Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iran

South Korea, Iran Summon Each Other's Envoys Over Yoon Comment

U.A.E. President Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan (right) meets with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol during a state visit at the royal palace in Abu Dhabi on January 15.

South Korea and Iran have summoned each other's ambassadors in a diplomatic spat triggered by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's comments describing Iran as the "enemy" of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) during a trip to that country this week. While visiting South Korean special forces stationed in the U.A.E. on January 16, Yoon described the hosts as South Korea's "brother nation" tied by growing economic and military cooperation, and then compared the threat he said U.A.E. faces from Iran to the threat South Korea faces from nuclear-armed North Korea. Iran's Foreign Ministry said it's investigating Yoon's "interfering statements." To read the original story by AP, click here.

More News

Iran's President Says U.S. Should Ease Sanctions To Demonstrate It Wants To Return To Nuclear Deal

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

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said on September 20 that relations with the United States can move forward if the Biden administration demonstrates it wants to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and a first step should be easing sanctions. He told a news conference that the Americans have reached out through several channels “saying they wish to have a dialogue, but we do believe that it must be accompanied by action.” “So talk alone is not going to do it,” Raisi said. But action on sanctions can be “a solid foundation for continuing” discussions. The Iranian leader added: “We have not left the table of negotiations.” To read the original story by AP, click here.

As 'Misery' Rises In Iran, So Does People's Determination To Move Abroad

Statistics show that Iranians are increasingly "miserable" with their economic situation, while leaked reports indicate more than one-third of them want to move abroad.

Iranians are more miserable than ever, according to recently released figures, at a time when a large segment of the population is reportedly considering leaving their country for good.

Iran's "misery index" stands at more than 60 percent, according to the latest quarterly study compiled by the government-funded Iranian Statistics Center. The index, which factors in inflation and unemployment figures and is seen as a predictor of everything from crime levels to economic stagnation, rose by 1.2 percentage points over the previous quarterly survey.

The misery index was highest -- 69.5 percent -- in the western Lorestan Province, which has seen violent protests over water shortages in recent years and has among the highest unemployment and inflation rates in Iran.

The increase comes amid a flurry of reports highlighting the government's concerns over the number of Iranians who want to emigrate in search of a better life abroad, resulting in loss of capital, professionals, and skilled workers.

"Confidential" internal correspondence purportedly from the Information Ministry suggested this week that a government survey had indicated that "young men of higher education and financial capabilities, particularly in big cities," were the most willing to leave Iran.

RFE/RL is unable to verify the accuracy of that and other documents leaked by the Qiyam Ta Sarnguni, a group affiliated with the banned Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization.

Another "confidential" document recently leaked by the group online, this time from the presidential office's Center for Strategic Studies and reportedly sent to Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, noted "a wide wave of [people] who desire to emigrate." The assessment, which traditionally does not account for medical workers who are known to seek careers abroad, was described as "an alarm" that signals the ineffectiveness of efforts toward "controlling the motives of immigration and indifference toward the country."

The brain drain of tech specialists, health-care professionals, and educators from Iran has been well documented in the past year, following a brief respite when many international sanctions were lifted on Iran under an historic nuclear deal signed with world powers.

But with the withdrawal of the United States from the deal in 2018, the agreement faltered and the return of crippling U.S. sanctions targeting key export industries has posed significant obstacles to Iran's already dire economic situation. Iranians have additionally struggled in recent years with soaring inflation and record unemployment.

Tehran's harsh response to protests across the country -- both by struggling industrial workers and farmers suffering severe water shortages in recent years, as well as supporters of the country's Women, Life, Freedom! movement who have voiced their anger at the clerical establishment -- appears to have pushed many Iranians to consider leaving for good.

An ongoing purge of academics at Iranian universities, government pressure on medical workers treating protesters injured in the brutal clampdown on dissent, and restrictions and Internet slowdowns on tech-savvy companies have all been cited as contributing factors to the latest round of brain drain.

Another document leaked by Qiyam Ta Sarnguni in August, this time allegedly from the Information Ministry, suggests that officials are seeking to prevent the "emigration of scientific and elite groups." The document also claims that the emigration of elite talent is "limited to the field of health treatment" and is due to the "intensification of economic and livelihood problems in the country."

The Farhikhtegan newspaper, the official mouthpiece for Tehran's Islamic Azad University, has said that 6,500 doctors and medical specialists left the country in 2022. And Mohammad Mirzabigi, the head of Iran's nursing system, told the semiofficial ILNA news agency recently that "between 100 and 150 nurses emigrate every month," according to RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Injured protesters who spoke to Radio Farda have indicated that harassment against health-care workers has also led some to go abroad for treatment. "The main reason [for emigrating] was the treatment of my eye, because in Iran, doctors were under pressure [from the government], and I couldn't ask any more of them," Maysam Dehghani, a protester who sustained a severe injury at the hands of Iran's security forces, said this week.

Oil industry workers on strike in December
Oil industry workers on strike in December

There are also indications that the desire to leave the country is not unique to the elite.

In an interview with ILNA this summer, Daud Beginejad, the vice president of Iran's Real Estate Consultants Association, said that the flight of housing developers posed a "very dangerous" threat to Iran's future.

Half of Iran's university students and graduates have decided to emigrate -- accounting for more than 66,000 people, according to Bahram Salvati, the director of the Iranian Migration Observatory, a research institute based at Tehran's Sharif University that itself came under pressure in August after it was given an eviction notice.

Salvati has also cited Iran's unstable Internet, which the authorities have slowed or shut down amid protests, as a cause for start-up companies to leave for Turkey and other countries in the region.

The list of skilled workers seeking to emigrate goes on, including midwives, pilots, truck drivers, and construction workers.

Outside organizations have noted the impact, with the European Union's Agency for Asylum reporting this year that Iranian asylum applications to the EU had "more or less doubled" this year compared to the same period in 2022, with more than 13,000 applications.

Saeed Moaidfar, head of the Iranian Sociological Association, explained in a recent interview with the Jamaran news website the deep-seated "reasons behind people's" desire to emigrate.

"A migration wave occurs when a deep economic crisis in the field of production, employment, inflation, and other issues coincides with other crises," Moaidfar said. "It means, for example, that this person or persons have reached the point where their political system is not sufficient to overcome an economic crisis, or they feel that nepotism is used instead of meritocracy."

Mehdi Ghazanfari
Mehdi Ghazanfari

According to the Iranian Migration Observatory, about 2.2 million Iranians, accounting for some 3.3 percent of the population, left the country for work or other reasons last year. The vast majority -- 62 percent -- do not want to come back after leaving, with more than 90 percent saying they distrust the government's pledges of opportunities at home.

With neighboring countries experiencing rapid growth, Iranian officials are expressing fear that the country could become "an island devoid of opportunities."

Mehdi Ghazanfari, the head of the National Development Fund, said in a recent interview with an economic publication that the lure of life abroad could leave Iran without "manpower and opportunities" and that "the day will come" when the country will become a training center for other countries' workers.

Written by Michael Scollon based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Mahsa Amini, Activists From Afghanistan, Georgia Nominated For EU's Sakharov Prize

Mahsa Amini died in Iran last year while in custody for an alleged hijab infraction.

Mahsa Amini and the women of Iran were nominated for this year's Sakharov Prize, the European Union’s top rights prize, the EU Parliament said on September 20. Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in Iran last year while in custody for an alleged hijab infraction, was nominated by the parliament’s three largest blocs, making her the favorite to be chosen for the award in December. Afghan education activists Marzia Amiri, Parasto Hakim, and Matiullah Wesa were nominated, as were the "pro-European people of Georgia" and Nino Lomjaria, former public defender of Georgia. The award will be presented in December.

Iran's Persian Caravanserai Recognized As UNESCO World Heritage

Caravanserais were roadside inns built along ancient Iranian routes, providing shelter, food, and water to caravans, pilgrims, and travelers. These establishments were pivotal to the Silk Road trade network, contributing significantly to the development of Persian and Islamic culture.

Updated

Iranian Deputies Vote To Toughen Penalties For Women Flouting Dress Code

Iranian lawmakers passed the legislation on September 20. (file photo)

Iran's parliament has unveiled the text of a contentious hijab and chastity bill aimed at confronting, detaining, and penalizing women who fail to observe the compulsory dress code amid a fierce debate over the rules, which have drawn criticism both inside the country and abroad.

The bill was approved by 152 deputies -- 34 voted against and seven abstained -- on September 20, just four days after the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini while the 22-year-old was in custody for an alleged hijab infraction.

The legislation empowers three intelligence agencies -- the Ministry of Intelligence, the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization, and the Intelligence Organization of the Judiciary -- along with police, the Basij paramilitary forces, and the Command of Enjoining Good and Forbidding Wrong to take action against women who break the rules.

The legislation, which is being implemented on a three-year trial basis, also touches on the need for broader gender segregation in universities, administrative centers, educational institutions, parks, and tourist locations, and even in hospital treatment sections. It proposes severe penalties, including imprisonment up to 10 years and fines for women who defy the mandatory hijab law.

A United Nations fact-finding mission said in a statement last week that the law will "expose women and girls to increased risks of violence, harassment, and arbitrary detention."

According to Article 50 of the bill, anyone who appears in public places or streets in a state of nudity or seminudity, or with a dress that is considered as too revealing, will be immediately apprehended by officers and handed over to the judiciary. Those arrested will face imprisonment or a fine, and if the offense is repeated, the imprisonment or fine will be increased.

The bill also stipulates that anyone who is judged to have insulted the hijab, promoted nudity, immodesty, or an improper hijab, or performs any behavior that promotes them will be sentenced to a fine and, at the discretion of the judicial authority, a ban on leaving the country and a ban on public activity on the Internet for six months to two years.

The bill also prohibits commissioning work or advertising from individuals or legal entities that promote non-hijab values in their activities inside or outside the country, or in any media, including social media.

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.

The death of Amini 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 have swept the country, involving tens of thousands of Iranians, many of whom were already upset over the country's deteriorating living standards. Campaigns were also launched against the discriminatory law, although many have been pressured by the state and forced to leave the country.

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.

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 the protests have shown some signs of waning, resistance to the hijab is likely to increase, analysts say, as it is seen now as a symbol of the state's repression of women and the deadly crackdown on society.

Russia-Iran Ties Have Reached New Level, Says Russian Defense Minister

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu meets with the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, Mohammad Bagheri, in Tehran on September 19.

Relations between Russia and Iran have reached a new level despite opposition from much of the Western world, Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on September 20 during a visit to Tehran. "We are aiming at an entire range of planned activities, despite opposition from the United States and its Western allies," the Interfax news agency cited Shoigu as saying. "Sanctions pressure on Russia and Iran shows its futility, while Russian-Iranian interaction is reaching a new level."

Iranian President Urges U.S. To Demonstrate It Wants To Return To The 2015 Nuclear Deal

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses the UN General Assembly on September 19.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on September 19 that his country will never give up its right “to have peaceful nuclear energy” and urged the United States “to demonstrate in a verifiable fashion” that it wants to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Addressing the annual high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly, Raisi said the American withdrawal from the deal trampled on U.S. commitments and was “an inappropriate response” to Iran’s fulfillment of its obligations. Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and continues to insist that its program is entirely for peaceful purposes. But UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi said in an interview with the Associated Press that the Iranian government’s removal of many cameras and electronic monitoring systems installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency make it impossible to give assurances about the country’s nuclear program. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Iranian Misery Index Hits New High As Unemployment, Inflation Rise

The index shows the depths to which Iran's economy has been ravaged by U.S. sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program. 

Iran's Misery Index, a calculation that combines unemployment and inflation rates, has risen to 60.4 percent, its highest point ever and more than double what it was six years ago.

The index, calculated by the Iranian Statistics Center and released on September 18, shows how the average citizen is faring economically.

The latest data, the center said, showed a 1.2 percentage point rise at the end of the first quarter, and in some provinces, such as Lorestan, the index reached almost 70 percent.

The index shows the depths to which Iran's economy has been ravaged by U.S. sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.

In 2018, when then U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a global deal on Iran's nuclear program and reintroduced sanctions on Tehran, the Misery Index stood at 38.9 percent.

In response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support, Iranians have taken to the streets to protest living conditions and demand government action.

In Lorestan, the province's annual inflation rate was reported at 57.1 percent for the month of June, making it one of the highest among Iran's 31 provinces. Meanwhile, Lorestan's unemployment rate was 12.4 percent, the second-highest nationally.

The Misery Index showed provinces such as Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari -- both of which had readings in the high 60s -- aren't lagging far behind. Sistan-Baluchistan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 12.8 percent, was also hard hit, the index shows.

The Tehran-based Donya-e-Eqtesad newspaper cited experts who underscored the importance of the Misery Index in gauging stagflation within an economy.

The index is also seen as a barometer for societal issues, with a direct link to crime rates and even instances of suicide. The publication highlighted that in the past year, 22 of Iran's 31 provinces have reported a Misery Index surpassing the national average.

The death in September 2022 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly has added fuel to the unrest, as Iranians demonstrate against a lack of freedoms and women's rights.

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

Russia's Defense Minister To Visit Tehran On September 19

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (file photo)

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will visit Tehran on September 19, Iran's semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported, adding that he would meet top Iranian officials. Since the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Tehran and Moscow have deepened their bilateral ties, notably in the military sphere. Last month, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia's military cooperation with Iran would not succumb to geopolitical pressure, following a report that Washington had asked Tehran to stop selling drones to Moscow.

Updated

Swapped Americans Delight In 'Freedom' On Arrival In U.S. After Deal With Tehran

Three of the five individuals released by Iran are (left to right) Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Sharghi.

Five Americans who were swapped for $6 billion in unfrozen assets and five detained Iranians have arrived home in the United States, hailing "freedom" and the end of a "nightmare" after their plane landed outside Washington early on September 19.

They hugged relatives to cheers as they left the Gulfstream 5 jet following their predawn arrival at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The five U.S. nationals had first been flown to Doha, where some embraced the U.S. ambassador to Qatar and walked seemingly in high spirits to a building at the airport in anticipation of the flight to the United States.

"Today, five innocent Americans who were imprisoned in Iran are finally coming home," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement as they made their way to the United States.

In New York, hard-line Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called the deal to swap a total of 10 individuals along with the assets "a step in the direction of a humanitarian action between us and America" that could "definitely help in building trust."

The agreement took months to clinch and has sparked criticism from some hawkish elements in the United States who think it extends a lifeline to an Iranian regime laboring under tough U.S. sanctions.

The five were expected to land in the United States as soon as late on September 18.

"I would not be free today, if it wasn't for all of you who didn't allow the world to forget me," one of three of the U.S. citizens who have been identified, Siamak Namazi, said in a statement on his behalf.

After their U.S. arrival with Namazi the first off the plane, his brother Babak said, with his arms around Siamak and their father, Baquer, who was released separately from Iranian custody last October, "The nightmare is finally over."

The freshly released prisoners posed for a group photo with family members saying, "Freedom!"

A Qatari plane had taken off from Tehran carrying the five with two of their relatives, news agencies reported, hours after a Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the prisoner exchange would occur shortly.

Some $6 billion of Iranian assets once frozen in South Korea is now in Qatar, a key element for the prisoner exchange, added Nasser Kanaani in comments during a news conference aired on state television.

The exchange comes amid a major U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf.

According to the deal, the funds will be kept in accounts in Qatar, a U.S. ally on the Arabian Peninsula and home to a major U.S. military installation. Those funds would be allowed for so-called humanitarian spending, like on food and medicine, already allowed under the sanctions, Washington has said.

Iranian officials had identified five individuals in U.S. custody whom Tehran would like handed over as part the deal.

They include three Iranians -- Mehrdad Ansari, Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, and Kambiz Attar Kashani -- charged with illegally obtaining advanced or potentially dual-use technology thought to be bound for Iran that has been under tightly reimposed U.S. sanctions since 2018.

Two others -- Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi and Amin Hasanzadeh -- were jailed for failing to register as a foreign agent and stealing engineering plans on behalf of Iran, respectively.

"Out of the five Iranian citizens in America, two will return to Iran, two will stay in America at their own request, and one person will go to a third country at their request," Kanaani said. He did not identify which prisoners would return to Iran and which would not.

The freed Americans include Namazi, who was detained in 2015 and was later sentenced to 10 years in prison on internationally criticized spying charges; Emad Sharghi, a venture capitalist sentenced to 10 years; and Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence. The fourth and fifth prisoners were not identified.

Iran has been accused of taking foreign nationals hostage under the guise of breaking the law to use as bargaining chips. Iranian security forces have taken some 40 foreign nationals into custody during a current wave of unrest, often without revealing any charges.

Iran has been isolated and hit with tightened economic and diplomatic sanctions since then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from a three-year-old deal between world powers and Iran to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from previous measures aimed at stopping the country from developing its atomic capabilities.

Aside from the diplomatic and economic fallout, observers since then have attributed a series of ship seizures and attacks in the crucial Strait of Hormuz region to Tehran.

Tehran has also cooperated with Russia in the Middle East in addition to supplying Moscow with crucial attack drones to further the Kremlin's war plans in Ukraine.

With reporting by AP

Iran Again Threatens Persian-Language Media Abroad

Iranian Intelligence Minister Esmaeil Khatib (file photo)

Iranian Intelligence Minister Esmaeil Khatib has issued a stark warning to Persian-language media outlets operating outside of Iran, saying that support from other countries will not deter Tehran from "aggressive" actions against them.

Repeating similar threats made earlier by the Information Ministry, Khatib said during a television appearance that media outlets such as the London-based Iran International news channel are "enemy media" and "will not be safe."

Khabib did not elaborate but Persian-language media outlets have long been wary of Tehran's threats.

The Intelligence Ministry had previously labeled employees of Iran International as "enemies of the state," saying that those who "serve foreigners" and "betray the country" will be punished.

Last year, Iran International announced that due to a serious and immediate threat flagged by the British police against its journalists and its offices, the channel had temporarily shifted its broadcast operations to Washington.

The threats come against the backdrop of the widespread arrests of journalists in Iran during the "Women, Life, Freedom" protests that have rocked the country. As part of a brutal and sometimes deadly crackdown on dissent, Iran's security institutions have escalated their aggressive campaign to curb the local media from reporting.

International human rights organizations have consistently ranked Iran as one of the world's top oppressors of journalists and free speech.

In December, Iran's Foreign Ministry sanctioned several individuals and entities located within the European Union's jurisdiction, including RFE/RL's Persian-language Radio Farda. The sanctions include visa bans, prohibiting the listed individuals from entering Iran, and the seizure of their assets within territories under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Republic.

Tehran has tried to blame Western governments for the recent nationwide unrest, which was sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was in police custody for an alleged dress-code violation over how she was wearing a head scarf.

Rights groups say that more than 500 deaths and thousands of arrests have occurred as part of the campaign to quell the unrest sparked by Amini's death on September 16, 2022.

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

Iranian Cinematographer Among Those Detained Trying To Mark Amini's Death

Images taken outside the "Relief Command Headquarters of the Police Force" in Tehran over the weekend show dozens of families waiting, seeking information about their detained relatives.

Cinematographer Leila Naghdipari was one of hundreds of Iranians arrested over the weekend for attempting to mark the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly breaking the country's mandatory head-scarf rule.

Naghdipari's husband, director Majid Barzegar, said in a post on Instagram on September 18 that his wife left the house at noon a day earlier and subsequently went missing for more than 24 hours before he received a late night phone call from Nakhdipari that she was alive.

She said: "I'm good. Very good. I have received a temporary detention order and now I'm in Qarchak Varamin prison," he wrote. He had no further details.

The arrest was one of hundreds made over the weekend amid sporadic protests by Iranians and a tight clampdown on any gatherings across the country as one year passed since Amini's death on September 16, 2022.

Video on social media on September 17 showed protesters in the western city of Hamadan clapping and shouting "Death to the Islamic republic." Some video showed protesters scattering after what appears to be shooting by security forces.

The Tehran-based Shargh newspaper, citing official sources, said that at least 270 individuals had been detained in various Iranian cities, outside of Tehran. “However, unofficial figures indicate even higher numbers,” Shargh added.

The Islamic Republic's official news agency, IRNA, confirmed the arrests, accusing the detainees of "disruption" and "rioting." It gave no further information.

Amini's death sparked a wave of protests nationwide that rocked the country, posing the greatest threat to the Islamic leadership since it took power following the revolution in 1979.

Iranians, especially women and students, defiantly took to the streets calling for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down because of the government's trampling of human rights and freedoms.

Authorities responded with a clampdown that has left hundreds dead and saw thousands detained.

They had warned ahead the weekend that all dissent would be dealt with severely, and even briefly arrested Amini's father on September 16 as a warning to avoid commemorating his 22-year-old daughter's death.

In the western Iranian city of Sanandaj, reports emerged of the arrest of a 15-year-old whose whereabouts remain unknown, while the Norway-based Hengaw group, which monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, reported on September 17 that government forces arrested people in the cities of Gorgan, Fasa, Bojnurd, Zahedan, Zanjan, and Qeshm.

Meanwhile, images taken outside the "Relief Command Headquarters of the Police Force" in Tehran over the weekend show dozens of families waiting, seeking information about their detained relatives.

Rahim Jahanbakhsh, the police commander of West Azerbaijan Province, announced the arrest of 137 individuals on charges of "disturbing public opinion in social media."

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

U.S. Prisoners Fly Out Of Tehran As Part Of Prisoner Swap

Three of the five individuals the United States hopes to have released are (left to right) Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Sharghi.

Five U.S. detainees flew out of Iran on September 18 as part of a swap between the United States and Iran after months of talks to clinch a deal.

A Qatari plane took off from Tehran carrying the five with two of their relatives, news agencies reported, hours after an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the prisoner exchange would occur shortly.

Some $6 billion of Iranian assets once frozen in South Korea are now in Qatar, a key element for the prisoner exchange, added ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani in comments during a news conference aired on state television.

The exchange comes amid a major U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf. The deal has already opened President Joe Biden to fresh criticism from Republicans and others who says his administration is helping boost the Iranian economy at a time when Iran is posing a growing threat to U.S. troops and Mideast allies.

According to the deal, the funds will be kept in accounts in Qatar, a U.S. ally on the Arabian Peninsula and home to a major American military installation. Those funds would be allowed for so-called humanitarian spending, such as food and medicine, already allowed under the sanctions, the United States has said.

Iranian officials have identified five individuals in U.S. custody whom Tehran would like handed over as part the deal.

They include three Iranians -- Mehrdad Ansari, Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, and Kambiz Attar Kashani -- charged with illegally obtaining advanced or potential dual-use technology thought to be bound for Iran that has been under tightly reimposed U.S. sanctions since 2018.

Two others -- Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi and Amin Hasanzadeh -- were jailed for failing to register as foreign agents and stealing engineering plans on behalf of Iran, respectively.

"Out of the five Iranian citizens in America, two will return to Iran, two will stay in America at their own request, and one person will go to a third country at their request," Kanaani said. He did not identify which prisoners would return to Iran and which would not.

The American prisoners had included Siamak Namazi, who was detained in 2015 and was later sentenced to 10 years in prison on internationally criticized spying charges; Emad Sharghi, a venture capitalist sentenced to 10 years; and Morad Tahbaz, a British-American conservationist of Iranian descent who was arrested in 2018 and also received a 10-year sentence.

The fourth and fifth prisoners were not identified.

Iran has been accused of taking foreign nationals hostage under the guise of breaking the law to use as bargaining chips. Iranian security forces have taken some 40 foreign nationals into custody during a current wave of unrest, often without revealing any charges.

Iran has been isolated and hit with tightened economic and diplomatic sanctions since then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from a 3-year-old deal between world powers and Iran to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from previous measures aimed at stopping the country from developing its atomic capabilities.

Aside from the diplomatic and economic fallout, observers since then have attributed a series of ship seizures and attacks in the crucial Strait of Hormuz region to Tehran.

The Pentagon is said to be weighing a plan to put U.S. troops aboard commercial ships in the region, which is a conduit for around one-fifth of all global oil shipments.

Tehran has also cooperated with Russia in the Middle East in addition to supplying Moscow with crucial attack drones to further the Kremlin's war plans in Ukraine.

With reporting from AP

International Rallies Mark The Death That Shook Iran

International Rallies Mark The Death That Shook Iran
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:45 0:00

People worldwide rallied on September 16 to commemorate the first anniversary of a woman's death that sparked anti-government protests in Iran. Demonstrators in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, and other cities chanted the name of Mahsa Amini who died in Iranian police custody a year ago. She had been detained for an alleged violation of Iran's head-scarf law. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested during the regime's crackdown on protesters outraged by Amini's case.

Gunmen Kill Member Of Iran's Paramilitary Force, Wound Three Others

The attack took place as protesters, such as those in London (pictured), around the world marked the anniversary of the death while in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022.

Gunmen opened fire on a group of paramilitary forces in southern Iran, killing one of them and wounding another three, state media reported on September 17. Local media did not give a motive for the September 16 attack, which occurred on the anniversary of the death while in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini and the outbreak of nationwide protests. It was unclear if the attack was linked to the anniversary. The official IRNA news agency said the attack targeting members of the paramilitary Basij occurred in the town of Nourabad, some 630 kilometers south of the capital, Tehran. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Updated

Iran Withdraws Designation Of Three IAEA Nuclear Inspectors In Move Condemned By Watchdog

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tehran has "effectively removed about one-third of the core group of the agency’s most experienced inspectors designated for Iran."

Tehran has informed the UN nuclear watchdog that it has withdrawn the designation of several agency nuclear experts assigned to inspect enrichment activities in Iran, a move “strongly condemned” by the organization’s chief.

“These inspectors are among the most experienced agency experts with unique knowledge in enrichment technology,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement on September 16.

“They have conducted essential verification work at the enrichment facilities in Iran which are under agency safeguards,” he added.

Grossi said that “with today’s decision, Iran has effectively removed about one-third of the core group of the agency’s most experienced inspectors designated for Iran.”

He added that Tehran’s move, "while formally permitted by the NPT Safeguards Agreement, has been exercised by Iran in a manner that affects in a direct and severe way the ability of the IAEA to conduct effectively its inspections in Iran."

Iran complained later that the United States and the so-called E3 -- Britain, France, and Germany -- had politicized the IAEA board for their own interests, but said it would nevertheless continue to cooperate with the nuclear watchdog.

"Unfortunately, despite Iran's positive, constructive, and continuous interaction of the with the agency, the three European countries and the United States abused the [IAEA's] Board of Governors for their own political purposes," Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

No reason for the move against the inspectors was immediately given.

Reuters quoted a Vienna-based diplomat as saying Iran had withdrawn the designation of all the German and French inspectors. There already were no U.S. or British inspectors on the team.

Earlier this year, Tehran had vowed to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog to resolve outstanding issues after inspections -- under the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) -- reportedly showed that Tehran had enriched uranium to near nuclear-weapons grade.

Grossi, speaking to reporters in Vienna on March 4 following a two-day visit to Tehran, said a new agreement included the reinstallation of monitoring equipment and would allow access to experts for an investigation into uranium traces at three undeclared sites.

On September 13, more than 60 countries demanded that Iran immediately answer questions about its nuclear program in a statement read by a Danish diplomat at the IAEA board meeting in Vienna.

The statement demanded that Tehran disclose the current location of nuclear materials from former secret facilities and sought clarification on other ambiguities about Iran's uranium stockpile.

A day later, the United States and its three European allies threatened Tehran with another UN resolution, although they didn't specify when or if they would actually do so."

Grossi said Tehran’s latest move was an overreaction to those outside demands.

“I strongly condemn this disproportionate and unprecedented unilateral measure which affects the normal planning and conduct of agency verification activities in Iran and openly contradicts the cooperation that should exist between the agency and Iran,” he said.

“Without effective cooperation, confidence and trust will continue to be elusive and the agency will not be in a position to discharge effectively its verification mandate in Iran and provide credible assurances that nuclear material and activities in Iran are for peaceful purposes.”

He called on Tehran to “reconsider its decision and to return to a path of cooperation with the agency.”

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda

Activists In Europe Mark Anniversary Of Mahsa Amini's Death In Police Custody In Iran

International Rallies Mark The Death That Shook Iran
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:45 0:00

Hundreds gathered in central London on September 16 to mark the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in police custody in Iran last year, sparking worldwide protests against the country's conservative Islamic theocracy. Chanting "Women! Life! Freedom!'' the crowds held her portrait and rallied around the memory of a young woman who died after she was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory head-scarf law. Similar protests took place in Rome and Berlin. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Daughter Of German-Iranian Condemned To Death In Iran Meets In U.S. With Baerbock

A demonstrator holds a picture of Iranian-German Jamshid Sharmahd (left), who has been sentenced to death in Iran, with his daughter Gazelle Sharmahd, in Berlin on July 31.

The daughter of a German-Iranian reportedly abducted abroad and sentenced to death in Iran on "terrorism" charges denied by his family has met with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Washington to discuss Jamshid Sharmahd's case, the daughter said in a tweet.

Dpa said Baerbock would not comment on details of the meeting.

Baerbock spoke this week with Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian for the first time in a year and a half, possibly about his and other detained German citizens' cases.

The German Foreign Office later cited "different attitudes" during that conversation.

Baerbock has previously described Sharmahd's death sentence as "absolutely unacceptable."

"Deeply grateful to the German foreign minister for spending time with us on her trip in Washington DC to speak about my dad Jimmy Sharmahd," Gazelle Sharmahd said on September 15 on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Gazelle Sharmahd has been waging a #SaveSharmahd campaign and has been critical in the past of Berlin's perceived lack of commitment to seeking his release.

Sharmahd was detained under unclear circumstances in 2020 and is accused by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry of being a member of the Iranian opposition group Kingdom Assembly of Iran, or Tondar.

Based in Los Angeles, Tondar says it aims to overthrow the Islamic republic and reestablish a monarchy similar to that of Cyrus the Great. It runs pro-Iranian opposition radio and television stations abroad, as well as social media channels.

With reporting by dpa
Updated

Iran Briefly Detains Amini's Father After Scattered Protests, Arrests On Death Anniversary

Amjad Amini, father of Mahsa Amini, pictured at her funeral in September 2022. The 22-year-old died while in police custody for allegedly wearing her head scarf improperly.

Iranian authorities briefly detained the father of the 22-year-old woman whose death in custody exactly one year ago sparked a year of dramatic anti-regime protests that have persisted despite a brutal crackdown.

Amjad Amini, the late Mahsa Amini's father, was detained outside his home on September 16 and taken to the Intelligence Ministry in his hometown of Saghez for interrogation, RFE/RL's Radio Farda has learned.

Sources close to the matter later told Radio Farda that Amjad Amini had been sent home after questioning but has been told that he and other family members are not allowed to leave their house for the day.

He was told that he and his family are not allowed to leave their house today.

Their house has been surrounded by security forces who have blocked the street to ward off public signs of dissent.

Meanwhile, official Iranian media reported arrests of groups accused of plotting disruption or contributing to "hostile media" on the anniversary, and Iran's president preceded the day by meeting with the families of troops reportedly killed since the unrest began.

IRNA news agency said authorities arrested an undisclosed number of people among groups "planning to create chaos" or contributing to reports for "hostile media," AFP reported.

It identified three areas of Iran -- the northwest, the south, and Amini's home province, Kurdistan -- where arrests were made.

IRNA reported on September 16 that a fire was started by female inmates burning their clothes in a prison ward at the Qarchak jail near Tehran. It said the blaze was quickly put out by guards, and it wasn’t immediately clear if the action was a protest related the anniversary of Amini's death.

IRNA also said President Ebrahim Raisi met on September 15 in the northeastern city of Mashhad with "the families of security defenders" including two members of the Basij paramilitary force killed while trying to break up a protest in November.

Those two deaths were blamed on Majid Reza Rahnavard, who was among seven people Iranian authorities have officially executed over their alleged participation in the protests.

Security appeared tight in many cities around Iran on the first anniversary of Kurdish-Iranian Amini's death, after a night of scattered protests condemning the supreme leader and demanding rights for women.

Areas of the capital, Tehran, and major cities like Mashhad in the northeast and Shiraz to the south saw demonstrators defy a clampdown late on September 15 to chant slogans including "Death to the dictator!" and "Woman, life, freedom!"

Amini's death last year after eyewitnesses reported her being beaten as she was detained in Tehran by Iran's morality police and signs of a cover-up ignited anger that represents the greatest public threat to the religious regime there in more than a decade.

Rights groups say the ensuing crackdown has killed upward of 500 people and landed many more in jail or with long prison sentences.

Police and security forces have conducted roundups and other shows of force in recent weeks and warned Amini's family and others to avoid marking the anniversary or risk serious consequences.

Still, late on September 15 there were signs of protest in at least a dozen neighborhoods of the capital and at least a half-dozen cities.

The human rights website Hengav reported that armed troops of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had been stationed around the home of Amini's family in her northwestern hometown of Saghez, where she is also buried. It quoted an informed source saying the security presence included motorized IRGC forces and a large number of troops.

Amini's family reportedly published a text announcing a "traditional and religious ceremony" at her gravesite but were threatened and pressured to rescind the call.

Amini died in a Tehran hospital on September 16, 2022 after falling into a coma following her detention by the Guidance Patrol that enforces morality laws including a strict dress code for women that has been the object of protest since the early days after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

An official report suggested she had died of heart failure connected to a previous condition, but eyewitnesses reported seeing her beaten and family said her body showed signs of violence.

The Kurdpa website published video that showed security forces all around the Amini family home.

Persian-language social media were filled with videos and images of purported protest actions around the country, many of them roadblocks or other forms of nighttime disruption.

Videos showed a group of cars blocking roads and honking horns in the city of Baneh, in Kurdistan Province.

The city of Marivan also witnessed scattered protests in parts of the city late on September 15 despite the widespread deployment of security forces. Protesters lit fires in some areas and chanted protest slogans.

In the city of Abdanan in Ilam Province, security forces failed to prevent a group of protesters lighting a fire in streets.

In the city of Piranshahr, in West Azerbaijan Province, a group of people blew car horns and created roadblocks.

In Mahabad, revolutionary songs could be heard playing from the loudspeakers of several mosques.

Hengav cited protest gatherings in a handful of other cities, including Abdanan, Kermanshah, Marivan, and Sanandaj.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) described Iranian authorities as creating a "chokehold on dissent" in recent weeks amid "ramped-up repression" to stifle peaceful expression ahead of the September 16 anniversary. The group cited "intimidation, arrests, prosecutions, and trials of activists, artists, dissidents, lawyers, academics, students, and family members of those who were killed during the 2022 protests."

The United States introduced fresh sanctions against more than two dozen individuals and entities connected to Iran's "violent suppression" of the Amini protests, the U.S. Treasury Department said on September 15.

Britain announced a similar move.

Protests marking the anniversary were also seen on September 16 in several foreign cities, including London, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, and Toronto.

Late on September 15, Iran lashed out at the United States over what a Foreign Ministry spokesman called an "illegal" decision to introduce the new sanctions.

Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani alleged in a statement "illegal and undiplomatic actions" and complained of "interventionist actions and statements and ridiculous and hypocritical" shows of international support for the protesters, AFP reported.

Addressing European leaders, he said "unconstructive behavior...does not serve their interests."

Jailed Iranian rights activist Narges Mohammadi said in a message from Evin prison that the anniversary of Amini's death symbolizes "the oppression of the theocratic authoritarian regime against Iranian women."

She said the Woman, Life, Freedom movement that erupted nearly a year ago is a testament to the resilience of protesters and the waning authority of the "theocratic authoritarian regime."

With reporting by AFP

Jailed Iranian Activist Narges Mohammadi Says Amini's Death Symbolizes 'Weakness' Of Regime

Narges Mohammadi

Prominent jailed Iranian rights activist Narges Mohammadi says the death of Mahsa Amini a year ago has become a day that symbolizes "the oppression of the theocratic authoritarian regime against Iranian women."

In a message from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, Mohammadi on September 15, a day before the first anniversary of Amini's death, called for unity, urging Iranians to stand together in "revolutionary protest" and become symbols of dissent.

She highlighted the Woman, Life, Freedom movement that erupted in the wake of the 22-year-old's death as a testament to the resilience of protesters and the waning authority of the "theocratic authoritarian regime."

Amini died while in the custody of the morality police for an alleged head-scarf violation. Demonstrations against the Islamic regime over the incident quickly escalated, with the subsequent brutal government crackdown leading to the deaths of hundreds, including at least 64 teenagers and 34 women.

Mohammadi, who has been imprisoned multiple times over the past decade for her civil rights activities, emphasized the nation's mourning due to the "massacre and execution of young people on the streets and in prisons."

She said the violence against citizens has left the regime facing "disaster, disgust, and destabilizing fear."

She further argued that the Islamic republic's increased repression is a sign of its "depths of humiliation" rather than its strength. As the regime expands its oppressive measures, it is, according to Mohammadi, sinking deeper into a "quagmire of illegitimacy."

"The ultimate victory is certain," Mohammadi, who recently recent saw her prison sentence extended to a total of 10 years and nine months, along with an additional punishment of 154 lashes, said.

Mahsa Amini: The Funeral That Sparked Nationwide Anti-Government Protests In Iran
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:06:10 0:00

Mohammadi has been vocal in protesting prison conditions, publishing numerous letters highlighting the state of prisons and violence against inmates, especially those detained during nationwide protests.

Last year, in a letter addressed to Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Mohammadi described the "assault on women during arrest and in detention centers" as part of the Islamic republic's "suppression program" against activist women.

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

U.S. Issues Iran Sanctions On Anniversary Of Mahsa Amini's Death

A portrait of Mahsa Amini is held during a rally calling for regime change in Iran in Washington on October 1.

The United States is sanctioning more than two dozen individuals and entities connected to Iran's "violent suppression" of protests in the wake of Mahsa Amini's death last year in the custody of Iran's morality police, the U.S. Treasury Department said on September 15.

The sanctions target 29 people and groups, including 18 key members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Iran's Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), as well as the head of Iran's Prisons Organizations, the department said.

They also target officials linked to Iran's Internet blockade as well as several media outlets.

Meanwhile, the European Union has threatened to tighten sanctions on the Iranian government.

All available options are being considered to address issues related to the human rights situation in the country, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on September 15 on behalf of member states.

The EU and its 27 members strongly reiterated their support for the fundamental rights of Iranian women and men.

All those arbitrarily detained should be released immediately, including EU citizens and those with dual nationality, he said.

U.K. Targets Iranian Officials One Year After Death Of Mahsa Amini

Protesters in London stand in solidarity with Iranian women on September 24, 2022.

The British government on September 15 announced sanctions targeting several Iranian officials including the culture minister and the mayor of Tehran on the eve of the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. The U.K.'s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the new measures "focus on senior Iranian decision makers responsible for drafting and implementing Iran's mandatory hijab legislation." The sanctions include Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, a deputy, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, and an Iranian police spokesman. Amini died last year after her arrest over the dress code for women.

Iran Has Not Given 'Conditions' For Releasing Swedish Diplomat, EU Says

Johan Floderus was arrested in April 2022.

Iran has not detailed any conditions under which it would release a Swedish EU diplomat held captive for over 500 days, a senior EU official said on September 15. Johan Floderus was arrested in April 2022 at Tehran's airport. The Swede, who works for the EU diplomatic service, is being held at Tehran's notorious Evin prison. Iran's judiciary said on September 12 that Floderus had "committed crimes" and an investigation was being finalized.

HRW Flags 'Chokehold On Dissent' In Iran Ahead Of Amini Death Anniversary

A portrait of Mahsa Amini is held by a protester during a rally calling for regime change in Iran.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned of "ramped-up repression" to stifle peaceful dissent and expression ahead of the September 16 anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death in custody, which sparked a year of massive protests. The watchdog group cited "intimidation, arrests, prosecutions, and trials of activists, artists, dissidents, lawyers, academics, students, and family members of those who were killed during the 2022 protests." It said Iran's clerical leadership was also boosting enforcement tactics to ensure compliance with the strict dress code for women, which was at the center of the 22-year-old Amini's detention.

Iran Targets Activists Ahead Of Amini Death Anniversary

Mahsa Amini: The Funeral That Sparked Nationwide Anti-Government Protests In Iran
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:06:10 0:00

At least 18 activists have been arrested in recent days in cities across Iran as the authorities clamp down on possible commemorations ahead of the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini's death in police custody on September 16, 2022, sparked nationwide antiestablishment demonstrations that resulted in the deaths of more than 500 protesters. Iranian rights watchdogs have reported multiple arrests in East Azerbaijan Province and Amini's native Kurdistan Province in northwestern Iran. Other arrests were reported in the southwestern Khuzestan Province. Provinces populated by ethnic Kurds, Azeris, and Baluchs were at the center of the protests and crackdown. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Load more

XS
SM
MD
LG