves it with a significant number of experienced fighters at the ready for future conflicts.

Alkhatib notes that Iran supported hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite militias and fighters in Iraq and Syria, both to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and to combat the Islamic State (IS) extremist group alongside Syrian and Iraqi government forces.

"Now that both have been largely defeated, IS and the Syrian rebels, Iran was left with these powerful, battle-hardened, well-trained, well-organized militias that had nothing to do," Alkhatib said. "And so, they have been recycled and repurposed by the IRGC to further bolster the so-called axis of resistance, and to be used in a potential fight with Israel and the United States."

Iranian Mother's 13-Year Sentence For Protesting Son's Death During Unrest Confirmed

Mahsa Yazdani and her son, Mohammad Javad Zahedi
Mahsa Yazdani and her son, Mohammad Javad Zahedi

An Iranian appeals court has upheld a 13-year prison sentence handed to Mahsa Yazdani, the mother of a young man killed during the last year's nationwide unrest, after being convicted on charges including "propaganda against the system" and "insulting the leader" for comments she made on social media over the killing of her son by government forces.

Meisam Mousavi, Yazdani’s lawyer, confirmed that the sentence was communicated to his client on November 19.

The sentence underscores the Iranian regime's unrelenting stance against criticism related to the protests, which erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. Amini's death, under disputed circumstances while in police custody, sparked widespread outrage and demonstrations against the government's policies, particularly those concerning women's rights and overall freedoms.

Yazdani's son, Mohammad Javad Zahedi, was 20 years old when he was fatally shot by government forces in the northern city of Sari. Following his death, Yazdani expressed her grief on social media, writing, "I am broken, this loss has driven me insane, a curse on the entire regime."

Zahedi was one of hundreds of casualties during protests that erupted following the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained for an alleged head-scarf violation. The Human Rights Activists News Agency says more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Tensions between the government and the families of those killed or arrested in the nationwide protests have been on the rise in recent weeks after the first anniversary of the deaths of many protesters, as well as Amini.

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

The treatment of the victims' graves has added to the families' anguish. Gravesites, including that of Amini, have been repeatedly vandalized, an act that further highlights the government's attempts to suppress dissent and control the narrative surrounding the protests.

International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have condemned Iran's actions.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, criticized the Iranian authorities' efforts to obstruct justice and exacerbate the suffering of the families of the deceased, describing their actions as having "no bounds."

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

Iranian Rapper Toomaj Salehi, Jailed For Supporting Amini Protests, Released On Bail

Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi had been charged with spreading propaganda against the Iranian state. His lyrics have criticized the Islamic regime for its domestic and foreign policies.
Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi had been charged with spreading propaganda against the Iranian state. His lyrics have criticized the Islamic regime for its domestic and foreign policies.

A popular Iranian rapper has been released on bail after spending more than a year in jail for supporting a wave of antigovernment protests sparked by the death in custody of Masha Amini.

Toomaj Salehi, 32, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on November 18 that he had been freed the same day that the country’s Supreme Court, responding to an appeal, found “flaws in the original sentence” and ordered his release.

The court returned the case to the lower court.

Salehi was sentenced to six years and three months in prison in July on a charge of “corruption on Earth,” which is one of the most serious offenses in Iran’s Islamist system and carries a possible death sentence.

He was acquitted of the charge of “insulting the founder of the Islamic revolution and leadership and communicating with hostile governments.”

After a closed-door trial, the court also ordered Salehi be barred from producing any music or performing for two years after his release.

He had been arrested in October 2022 after making public statements in support of the protests that had erupted the previous month. The protests were triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old Amini, who had been detained by the so-called morality police for alleged violations of the country’s strict Islamic dress code. He spent much of his pretrial detention in solitary confinement.

Iranian authorities dismissed the widespread protests as riots instigated by foreign governments. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands arrested by security agents in a brutal crackdown.

Salehi was accused of spreading lies on the Internet and publishing anti-state propaganda.

Salehi, 33, has gained prominence for his lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty, state executions, and the killing of protesters in Iran. His songs also point to a widening gap between ordinary Iranians and the country’s leadership, accusing authorities of "suffocating" the people without regard for their well-being.

Iranian Politician Close To Khamenei Warns Against Gaza Involvement

Smoke billows during an Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on November 18.
Smoke billows during an Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on November 18.

Iran shouldn't become involved in the war in the Gaza Strip, a prominent Iranian politician cautioned in Tehran on November 18 in remarks to the Etemad newspaper. "Those in Iran who want to enter the Gaza war should know that this is precisely what the Zionist regime wants," Gholam Ali Hadad Adel said, using Iranian terms for Israel. Iranian participation in the conflict would lead to war with the United States, Hadad Adel said. In a war of this kind, Israel would be on "the safe side," he said. Hadad Adel is seen as part of the ultraconservative grouping in Iran and sits on a council that advises Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iranian Nobel Laureate Mohammadi Again In Hospital

Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi (file photo)
Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi (file photo)

Prominent Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, who is incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin prison, has been taken for a second time in 10 days to a hospital amid a protracted legal and health battle.

The decision, announced on Mohammadi's Instagram account, came a day after officials blocked the move to a hospital because of her refusal to wear a compulsory hijab, or Islamic head scarf. The authorities' stance has sparked wide-scale protests from her fellow inmates and supporters.

Medical tests conducted on November 8 revealed critical health concerns, including the blockage of two heart arteries and severe complications, such as fluid accumulation around the heart and esophageal inflammation. She was subsequently taken back to prison.

In the post on Instagram, Mohammadi's relatives, who run the account, said the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize winner was to have further treatment for her heart.

For several weeks, Mohammadi required medical attention outside the prison but was denied a transfer due to her persistent refusal to conform to compulsory hijab rules. In response, Mohammadi embarked on a hunger strike, escalating her protest against the prison authorities' decision.

Under increasing international pressure, the Iranian judiciary relented, allowing Mohammadi's transfer to a medical facility. In a defiant statement on her Instagram on November 9, Mohammadi announced that her transfer to the hospital occurred "without a scarf and in a coat and skirt," signaling an end to her hunger strike.

A similar scenario played out this week when she was again -- at least initially -- kept from transferring to a hospital over the hijab.

Renowned globally as a staunch advocate for the "Women, Life, Freedom" movement, Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 6.

For years, Mohammadi has voiced dissent against the obligatory hijab rule imposed on Iranian women, as well as restrictions on women's freedoms and rights in the country by its Islamic regime.

Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani, said last week that the Nobel award had ratcheted up pressure on Mohammadi from officials, with some citing her statements as grounds for indictment.

He also noted Mohammadi's steadfast refusal to revert to wearing the mandatory hijab, a stance reinforced since the "Woman, Life, Freedom" protests began after the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old died while in the custody of Tehran's notorious morality police. They had detained her for an alleged head scarf violation.

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

Iran Releases Rights Lawyer Sotoudeh From Prison

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (file photo)
Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (file photo)

After spending more than two weeks in detention, prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been temporarily released, her husband said in a post on social media.

In the November 15 announcement on X, formerly Twitter, Reza Khandan posted a photograph capturing the moment of Sotoudeh's release. She was not wearing a head scarf in the photo.


Sotoudeh was detained on October 29 during the funeral of 17-year-old Armita Garavand, who succumbed a day earlier to injuries suffered in an alleged confrontation with Iran's morality police in the Tehran subway over a head-scarf violation.

Along with Sotoudeh, several others, including Manzar Zarabi, a mother advocating for justice over the January 2020 downing of a Ukrainian plane by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was arrested. Reports indicate that Zarabi was released on October 30.

Sotoudeh has been a vocal advocate for numerous activists detained by the Islamic republic. Her career, marked by several arrests since 2010, has seen her endure periods of solitary confinement, highlighting the challenges faced by human rights defenders in Iran.

Radio Farda reported on November 6 that, following Sotoudeh's arrest, she faces a new legal battle with the opening of a case against her, comprising four charges in total, including allegations of "assembly and collusion with the intent to disrupt national security, propaganda against the government, disturbing public order, and disobeying police orders."

The hijab. or Islamic head scarf, became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Women have also launched campaigns against the discriminatory law, although many have been pressured by the state and forced to leave the country.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 while in police custody for an alleged hijab violation released a wave of anger that has presented the Islamic regime with its biggest challenge since the revolution.

Garavand's case, and suggestions of a cover-up by the authorities over what transpired in the teen's last living moments, have drawn parallels with the events leading up to the death of Amini, which was also shrouded in mystery.

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

Iranian Rights Lawyer Sotoudeh Released From Prison After Posting Bail, Husband Says

Nasrin Sotoudeh
Nasrin Sotoudeh

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been released from prison, her husband said on X, formerly known as Twitter. Sotoudeh was released on November 15 after posting bail, said Reza Khandan. Sotoudeh began a hunger and medication strike late last month after being severely beaten during her arrest. Khandan told RFE/RL then that his wife embarked on the strike after she was detained during the funeral of Armita Garavand, who succumbed to injuries suffered in an alleged confrontation with Iran's morality police in the Tehran subway over an alleged head-scarf violation.

Iranian Police Arrest 300 People For Attending Party Where Men And Women Mixed

Gender segregation in Iran (file photo)
Gender segregation in Iran (file photo)

Iranian police arrested 300 people at a party in the central city of Semnan because the event allowed the mixing of men and women.

Colonel Ali Mirahmadi, deputy commander of Semnan Province's law enforcement, announced the arrests at a "mixed-gender party" on November 14, “utilizing covert intelligence and surveillance tactics” at the gathering, which was held in a hall located on the outskirts of the county.

Accused of violating social norms, the 300 men and women were detained in a reflection of the increasing efforts by Iranian authorities to curb activities deemed inappropriate under the country's strict Islamic codes. Mirahmadi also confirmed that the venue hosting the event was closed down for "trade violations."

Separately, the Qom University of Medical Sciences has imposed academic suspensions on several students for organizing mixed-gender parties, accusing them of "undermining the social and educational structure and promoting permissiveness through social media activities."

In addition to parties where both men and women are in attendance, some gatherings, called "hijab unveilings" -- women in attendance do not wear the mandatory head scarf -- have also seen police interventions.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Women have also launched campaigns against the law, although many have been pressured by the state and forced to leave the country.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 while in police custody for an alleged hijab violation released a wave of anger that has presented the Islamic regime with its biggest challenge since the revolution.

The Women, Life, Freedom protests and civil disobedience against the compulsory hijab sparked by Amini's death have swept the country, involving tens of thousands of Iranians, many of whom were already upset over the country's deteriorating living standards.

The protests have also been buffeted by the participation of celebrities, sports stars, and well-known rights activists, prompting a special mention of such luminaries in the legislation.

More recently, the country has been put back on edge by the death of 17-year-old Armita Garavand in a Tehran subway in October.

Garavand was pronounced dead after slipping into a coma following an alleged confrontation with Tehran's enforcers of strict dress-code laws.

In the face of the unrest, some religious and government figures have repeatedly advocated for a tougher stance by the government against offenders, even going as far as encouraging a "fire-at-will" approach against noncompliant women.

While protests against the crackdown and curbs on freedoms appear to be waning, resistance to the hijab is likely to remain a flashpoint, analysts say, as it is seen now as a symbol of the state's repression of women and the deadly crackdown on society.

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

Iranian Activist Tabarzadi Handed New Sentence After Closed-Door Trial

Heshmatollah Tabarzadi has already been sentenced to more than 45 years on various charges.
Heshmatollah Tabarzadi has already been sentenced to more than 45 years on various charges.

Iranian political activist Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, who has already been sentenced to more than 45 years on charges including "collaboration with a hostile government" and "waging war against God," has been sentenced once again, this time to four years and three months on charges of "propaganda against the system" and "conspiracy to disrupt internal and external security."

Tabarzadi, who has been in custody for some 400 days, said in a letter obtained by RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the new sentence was handed down by Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Court, which was presided over by Judge Iman Afshari, in a closed session.

In the letter, Tabarzadi described enduring extensive pressure during his detention, which came shortly after nationwide protests broke out over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was in police custody for an alleged hijab offense. The unrest has led to renewed pressure on political activists.

Tabarzadi, a journalist who is also the head of the banned Democratic Front of Iran, said that the night before his trial, he was moved from Isfahan prison to solitary confinement in a detention center in Tehran under heavy security.

Tabarzadi said he did not defend himself at the court hearing because "according to the law and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the trial must be public, independent, and held in the presence of a jury and lawyer."

His daughter, Tima Tabarzadi, told Radio Farda that her father, as previously, did not accept any of the new charges.

"My father does not have the option to choose a lawyer. A court-appointed lawyer has been selected for him, and we have no contact with him," she added, noting that since her father does not recognize the court, he will not appeal the verdict.

"His lawyer, Mohammad Moqimi, is currently outside Iran, and if he were in Iran, they would not allow him access to the case anyway," Tima Tabarzadi said.

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

Tehran Prosecutor Charges 40 Over Deadly 2022 Blaze At Evin Prison

Eight prisoners were killed in the blaze, which officials said was caused during a fight between inmates. However, activists are skeptical of the government's claims.
Eight prisoners were killed in the blaze, which officials said was caused during a fight between inmates. However, activists are skeptical of the government's claims.

The Tehran Prosecutor's Office says it has charged 40 people over a deadly fire at the notorious Evin prison in October 2022. Prosecutor Ali Salehi made the announcement on November 14 but gave no further details. Eight prisoners were killed in the blaze, which officials said was caused during a fight between inmates. However, activists are skeptical of the government's claims. Sources told RFE/RL that a riot broke out at the prison, which is famous for holding political prisoners. At the time, the country was being rocked by protests over the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Iranian Protester's Death Sentence Said Confirmed, Execution May Be Imminent

Milad Zohrevand (file photo)
Milad Zohrevand (file photo)

An Iranian court has confirmed the death sentence of 22-year-old Milad Zohrevand, a protester detained during last year's nationwide unrest, sparking concerns his execution may be imminent.

Hossein Khanjani, the prosecutor for the western city of Hamedan, told the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), on November 13 that "one of the branches of the Supreme Court has confirmed the retribution sentence" against one of the defendants accused of killing Ali Nazari, a member of the IRGC intelligence service in Hamedan.

The judiciary's Mizan news agency published a similar report.

While Khanjani did not identify Zohrevand as the defendant, Dadban, a platform that provides free legal counsel to protesters and victims, referring to the prosecutor's statements in a post on social media, announced that "the Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentence against Milad Zohrehvand, a 22-year-old from Malayer."

He was charged with being involved in the death of an IRGC member during protests last year in Hamedan Province over the death of Mahsa Amini. Rights groups have questioned the charges.

"Zohrevand's death sentence was confirmed in the Supreme Court while, according to informed sources, he was denied access to a lawyer during his detention, and during this time his family was under severe pressure from the IRGC Intelligence Organization not to disseminate information about him," Dadban said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Khanjani emphasized that "legal procedures are ongoing for sending to the prosecutor's office of Hamedan Province and the implementation of the sentence."

Those words and the fact that the rate of executions in Iran has been rising sharply, particularly in the wake of widespread protests that swept across the country last year following the death of Amini in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation, triggered fears among rights activists that Zohrevand's execution may come soon.

Zohrevand was charged in the death of Ali Nazari, an IRGC agent who was part of the security forces trying to suppress street protests that occurred after a gathering of students at the Malayer Faculty of Medical Sciences following Amini's death.

The day after Nazari's death, Hossein Farsi, the deputy governor of Malayer, said that "about five people with covered faces" were seen in a car near where he was shot, but some of them "fled upon seeing law enforcement and security forces."

Security officials said six people were arrested in connection with the case.

Zohrevand was said to be one of those in the car. The opposition activist collective 1500tasvir said he was arrested under the fabricated scenario of "killing a government agent."

Since his arrest in Malayer on October 26, 2022, no information about his physical and mental condition has been available" and his family is also "under severe pressure," 1500tasvir said.

The judiciary has executed seven detainees from the nationwide protests of 2023 over the past year

Amnesty International says the regime in Tehran has executed more people than any other country in the world other than China so far this year.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on November 2 that Iran was carrying out executions "at an alarming rate," putting to death at least 419 people in the first seven months of the year.

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

'Her Wounds Are Severe': Iranian Grandmother Asks Tehran To Help Free Israeli Granddaughter Held By Hamas

'Her Wounds Are Severe': Iranian Grandmother Asks Tehran To Help Free Israeli Granddaughter Held By Hamas
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An Iranian-born grandmother in Israel pleads for the release of her 23-year-old granddaughter, Romi Gonen, after she was kidnapped at a music festival on October 7 by the extremist group Hamas, which is recognized as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. Aziza Khanum, whose Jewish name is Dvora Leshem, spoke to RFE/RL from Tel Aviv, where she made an emotional plea to Iranian leaders to help her granddaughter.

Iranian Education Minister Proposes Transformation Of System With Introduction Of Gender-Specific Textbooks

Iran's schools, particularly girls' schools, became focal points for unrest over the past year after the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for a hijab violation. (file photo)
Iran's schools, particularly girls' schools, became focal points for unrest over the past year after the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for a hijab violation. (file photo)

Iran's education minister has announced plans for a fundamental transformation of the country's educational system with the introduction of gender-specific textbooks for male and female students, suggesting a deeper ideological shift in the Islamic leadership's governance.

Rezamorad Sahraei, speaking at the Behindokht festival's closing ceremony on November 12, said the initiative signifies a significant change in Iran's approach to education and aligns with what he referred to as a "culture of modesty" being sought by authorities.

He did not provide specific details or a timetable for the implementation of gender-segregated textbooks.

The announcement comes amid a sweeping educational change in Iran, with Sahraei saying more than 120,000 schools across the nation face a "major" overhaul.

On the eve of the new academic year two months ago, Sahraei announced that nearly 20,000 school principals were changed to "create transformation in schools."

Meanwhile, Jalal Mahmoudzadeh, a Sunni representative from Mahabad in the Iranian parliament, criticized the "purification" in the government program presented last month, stating that in less than five months 15,000 to 20 thousand school principals in Iran have been sidelined for "political and ideological reasons."

Iran's schools, particularly girls' schools, became focal points for unrest over the past year after the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for a hijab violation.

The government has responded by cracking down violently on student campuses, while firing and imprisoning many educators for their support of the demonstrators.

Restrictions have been tightened already at many educational institutions, with teachers under increased pressure and many students facing severe disciplinary actions for voicing any dissent.

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

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

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

Iranian Journalist Rahimi Facing New Charges After Commenting On Teen's Death

Zeinab Rahimi is the fifth journalist to face legal action after commenting on the death of Garavand, highlighting government's crackdown on dissenting voices in the media.
Zeinab Rahimi is the fifth journalist to face legal action after commenting on the death of Garavand, highlighting government's crackdown on dissenting voices in the media.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court has charged journalist Zeinab Rahimi of “spreading lies and violating public decency” after she commented on the death of 17-year-old Armita Garavand, who died last month after a confrontation with morality police.

Rahimi said in a social media post on November 12 that she and her lawyer attended a hearing on her case and that she was free on bail as she awaits a verdict.

The specifics of the charges against Rahimi were not specified, but she was previously summoned to court on similar charges along with economic journalist Maryam Shokrani.

Rahimi is the fifth journalist to face legal action after commenting on the death of Garavand, highlighting government's crackdown on dissenting voices in the media and its concern that the teen's death may spark unrest similar to the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

Meanwhile, economic journalist Saeedeh Shafiei was summoned to serve a three-year and six-month prison sentence she received in July for alleged propaganda against the system as well as "gathering information and collusion against the system." She had been ordered to report to prison by November 14.

Another journalist, Nasim Sultanbegi, received a similar sentence in the same case.

The harsh punishments handed to journalists come amid unprecedented shows of defiance by women and schoolgirls in what appears to be the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand others have been arrested since the death of Amini, who died while in police custody for an alleged violation of the country's head scarf law, including many protesters, lawyers, activists, and digital-rights defenders.

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

'Scars Never Heal': Giving Birth In An Iranian Jail

'Scars Never Heal': Giving Birth In An Iranian Jail
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For decades, Nargess Eskandari-Gruenberg would not speak about her experience of giving birth in Iran's most notorious prison. After fleeing to Germany in 1985, she worked her way up to become mayor of Frankfurt. Now, amid ongoing repression in the land of her birth, she says it's important to tell her story to bear witness "to the crimes of the regime."

U.K. Lawmakers Urge Government To Proscribe Iran's Revolutionary Guards

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps take part in a military parade. (file photo)
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps take part in a military parade. (file photo)

British lawmakers and members of the upper house of Parliament have called on the government to proscribe Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, calling it a step toward stability to the Middle East. Proscribing the IRGC would make it a criminal offense to belong to the group, attend its meetings, or carry its logo in public. The IRGC is already subject to British sanctions. In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, more than 60 lawmakers said "given the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, it is now more urgent than ever to proscribe the IRGC."

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