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What's So Funny? Rohani, Johnson Share A Laugh In New York

Iranian President Hassan Rohani (R) meets with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 24, 2019

Sitting back comfortably in what many of his fellow Iranian officials regard as enemy territory, President Hassan Rohani was seen laughing aloud and clapping during a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The moment -- on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24 -- was captured by photographers and widely shared on social media.

Some claimed it highlighted the success of Rohani's diplomatic efforts there, where the Iranian president promoted a "coalition for hope" or "Hormuz peace endeavor" to maintain peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region. Tehran has been blamed by Washington for a series of attacks on oil tankers in the region as well as on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia -- charges that Iran denies -- as part of what some suspect is Tehran's response to a U.S. oil embargo following last year's decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw from a 2015 deal that traded sanctions relief for curbs on Iran's nuclear activities.

But critics responded to the photo by saying that a shared laugh with Johnson, whose government along with France and Germany has blamed Iran for the September 14 Saudi attacks, is a sign of weakness and surrender.

"This image shows nothing but strength and confidence," Iran-based analyst Pooria Asteraky said on Twitter. "A power rooted in the resistance and patience of Iranians has emerged in the president's triumphant gesture," he added in reference to Iranian officials' stated "policy of maximum resistance" in the face of Washington's campaign of "maximum pressure."

Rohani's negotiation of the 2015 nuclear deal and efforts to introduce minor reforms have made him a whipping boy for Iran's conservatives, many of whom opposed any thaw in relations with the West.

Hard-line documentarist Ali Sadrinia shared a different take on the photo, citing Western accusations that Iranians were behind the attacks on Saudi Aramco's oil facilities.

"Boris Johnson is saying: 'Aha! The phenomenon that whatever disaster we bring to their country, he comes and sits with us and laughs. It hasn't even been 24 hours since we issued a statement saying that the attack on Aramco was Iran's work. But look how happy he is,'" Sadrinia said on Twitter.

There was more criticism among hard-line media, including Jamnews, which said Rohani laughing alongside Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron was "beyond the normal and diplomatic behaviors."

The outsized interest in the photo prompted an explanation from Rohani adviser Hesamedin Ashena, who said the Iranian president had asked about the U.K. Supreme Court's ruling that Johnson's suspension of Parliament was unlawful and that Johnson had responded by saying that he'd handle it.

A video of the meeting posted online showed Johnson inviting Rohani to London or "indeed to Glasgow, which I think you know!" Rohani, who studied at Glasgow Caledonian University in the 1990s, reacts with a laugh.

Despite the light public moment, reports said the Iranian president expressed regret during the meeting at Britain, France, and Germany having held Tehran responsible for the Saudi attacks while also criticizing Britain for not helping Iran bypass U.S. sanctions and reap the economic benefits of the 2015 nuclear deal.

For his part, Johnson had called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager for Thomson Reuters Foundation, and other dual nationals imprisoned in Iran while also raising concern "about Iran's destabilizing activity in the region," according to a statement by a Johnson spokesperson.

Johnson and Macron were said to have pressed Rohani to meet with Trump, with the French president saying that not meeting with the U.S. president could be a lost opportunity.

But in his media interviews and his September 25 speech to the General Assembly, Rohani reiterated Tehran's position that it won't negotiate with the United States as long as it remains under economic sanctions.

"Our response to talks under pressure is, 'No,'" Rohani said during his speech, accusing the United States of "merciless economic terrorism."

Playing on speculation that he and Trump might meet during the General Assembly and critics' suggestions that Trump is sometimes more interested in photo ops than substance, Rohani had told the UN audience, "A memento photo is the last stop in negotiations, not the first one." The line won him praise from some Iranian conservatives, including the editor of the ultra-hardline daily Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, who said the speech was a combination of "dignity, wisdom, and goodwill."

The daily Javan, affiliated with the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), featured Rohani's "no" to negotiations under pressure on its front page and said that, unlike Trump's "aggressive" speech, Rohani's focused on the "realities" of U.S. and European behavior.

Trump, who addressed the General Assembly on September 24, called Iran's "repressive regime...one of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations." He also suggested that the two countries could get along if Tehran changed course, saying that "many of America's closest friends today were once our greatest foes."

Amid Rohani and his delegation's trip to New York for the UN meeting, the Trump administration stepped up its pressure on Tehran by announcing sanctions on five Chinese nationals and six entities for transferring oil to Iran. The United States also announced a ban on immigrant or nonimmigrant U.S. visas for senior Iranian officials and their family members.

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Jailed Iranian Activist Says 'Overthrow' Of The Regime Is 'Logical' Step

Iranian political activist Bahareh Hedayat

In a message on the eve of the Persian New Year to honor the hundreds of victims killed in recent nationwide protests, leading jailed Iranian political activist Bahareh Hedayat said the "overthrow" of the Islamic regime as a "logical" step following months of unrest.

In a letter written from the women's ward of Tehran's notorious Evin prison, Hedayat said on March 19 that while toppling the Islamic government was not the initial intent of the movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged violation of the hijab law, "this demand has become the objective on a scale that cannot be ignored.”

The Protests That Shook Iran’s Clerical System
Mahsa Amini standing outside. Date unknown. Mahsa Amini standing outside. Date unknown.
Thousands of Iranians, including this defiant unveiled woman, make their way toward the Aichi cemetery in Saqhez, Mahsa Amini's hometown in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, to mark 40 days since her death.
Saqez, Kurdistan Province
A police motorcycle and a trash bin burn during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini.
Downtown Tehran
Students of Amirkabir University protest against the killing of Mahsa Amini.
Tehran
Mosaic of protest victims' faces.
Mosaic of protest victims' faces.

On September 16, 2022, Mahsa Amini died from injuries she allegedly sustained in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police.

On September 16, 2022, Mahsa Amini died from injuries she allegedly sustained in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police.

Her death six months ago sparked antiestablishment protests that grew into the most widespread and sustained challenge to Iran's clerical regime in decades.

Her death six months ago sparked antiestablishment protests that grew into the most widespread and sustained challenge to Iran's clerical regime in decades.

More than 500 protesters have reportedly been killed in the subsequent state crackdown. Another four people have been executed after trials criticized as grossly unfair by human rights groups.

More than 500 protesters have reportedly been killed in the subsequent state crackdown. Another four people have been executed after trials criticized as grossly unfair by human rights groups.

The Protests That Shook Iran’s Clerical System

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda has independently verified the identities of more than 300 protesters who died at the hands of Iranian security forces.

Here, we profile six people who lost their lives and explain why the monthslong demonstrations are unprecedented.

Nika Shakarami
September 20, 2022

Nika Shakarami, 16

Three days after Amini’s funeral on September 17, 2022, Nika Shakarami left to join demonstrations in Tehran's central Keshavarz Boulevard. After posting a video showing her burning her own head scarf, the 16-year-old was never seen alive again.

Death to the dictator!

Death to the dictator!

Death to the dictator!

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Nika Shakarami in Tehran on September 20, 2022. Twitter / @1500tasvir

Nasrin Shakarami, her mother, last spoke to her around 11:30 p.m. "I could hear her friends mentioning the security forces and saying that they were escaping from them," she said in a video message sent exclusively to Radio Farda.

Tehran

Tehran Province, Iran

Iran's sprawling capital city was the scene of constant protests.

After nine days, police told her family that she was dead. They said her body was found in a courtyard of a nearby four-story building and claimed that she either jumped or was thrown from the roof. They insisted her death had nothing to do with the protests.

But her family believes she was killed by security forces deployed to crush the protests. Nasrin Shakarami said the authorities were "lying" and had pressured her family to echo the official account of her daughter's death.

Mohammad Nayeb-Zehi
September 30, 2022

Mohammad Nayeb-Zehi, 16

By the end of September, the protests reached Sistan-Baluchistan, an impoverished province in southeastern Iran and home to the Baluch minority.

Mohammad Nayeb-Zehi was among the hundreds who gathered on September 30, 2022, at the Great Mosalla, a religious site in the provincial capital of Zahedan, for Friday Prayers.

Zahedan

Sistan-Baluchistan Province, Iran

Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan, an impoverished province that is home to the Baluch minority.

After the sermons ended, worshippers gathered outside a police station, chanting anti-regime slogans and throwing rocks. Police fired on the crowd. Public anger at the authorities had been raised further by reports that a teenage Baluch girl had been raped by a local police official.

Security forces then raided the Great Mosalla and the nearby central mosque, opening fire on worshippers. At least 94 people were killed that day, according to rights campaigners. At least 13 minors were among the dead, including Nayeb-Zehi.

"He was a simple laborer and not political," Nayeb-Zehi’s brother, Ahmad, told Radio Farda. "He was martyred inside the Mosalla while holding his prayer mat."

Yahya Rahimi
October 8, 2022

Yahya Rahimi, 31

Sistan-Baluchistan was the site of the single deadliest day during the protests.

But by October, Iran’s western Kurdistan region had become the epicenter of the demonstrations and the focus of the government’s bloody crackdown. The region, home to the Kurdish minority, was where Mahsa Amini hailed from.

Sanandaj

Kurdistan Province, Iran

Sanandaj, the capital of western Kurdistan Province, was also the scene of major protests.

In the city of Sanandaj, Yahya Rahimi was on his way to work as protesters marched through the streets. As he was driving, two men armed with large sticks attacked his car. As the 31-year-old slowly drove off, a gunshot was heard. Rahimi was dead.

00:00 / NaN:NaN

Twitter / @HengawO

Kurdistan’s police force claimed Rahimi was shot dead by "anti-revolutionary forces." But activists said Rahimi was killed by plainclothes security agents on October 8, 2022, because he had honked his car horn in support of protesters.

"[Government] agents had damaged his car, yet they didn’t leave him alone," Rahimi’s father, Ahmad Rahimi, told Radio Farda. "A few steps farther, they martyred him."

Mehrshad Shahidinejad
October 25, 2022

Mehrshad Shahidinejad, 19

Even as Kurdistan became the hotbed of the protests, antiestablishment demonstrations continued across Iran.

Mehrshad Shahidinejad, a 19-year-old chef and social media influencer, was among the dozens of people who rallied in the central city of Arak on October 25, 2022. It was the last day he was seen alive.

Arak

Markazi Province, Iran

Arak is an industrial city and the capital of central Markazi Province.

Shahidinejad was attacked by security forces, who used tasers and beat him with batons, eyewitnesses told Radio Farda. Security officers then dragged the motionless man away, they said.

Authorities told Shahidinejad’s family that he went into cardiac arrest and was taken to a hospital, where he died. His father identified his body on his birthday on October 26.

Sources close to the family said Shahidinejad’s body was badly bruised and that he had suffered blows to the head.

Kian Pirfalak
November 16, 2022

Kian Pirfalak, 9

Khuzestan, an oil-rich but impoverished province home to Iran’s Arab minority, had been the center of anti-government protests in recent years. But the region had been conspicuously quiet during the latest demonstrations. That changed, however, in November 2022.

As protesters rallied in the city of Izeh, security forces opened fire on a car carrying 9-year-old Kian Pirfalak and his parents. Pirfalak was killed instantly, and his father was hospitalized.

Izeh

Khuzestan Province, Iran

Izeh is a city of around 100,000 in Khuzestan, is an oil-rich province home to Iran’s Arab minority.

State media said Pirfalak was killed in a "terrorist attack" when gunmen on motorbikes shot seven people dead. But Pirfalak’s mother blamed security forces who she said "shot repeatedly" at their car.

"Hear my words about what happened," said Zeynab Molaeirad. "Don’t say they were terrorists. They are lying."

Pirfalak’s death led to an outpouring of grief and anger among Iranians. A video appeared to show a banner with an image of Pirfalak and the words "child-killing government" waving along a highway in Tehran.

Borhan Eliasi
December 31, 2022

Borhan Eliasi, 22

By the end of December, the protests began to fizzle out as the authorities intensified their violent crackdown and publicly executed two young men for their involvement in the demonstrations.

Still, Iranians continued to express their dissent at scattered street gatherings and memorials for the victims of the crackdown. Some spray-painted slogans and hung protest signs in the streets, while others chanted anti-regime slogans from their rooftops and windows at night.

On December 31, 2022, security forces reportedly opened fire on a group of mourners marking 40 days since the deaths of several protesters in the western city of Javanrud.

Javanrud

Kermanshah Province, Iran

Javanrud is a town in Kermanshah, a Kurdish-majority province in western Iran.

Borhan Eliasi, a 22-year-old shopkeeper, was among those shot. He was rushed to a hospital, where he later died. Dozens of people attended his funeral, where mourners chanted anti-regime slogans.

Later, photos posted on social media appeared to show children placing flowers outside the shop where Eliasi worked.

The protests have not culminated in a revolution and the overthrow of Iran’s theocratic regime.

But the demonstrations have illustrated that a significant segment of Iran’s youthful population is no longer willing to tolerate the authoritarian rule of the country’s aging clerics.

More anti-regime protests are likely to rock the Islamic republic in the future as calls grow for greater freedom and political change. Worsening economic conditions are likely to fuel more anger toward the authorities.

Significantly, an increasing number of opposition figures and civil society groups inside Iran have proposed changes that would transform or even replace the current theocratic system with a democracy, moves that were unheard of until recently.

Additional Project Credits

Ivan Gutterman assisted with code and design.

The Fallen

Reports indicate that more than 500 people have been killed in the protests across Iran since September 2022. Radio Farda has verified the deaths of the 317 individuals listed below.

September 2022
September 11
Anoshirvan (Amir Ali) Fouladi, 15
Eslamabad-e-Gharb, Kermanshah Province
Foad Ghadimi
September 18
Foad Ghadimi, 39
Divandarreh, Kurdistan Province
September 19
Reza Lotfi
Dehgolan, Kurdistan Province
Fereydoun Mahmoudi
September 19
Fereydoun Mahmoudi, 33
Saqez, Kurdistan Province
Zkaria Khial
September 20
Zkaria Khial, 16
Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
Nika Shakarami
September 20
Nika Shakarami, 17
Tehran, Tehran Province
Minoo Majidi
September 20
Minoo Majidi, 55
Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province
Reza Shahparnia
September 20
Reza Shahparnia, 23
Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province
Abolfazl Akbaridoost
September 20
Abolfazl Akbaridoost, 28
Langarud, Gilan Province
Abolfazl Bahou
September 20
Abolfazl Bahou, 17
Qaem Shahr, Mazandaran Province
Mohammad Hosseinikhah
September 20
Mohammad Hosseinikhah, 20
Sari, Mazandaran Province
Milan Haghighi
September 21
Milan Haghighi, 21
Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan Province
Amin Marefat
September 21
Amin Marefat, 16
Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan Province
Sadraldin Litani
September 21
Sadraldin Litani, 27
Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan Province
Farjad Darvishi
September 21
Farjad Darvishi, 29
Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province
Abdullah Mahmoudpour
September 21
Abdullah Mahmoudpour, 16
Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province
Danesh Rahnama
September 21
Danesh Rahnama, 25
Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province
Mohsen Gheisari
September 21
Mohsen Gheisari, 32
Ilam, Ilam Province
Parsa Rezadoust
September 21
Parsa Rezadoust, 18
Hashtgerd, Alborz Province
Hadis Najafi
September 21
Hadis Najafi, 23
Karaj, Alborz Province
Rouzbeh Khademian
September 21
Rouzbeh Khademian, 32
Karaj, Alborz Province
Kanan Aghaei
September 21
Kanan Aghaei, 20
Karaj, Alborz Province
Mohammad Hossein Morovati
September 21
Mohammad Hossein Morovati, 18
Varamin, Tehran Province
Mohammad Zamani
September 21
Mohammad Zamani, 15
Tehran, Tehran Province
Omid Barzegar
September 21
Omid Barzegar
Golestan, Tehran Province
Siavash Mahmoudi
September 21
Siavash Mahmoudi, 16
Tehran, Tehran Province
Mohammad Farmani
September 21
Mohammad Farmani, 24
Shahr-e-Rey, Tehran Province
Moahammad Zarei
September 21
Moahammad Zarei
Qarchak, Tehran Province
Mohammad Reza Eskandari
September 21
Mohammad Reza Eskandari, 25
Pakdasht, Tehran Province
Erfan Khazaei Dikouei
September 21
Erfan Khazaei Dikouei, 30
Shahriar, Tehran Province
Mohsen Pazouki
September 21
Mohsen Pazouki, 32
Pakdasht, Tehran Province
Mehdi Babrinejad
September 21
Mehdi Babrinejad, 22
Quchan, Razavi Khorasan Province
Amir Mehdi Hassani
September 21
Amir Mehdi Hassani, 23
Quchan, Razavi Khorasan Province
Mehrdad Ghorbani
September 21
Mehrdad Ghorbani, 18
Zanjan, Zanjan Province
Mehdi Mousavi Nikou
September 21
Mehdi Mousavi Nikou, 16
Zanjan, Zanjan Province
Alireza Fathi
September 21
Alireza Fathi, 22
Qazvin, Qazvin Province
Saeid Mohammadi
September 21
Saeid Mohammadi, 25
Eslamabad-e-Gharb, Kermanshah Province
Iman Mohammadi
September 21
Iman Mohammadi, 22
Eslamabad-e-Gharb, Kermanshah Province
Amir Hossein Basati
September 21
Amir Hossein Basati, 15
Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province
Morteza Norouzi
September 21
Morteza Norouzi, 22
Langarud, Gilan Province
Sayyid Abbas Mirmousavi
September 21
Sayyid Abbas Mirmousavi
Langarud, Gilan Province
Mehrab Doulatpanah
September 21
Mehrab Doulatpanah
Talesh, Gilan Province
Yasin Jamalzadeh
September 21
Yasin Jamalzadeh, 29
Rezvanshahr, Gilan Province
September 21
Farzin Lotfi
Rezvanshahr, Gilan Province
Sasan Ghorbano
September 21
Sasan Ghorbano, 31
Rezvanshahr, Gilan Province
Mohammad Rasoul Momenzadeh
September 21
Mohammad Rasoul Momenzadeh, 24
Rasht, Gilan Province
Behnam Layeghpour
September 21
Behnam Layeghpour, 37
Rasht, Gilan Province
Sina Louh Mousavi
September 21
Sina Louh Mousavi, 15
Amol, Mazandaran Province
Rahim Kalij
September 21
Rahim Kalij, 27
Qaem Shahr, Mazandaran Province
Mohsen Malmir
September 21
Mohsen Malmir, 26
Nowshahr, Mazandaran Province
Amir Hossein Shams
September 21
Amir Hossein Shams
Nowshahr, Mazandaran Province
Merzad Avazpour
September 21
Merzad Avazpour
Nowshahr, Mazandaran Province
Hananeh Kia
September 21
Hananeh Kia, 23
Nowshahr, Mazandaran Province
Hossein Ali Kia
September 21
Hossein Ali Kia
Nowshahr, Mazandaran Province
Milad Zare
September 21
Milad Zare, 25
Babol, Mazandaran Province
Mohammad Hossein Torkaman
September 21
Mohammad Hossein Torkaman, 26
Babol, Mazandaran Province
Abolfazl Mehdipour
September 21
Abolfazl Mehdipour
Babol, Mazandaran Province
Ghazaleh Chalabi
September 21
Ghazaleh Chalabi, 32
Amol, Mazandaran Province
Erfan Rezaei
September 21
Erfan Rezaei, 21
Amol, Mazandaran Province
Mohsen Mohammadi
September 21
Mohsen Mohammadi
Qaem Shahr, Mazandaran Province
Mohammad Javad Zahedi
September 21
Mohammad Javad Zahedi, 16
Sari, Mazandaran Province
Mahsa Mogoui
September 22
Mahsa Mogoui, 18
Fuladshahr, Isfahan Province
Mohammad Reza Sarvi
September 22
Mohammad Reza Sarvi, 14
Shahr-e-Rey, Tehran Province
Setareh Tajik
September 22
Setareh Tajik, 17
Tehran, Tehran Province
Milad Javidpour
September 22
Milad Javidpour, 22
Tehran, Tehran Province
Ali Mozafari
September 22
Ali Mozafari, 17
Quchan, Razavi Khorasan Province
September 22
Javad Heidari, 36
Qazvin, Qazvin Province
Pedram Azarnoush
September 22
Pedram Azarnoush, 16
Dehdasht, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province
Mehrdad Behnam Asl
September 22
Mehrdad Behnam Asl, 21
Dehdasht, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province
Maziar (Mohammad Reza) Salmanian
September 22
Maziar (Mohammad Reza) Salmanian
Rasht, Gilan Province
Amir Mohammad Norouzi
September 22
Amir Mohammad Norouzi, 18
Bandar-e Anzali, Gilan Province
Shirin Alizadeh
September 22
Shirin Alizadeh, 35
Motel Ghoo, Mazandaran Province
Sarina Esmailzadeh
September 23
Sarina Esmailzadeh, 16
Karaj, Alborz Province
Hamid Fooladvand
September 23
Hamid Fooladvand
Pakdasht, Tehran Province
Pouya (Ali) Ahmadpour Pasikhani
September 23
Pouya (Ali) Ahmadpour Pasikhani, 17
Rasht, Gilan Province
Mahmoud Keshvari
September 24
Mahmoud Keshvari, 37
Karaj, Alborz Province
Mohammad Jamebozorg
September 24
Mohammad Jamebozorg, 52
Karaj, Alborz Province
Abdulsalam Qader Golvan
September 26
Abdulsalam Qader Golvan, 32
Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan Province
Samad Barginia
September 28
Samad Barginia, 55
Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
Hamid Saneipour
September 29
Hamid Saneipour, 27
Hamedan, Hamedan Province
September 30
Hasti Narui, 7
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mirshekar, 2
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Eghbal Naebzehi, 16
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Omid Sarani, 13
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Jaber Shirozehi, 12
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Rakhshani, 12
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Omid Safarzehi, 17
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Javad Pousheh, 12
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Sadis Kashani, 14
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Samer Hashemzehi, 16
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Ali Barahui, 14
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Yasser Shahouzehi, 16
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Matin Ghanbarzehi (Gorgij), 18
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Ali Gamshadzehi, 18
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mahmoud Barahui (Levarzehi), 18
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mousa Anshini, 18
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mousa Devira, 18
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Sadigh (Rafe) Narui, 23
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mostafa Barichi, 24
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Ali Agheli (Narui), 28
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Amir Hossein Parnian (Mirkazehi Rigi), 19
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Narui, 24
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Ahmad Sarani (Jama Alizehi), 28
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Behzad Rigi, 30
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Hamzeh Narui, 26
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Salman Maleki, 25
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulmajid Rigi (Shahuzehi), 27
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Jalil Rakhshahi, 25
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abubakr Alizehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abubakr Nahtani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Ahmad Sargolzaei
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Ahmad Shahbakhsh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Arman Hassanzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Esmail Abil
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Esmail Hosseinzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Omid Shahnavazi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Amir Hamzeh Shahnavazi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Aminallah Ghaljaei
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Amin Golbacheh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Balal Anshini
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Balal Dehmardeh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Balal Rakhshani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Samer Shahnavazi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Jalil Mohammadzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Jamal Abdulnasser Mohammadhasani (Barahui)
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Hamid Isazehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Hamid Narui
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Zolfagharjan Hasanzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Soleyman Arab
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Sharifkhan Barahui (Eydozehi)
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Salahedin Gamshadzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdullah Shahbakhsh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abduljalil Ghanbarzehi (Shahbakhsh)
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulrahman Baluchikhah
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulsamad Barahui (Eydozehi)
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulsamad Sabetizadeh (Shahuzehi)
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulghafour Dehmardeh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulghafour Nourbarahui
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdullah Narui
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulmalek Shahbakhsh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulmanan Rakhshani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Abdulvahid Touhidnia
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Azizallah Kabdani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Ali Akbar Halghehbegoush
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Emran Hassanzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Emran Shahbakhsh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Gholamnabi Notizehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Farzad Shahbakhsh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Lal Mohammad (Lalbaksh) Anshini
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Lal Mohammad Alizehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mahuldin Shirouzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Majid Baluchzehi (Shahbakhsh)
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohsen Gamshadzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Amin Gamshadzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Barahui
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Reza Adib Toutazehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Rigi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Farough Rakhshani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Ghaljaei
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Ali Esmailzehi (Shahbakhsh)
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mohammad Omar Shahnavazi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mahmoud Hasanzehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Morteza Hasazehi
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mansour Rakhshani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mehdi Anshini
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Mousa Nahtani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Najmeldin Tajik
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Nematollah Kabdani
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Yasser Shahbakhsh
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Younes Narui
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
September 30
Omid Narui
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
October 2022
Mokhtar Ahmadi
October 1
Mokhtar Ahmadi, 19
Marivan, Kurdistan Province
October 2
Khodanur Lojei, 27
Zahedan, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
Nima Shafiqdoust
October 5
Nima Shafiqdoust, 16
Urmia, West Azerbaijan Province
Sayyid Ahmad Shokrollahi
October 8
Sayyid Ahmad Shokrollahi, 24
Isfahan, Isfahan Province
Mohsen Mousavi
October 8
Mohsen Mousavi, 30
Tehran, Tehran Province
Abolfazl Adinehzadeh
October 8
Abolfazl Adinehzadeh, 16
Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan Province
Mohammad Amini
October 8
Mohammad Amini
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Yahya Rahimi
October 8
Yahya Rahimi, 21
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Peyman Manvari
October 8
Peyman Manvari, 29
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Dariush Alizadeh
October 8
Dariush Alizadeh
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Arian Moridi
October 9
Arian Moridi, 22
Salas-e Babajani, Kermanshah Province
Esmail Dezvar
October 10
Esmail Dezvar
Saqez, Kurdistan Province
Kamal Faqihi
October 12
Kamal Faqihi, 52
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Asra Panahi
October 12
Asra Panahi, 15
Ardabil, Ardabil Province
October 12
Sayyid Mohammad Hosseini
Saqez, Kurdistan Province
Aziz Moradi
October 12
Aziz Moradi
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Ramin Karami
October 12
Ramin Karami, 31
Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province
Armin Sayadi
October 12
Armin Sayadi, 17
Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province
Sina Naderi
October 12
Sina Naderi, 17
Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province
Milad Kord
October 15
Milad Kord, 32
Shahriar, Tehran Province
Sepehr Esmaili
October 15
Sepehr Esmaili, 22
Kiashahr, Gilan Province
Esmail Shanbodi
October 19
Esmail Shanbodi, 29
Shiraz, Fars Province
Ramin Fatehi
October 21
Ramin Fatehi
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Sina Malayeri
October 22
Sina Malayeri, 38
Arak, Markazi Province
Mohammad Khajavi
October 22
Mohammad Khajavi
Dezful, Khuzestan Province
Esmail (Semko) Molodi
October 26
Esmail (Semko) Molodi, 35
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Mehrshad Shahidinejad
October 26
Mehrshad Shahidinejad, 19
Arak, Markazi Province
Ali Rouzbahani
October 26
Ali Rouzbahani, 35
Tehran, Tehran Province
Sayyid Ali Sayyidi
October 26
Sayyid Ali Sayyidi, 25
Parand, Tehran Province
Behnaz Afshari
October 26
Behnaz Afshari
Tehran, Tehran Province
Milad Ostadhashem
October 26
Milad Ostadhashem, 37
Tehran, Tehran Province
Moahammad Shariati
October 26
Moahammad Shariati, 25
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Sarina Saedi
October 26
Sarina Saedi, 16
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Afshin Asham
October 26
Afshin Asham, 28
Qasr-e Shirin, Kermanshah Province
October 26
Maedeh Javanfar, 28
Rasht, Gilan Province
Shahou Khezri
October 27
Shahou Khezri
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Zaniar Aboubakri
October 27
Zaniar Aboubakri
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Kobra Sheikheh
October 27
Kobra Sheikheh, 52
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Fereshteh Ahmadi
October 27
Fereshteh Ahmadi, 32
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Masoud Ahmadzadeh
October 27
Masoud Ahmadzadeh
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
October 27
Fereydoun Faraji, 28
Saqez, Kurdistan Province
October 27
Motaleb Saeed-Pirou, 40
Baneh, Kurdistan Province
Ali Fazeli
October 27
Ali Fazeli, 29
Amol, Mazandaran Province
Hadi Chaksari
October 27
Hadi Chaksari, 30
Amol, Mazandaran Province
October 28
Dastan Rasoul, 31
Baneh, Kurdistan Province
Kumar Daroftadeh
October 30
Kumar Daroftadeh, 16
Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
Mohammad Hossein Faraji
October 31
Mohammad Hossein Faraji, 18
Tehran, Tehran Province
November 2022
Momen Zandkarimi
November 2
Momen Zandkarimi, 18
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Nima Nouri
November 3
Nima Nouri, 18
Karaj, Alborz Province
Mehdi Hazrati
November 3
Mehdi Hazrati, 17
Khorramdasht, Alborz Province
Erfan Zamani
November 3
Erfan Zamani, 27
Lahijan, Gilan Province
Nasrin Ghaderi
November 4
Nasrin Ghaderi, 35
Tehran, Tehran Province
November 4
Mobin Mirkazehi, 14
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Yasser Bahadorzehi, 17
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Ali Kordkalahouri (Moradzehi), 25
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Azim Mahmoudzehi
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Younes Salahshouran (Mirbaluchzehi)
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Mohammad Shahbakhsh (Mirbaluchzehi)
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Sadegh Barahoei
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Saeid Sohrabzehi
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Rahimdad Shahlibar
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
November 4
Kambiz Rigi
Khash, Sistan-Baluchistan Province
Abbas Shafiei
November 5
Abbas Shafiei, 42
Karaj, Alborz Province
Mohammad Ghaemifard
November 6
Mohammad Ghaemifard, 18
Dezful, Khuzestan Province
Komeil Amirkhanlou
November 8
Komeil Amirkhanlou, 27
Karaj, Alborz Province
Fayegh Mam-Ghaderi
November 9
Fayegh Mam-Ghaderi, 27
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Sam (Sepehr) Beiranvand
November 9
Sam (Sepehr) Beiranvand, 20
Khorramabad, Lorestan Province
November 10
Ardalan Ghasemi, 48
Gilan-e Gharb, Kermanshah Province
Hemin Hamzeh
November 11
Hemin Hamzeh, 30
Sardasht, West Azerbaijan Province
Mohammad Hossein Hajiani
November 11
Mohammad Hossein Hajiani, 27
Bushehr, Bushehr Province
Milad Khoshkam
November 13
Milad Khoshkam, 27
Shiraz, Fars Province
Sayyid Ali Araghi
November 15
Sayyid Ali Araghi, 23
Tabriz, West Azerbaijan Province
Isa Biglari
November 15
Isa Biglari, 39
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Zaniar Allahmoradi
November 15
Zaniar Allahmoradi, 26
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Foad Mohammadi
November 15
Foad Mohammadi, 38
Kamyaran, Kurdistan Province
Aylar Haghi
November 16
Aylar Haghi, 23
Tabriz, West Azerbaijan Province
Asad Rahimi
November 16
Asad Rahimi, 30
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Mohammad Hasanzadeh
November 16
Mohammad Hasanzadeh, 28
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Salar Mojaver
November 16
Salar Mojaver, 30
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Ali Abbasi
November 16
Ali Abbasi
Semirom, Isfahan Province
Moslem Houshangi
November 16
Moslem Houshangi
Semirom, Isfahan Province
Morad Bahramian
November 16
Morad Bahramian
Semirom, Isfahan Province
Asghar Hazhirlotf
November 16
Asghar Hazhirlotf
Tehran, Tehran Province
Ali Moulaei
November 16
Ali Moulaei, 23
Izeh, Khuzestan Province
Reza Shariati
November 16
Reza Shariati, 21
Izeh, Khuzestan Province
Ashraf Nikbakht
November 16
Ashraf Nikbakht, 45
Izeh, Khuzestan Province
Artin Rahmani
November 16
Artin Rahmani, 15
Izeh, Khuzestan Province
Kian Pirfalak
November 16
Kian Pirfalak, 10
Izeh, Khuzestan Province
Sepehr Maghsoudi
November 16
Sepehr Maghsoudi, 14
Izeh, Khuzestan Province
Sajjad Ghaemi
November 16
Sajjad Ghaemi, 30
Shiraz, Fars Province
Danial Pabandi
November 16
Danial Pabandi, 17
Saqez, Kurdistan Province
Borhan Karami
November 16
Borhan Karami, 32
Kamyaran, Kurdistan Province
Javad Rezaei
November 16
Javad Rezaei, 47
Lahijan, Gilan Province
Mostafa Shabani
November 17
Mostafa Shabani, 44
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Hiva Janan
November 17
Hiva Janan
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Hezhar Mom Khosravi
November 17
Hezhar Mom Khosravi
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Amjad Enayati
November 17
Amjad Enayati, 18
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Azad Hosseinpour
November 17
Azad Hosseinpour
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Ghafour Moloudi
November 17
Ghafour Moloudi
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Milad Maroufi
November 17
Milad Maroufi, 23
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Hamidreza Rouhi
November 17
Hamidreza Rouhi, 20
Tehran, Tehran Province
Arman Emadi
November 17
Arman Emadi
Marvdasht, Fars Province
Asou Ghaderi
November 17
Asou Ghaderi, 22
Baneh, Kurdistan Province
Abdulrahman Bakhtiari
November 17
Abdulrahman Bakhtiari
Saqez, Kurdistan Province
Shahu Bahmani
November 17
Shahu Bahmani, 24
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
November 17
Aram Habibi, 27
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Hamed Mollaei Shahrdashti
November 17
Hamed Mollaei Shahrdashti
Parsian, Hormozgan Province
Hamed Sadighi
November 17
Hamed Sadighi, 20
Dargahan, Hormozgan Province
Shahriar Mohammadi
November 18
Shahriar Mohammadi
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Amir Farasati Shad
November 18
Amir Farasati Shad
Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
Mohammad Ahmadi Gagesh
November 18
Mohammad Ahmadi Gagesh, 43
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Mehran Rahmani
November 18
Mehran Rahmani
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Kamal Ahmadpour
November 18
Kamal Ahmadpour
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Omid Hassani
November 18
Omid Hassani, 20
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Hossein Shirazi
November 19
Hossein Shirazi, 41
Shiraz, Fars Province
Habib Fathi
November 19
Habib Fathi
Divandarreh, Kurdistan Province
Foad Savari
November 19
Foad Savari
Divandarreh, Kurdistan Province
Hossein Abdpanah
November 19
Hossein Abdpanah, 70
Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province
Mehran Tavan
November 19
Mehran Tavan, 29
Sowme'eh Sara, Gilan Province
Taher Azizi
November 20
Taher Azizi, 30
Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
Karvan Qadershakeri
November 20
Karvan Qadershakeri, 16
Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
Jalal Ghorbani
November 20
Jalal Ghorbani
Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
Amir Javad Asadzadeh
November 20
Amir Javad Asadzadeh, 30
Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan Province
Mohsen Niazi
November 20
Mohsen Niazi, 25
Dehgolan, Kurdistan Province
Bahaedin Veisi
November 20
Bahaedin Veisi, 16
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Erfan Kakaei
November 20
Erfan Kakaei, 45
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Reza Sharafi
November 20
Reza Sharafi, 33
Sisakht, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province
Masoud Teymouri
November 21
Masoud Teymouri
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Esmail Golanbar
November 21
Esmail Golanbar
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Jouhar Fatahi
November 21
Jouhar Fatahi
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Jamal Azami
November 21
Jamal Azami
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Tahsin Miri
November 21
Tahsin Miri
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Kourosh Pajokh
November 21
Kourosh Pajokh
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province
Ribaz Salehi Vand
November 22
Ribaz Salehi Vand, 21
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Hemin Aman
November 23
Hemin Aman, 26
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Mohammad Omid Khadiripour
November 24
Mohammad Omid Khadiripour, 32
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Soleiman Shooresh Niknam
November 26
Soleiman Shooresh Niknam, 33
Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
Reza Kazemi
November 27
Reza Kazemi, 16
Kamyaran, Kurdistan Province
Masoud Doulatshahi
November 28
Masoud Doulatshahi, 38
Tehran, Tehran Province
Ebrahim Sharifi
November 29
Ebrahim Sharifi, 29
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Mehran Samak
November 29
Mehran Samak, 27
Bandar-e Anzali, Gilan Province
Avat Qaderpour
November 30
Avat Qaderpour, 20
Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
Ehsan Ghasemifar
November 30
Ehsan Ghasemifar, 32
Karaj, Alborz Province
Hamed Salahshour
November 30
Hamed Salahshour, 22
Izeh, Khuzestan Province
December 2022
Borhan Eliasi
December 31
Borhan Eliasi, 22
Javanrud, Kermanshah Province

Hedayat, who is currently in prison for participating in the anti-government protests that erupted after Amini's death last September, listed the names of several protesters who were killed during the unrest, as well as four protesters who were sentenced to death and then executed as part of the judiciary's crackdown aimed at intimidating the demonstrators, thousands of whom have been arrested.

She added that the Islamic authority "has become the most immoral element of Iranians' daily lives and its survival is a denial of our survival, our children's survival, and our land. Therefore, the logic of overthrow is still in place."

The letter emphasizes the protesters' determination to "take back Iran" after the death of Amini.

Along with the execution of four protesters, Iran's judiciary has handed several others death sentences after what rights groups and the U.S. government have called "sham trials."

The executions and death sentences are part of the government's brutal, and often violent, crackdown on demonstrators. Lawmakers have pushed for harsh punishments to try and quell what has become the biggest challenge to the country's leadership since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Hedayat is a student activist and women's rights campaigner in Iran who has been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms several times. Most recently, she was arrested on October 3 during the nationwide protests.

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

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

Iran's Foreign Minister Says He Has Agreed To Meet Saudi Counterpart

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (right) greets his Qatari counterpart, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, in Tehran on January 29. In recent weeks, Iran has expressed interest in holding meetings with regional leaders.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on March 19 that he had agreed to meet his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Adel Al-Jubeir, proposing three locations during a news conference. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on March 10 to reestablish relations and reopen embassies within two months after years of hostility, following talks in China. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Zelenskiy Announces Sanctions On Hundreds Of Individuals, Including Syrian President, Iranian Drone Makers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Iranian and Syrian individuals -- "those who help terror" -- are also among the newly blacklisted.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has announced sanctions against hundreds of individuals and companies, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranians associated with the production of Shahed drones.

Zelenskiy said on March 18 that most of the more than 400 individuals and companies designated for sanctions are Russian and are involved in the defense industry, but Iranian and Syrian individuals -- "those who help terror" -- are also among the newly blacklisted.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war, click here.

According to a decree issued by Zelenskiy, the sanctions against Assad are imposed for 10 years. The new sanctions also list Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous and Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

In addition, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' drone force was placed on the sanctions list. Sanctions were also introduced against other Iranian citizens.

Ukraine severed diplomatic relations with Syria last year. Assad recently visited Moscow and declared his full support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling Russia's war against Ukraine a struggle "with "old and new Nazis."

Russia has backed the Syrian Army in its fight against rebel forces in northern Syria, and Assad has said the presence of Russian troops in Syria is legitimate as his government has requested Moscow's support.

Zelenskiy's sanctions decrees list 141 legal entities, including companies from Russia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.

Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian sanctions are part of the global pressure on Russia.

"We study in depth each of our sanctioning steps," he said on Telegram. The sanctions are aimed at "all those who produce weapons for terror against Ukraine, who help Russia incite aggression, in particular by supplying Shahed drones, and who support Russia’s destruction of international law."

Russia has used Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones to attack critical Ukrainian infrastructure, including electrical substations and water facilities.

Iran Court Sentences Two To Death Over Deadly Shrine Attack

Workers clean up the scene following an armed attack at the Shah Cheragh mausoleum in the Iranian city of Shiraz on October 26, 2022.

An Iranian court has handed death sentences to two men over an attack on a Shi'ite shrine in Iran that killed 15 people in October and was claimed by the militant group Islamic State (IS), the official news agency IRNA reported on March 18. Fars Province judiciary head Kazem Mousavi said the two men had been found guilty of charges including "spreading corruption on Earth" and acting against national security, IRNA reported, adding that the sentences can be appealed. The men are alleged to have collaborated with IS members in the attack. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Fresh Protests Break Out In Western Iran Amid Reports Of Man Dying In Custody

People took to the streets on March 15 chanting anti-government slogans after 41-year-old Shirzad Ahmadinejad, a resident of Bukan, died while being held at an IRGC Intelligence Detention Center in the nearby city of Urmia.

The death of a man while in the custody of security forces has sparked fresh anti-government protests in the northwestern Iranian city of Bukan.

According to local sources, including the website of the rights group Hengaw, people took to the streets on March 15 chanting anti-government slogans, as well as "The martyr will never die" in Kurdish after 41-year-old Shirzad Ahmadinejad, a resident of Bukan, died while being held at an IRGC Intelligence Detention Center in the nearby city of Urmia.

It is unclear why Ahmadinejad was detained, but Hengaw, citing "informed sources," said he was supposed to be temporarily released on bail but then his family was informed that he had died of a heart attack.

"However, we have learned from our sources that Ahmadinejad died under torture, and the security forces have not yet handed over his body to the family," Hengaw said, quoting sources close to Ahmadinejad's family.

Bukan, located in West Azerbaijan Province, was one of the cities that saw numerous protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini during her detention by the Islamic republic's morality police in Tehran last September.

Amini's death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests that authorities have met with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed -- without providing evidence -- the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

Iranian Activist Gholian Rearrested Hours After Release From Evin Prison

Sepideh Gholian, 28, is one of the most prominent female activists held in Iran. She was released early on March 15 after being behind bars for four years and seven months. (file photo)

Iranian labor activist Sepideh Gholian has been rearrested by security forces just hours after her release from Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, where she served almost five years after being forced to confess to treason.

According to reports on social media, Gholian was detained by security forces late on March 15 while traveling back to her hometown in Khuzestan, between the cities of Qom and Arak.

There was no official comment on the reports, which came after video footage released on social media showed her supporting protests against the mandatory hijab law by shouting: "Khamenei, the tyrant, we will bury you in the ground."

Reports on social media also suggested that those who filmed Gholian's rearrest were detained by security forces.

Gholian, 28, is one of the most prominent female activists held in Iran. She was released early on March 15 after being behind bars for four years and seven months.

"I was released from the Seven Hills case. This time I came out hoping for the freedom of Iran!" she wrote in the post, which showed a video of her leaving the prison with a bouquet of flowers.

Gholian was arrested along with more than a dozen activists, protest organizers, and workers during the Haft Tappeh Sugar Factory strike in November 2018. While most were released on bond the next day, Gholian was imprisoned for a month.

Her release from prison in Ahvaz in December 2018 was short-lived as she was again arrested in January 2019 after Iranian state television aired footage in which it purported to show Gholian confessing to taking part in alleged Western-backed efforts to overthrow the government. She promptly countered those accusations on social media by saying she had been beaten and forced to make a false confession.

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 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 down harsh sentences -- including the death penalty -- to protesters.

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

Child Protesters Have Suffered 'Horrific Acts Of Torture' In Iran, Amnesty Says

The protests in Iran began on September 16, 2022, with the death of Mahsa Amini from injuries she allegedly sustained in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police.

Child protesters in Iran have been subjected to "horrific acts of torture" by security forces amid a crackdown on anti-government demonstrators, Amnesty International said in a statement on March 16 marking six months since the start of nationwide protests triggered by the death of a young woman in police detention. "Iran’s intelligence and security forces have been committing horrific acts of torture, including beatings, flogging, electric shocks, rape, and other sexual violence against child protesters as young as 12," Amnesty said, adding, “The authorities must immediately release all children detained solely for peacefully protesting."

Saudi Arabia Could Invest In Iran 'Very Quickly' After Agreement, Says Minister

Saudi Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jadaan (file photo)

Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jadaan said on March 15 that Saudi investments in Iran could happen "very quickly" following an agreement to restore diplomatic ties. "There are a lot of opportunities for Saudi investments in Iran. We don't see impediments as long as the terms of any agreement would be respected," Al-Jadaan said during the Financial Sector Conference in Riyadh. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on March 10 to reestablish relations and reopen embassies within two months after years of hostility. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Iranian Activist Gholian Released As Protests During Fire Festival Continue

Iranian activist Sepideh Gholian (file photo)

Iranian protesters have staged fresh demonstrations by taking to the streets across the country to protest during a night that is traditionally an ancient festival of fire as one of the country's well-known activists, Sepideh Gholian, said she had been released from prison.

Gholian, 28, is one of the most prominent female activists held in Iran. She announced on her Instagram page on March 15 that she had been released after being behind bars for four years and seven months.

"I was released from the Seven Hills case. This time I came out hoping for the freedom of Iran!" she wrote in the post, which showed video of her leaving the prison with a bouquet of flowers.


Gholian was arrested along with about 20 activists, protest organizers, and workers during the Haft Tappeh Sugar Factory strike in November 2018. While most were released on bond the next day, Gholian was imprisoned for a month.

Her release from prison in Ahvaz in December 2018 was short-lived as she was again arrested in January 2019 after Iranian state television aired footage in which it purported to show Gholian confessing to taking part in alleged Western-backed efforts to overthrow the government. She promptly countered those accusations on social media by saying she had been beaten and forced to make a false confession.

The labor activist's release came hours after videos published on social media showed people taking to the streets overnight as they used celebrations of the traditional Festival of Fire to continue months of protests, chanting anti-government slogans, such as "Death to the dictator" and "Death to Khamenei," a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Saghez is the hometown of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death during her detention by Iran's morality police for an alleged head scarf violation triggered nationwide protests.

The festival, which took on extra meaning this year after several months of unrest that threatens to tear the country apart as protesters battle for the government to respect women's and human rights, is seen as an opportunity to make wishes for the upcoming Persian New Year, which begins on March 21.

Reports also indicated that in several neighborhoods of Tehran, including Ekbatan in the west of the capital, people burned pictures of the leader of the Islamic republic and chanted slogans against the government.

Similar scenes were repeated in the Iranian cities of Zanjan, Rasht, Sanandaj, Piranshahr and Tabriz.

Iranian Women Burn Head Scarves Amid Fire Festival
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Amini's death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests that authorities have met with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed -- without providing evidence -- the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

Iranian Women Burn Head Scarves Amid Fire Festival

Iranian Women Burn Head Scarves Amid Fire Festival
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Women in the Iranian capital, Tehran, burned their head scarves amid the annual fire festival known as Chaharshanbeh Suri. Videos posted on social media showed anti-government protests erupting in several Iranian cities as celebrations ahead of the Persian New Year, Norouz, turned to defiance.

Iranian Government Proposes New Measures To Enforce Hijab Law, Including Surveillance

Many Iranian women and schoolgirls have been flouting Iran's hijab rules in a show of defiance following the death of a young woman in police custody for allegedly wearing the head scarf improperly. (file photo)

Iranian authorities have proposed new measures to enforce the compulsory wearing of the hijab in the country, including the use of surveillance cameras to identify and punish women who fail to comply with the dress code amid months of nationwide unrest sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly not wearing her head scarf properly.

In a public session of the Iranian parliament on March 14, Bijan Nobaveh a member of the Cultural Commission revealed that the body has proposed seven new measures related to the hijab, which have been fully endorsed by the leadership and discussed at the National Security Council.

Under the new proposals, physical punishment will not be allowed. Violators instead will be punished according to a predetermined table. The surveillance cameras will be used to monitor public spaces for women not wearing the hijab, and offenders will be punished subsequently with measures that include cutting off their mobile phone and Internet connections. Police and judicial authorities will be tasked with collecting evidence and identifying violators.

The Cultural Commission said shop owners and operators of businesses such as shopping malls and accommodation centers will be responsible for implementing the rules.

Officials have recently moved to seal off the businesses of some "violators," including this week when a hotel in the city of Kashan and a shopping center in the capital, Tehran, were closed because employers were not observing the mandatory hijab rule.

The hijab -- the head covering worn by Muslim women -- became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls over the age of nine after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Many Iranian women have flouted the rule over the years in protest and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Long-simmering tensions boiled over after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while being detained for an alleged hijab infraction.

Tens of thousands of Iranians have flooded streets across the country in protest.

Women and even schoolgirls have put up unprecedented shows of defiance in the unrest, considered one of the biggest threats to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

In response, authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on dissent, detaining thousands and handing down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters. Rights groups say more than 500 people have died in the protests.

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

The Farda Briefing: Under Pressure At Home And Abroad, Tehran Gets 'Breathing Space' From Iran-Saudi Deal 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (center) poses with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (right) and Saudi Arabia's national security adviser, Musaad bin Muhammad al-Aiban (left), in Beijing on March 10.

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

I'm RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I've been following during the past week and what I'm watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations, seven years after the regional foes cut formal ties.

In a statement issued on March 10, Tehran and Riyadh pledged to reopen their embassies within two months and reactivate a security cooperation pact. The sides also confirmed their "respect for the sovereignty of states and noninterference in their internal affairs."

The deal was brokered by China, a major buyer of Iranian and Saudi oil. Beijing is also one of the few allies of Iran's clerical regime, which has come under mounting pressure from the West.

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran in 2016, when protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran after Riyadh executed a revered Saudi Shi'ite cleric.

Since then, tensions between Shi'a-majority Iran and Saudi Arabia, a predominately Sunni Muslim kingdom, have soared. The two rivals have fought proxy wars across the Middle East, including in Yemen and Syria. Pro-Iranian armed groups have been blamed for drone and missile attacks on Saudi soil.

Why It Matters: If the agreement holds, it could help deescalate tensions in the Middle East, where the two longtime foes have competed for influence for decades.

For Iran, repairing relations with a regional foe would alleviate the growing pressure it has faced at home and abroad recently. The clerical regime has been rocked by months of anti-regime protests, the biggest challenge the authorities have faced in decades. Tehran has also been under mounting Western pressure over its supply of combat drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine.

"The Islamic republic is under significant pressure, both domestically and regionally," Thomas Juneau, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, told RFE/RL. "By stabilizing its relations with its Saudi rival, even if only partially, it provides it with some breathing space."

What's Next: It's unclear if the Iran-Saudi deal will lead to a lasting rapprochement between the countries.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan struck a cautious note, saying on March 13 that "agreeing to restore diplomatic ties does not mean we have reached a solution to all disputes between us."

Juneau of the University of Ottawa expressed doubts that there would be a "significant improvement" in Iran-Saudi ties, although he added that tensions might be "better managed." "The pattern in Saudi-Iranian relations in recent decades has been fairly consistent: Tension ebbs and flows, but never goes below a high floor," he said.

Stories You Might Have Missed

Women have played a major role in the antiestablishment protests in Iran. Even as the demonstrations have mostly subsided in recent weeks, a growing number of women are appearing in public without the mandatory hijab, in a direct challenge to the authorities. The brutal enforcement of the hijab law triggered the anti-regime protests that erupted in September.

Five Tehran girls were warned by the authorities after posting a dance video that went viral among Iranian social media users. It is illegal for women to dance in public in Iran, but the video has inspired others across the country to post similar videos with the same song, in a potentially dangerous act of open defiance toward the regime.

What We're Watching

Six members of Iran's exiled opposition, including the former crown prince, Reza Pahlavi, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, issued a charter for a transition to a new, secular democratic system that would be followed by free elections.

The Charter of Solidarity and Alliance for Freedom also called for international efforts to isolate Iran's theocratic regime.

Why It Matters: The charter is among several proposals made by opposition figures and civil society groups inside and outside Iran that would transform or even replace the current theocratic system with a democracy.

The proposals for a post-Islamic republic system come amid growing calls for political change in Iran.

Last month, some 20 labor unions, student organizations, and civil society groups inside Iran published a joint charter. On March 8, a group of women's rights activists released a Women's Bill of Rights they said should form the basis of a new constitution once the regime is removed.

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

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

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

The Protests That Shook Iran's Clerical System

Iran's Top Security Official Shamkhani To Visit The U.A.E. On March 16

The visit to Abu Dhabi by Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani (right) comes on the heels of a March 10 meeting in Beijing with Saudi Arabia's state minister, Musaad bin Muhammad al-Aiban (left).

Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani will visit the United Arab Emirates on March 16, Nour News, which is affiliated with the Iranian top security body, reported on March 15. His visit to Abu Dhabi comes at a time of growing rapprochement between Iran and Gulf countries. Last week, Shamkhani took part in talks brokered by China that resulted in Saudi Arabia and Iran resuming diplomatic ties after they were suspended in 2016. The United Arab Emirates sent an ambassador back to Iran in September, more than six years after the Gulf Arab state downgraded ties with the Islamic republic. To read the full story by Reuters, click here.

Lawyer For Amini Family Summoned To Tehran Prosecutor's Office For 'Propaganda'

Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht has called on investigators to study the two-hour period of Amini's arrest and transfer instead of pushing him and her family to accept the "late arrival and failure" of the medical staff as the cause of her death. (file photo)

The lawyer for the family of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Iranian woman whose death in mid-September while in police custody has led to months of nationwide unrest, has been summoned to the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office at Tehran's Evin prison and accused of "propaganda against the Islamic republic."

The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network quoted an informed source as saying the charge against Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht is a result of interviews he has given with foreign media.

In an interview with the Faraz website in January, Nikbakht said that four months after Amini's death, "incomplete investigations have been carried out without [the family's] presence or participation as the complainant."

Amini was detained by the morality police while visiting Tehran in September because she was allegedly wearing a head scarf, or hijab, improperly. Iranian authorities say she died of natural causes, but eyewitnesses and her family say the young woman was beaten by security agents.

Nikbakht called on investigators to study the two-hour period of Amini's arrest and transfer to the Morality Police Center instead of pushing him and her family to accept the "late arrival and failure" of the medical staff as the cause of her death.

Amini died on September 16, prompting thousands of Iranians to take to the streets nationwide to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread unrest, which continues, represents the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Protests over Amini's death have been met with a violent government crackdown.

The activist organization HRANA said that more than 500 people have been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent by detaining thousands, including several foreigners.

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

Iranians Commemorate Festival Of Fire With More Anti-Government Protests

An anti-government protest in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan Province, earlier this year.

Iranian protesters have staged fresh anti-government demonstrations by taking to the streets a night before Chaharshanbeh Suri, the traditional Festival of Fire at which people light small fires and jump over them while making wishes for the upcoming year.

In Tehran's Ekbatan neighborhood, protesters on March 14 showed the depth of their anger toward the government's intrusion on their freedoms by chanting, “The struggle continues,” and, “Death to the dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ekbatan has been one of the epicenters of protests in the Iranian capital for the last six months, demonstrating defiance amid unrest over the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

WATCH: Five Tehran girls were reported to have voiced contrition after posting a dance video that went viral among Iranian social media users. It's illegal for women to dance in public in Iran, but the video has inspired others across the country to post similar videos with the same song, in a potentially dangerous act of open defiance toward the regime.

Viral Iran Dance Video Inspires Imitators To Defy Regime
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Similar scenes were repeated in other neighborhoods of the Iranian capital, including Sattar Khan and Tehran Pars as people marked the festival following months of protests.

Videos published on social media showed protesters demonstrating in the streets in the northeastern city of Mashhad, the birthplace of Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi, and chanting slogans against the Islamic government.

A group of protesting young people in Sanandaj in Kurdistan Province also gathered in the city by lighting a fire on the Sanandaj-Kermanshah highway and chanting, "Death to the dictator."

In the western Iranian city of Kamyaran in Kurdistan Province, protesters set fire to tires and closed part of the city's central streets.

Iranian Women Burn Head Scarves Amid Fire Festival
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The unrest was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16. The 22-year-old died while in custody after being arrested by Tehran's notorious "morality police" for "improperly" wearing a mandatory Islamic head scarf, or hijab.

Her death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests in cities across the country. The authorities have met the dissent with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way by issuing harsh sentences for even minor offenses related to the protests, which analysts say pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

Viral Iran Dance Video Inspires Imitators To Defy Regime

Viral Iran Dance Video Inspires Imitators To Defy Regime
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Five Tehran girls were reported to have voiced contrition after posting a dance video that went viral among Iranian social media users. It's illegal for women to dance in public in Iran, but the video has inspired others across the country to post similar videos with the same song, in a potentially dangerous act of open defiance toward the regime.

Rights Group Calls For Sanctions On Iran For Sentencing Swedish-Iranian Dissident To Death

Iranian-Swedish citizen Habib Chaab (file photo)

The U.S.-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has urged the international community to sanction Iran for sentencing Iranian-Swedish dissident Habib Chaab to death after "luring" him to Turkey and taking him to Iran. Chaab was tried and condemned for leading a "terrorist group" and organizing and carrying out "numerous bombings and terrorist operations" in southwestern Iran. Chaab is a founder and former leader of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz separatist group. CHRI said in a statement that governments should impose "political and economic consequences" on Tehran for its "hostage-taking.”

Iranian Reformer Tajzadeh Says Attacked By Prison Guards For Third Time In Month

Iranian reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh addresses the media in May 2021.

Prominent reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh, who is currently being held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, says he and his cell mates were attacked by guards for their support of recent comments made by opposition figure Mir Hossein Musavi on regime change.

Tajzadeh, 65, said in a letter that he and fellow prisoners Saeed Madani and Hossein Razzaq were attacked after they were subjected to an "unusual and long search" of their cell over the weekend.

Tajzadeh said guards seized some personal notes in an attack, which comes amid government claims that more than 80,000 people have been released in a mass amnesty, that was a direct response to their support for Musavi.

In the letter, which he addressed to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister and staunch critic of Khamenei, claimed it was the third attack by prison inspectors on his cell in Evin in the past month.

"How do these measures (attacks) fit with the announcement of an amnesty for prisoners?" he asked in the letter.

"And why even after unjustly imprisoning your critics do you trample on their inalienable and basic rights in prisons?"

For months, antiestablishment protesters have called for the overthrow of Iran's clerical regime and demanded greater social and political freedoms. Opposition figures -- including Musavi -- and civil society groups inside Iran took that issue a step further last month, sharing proposals that would transform or even replace the current theocratic system with a democracy.

Tajzadeh -- who last year made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency as a reformist -- was found guilty on three charges related to his repeated calls for structural changes in the country and sentenced to five years in prison.

Referring to Khamenei’s repeated claim that the opposition is free to criticize him, Tajzadeh asked in the letter how that is possible "if I have been sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison just for criticizing your performance in two cases, while a distinguished researcher like Saeed Madani has been sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison in two cases."

Tajzadeh served as deputy interior minister under reformist former`president Mohammad Khatami, who held office from 1997 to 2005.

He was arrested in 2009 during mass protests disputing the reelection of then President Mahmud Ahmadinejad that was contested by an opposition supporting reformist candidates Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hossein Musavi.

In 2010, Tajzadeh was convicted of harming national security and propaganda against the state. He was released in 2016 after serving most of his seven-year sentence.

After his release, Tajzadeh has often called on authorities to free Karrubi and Musavi who have been under house arrest for more than a decade.

Last October, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced Tajzadeh to the current five-year term he is serving. Tajzadeh declined to speak in court during the hearing after a request he made to talk one-on-one with his lawyer was rejected.

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

China Eyes Larger Middle East Role After Sealing Iran-Saudi Deal

Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi holds up a March 10 deal in Beijing with Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and Saudi State Minister Musaad bin Muhammad al-Aiban.

A surprise deal brokered by China to reestablish diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia has paved the way for Beijing to expand its influence in the Middle East and shore up its broader ambitions on the global stage.

Following the announcement of the March 10 agreement, which came after four days of previously unannounced talks in Beijing, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese leader Xi Jinping plans to continue to press ahead with his country's regional leadership and host a high-level meeting of Gulf Arab leaders and Iranian officials in Beijing later this year.

The gathering has reportedly been in discussion since December, when Xi met with Arab leaders at a regional summit in Riyadh and proposed the idea.

The deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia highlights Beijing's growing focus on the Middle East, where Xi's long-term foreign policy goal of presenting Chinese leadership as an alternative to the United States is finding fertile ground amid waning American influence and China's expanding economic and political ties with the region.

Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, said that the success of the talks between Riyadh and Tehran -- whose rivalry has long shaped politics and trade in the region -- was attributed to Xi's leadership and that it was "a victory for peace."

Wang Yi, Ali Shamkhani, and Musaad bin Muhammad al-Aiban pose for cameras in Beijing on March 10 after reaching a deal to resume diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.
Wang Yi, Ali Shamkhani, and Musaad bin Muhammad al-Aiban pose for cameras in Beijing on March 10 after reaching a deal to resume diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.

"China will continue to play a constructive role in handling hot-spot issues in the world and demonstrate its responsibility as a major nation," said Wang, who represented China in the talks. "The world is not just limited to the Ukraine issue."

Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016, and the diplomatic rapprochement comes as the countries have squared off against each other in regional proxy conflicts over the years. Analysts have cautioned that the China-brokered deal faces obstacles ahead and that it will take more than renewed diplomatic relations to mend ties. But the agreement also reflects growing pragmatism from each side with Tehran looking to salvage its tattered economy and Riyadh eager to calm tensions that have inflamed wars and fueled attacks on Saudi Arabia and its interests across the region.

"Iran is deeply isolated, humiliated by months of protests, and heavily reliant on China strategically [and] economically. This deal lessens its isolation, gains legitimacy for the regime, and strengthens China's regional influence at the expense of the [United States]," Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote on Twitter following the peace deal.

"Given China's enormous leverage over Iran and its interest in regional stability, Riyadh likely hopes this deal provides them a Chinese shield against Iranian aggression," he added.

Cautious Optimism

According to the Wall Street Journal report, the new deal provides two months for Iran and Saudi Arabia to agree on details before reopening their embassies. Once an agreement is reached on those specifics, the countries' foreign ministers will then meet to finalize it and the purported Middle East summit in China will take place after that announcement.

"The countries of the region share one fate," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, tweeted about the deal. "That makes it necessary for us to work together to build models for prosperity and stability."

Iranian officials also welcomed the agreement, with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian saying it was a sign that Tehran's regional policy was "strongly moving in the right direction" and that the country's "diplomatic apparatus is actively behind the preparation of more regional steps."

While many analysts believe that the deal and China's role in it are being met with caution in Washington, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States supports "any effort to deescalate tensions" and that "we think it's in our own interests," noting that it could lead to an end of the civil war in Yemen, which has seen the country's Iran-backed Huthi militants face off against a Saudi-led coalition in a conflict that has led to hundreds of thousands of people killed and created a dire humanitarian situation.

A Yemeni fighter backed by the Saudi-led coalition fires his weapon during clashes with Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen in 2021.
A Yemeni fighter backed by the Saudi-led coalition fires his weapon during clashes with Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen in 2021.

Tehran was motivated to strike a deal as a currency crisis grips Iran, compounding an already devastated economy from U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program and fallout from monthslong public protests against the clerical regime's rule.

Iranian officials are said to be hoping to extract economic benefits from Riyadh for their easing of tensions as well as from China, which maintains significant economic leverage over Tehran.

Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency reported that prior to the March 10 announcement, Beijing allowed Iran to access a portion of some $20 billion in Chinese banks that was frozen when the United States left a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions against Tehran in 2018.

China promised Iran in 2021 to invest a reported $400 billion in the country in exchange for oil and fuel supplies, though Western sanctions against Tehran have prevented Beijing from realizing the terms of the sprawling agreement.

Beijing also has deep economic links to Riyadh as China is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner and the kingdom is one of China's largest oil suppliers.

Those economic ties have been the bedrock of China's engagement in the Middle East, where Beijing receives more than 40 percent of its crude oil imports and has a growing interest in regional stability.

But the peace deal also reflects China's shifting approach to the region, which is moving from being centered on trade and investment toward wading into the Middle East's tense conflicts.

"So far, China has been very cautious…focusing primarily on business without getting too involved militarily in the Middle East. But things could change," Zhou Bo, a former senior colonel in the People's Liberation Army, said this month at an international affairs conference in Israel before the deal was announced.

Beijing's Evolving Role

In addition to its economic ties, China's growing influence in the Middle East has been its growing appeal as a partner that touts multilateralism and refrains from criticizing human rights records in the region.

Beijing has also capitalized on fallout from events that have hurt Washington's standing in the region, such as its 2003 invasion of Iraq and wide-ranging war on terror, with China following a strategy to shun Western ideals and U.S. interests when engaging with the Middle East.

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman welcomes Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Riyadh in December 2022.
Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman welcomes Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Riyadh in December 2022.

"[Beijing's] real power is steadily catching up to the willpower to undercut U.S. hegemony," Tuvia Gering, a China expert at the Institute for National Security Studies, wrote in February for the Atlantic Council think tank.

The United States has long-standing ties with Riyadh and is its main security partner, though relations have been strained for many years and soured significantly after the gruesome 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, allegedly at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

While the new peace deal is an early diplomatic coup for China, analysts are also quick to caution about the difficulties ahead for Beijing in navigating one of the most volatile rivalries in the world, which is exacerbated by the Sunni-Shi'a schism.

Reopening embassies and renewing diplomatic relations as outlined in the deal are unlikely to forestall Iran and Saudi Arabia's struggle for regional dominance.

A man looks at plunging currency exchange rates at a shop in Tehran on February 21.
A man looks at plunging currency exchange rates at a shop in Tehran on February 21.

The war in Yemen will be a critical test for the nascent rapprochement.

Saudi officials are reportedly seeking a way to end the conflict but hammering out a peace agreement will be an even larger task and could reinvigorate tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.

Others have noted that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps -- the hard-line faction that has made armed influence in the Middle East a key policy pillar -- has yet to weigh in on the March 10 deal and that it won't survive without some form of blessing from it.

"It's one thing for China to host the talks, but it is another for China to help implement the signed agreement on time," Fan Hongda, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, wrote after the deal was announced. "What kind of guarantees will China provide if one of the parties does not respect the agreement?

Germany's Scholz Welcomes Saudi-Iran Efforts To Build 'Less Confrontational' Ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (center) poses with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (right) and Saudi Arabia's national security adviser, Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban (left), in Beijing on March 10.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed the agreement by Saudi Arabia and Iran to reestablish ties after years of hostility but did not comment on China's role in brokering the deal. "It is good that Saudi Arabia and Iran want to develop a less confrontational relationship...and that is what can be said about it," Scholz told a news conference on March 13 alongside Bhutan's prime minister, Lotey Tshering. Tshering said Bhutan had good neighbors in India and China but did not want to comment on Beijing being a negotiator in the Ukraine war, saying too many factors were involved. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Iranian Students Say They've Been Banned From Campuses After Protesting Suspected Poisonings

More than 5,000 students, mainly girls, have fallen ill in Iran.

Dozens of Iranian students across the country say they have been banned from entering their universities after they protested the suspected poisoning of pupils that has hospitalized scores, mainly schoolgirls.

According to the United Students Telegram channel, at least 40 students at the Tabriz University of Medical Sciences and 30 students at Tehran’s Allameh University have been denied entrance to their campuses, while some students at Soore University in Tehran said they have been summoned to attend “mandatory workshops."

Videos and photos published on social media on March 8 showed students at Tehran’s Allameh Tabatabai University, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, and AmirKabir University of Technology staging on-campus protests as the government's slow response to the crisis fueled speculation over what could have caused more than 5,000 students, mainly girls, to have fallen ill.

WATCH: After Iranian security forces largely suppressed nationwide protests, could a new cause stoke anger against the authorities? Some 5,000 schoolgirls have been reported ill. There are widespread claims that they have been poisoned, but a lack of hard evidence is fueling calls for an impartial investigation.

'Anger And Frustration': Could Poison Reports Reignite Iran Protests?
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Hundreds have been hospitalized after complaining of symptoms that included nausea, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, numbness, and hand or leg pain.

It remains unclear what might be causing the illnesses, though some of those affected have said they smelled chlorine or cleaning agents, while others said they thought they smelled tangerines in the air.

No one has claimed responsibility for the wave of illnesses that some officials -- including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- have characterized as "poisonings."

The lack of clarity over the situation has prompted some to say the suspected poisonings are intentional and a scare tactic being used to intimidate females who have protested over the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a hijab, or head scarf, improperly.

Universities and schools have become leading venues for clashes between protesters and the authorities, prompting security forces to launch a series of raids on schools across the country, violently arresting students, especially female students, who have defiantly taken off their hijabs in protest.

An unspecified number of arrests had been made in five provinces in connection with the incidents, but few details have been made public.

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

Iranian Justice Chief Says 22,000 Protesters Pardoned As Part Of Amnesty

Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, the head of Iran's judiciary (file photo)

The head of Iran's judiciary says some 22,000 people arrested for participating in riots sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody have been pardoned. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told the Supreme Council of the Judiciary on March 13 that those pardoned included "a small number who were in prison," while others had been convicted or were awaiting sentencing. He did not give any further details, but he had previously said that more than 80,000 people -- including protesters -- have been part of a recent amnesty. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Updated

Lukashenka Meets With Iran's President In Tehran

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (left) and Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Tehran on March 13.

Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who is visiting Iran, met on March 13 with President Ebrahim Raisi, state news agency BelTA reported. The two signed a roadmap agreement on bilateral cooperation for the next three years, BelTA said. Belarus is not a direct participant in the war in Ukraine, but it has provided logistical support to Russia for the invasion by allowing Russian forces to enter Ukraine via Belarusian territory. Iran has bolstered its ties with Russia’s military -- including the delivery of deadly drones to Russian troops -- since the war began in February 2022.

U.S. Dismisses As 'Cruel Lie' Iranian Claims Of Deal For Prisoner Swap

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (file photo)

The United States has denied a claim by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on March 12 that an initial agreement has been reached with the United States for an exchange of prisoners, dismissing it as a “cruel lie.” Iran's foreign minister did not give details of a potential deal. Several Iranian-U.S. citizens, including Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz, are imprisoned in Iran. U.S. and Iranian media outlets have reported the potential for a deal in recent weeks. To read earlier story by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, click here.

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