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Iran Blames Israel For 'Terrorist' Attack That Killed Top Nuclear Scientist

A photo made available by Iranian state TV shows the damaged car of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh after the attack near Tehran.
A photo made available by Iranian state TV shows the damaged car of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh after the attack near Tehran.

Iran's most senior nuclear scientist has been assassinated near Tehran by "armed terrorists" in an attack that Iran said bore the hallmarks of an Israeli operation.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who headed the Defense Ministry's Research and Innovation Organization, was "seriously wounded" when assailants targeted his vehicle before being engaged in a gunfight with his security team, the ministry said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, the medical team did not succeed in reviving him, and a few minutes ago, this manager and scientist achieved the high status of martyrdom after years of effort and struggle," the statement read.

Western intelligence services regarded Fakhrizadeh as the mastermind behind Iran's covert nuclear weapons program.

The killing showed "the depth of enemies' hatred" toward the Islamic republic, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami tweeted.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter there were "serious indications of [an] Israeli role" in the assassination.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh

He also called on the international community to "end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror."

A military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also accused Israel of killing the scientist to try to provoke a war.

"In the last days of the political life of their...ally [U.S. President Donald Trump], the Zionists seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war," commander Hossein Dehghan tweeted.

Dehghan, who is a former defense minister, also threatened to "come upon the killers of this innocent martyr like thunder and make them regret what they did.”

Israel declined to immediately comment on the killing of Fakhrizadeh, who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: “Remember that name.”

Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago.

The Pentagon also declined to comment on Fakhrizadeh's killing when asked by Reuters.

Fakhrizadeh led Iran's so-called Amad (Hope) program. Israel and the West say the program was a military operation assessing the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon in Iran. Tehran has long maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.

Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency said the attack occurred in Absard, a small city just east of the capital, Tehran.

Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a car carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh's sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that the Amad program ended in the early 2000s. IAEA inspectors currently monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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Fleeing Home, Chasing Hope: The Refugee And Migrant Experience

War. Conflict. Climate change. Economics. Persecution. Politics.

The root causes are myriad, but the tens of millions swept up in the international migration wave all share one thing in common: They left their homes, reluctantly, in search of safety or prosperity for themselves and their families.

Upwards of 300 million people are classified by the United Nations as international migrants; one in every eight migrants worldwide is a child.

That’s some 3.6 percent of the global population on the move and chasing hope.

To mark International Migrants Day on December 18, RFE/RL’s language services have come together to focus on the migrant and refugee issues most affecting the 23 countries in our broadcast region.

In 2023, that has meant, among other crises, Ukrainians escaping the ongoing Russian invasion; ethnic Armenians fleeing the Azerbaijani takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh; the more than 6 million Afghans internally displaced due to violence and natural disasters; the regional fallout from the war in Gaza; and Pakistan’s decision to expel by November 1 hundreds of thousands of undocumented Afghans.

“When we talk of 375,000 to 400,000 people moving [out of Pakistan to Afghanistan] within two months, that’s quite incredible,” Itayi Viriri, a spokesperson for the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), tells RFE/RL. “The main concern is what kind of support is on the ground for all these people who are returning.”

As Sardar, an Afghan returnee living in a temporary camp on the border, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi last month, “We have lots of problems. We don’t have money. We don’t have toilets.”

In the special reports below, RFE/RL travels:

  • to Mexico, to document one Kyrgyz family’s arduous journey to build a new life in the United States;
  • to Poland, where some of the 1,500 Afghans airlifted out after the Taliban takeover say they feel disenchanted in their new home;
  • to India, to speak with Afghan Sikhs who have found safety from sectarian attacks but who face daily economic and bureaucratic challenges;
  • to Georgia, where displaced survivors of the 1992-93 Georgia-Abkhaz War see, for the first time, the homes they left behind 30 years ago;
  • to Slovakia, to spend time with spirited Ukrainian children performing in a refugee theater troupe;
  • to Nagorno-Karabakh, recaptured by Azerbaijan in September, where a 17-year-old journalism student tracked the fall of the breakaway region;
  • to Germany, to spend time with Bosnian and Afghan migrants negotiating the long and difficult process of integration;
  • to Israel, where Ukrainians who fled Russian aggression find themselves scrambling to adapt to another war;
  • and to Iran, where many are on the move internally, fleeing environmental catastrophes such as drought.


“We…need the international community to provide the funding and to provide the support to ensure that the people who need help the most get [it],” the IOM’s Viriri told RFE/RL. “Long-term, of course, any humanitarian crisis needs durable solutions.”

The brutal 1992-1993 Georgian-Abkhaz war is estimated to have displaced some 250,000 Georgian civilians. After 30 years, many still dream of returning to the world they fled. Current Time located and filmed the abandoned residences of several displaced families. With travel to the region tightly restricted, the images offer some a rare glance at the homes they left behind in Abkhazia three decades ago.

Braving Bandits And Drowning, Central Asians Make Perilous Trek To U.S. Border
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Braving Bandits And Drowning, Central Asians Make Perilous Trek To U.S. Border

Asan Bagyshov has spent more than a month traveling across Central America with his wife and three children, pursuing his dream of a new life. Bagyshov is from Kyrgyzstan and is one of an increasing number of people from Central Asia taking a convoluted and dangerous route to the United States. By Mehribon Bekieva, Ulanbek Asanaliev, and Ray Furlong

Homeless And Hungry: Afghan Families Face Bleak Winter After Expulsion From Pakistan
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Homeless And Hungry: Afghan Families Face Bleak Winter After Expulsion From Pakistan

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals have returned to their country from Pakistan in recent months. Most of the families are homeless and desperate after being forced to return to a country already dealing with a dire humanitarian crisis. Many left Pakistan ahead of a November 1 government-imposed deadline for an estimated 1.7 million undocumented migrants to leave. Since the deadline expired, Islamabad has deported thousands of Afghans each day. By RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, and Austin Malloy

Displaced By Georgian-Abkhaz War, Survivors Revisit Lives Lost 30 Years Ago
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Displaced By Georgian-Abkhaz War, Survivors Revisit Lives Lost 30 Years Ago

The brutal 1992-1993 Georgian-Abkhaz war is estimated to have displaced some 250,000 Georgian civilians. After 30 years, many still dream of returning to the world they fled. Current Time located and filmed the abandoned residences of several displaced families. With travel to the region tightly restricted, the images offer some a rare glance at the homes they left behind in Abkhazia three decades ago. By Current Time

While Ukrainians Welcomed, Poland's Afghans Say They Face Hardship And Exclusion
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While Ukrainians Welcomed, Poland's Afghans Say They Face Hardship And Exclusion

As many as 1,500 Afghans were airlifted to Poland after the Taliban retook Kabul in August 2021, and many say they face economic hardship in the country and are no longer receiving help from the state. They say Poland has prioritized support for the 1.6 million Ukrainians taken in since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. By Neil Bowdler and Reuters

Migrants In Russia Face Raids, Political Attacks As Pressure To Fight In Ukraine Increases

Russian politicians have been ramping up rhetoric against migrants in recent months with calls for more foreign-born workers to fight in the grueling war against Ukraine topping their list of demands. But as experts have pointed out, Moscow's labor-short economy needs migrants just as much as the military. By Chris Rickleton

Displaced By War, Afghan Sikhs Find Safety But Little Comfort In India
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Displaced By War, Afghan Sikhs Find Safety But Little Comfort In India

Conflict and sectarian attacks have driven almost all of Afghanistan's Sikhs and Hindus from the country. Many have sought refuge in India where they have found safety but face economic hardship and problems acquiring official documentation. RFE/RL met some of the Sikhs and Hindus who have made the journey to India. By RFE/RL's Radio Azadi and Malali Bashir

'We're Tired Of Fleeing From War': Ukrainians, Bucha Survivor Caught Up In Israel-Gaza Strikes
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'We're Tired Of Fleeing From War': Ukrainians, Bucha Survivor Caught Up In Israel-Gaza Strikes

After escaping Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022, some 14,000 Ukrainian nationals who fled to Israel have found themselves under attack again as Hamas -- designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU -- launched an unprecedented attack on the country. A Ukrainian refugee who fled Russia's notorious Bucha occupation told RFE/RL that the attack "was like déjà vu." In the Gaza Strip, a Ukrainian mother and her family have asked for safe passage out of a territory that has been pounded with Israeli air strikes. By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service and Austin Malloy

Theater Helps Ukrainian Refugee Kids Feel At Home In Slovakia
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Theater Helps Ukrainian Refugee Kids Feel At Home In Slovakia

A forest of hands rose when children at a Ukrainian refugee theater group in Bratislava were asked if anyone would speak to RFE/RL. They perform in Slovak and Ukrainian, and they all wanted to show off their Slovak language skills in the interview. By Ray Furlong

'Like Déjà Vu': After Fleeing Russia's Invasion, Ukrainians In Israel Face A New War

Ukrainians who fled to Israel following Russia's full-scale invasion now find themselves scrambling to adapt to another war. A refugee center in Haifa says it has emphasized enabling Ukrainian refugees to adapt to the reality on the ground since some "have nowhere to return to" back home. By Maria Horban and Maryana Sych

Iranian Actor Sadeghi Says He's Been Sentenced To Five Years For His Activism

Iranian actor Mohammad Sadeghi (file photo)
Iranian actor Mohammad Sadeghi (file photo)

Iranian actor Mohammad Sadeghi, a vocal supporter of women's rights in the country, says he been sentenced to five years in prison for his activism.

The actor said in a video posted on his Instagram account on December 10 that he was convicted by the Islamic Revolutionary Court on charges of "inciting people to war and slaughter against national security."

The ruling was subsequently confirmed by Branch 36 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court. Sadeghi's arrest, which took place on July 16, followed a police raid on his home.

This incident came just a day after Sadeghi had uploaded a video on his Instagram account where he openly criticized compulsory head-scarf laws and the increasingly strict regulation of women's dress codes in urban areas.

In conjunction with his arrest, the Tehran Police Command Information Center released a statement accusing Sadeghi of "promoting violence and profanity against the guardians of order and security of society."

The statement further added that Sadeghi's arrest was carried out "after coordination with the judicial authority."

Adding to the controversy, Sadeghi's family revealed on August 14 that he had been denied access to legal representation since his arrest. Furthermore, authorities reportedly refused to consider his release on bail, intensifying concerns about due process and legal rights in such cases in Iran.

The lack of women's rights in Iran has come under intense scrutiny since the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

Iranians, angered by the 22-year-old's death while in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation, poured onto the streets across the country to protest the treatment of women and a general lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of support in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several film industry luminaries and other prominent public figures have also been summoned by the police or arrested after they made public appearances without wearing the mandatory hijab, or Islamic head scarf, to show support for the protesters.

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

While the protests appear to be waning, resistance to the hijab remains high 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

Netanyahu Speaks To Putin, Voices Disapproval Of Iran Ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow in 2020.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow in 2020.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 10 and voiced displeasure with "anti-Israel positions" taken by Moscow's envoys at the UN, an Israeli statement said. Russia backed a UN Security Council resolution for a Gaza truce, which was vetoed by the United States on December 8. Speaking to Putin, Netanyahu also voiced "robust disapproval" of Russia's "dangerous" cooperation with Iran, the Israeli statement said. The Kremlin said Russia was ready to give all possible assistance to alleviate the suffering of civilians and de-escalate the conflict.

Borrell Demands Iran Release Swedish EU Employee As Trial Begins On Spying Accusation

Sweden's foreign minister said Johan Floderus's trial began on December 9.
Sweden's foreign minister said Johan Floderus's trial began on December 9.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has demanded Iran immediately release Swedish EU employee Johan Floderus, who is facing trial in Tehran on charges of spying for Israel, accusations the bloc and his family have vehemently denied. Floderus was detained in April 2022 while visiting Iran, his family said. Borrell on December 10 said that "there are absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention." Sweden's foreign minister said Floderus's trial began on December 9. Floderus works for the EU's diplomatic service responsible for Afghanistan, but it wasn't immediately clear if he holds diplomatic status. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Mohammadi Blasts Iran's 'Despotic' Regime In Smuggled Nobel Acceptance Speech

Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi, accept the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf in Oslo on December 10.
Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi, accept the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf in Oslo on December 10.

The teenage children of imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi accepted the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize for their mother at a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, delivering a speech in which she blasted the "despotic" regime in Tehran.

Twins Ali and Kiana, 17, who have lived in exile in France the past eight years, read the speech their mother had managed to smuggle out of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where she has been held since 2021.

The Nobel Committee released a video of the twins' acceptance of the award.

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

The Nobel awards are each endowed with 11 million Swedish kronors (just more than $1 million).

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.

In the speech read by her children -- who were standing next to an empty chair -- Mohammadi said, "I write this message from behind the high, cold walls of a prison."

"I am an Iranian woman, a proud and honorable contributor to civilization, who is currently under the oppression of a despotic religious government," she said.

"I am a woman prisoner who, in enduring deep and soul-crushing suffering resulting from the lack of freedom, equality, and democracy, has recognized the necessity of her existence and has found faith."

Her message stated that "the Islamic republic regime is at the lowest level of popular legitimacy and this government has responded to people's demands by suppression, execution, slaughter, and imprisonment."

On December 9, Mohammadi announced on the Instagram page that friends abroad maintain for her that she had gone on a three-day hunger strike.

Rights groups in the past have expressed concern about her health in the notorious prison.

With reporting by dpa

Iran, Saudi Arabia To Negotiate On Direct Scheduled Flights

(illustrative photo)
(illustrative photo)

Iran and Saudi Arabia will start formal talks next week to resume direct scheduled flights between Tehran and Riyadh and other cities, an Iranian official told the state-affiliated news agency ILNA on December 10. Regular flights would be another step toward restoring ties between the two Middle Eastern rivals. A Chinese-mediated agreement in March restored diplomatic relations after years of tensions that threatened the security of the entire region and fuelled conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Taliban's Quest For Self-Sufficiency Faces Challenges

Miners carry bags of ore to search for emeralds near a mine in Afghanistan's northern Panjshir Province.
Miners carry bags of ore to search for emeralds near a mine in Afghanistan's northern Panjshir Province.

Since returning to power in August 2021, Afghanistan's Islamist Taliban rulers have showcased ambitious infrastructure and natural-resource development projects as part of a quest for self-sufficiency.

The Taliban government is now digging one of the largest irrigation canals in Asia, a project that aims to revitalize long-parched plains in northern Afghanistan. It claims to have attracted billions of dollars in mining investments in an effort to finally capitalize on the country's untapped wealth of natural resources. And the Taliban propaganda machine is in overdrive to paint its economic initiatives as a rapid advance toward self-reliance.

But experts see the hard-line Islamist group facing numerous challenges in its attempts to transform one of the world's most aid-dependent countries into a self-reliant state.

Two years into its second stint in power, the Taliban government remains unrecognized globally and continues to be under crippling political and economic sanctions imposed over its dismal human rights record, terrorism connections, and failure to live up to promises to reverse course.

Experts also point to the Taliban's reluctance to share verifiable and transparent data as reason to question its claims that it is on the road to economic independence that would shield it somewhat from international sanctions.

Hameed Hakimi, an Afghanistan expert at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, says that self-sufficiency will remain a distant dream even if all the Taliban's infrastructure projects come to fruition. "At best, their income will cover the security costs of maintaining the regime and pay for members who are now working for the Taliban interim government," he said.

Hakimi stressed the need to distinguish between the self-sufficiency the Taliban is seeking for its government and the type of connected economy the isolated country needs. It's impossible to imagine Afghanistan becoming self-reliant "before sanctions are fully removed, the economy is reconnected to the international system, and foreign development aid restarts flowing," he said.

When the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan lost almost all the international aid that accounted for 75 percent of the government's budget. Western and UN sanctions against the group cut Afghanistan off from the global financial system, which prompted fears that Afghan banks and even the state itself might collapse.

Despite the formidable obstacles, the country's economy has somewhat stabilized. The national currency, the afghani, has been boosted by exemptions to certain economic and banking sanctions by the United States that allowed the weekly influx of millions of dollars. This, in turn, has kept the prices of essential commodities stable or even lower than neighbors struggling with high inflation.

Export and government revenues have also recovered due to aggressive taxation, and the Taliban has taken steps to tackle the administrative corruption that plagued the pro-Western government it ousted.

Since the spring of 2022, the Taliban has been digging the 285-kilometer-long Qosh Tepa Irrigation Canal. It aims to boost agricultural output by irrigating 550,000 hectares of desiccated land in three northern Afghan provinces with water from the Amu Darya, which forms parts of Afghanistan's border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

In another step touted by the Taliban, a Chinese oil company has boosted production in Afghanistan to about 5,000 barrels a day, part of a broader effort to entice Beijing into helping the country extract its vast hydrocarbon and mineral reserves.

Graeme Smith, a senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group, says that evaluating the success of such projects from afar is difficult. "We don't know exactly how the Taliban are funding these projects, and we have not seen any published evaluations of their progress," he said.

The Taliban has kept all national budgets a closely held secret. "We do not know exactly how much is incoming or outgoing from the treasury," Smith said.

Nevertheless, he says that the Taliban appears to be fully committed to establishing self-sufficiency. "They want freedom from the whims of foreign donors for greater independence and the pursuit of their heterodox vision for Afghan society," he said.

William Byrd, a development economist at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, agrees. He says that the Taliban recognizes that foreign assistance will be much less than in the past. "The realism of this [self-sufficiency] quest can be questioned," he said, but notes that Afghanistan under the Taliban has some scope to be less aid-dependent than it was in the past.

The base of a Chinese consortium in Mes Aynak, in the eastern Afghan province of Logar, is situated at one of the world's largest copper deposits.
The base of a Chinese consortium in Mes Aynak, in the eastern Afghan province of Logar, is situated at one of the world's largest copper deposits.

He says that by focusing on the development of agriculture and hydrocarbon extraction and mining, the Taliban can see positive gains, "both for import substitution and for export growth, thereby reducing the trade deficit."

The landlocked country is still inhibited in its ability to establish export routes, however, according to Hakimi of the Atlantic Council, who says trade will depend heavily on good relations with neighboring Pakistan and Iran.

Kabul's trade with Islamabad has rapidly plummeted in recent months after tensions over the Taliban's support for the Pakistani Taliban boiled over. Both Tehran and Islamabad are now rapidly expelling hundreds of thousands of Afghans, which is placing additional stresses on the Taliban government.

"The humanitarian situation is worsening amid the risks from climate change and potentially millions of forced returnees arriving from Pakistan and Iran," Hakimi said.

The Taliban's pursuit of self-reliance is also clouded by governance failures and continuing Western sanctions, which don't appear to be going anywhere until the Taliban moves to alleviate concerns about its human rights practices.

Since returning to power, the Taliban has recreated an even harsher version of its Islamic emirate from the 1990s. It has imposed severe corporal punishment and banned women from work, education, and public life. Its government has imprisoned, tortured, killed, and exiled critics, journalists, former officials, and soldiers.

By decisively ending its fight against the previous government, the Taliban has also been able to impose security around most of the country that could work to its advantage. "With violent conflict having abated and the regime controlling the entirety of the geography, Afghanistan can well be on its path to self-sufficiency," Hakimi said.

Forming a functional and inclusive Afghan government, would help it get there, he adds.

In the meantime, Smith of the International Crisis Group says, Western pressures like sanctions and banking restrictions will continue to stand in the way. But he does not discount the possibility that the Taliban could meet the challenge.

"It's too early to say whether their campaign for economic self-sufficiency will be successful, but I would not bet against it," he said.

Iran Blocks Amini's Family From Traveling To Accept EU Award

Mahsa Amini's father, Amjad, prepares for her funeral ceremony in September 2022.
Mahsa Amini's father, Amjad, prepares for her funeral ceremony in September 2022.

Authorities in Iran have prevented relatives of Mahsa Amini, whose September 2022 death in custody sparked nationwide anti-government protests, from leaving the country to accept the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize.

Amini's mother, father, and brother were told on December 8 at Tehran's Iman Khomeini Airport that they had been barred from travelling abroad.

Their passports were confiscated, a source who asked not to be identified told Radio Farda.

The family's lawyer, Saleh Nikhbakht, who was accompanying them, was apparently allowed to travel.

The European Parliament on October 19 awarded the 2023 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Amini and the Women, Life, Freedom movement that was sparked by her death.

"The European Parliament proudly stands with the brave and defiant who continue to fight for equality, dignity, and freedom in Iran," European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said at the time, adding that they award "remembers their struggle and continues to honor all those who have paid the ultimate price for liberty."

The prize, which was set up in 1980 to honor individuals and organizations promoting human rights and basic freedoms, includes a 50,000-euro ($54,000) prize. It will be presented in Strasbourg on December 13.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, died in custody on September 16, 2022, shortly after being detained by the so-called morality police for allegedly violating the country's strict Islamic dress code. Supporters say she was subjected to physical abuse while in custody.

The Iranian authorities launched a brutal crackdown against mass demonstrations that were sparked by Amini's death and which became one of the most daunting challenges faced by the Islamist government since Iran's 1979 revolution.

In October 2022, Amini's family reported receiving death threats aimed at preventing them from participating in the peaceful protests.

U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Dozens Of People Over Rights Abuses In Nine Countries

The United States has imposed sanctions on dozens of people in several countries, including in Afghanistan, China, and Iran, cracking down on human rights abuses ahead of Human Rights Day on December 10. The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement on December 8 said it had imposed sanctions on 20 people over human rights abuses in nine countries. The actions include sanctions on members of the Taliban over their links to the repression of women and girls and on two Iranian intelligence officials who allegedly recruited people for operations in the United States.

Iranian Opposition Figure Says Student Crackdown 'Unprecedented,' But Will Fail

Zahra Rahnavard (file photo)
Zahra Rahnavard (file photo)

Prominent Iranian opposition figure Zahra Rahnavard says the government crackdown on students angry over a lack of freedoms and enforcement of rules such as a dress code is "unprecedented" but ultimately will fail to stifle the dissent.

Rahnavard, who has been under house arrest for over 13 years along with her husband, Mir Hossein Musavi, made the comments in a message timed to coincide with Student Day in Iran, marked on December 7. The text was published on the Kalameh news website, a platform known for its opposition to the Iranian regime.

"No government in Iran has been able to stop the student movement from influencing the fate of the nation," she wrote.

"On the contrary, it has been academics who, with knowledge, culture, and art, development and modernity, along with defending justice, freedom, and the independence of Iran, have had the most impact in the fear of repressive governments," she added.

She also criticized the government's recent actions against university students and faculty, detailing incidents of violence, harassment, and repression on university campuses. These actions, according to Rahnavard, have led to a tarnished international reputation for the Iranian government.

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 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last year while being detained for an alleged head-scarf violation in September last year has once again made campuses a hotbed of dissent.

The activist HRANA news agency says at least 700 university students have been arrested during the nationwide protests sparked by Amini's death in September 2022.

Rahnavard was previously a professor at Alzahra University and says she "has been a victim and deprived of a university presence for over 14 years."

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

Putin Hails Ties With Iran In Meeting With Raisi

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) greets his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, in Moscow on December 7.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) greets his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, in Moscow on December 7.

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised his country's relations with Iran at a meeting in Moscow on December 7 with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Since launching its full-scale war in Ukraine, Moscow has sought to deepen its economic and political ties with Tehran. Putin told Raisi that relations between their two countries, both of which have been heavily sanctioned by the West, “are developing very well.” Putin also told Raisi to “convey his best wishes” to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's head of state. "Thanks to his support, we have gained good momentum over the past year," Putin said.

At Least One Arrest Made At Memorial For Iranian Teen Who Died After Alleged Incident With Morality Police

Family and friends convened at Armita Garavand's grave to honor the memory of the 17-year-old, who died on October 29.
Family and friends convened at Armita Garavand's grave to honor the memory of the 17-year-old, who died on October 29.

At least one person was arrested amid a heavy police presence at a traditional memorial marking the 40th day since the death of Iranian teen Armita Garavand, according to human rights activists.

Adhering to Iranian traditions, family and friends convened at the grave to honor the memory of the 17-year-old, who died on October 29 following an alleged incident involving the enforcement of mandatory hijab laws. She collapsed after boarding a Tehran subway train without a hijab, or mandatory Islamic head scarf, on October 1.

One of Garavand's friends said the officers physically assaulted the teen, who later fell unconscious after entering a subway car. She never recovered, succumbing to her injuries after a monthlong coma.

Officials say Garavand suffered a sudden drop in blood pressure, fainted, and fell to the floor, hitting her head.

The incident sparked waves of protest across various Iranian cities, including Tehran, Karaj, and Shiraz, where anti-government slogans resounded through the streets at night.

According to the Campaign for the Defense of Political and Civil Prisoners and the activist HRANA news agency, Ariana Akbari, who lives in Tehran, was reportedly arrested by plainclothes agents during the memorial.

Akbari's current whereabouts, along with the reasons for her detention, remain unknown. Akbari had previously been detained during the nationwide protests in 2022.

The ceremony was heavily overseen by security forces and plainclothes agents of the Islamic republic, a move seen as an effort to stifle any potential protest chants or demonstrations by those in attendance.

The latest event follows a series of crackdowns in Iran, including the arrest and alleged mistreatment of Nasrin Sotoudeh, a noted human rights activist, during Gavarand's funeral.

The government's actions have drawn international criticism, with five French unions condemning Iran's escalating use of arrest and execution, highlighting in particular the vulnerability of women under the current regime.

Garavand's case and suggestions of a cover-up by the authorities have drawn parallels with the events leading up to the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged hijab violation.

In recent months, Tehran's municipality has deployed agents known as "hijab guards" in Iranian capital's subway to confront women and girls failing to wear the mandatory head scarf.

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

Iranian Rapper Tataloo Detained Upon Arrival After Being Deported From Turkey

Iranian rapper Amir Tataloo meets then-presidential election candidate Ebrahim Raisi in 2017.
Iranian rapper Amir Tataloo meets then-presidential election candidate Ebrahim Raisi in 2017.

Popular Iranian rapper Amir Tataloo was taken into custody immediately upon his arrival in Iran on December 6, following his deportation by Turkish police authorities -- which he had demanded.

Ahead of his arrest, the rapper, who has been detained in Iran several times posted a video on November 29 on his Telegram channel in which he was at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokçen Airport, holding a ticket and preparing to board a plane to Iran.

He later stated that he couldn't board the plane because his passport had expired. Following the incident, videos surfaced on social media showing him loudly insisting on being deported back to Iran.

Iranian media on December 3 showed Tataloo's arrest by Turkish police after they received a complaint from the Iranian consulate in Istanbul. The charges against the rapper centered around his alleged insults directed toward consulate staff and members.

Upon crossing the border, coming into Iran at Bazargan, Tataloo, whose real name is Amir Hossein Maghsoodloo, was taken into custody by Iranian officials. Afterward, the judiciary said he was handed to judicial officers for further investigation.

The Mizan News Agency, associated with Iran's judicial system, reported that multiple complaints have been filed against Tataloo, notably involving minors under 18 and their families. The complaints arose following the teenagers' visit to Tataloo's Istanbul residence.

The controversial rapper supported hard-line candidate Ebrahim Raisi during the country’s 2017 presidential vote.

In a video clip posted online, Raisi, who was defeated by President Hassan Rohani and was later appointed as the head of the judiciary, was seen talking to Tataloo and praising his work.

In 2015, Tataloo praised Iran’s nuclear activities in a music video where the singer was seen on the deck of an Iranian warship in the waters of the Persian Gulf.

Tataloo reportedly had been living in Turkey for several years.

The news of his extradition and arrest has sparked a flurry of reactions on social media.

Some observers speculate that this high-profile case might divert public attention from domestic issues, while others expressed concern that this might overshadow the commemoration of the 40th day since Armita Garavand's death.

The teen died after a confrontation with morality police, allegedly over the hijab, or mandatory Islamic head scarf, in Tehran's subway.

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

Afghan Freestyle Soccer Master Makes His Play In Iran

Afghan Freestyle Soccer Master Makes His Play In Iran
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Whether spinning a dozen soccer balls at once or balancing one on a pole while riding a motorcycle, Jamshid Naimi believes he's bound for stardom. For now, he's an Afghan refugee who shows off his freestyle skills on the streets of Iran. But one day he hopes to become famous.

Iranian Jewish Family Waits For Information On Son Thought Held Hostage In Gaza

Israeli soldiers await the arrival of hostages by helicopter near Tel Aviv on November 30. Seniors, women, and children have been the priority so far in negotiations for the release of hostages.
Israeli soldiers await the arrival of hostages by helicopter near Tel Aviv on November 30. Seniors, women, and children have been the priority so far in negotiations for the release of hostages.

Since October 7, Avi Shamriz, an Iranian Jew, has waited for his phone to ring for news on his son, Alon. He's still waiting.

Two months after Alon was taken hostage during an attack on Israel by extremists from Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, Avi Shamriz, whose Iranian first name is Kamran, hopes the phone will ring.

"We have no news. From October 7, when we received information that my son was kidnapped until now, we don't know if he's dead, alive, or injured," Shamriz told RFE/RL's Radio Farda in a brief phone interview on December 6.

Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis -- mainly civilians -- in the October 7 raid, and took some 240 hostages back to the Gaza Strip, where Israel has launched an intense war in the aftermath of the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust.

Since the war began, swaps of dozens of hostages and Palestinians held in Israeli prisons have taken place.

Shamriz, who spoke from Tel Aviv where the family was evacuated after the Hamas attack, said they believe Alon is in Gaza, as he has yet to turn up on any list of those who died in the attack on October 7.

So he scours video and reports from those released for any tidbit of information on his son, a 26-year-old student of computer engineering from the Kfar Aza kibbutz near the border with Gaza.

Israeli officials says seniors, women, and children have been the priority so far in negotiations for the release of hostages. That would put Avi Shamriz down on the priority list.

"[The Israeli hostages] who have been freed haven't seen my son. They took 19 hostages from [Kfar] Aza and 10 of them have returned home. But none of them saw my son," he said.

The cease-fire to allow the trading of hostages for prisoners broke down over the weekend.

Israel has since resumed its withering attack on Gaza, where an estimated 138 hostages remain, as it hunts Hamas fighters.

On December 5, Israel's military entered Khan Younis, Gaza's second-largest city, as aid agencies warned of dire humanitarian conditions that are growing worse by the day.

The Shamriz family knows only that Alon has yet to turn up.

"The war has resumed [after a temporary truce], but my son is still there. I’m scared that something will happen to him," Shamriz said.

"We went and talked [to Israeli officials] and told them that this is not the time [for war]. First, they must save my son [and other hostages]. This is not the time for war. We went and talked and pleaded, but nothing. They are not a government."

Rape, Sexual Abuse Used Against Iranian Protesters, Says Amnesty International

Sexual violence was weaponized and used with impunity against women, men, and children in Iran, the 120-page report that documents the ordeal of 45 survivors has found. (illustrative image)
Sexual violence was weaponized and used with impunity against women, men, and children in Iran, the 120-page report that documents the ordeal of 45 survivors has found. (illustrative image)

Iranian security forces have used rape and other types of sexual abuse to intimidate protesters during the crackdown on nationwide protests that started in September last year under the banner of "Women, Life, Freedom," Amnesty International said in a report published on December 6.

Sexual violence was weaponized and used with impunity against women, men, and children, the 120-page report that documents the ordeal of 45 survivors has found.

Those interviewed included 26 men, 12 women, and seven children who suffered sexual violence perpetrated by Iranian security forces.

No Iranian official has so far been charged or prosecuted for sexual crimes against the detained protesters that included rape, gang rape, and/or other forms of sexual violence, the report said.

Iranian women have been at the forefront of nationwide protests triggered by the death in custody in September last year of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been arrested in Tehran for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab.

The protest movement was joined by many men and boys outraged by the decades of religious restrictions and other forms of suppression imposed on women by Iran's theocracy.

Protests gradually lost their intensify by the end of 2022 as they were met with fierce repression by the security forces. Hundreds were killed and thousands were arrested, according to activists and the United Nations.

"Our research exposes how intelligence and security agents in Iran used rape and other sexual violence to torture, punish, and inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on protesters, including children as young as 12," Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said.

"The harrowing testimonies we collected point to a wider pattern in the use of sexual violence as a key weapon in the Iranian authorities' armory of repression of the protests and suppression of dissent to cling to power at all costs," Callamard said.

The report found that a wide array of Iranian security forces participated in the sexual violence against those detained during protests.

They included members of the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij force, the Intelligence Ministry, and various law-enforcement departments such as the Public Security Police, the Investigation Unit of Iran's police, and the Special Forces of the police.

Amnesty International shared its findings with the Iranian authorities on November 24 but has thus far received no response, the rights watchdog said.

Out of the 45 survivors interviewed by Amnesty, 16 were raped, including six women, seven men, a 14-year-old girl, and two boys aged 16 and 17.

Four women and two men were subjected to gang rape by members of the security forces. ‎

The report documented instances of vaginal, anal, and oral rape perpetrated on women and girls by security agents, while men and boys were subjected to anal rape.

Wooden and metal batons, glass bottles, and hosepipes were used to rape detainees in detention facilities and police vans, as well as schools and residential buildings.

Most of the abused victims did not file complaints against the perpetrators out of fear of reprisals, Amnesty said, adding that in the rare cases when the victims told prosecutors about their ordeal, they were ignored.

"Without political will and fundamental constitutional and legal reforms, structural barriers will continue to plague Iran's justice system," said Callamard.

"With no prospects for justice domestically, the international community has a duty to stand with the survivors and pursue justice.... We urge states to initiate criminal investigations in their own countries against suspected perpetrators under the principle of universal jurisdiction, with a view to issuing international arrest warrants."

With reporting by AFP

Concerns For Health Of Iranian Political Prisoner Rise Amid Hunger Strike

Tehran's notorious Evin prison (file photo)
Tehran's notorious Evin prison (file photo)

Iranian political prisoners Sepideh Gholian and Mahboubeh Rezaei, incarcerated in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, have warned about the deteriorating health of fellow inmate Zahra Sarv, who has been on a hunger strike since early December to protest against the harsh treatment and injustices she has faced since her arrest in October 2021.

The plight of Sarv, detailed in a letter obtained by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, outlines a pattern of disregard for prisoner rights within the Iranian judicial system.

Despite having served one-third of her sentence, Sarv's conditional release has been repeatedly denied, reportedly due to the objections of her case interrogator.

The situation has reached a critical point, with Sarv being compelled to endure a 6 1/2-year sentence handed to her by Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court on charges of "conspiracy and collusion to act against national security" and "propaganda against the system."

Throughout the legal proceedings, she and her lawyer were denied access to her case file.

Gholian and Rezaei, who have themselves been subject to harsh treatment in prison, have voiced their despair at witnessing Sarv's state of health and well-being decline rapidly in recent days.

Sarv, who says she has been denied proper medical attention even though she suffers from gastrointestinal problems, has gone on hunger strikes several times in the past to protest against her lack of rights and mistreatment.

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of insurance support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the September 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into demonstrations, which officials across the country have since tried to quell with harsh measures.

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

Thousands have been arrested in the clampdown, with the judiciary handing out 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

Regional Iranian Officials Order Strict Dress Code For Female Public Workers

Mannequins dressed in chadors are displayed in a shop in front of a shrine at the city of Qom.
Mannequins dressed in chadors are displayed in a shop in front of a shrine at the city of Qom.

Iranian media say the governorate of the central city of Qom has issued a directive mandating female employees in government offices adhere to strict Islamic dress codes, specifically wearing a black chador, a large piece of cloth that is wrapped around the head and upper body leaving only the face exposed, and refraining from using makeup.

The directive, initially disclosed by the Iran Watch rights group's website, marks a further tightening of the Islamic republic's stance on how women can dress in the workplace.

The deputy governor of Qom, Abolghasem Moghimi Araghi, emphasized in the directive the need for female employees to comply with the "laws of modesty and hijab." The requirement underscores the regime's renewed emphasis on conservative dress standards, particularly in Qom, a city known for its religious significance and as a hub for Shi'ite religious education.

The directive's publication coincides with a period of heightened sensitivity and opposition to Iran's mandatory hijab laws.

Nationwide protests under the banner of "Women, life, freedom" have called for the abolition of compulsory dress codes, with Iranian women risking much in their quest for freedom and equality by standing at the forefront of the demonstrations.

This latest regulation in Qom, compelling the wearing of a chador in public offices, is unprecedented in its scope and signals an intensification of the government's approach toward enforcing strict Islamic dress codes.

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

Tensions have run high in Iran over the hijab law since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini's death in police custody in September 2022.

Amini's death, which came just days after her detention in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly, led to nationwide protests and hundreds of demonstrators' deaths across the country.

Despite lasting public anger, parliament around the anniversary of Amini's death approved an updated version of the law that included harsher penalties for violations, including prison sentences of up to 10 years.

In late October, outrage boiled over again after another young woman died following an alleged encounter with "morality" enforcers earlier that month in a Tehran subway car.

Armita Garavand, 17, died after falling into a coma after the alleged confrontation on October 1. Some reports have suggested she was assaulted by the morality police, while others have said hijab guards were responsible.

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

Afghans Banned From 16 Provinces In Iran As Forced Exodus Continues

During the past few months, the rate of Afghans deported from Iran has steadily increased despite efforts by Afghanistan's Taliban-run government to persuade Tehran to give the Afghans more time. (file photo)
During the past few months, the rate of Afghans deported from Iran has steadily increased despite efforts by Afghanistan's Taliban-run government to persuade Tehran to give the Afghans more time. (file photo)

Iran has banned millions of Afghan refugees and migrants in the country from living in, traveling to, or seeking employment in just over half of the country's 31 provinces.

On December 3, Hamzeh Soleimani, the director-general of citizenship and foreign nationals affairs of the western Kermanshah Province, confirmed the ban was in place in 16 provinces nationwide.

"Numerous construction projects, greenhouses and livestock farms underwent inspection under the plan. [This led] to the arrest and expulsion of Afghan workers from the province," he said.

Iranian media have identified 15 of the 16 provinces, including Kermanshah, East Azarbaijan, West Azerbaijan, Ardabil, Zanjan, Kurdistan, Hamedan, Gilan, Mazandaran, Sistan-Baluchistan, Ilam, Lorestan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Kahgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, and Hormozgan.

In October, Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi reiterated that Tehran would deport all "illegal" migrants, most of whom are Afghan nationals who fled war, persecution, and poverty.

Tehran estimates that more than 5 million Afghans currently live in the country. Iranian officials now want to deport at least half of them because they do not have the documents to remain in the country.

During the past few months, the rate of Afghans deported from Iran has steadily increased despite efforts by Afghanistan's Taliban-run government to persuade Tehran to give the Afghans more time before embarking on a mass expulsion campaign like Pakistan.

Islamabad is currently deporting thousands of impoverished Afghans daily as part of its campaign to expel more than 1.7 million "undocumented foreigners."

In Iran, Afghans say their life is becoming more complicated with each passing day.

"The situation of Afghan refugees across Iran is very worrying," Sharif Mateen, an Afghan refugee, told RFE/RL's Azadi Radio.

"Police are arresting everyone irrespective of whether they have documents or not. They are then taken to repatriation camps," he added.

WATCH: Despite risks to their safety, thousands of Afghans -- often undocumented -- flock into Iran to find work.

Thousands Of Desperate Afghans Make Risky Journeys Into Iran To Find Work
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Iran has hosted millions of Afghans for more than four decades, but Tehran has often complained of the lack of international aid for hosting them.

More than 70 percent of the 3.6 million Afghans who left their country after the Taliban seized back power in August 2021 fled to Iran.

Data show most are educated, middle-class Afghans who served in the fallen pro-Western Afghan republic's security forces or civil bureaucracy.

Iran Says It Will Respond To Deaths Of Guards In Syria

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani (file photo)
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani (file photo)

Iran will respond to attacks on its interests in Syria, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on December 4 when asked about the killing by Israel of two Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members in Syria last week. "No action against Iran's interests and our advisory forces in Syria will go unanswered," Kanaani said. Two IRGC members who served as military advisers in Syria were killed in an Israeli attack, Iranian state media reported on December 2, in the first reported Iranian casualties during the ongoing war in Gaza.

Iran Says Two Revolutionary Guards Killed In Israeli Attack In Syria

Two Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members who served as military advisers in Syria have been killed in an Israeli attack, Iranian state media reported on December 2, in the first reported Iranian casualties during the ongoing war in Gaza. A Revolutionary Guards statement did not give details of the attack. Syria earlier said its air defenses repelled an Israeli rocket attack against targets in the vicinity of Damascus early on December 2.

Iranian Rapper's Violent Rearrest For Comments In Video Sparks Outrage

Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi appeared in a video on November 26 in which he talked about the torture and beatings he suffered while in prison.
Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi appeared in a video on November 26 in which he talked about the torture and beatings he suffered while in prison.

The rearrest of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi has triggered a wave of outrage after reports that armed security agents beat the dissident while taking him into custody even though he is still recovering from being tortured during his previous prison time.

Police detained Salehi, a prominent voice in Iran's recent social and political movements, on November 30 on a street in Babol, northern Iran.

The Mizan News Agency, which is affiliated with Iran's judiciary, confirmed Salehi's rearrest, alleging it was for "spreading lies and unverified statements on social media," a charge of disturbing public opinion.

Salehi had only been out for 12 days after enduring 252 days in solitary confinement and a total of one year and 21 days in prison on charges that his supporters said were based on his music and participation in protests during the past year over the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022.

Ye-One Rhie, a German parliamentarian and Salehi's political sponsor, criticized the "violent abduction," linking it to Salehi speaking out about his prison experience. Salehi has said he needs surgery because of injuries sustained from beatings and torture while he was incarcerated.


"When I say he was arrested, I mean he was kidnapped. He was kidnapped without any without any warning, without any identification, without any reasons given why he was beaten and why he was taken so violently," she said.

"To say that he used his time as a free man after he was released on bail to spread false rumors and to spread lies just because he was talking about his time in prison and his time in solitary confinement, that doesn't hold against any rule of law," the German lawmaker added.

Salehi was initially arrested in November 2022 after a period in hiding. His detention then immediately sparked significant attention and demands for his release, both domestically and internationally.

He was sentenced to more than six years in prison but released on November 18 after the Supreme Court, responding to an appeal, found “flaws in the original sentence.” It sent the case back to a lower court for a reexamination and possible retrial.

Once out, Salehi produced a video where he described being injected with a substance, likely adrenaline, to prevent unconsciousness during torture. He recounted the severe beatings he endured, leading to broken hands and feet.

He also said in the video that he filed a complaint against the General Directorate of Intelligence in Isfahan, a claim disputed by the Mizan News Agency. However, Salehi's lawyer, Amir Raesian, contradicted Mizan's statement, affirming that a complaint had been filed over his treatment and was under consideration.

Nazanin Boniadi, an actress and prominent opponent of the Islamic republic, condemned Salehi's violent rearrest, calling it "devastating."

Salehi 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.

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

Rights Group Says Iranian Political Prisoner From 1980s Has Been Executed

Iranian security officers prepare a rope for hanging. members preparing hanging rope. The Islamic republic has executed more people than any other country in the world other than China so far this year, according to Amnesty International. (file photo)
Iranian security officers prepare a rope for hanging. members preparing hanging rope. The Islamic republic has executed more people than any other country in the world other than China so far this year, according to Amnesty International. (file photo)

An Iranian human rights group has reported the execution of Geda Ali (Hormoz) Saber Motlaq, a political prisoner from the 1980s, and Kamran Rezaei, who was detained during nationwide protests in 2019, amid a jump in capital punishment by authorities in Tehran following unrest triggered by the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

The Norway-based group Iran Human Rights said Motlaq, 62, was initially arrested in the 1980s for affiliating with the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran and the alleged murder of an official of the Islamic republic. He was subsequently released due to insufficient evidence but was rearrested and sentenced to death after returning to Iran in 2020, despite a lack of concrete evidence against him.

The nature of the charges leading to Motlaq's execution, analysts say possibly Qesas (retributive justice) or for other accusations such as "Moharebeh" (enmity against God), remains unclear. He consistently denied any involvement in the alleged murder.

Rezaei, Iran Human Rights said, was hanged on November 30 in Shiraz Central Prison, and warned it expects more protesters to be executed.

“Political prisoners including protesters are at serious risk of execution," Iran Human Rights Director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said.

"Further silence from the international community is not acceptable. The current leaders of the Islamic republic have a history of massacring political prisoners and committing crimes against humanity. It is only the high political cost from the international community that has prevented them from repeating these atrocities.”

Rezaei, a political prisoner, was accused of the "premeditated murder" of a Basij paramilitary member and coerced under torture to confess.

Executions have jumped in Iran this year, according to rights groups and the United Nations.

Earlier in November, a UN report said executions jumped 30 percent in the first seven months of 2023 compared with the same period a year earlier, with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying information received by the UN human rights office “consistently indicated that the judicial proceedings did not fulfil the requirements for due process and a fair trial under international human rights law.”

Iran Human Rights said that, so far this year, more than 700 people have been executed in Iran, with a marked increase in recent months.

Two days before Rezaei's execution, Hani Shahbazi was executed in Sepidar Prison, Ahvaz. He also was accused of "enmity against God" following the alleged premeditated murder of law enforcement and Basij paramilitary members in 2019.

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 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation.

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.

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

Iran Still Top Terror Sponsor; IS Still A Threat In Taliban-Ruled Afghanistan, U.S. Says

Iran continued to back Hizballah (above), designated a terrorist group by Washington in 1997, and also provided weapons systems to Hamas and other U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist groups.
Iran continued to back Hizballah (above), designated a terrorist group by Washington in 1997, and also provided weapons systems to Hamas and other U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist groups.

Iran remained the leading state sponsor of global terrorism last year, involved in backing terrorist recruitment, financing, and plotting across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, the U.S. State Department said in its 2022 Country Reports On Terrorism released on December 1.

In the Middle East, Iran continued to back Hizballah, designated a terrorist group by Washington in 1997, the report said, adding that it also provided weapons systems to Hamas and other U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

"These groups were behind numerous deadly attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank," the report said.

Tehran also provided support to extremist groups in Bahrain, Iraq, and Syria, through its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to provide support to terrorist organizations with the aim to create instability in the region, the report said.

Iran increasingly encouraged and plotted attacks against the United States, including against former U.S. officials, in retaliation for the death of Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in 2022 that it had disrupted an IRGC-QF-led plot to assassinate former national-security adviser John Bolton and arrested an Iranian accused of planning the killing.

In Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the report says that members of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group, and regional terrorist groups remained active in 2022, despite the Taliban committing to prevent extremists from using the country to conduct attacks against the United States and its allies after the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces in August 2021.

The Taliban's capacity to stop elements from Al-Qaeda, Islamic State-Khorasan -- an IS splinter -- or Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) from mounting external operations from the Afghan territory "remained unclear," the report said.

Islamic State-Khorasan in 2022 continued to conduct terrorist attacks against the Taliban and Afghan civilians, in particular against members of the Shi'ite community as well as cross-border attacks in Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The report mentions that "the United States has not yet decided whether to recognize the Taliban or any other entity as the government of Afghanistan," and says the Taliban hosted and sheltered Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in Kabul before his death in a U.S. air strike in July last year.

Iranian Rapper Rearrested Less Than Two Weeks After Release From Prison

"They broke my arms and legs during my detention and hit me in the face and head a lot," rapper Toomaj Salehi said in a video posted on November 27. (file photo)
"They broke my arms and legs during my detention and hit me in the face and head a lot," rapper Toomaj Salehi said in a video posted on November 27. (file photo)

Iranian authorities on November 30 rearrested a dissident rapper and returned him to jail less than two weeks after his release on bail, according to his own social media account.

Toomaj Salehi was violently detained by armed plainclothes agents in the city of Babylon and then taken to an unknown location, according to social media accounts affiliated with him. The account attributable to Salehi said he was arrested with "beatings."

According to Mizanonline.ir, an online news outlet affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, Salehi was arrested on a new charge of spreading lies and “the violation of public opinion.”

Salehi was released from prison on November 18 after spending more than a year in custody on charges that his supporters said were based on his music and participation in protests in the past year over the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody after being detained for allegedly breaking the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

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

Salehi said in a video message earlier this week that he was tortured and put in solitary confinement for 252 days after his arrest in October 2022. Amini died the previous month.

He also said he was given an injection in his neck during his detention, which he said most likely was adrenaline so that he would not pass out during torture and thus endure the maximum amount of pain.

"They broke my arms and legs during my detention and hit me in the face and head a lot," Salehi said in the video, posted on November 27 on his YouTube channel.

“I tried to stop the blows with my hands when my fingers broke," he said, adding that the injuries required surgery.

Salehi had been sentenced to more than six years in prison. His release on bail on November 18 came after the Supreme Court, responding to an appeal, found “flaws in the original sentence” and sent the case back to a lower court.

Thousands were arrested in Tehran's crackdown on the protests, which largely died down earlier this year. Eight of those arrested were executed for allegedly attacking security forces after being convicted in secretive courts where rights groups say they were denied the right to defend themselves.

Salehi 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.

He said that he had sued prison officials and media close to the government for torture, saying that security agencies "ordered the prison warden" to pressure him.

The singer's detention had been met with widespread domestic and international backlash, with numerous global calls for his release.

With reporting by AP

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