NCRI Staff Writer     |     16th May 2022

Today, marking the sixth day of the nationwide uprising in Iran where people from various provinces have taken to the streets calling for regime change and democracy, the 70th United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a visit to Ashraf 3, home to thousands of members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran in Mainz, Albania.

After meeting with Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the Iranian National Council of Resistance of Iran, Mr. Pompeo visited the Ashraf 3 museum where the history and evidence of 120 years long resistance of the Iranian people throughout the rule of three dictators in Iran was demonstrated.

Ashraf-3, Albania, May 16, 2022 – Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and Secretary Michael Pompeo meeting in Ashraf 3, home to thousands of member of the principal Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK), in Manëz, Albania.

Following the visit, Ms. Rajavi and Mr. Pompeo attended a meeting with residents of Ashraf 3 and members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MEK/PMOI), of whom a thousand were victims and former prisoners of both the monarchial as well as the clerical regime.

Addressing the members of the MEK, Mr. Pompeo stated: “I’d also like to recognize President-elect Maryam Rajavi.  Under her leadership, the National Council of Resistance of Iran is laying the groundwork for a free, sovereign, and democratic republic in Iran.”

“A serious missing factor in U.S. policy towards Iran has been the lack of political support for the organized opposition, Mr. Pompeo added. “The regime in Tehran went to the extreme to massacre 30,000 political prisoners, whose main targets and a majority of victims were the MEK. The threat of attack extends far beyond Iran’s borders, with the regime having waged terror plots in Europe and the U.S. against the leaders of this movement. Now, to correct the Iran policy, no matter who is in the White House, it is a necessity for the U.S. administration to reach out to the Iranian Resistance and take advantage of its tremendous capabilities. Ashraf 3 is one such place to focus on.”

Secretary Pompeo also said: “Ebrahim Raisi, the butcher who orchestrated the 1988 massacre, is now President… The turnout was the lowest since 1979, marking a total rejection of the regime and its candidate.  It was, in fact, a boycott of the regime – and the regime knows it.  The regime is clearly at its weakest point in decades.”

“Raisi has already failed. He has failed to crush uprisings in Iran or break the noble spirit of dissent within the Iranian people,” he further elaborated.

Calling to hold Ebrahim Raisi accountable for his crimes against humanity back in 1988, Mr. Pompeo stated: “We must continue to support the Iranian people as they fight for a freer and more democratic Iran in any way we can. There is so much good work that American civil society can do to further this goal.  It is the work your organization is actively engaged in.”

“In the end, the Iranian people will have a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Republic. I pray that this day will come soon and with the support of Iranians living all around the world – and those who resist from within — that day will come sooner.  I am committed to this cause; I know you all are too,” he concluded.

Welcoming and expressing her gratitude to the Secretary Pompeo, Ms. Rajavi emphasized the determination of the Iranian Resistance and the Iranian people to fight and bring an end to forty-three years of tyranny, discrimination, and corruption of the mullahs’ regime in their country.

Ms. Rajavi stated: “For a while, the mullahs tried to portray Iraq as the enemy. Then, they tried to portray the United States as the enemy. But the people of Iran and the MEK say that our enemy is in Iran. The mullahs said the MEK were terrorists, a cult, and the enemies of God. They claimed the MEK did not have any base of support in Iran. There are many similar and baseless allegations.”

Ashraf-3, Albania, May 16, 2022 – Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and Secretary Michael Pompeo standing in front of a map of Iran in the Museum of “120 Years of Struggle for Freedom in Iran” in Ashraf 3 home to thousands of members of the principal Iranian opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) in Manëz, Albania.

“Yes, by glancing at the objective conditions and the successive eruption of uprisings in Iran, today one can see that regime change is on the horizon,” Ms. Rajavis stated. “The people of Iran have already decided to engage in the final confrontation with the regime… The Shah resorted to mass killings and martial law in the final months of his rule, but it had the opposite effect. Likewise, Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi, an executioner implicated in the massacre of political prisoners, as his regime’s president, to close ranks in the face of the uprisings and save his regime.”

In the end, the NCRI president-elect reiterated the Iranian Resistance statements and said: “Today, we warn again that one should not delay. We say that we can and must free Iran, the Middle East, and the world of the evil of the nuclear mullahs.

  • First, by imposing comprehensive sanctions and international isolation of the religious dictatorship. The mullahs’ regime should be placed under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
  • Second, by referring the dossier of human rights abuses in Iran and the clerical regime’s terrorism to the UN Security Council, particularly the files on the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988 and the killing of 1,500 during the November 2019 uprising.
  • Third, by recognizing the struggle of Iran’s rebellious youths against the IRGC and the struggle of the entire Iranian nation to overthrow the mullahs’ regime.
  • And finally, as you said, “In the end, the Iranian people will have a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Republic.”

https://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/maryam-rajavi/mike-pompeo-meets-with-ncris-maryam-rajavi-in-ashraf-3-albania/

 

“I want the administration to understand that no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said.

Politico     |     By DAVID COHEN     |     05/01/2022

Sen. Bob Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed doubt Sunday that ongoing talks with Iran would deliver a viable deal on nuclear weapons.

“I want the administration to understand that no deal is better than a bad deal,” Menendez (D-N.J.) told host Bret Baier on “Fox News Sunday.”

Menendez said he was dubious about the current talks because they have lasted so long that some provisions of the original agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, were about to end anyway, and others were getting close to that point.

“From my perspective, unless there are other elements of the deal, that would not be a good deal,” he said.

Opposition to an agreement would not be inconsistent with Menendez’s prior stances. In August 2015, he announced his opposition to the original deal: “This deal is based on ‘hope.’ Hope is part of human nature, but unfortunately it is not a national security strategy.”

In May 2018, then-President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing from the “decaying and rotten” agreement, which also included Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the European Union. The U.S. withdrawal left the deal more or less in limbo, with the Trump administration pushing Iran to adhere to the terms of the agreement even though they were no longer reaping any of its benefits.

Trump said he was going to renegotiate the deal, something that President Joe Biden’s administration has been attempting to do in talks in Vienna.

Menendez said that it does remain essential to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

“We are all in agreement that Iran cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. It will change the entire nature of the region,” Menendez said, citing the risk to Israel’s security and the likelihood of an arms race.

He added: “We have to stop, yes, Iran’s proliferation and missiles, and we also have to stop their pathway to a nuclear weapon.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/01/menendez-iran-nuclear-weapons-deal-00029168

 

Iran Focus     |     By HOSHANG AMIRI     |     MAY 11, 2022

Observers in Iran believe that nationwide protests and uprisings are underway following the Iranian regime’s decision to increase the price of flour and remove subsidized bread from the shelves. The regime’s President Ebrahim Raisi has also breached his promises about ‘eliminating absolute poverty’, ‘constructing one million homes’, and ‘supporting the underprivileged’, even before marking his government’s first anniversary.

Fazel Meybodi, a low-ranking mullah at Qom Howzeh [an Islamic Seminary], challenged the regime’s president in regard to his insufficiency and failure, asking, “Mr. Raisi; didn’t Prophet Mohammad say, ‘Damn be upon who accepts a task without knowledge?”

Meybodi also questioned the authority of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who extraordinarily purged Raisi’s rivals during the 2020 Presidential election to appoint his protégé, warning “People’s ‘riot’ is more dangerous than a revolution.”

On November 15, 2019, Raisi’s so-called ‘reformist’ predecessor Hassan Rouhani suddenly increased the price of gas by 200 percent, prompting hundreds of thousands of citizens to protest across the country. Two days later, Khamenei declared his support for the gas price hikes and hampered the Parliament [Majlis] bill to decrease the prices.

Khamenei referred to protesters as ‘rioters and hooligans,’ and ordered the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to, “Do whatever it takes to end [protests].” The IRGC quelled the nationwide demonstrations with helicopters, armored vehicles, heavy machineguns, snipers, and live ammunition, leaving more than 1,500 dead and many more wounded. Now ‘hardline’ and IRGC-backed Raisi have targeted people’s staple food.

A Glance at Bread Price in Iran

The authorities have resorted to increasing flour and bread prices to compensate for their stellar budget deficits, at a time that the country is suffering from an economic crisis due to the regime’s mismanagement and wasting national wealth on terrorism and nuclear ambitions.

On April 26, the main state-run TV channel acknowledged that the price of flour would increase from 25,000 rials [$0.09] per kilogram to 120,000 to 169,000 rials [$0.42-0.60]. The official IRNA news agency unveiled the regime’s critical conditions eight days later, writing in their May 4 publication, “The crisis is [too dangerous] as the only remaining solution is to remove subsidies, meaning a stellar increase in the bread price.”

Following the price hike of flour, the price of bread also soared, while the price of baguettes soared 13-fold. State media soon sounded alarm bells about rampant costs, with the Eslahat News website reporting on May 3, “Sandwich prices have reached 300,000 to 500,000 rials [$1.07-1.78]. It is no longer possible to purchase falafel; its bread costs 100,000 rials [$0.35] alone.”

Adding to the price hikes, the regime is yet to adjust the minimum wages to compete with the skyrocketing inflation in the country. The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported on May 7, “In less than two months, high prices have significantly emptied working families’ product baskets. The minimum wages were raised by 57 percent this year; however, the average increase in foodstuff prices was more than 200 percent, meaning a 150-percent decrease in ‘workers’ real wages.’”

At the same time, the Economy Ministry announced that it would begin rationing bread. The people will be required to pay $0.35 for a loaf of bread. As the workers’ minimum wage is $100 per month, this means that every working family of an average of 3.3 people has to pay $106 monthly in order to receive three loaves of bread per day, which is simply unaffordable considering other expenses.

According to the Iranian government, Raisi is reportedly putting a cap on the price hikes. Cabinet spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi was quoted in an article on the Jamaran website on May 6, saying, “The President will not allow the bread to become more expensive in such circumstances.”

However, even people loyal to the theocratic regime mocked Raisi and his failures again on social media, with many stating that “Raisi’s commanding economy no longer works.”

“The expensive bread is equivalent to cheap lives,” stated the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) on May 5. “The regime has extended its claws to people’s food baskets. This process began with gasoline price hikes—in November 2019—and continued with increasing the house, pharmaceutical drugs, and foodstuffs prices. Today, it has reached the lone food that remained in people’s tablecloths.”

In a message to Raisi by a group of Basij students on May 5, warned him that “the multiple-fold increase in the flour price may lead to social unrest, particularly when anti-revolutionary media have laid in ambush to drag the country to chaos.”

https://www.iranfocus.com/en/life-in-iran/48692-iran-bread-protests-are-on-way-stronger-than-gas-protests/

 

HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN: REVIEW OF 2021/22
29 March 2022 Index: MDE 13/5366/2022

IRAN

Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of state: Ali Khamenei (Supreme Leader)
Head of government: Ebrahim Raisi (President, replaced Hassan Rouhani in August)

Thousands of people were interrogated, unfairly prosecuted and/or arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights, and hundreds remained unjustly imprisoned. Security forces unlawfully used lethal force and birdshot to crush protests. Women, LGBTI people and ethnic and religious minorities faced entrenched discrimination and violence. Legislative developments further undermined sexual and reproductive rights, the right to freedom of religion and belief, and access to the internet. Torture and other ill-treatment, including denying prisoners adequate medical care, remained widespread and systematic. Authorities failed to ensure timely and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. Judicial punishments of floggings, amputations and blinding were imposed. The death penalty was used widely, including as a weapon of repression. Executions were carried out after unfair trials. Systemic impunity prevailed for past and ongoing crimes against humanity related to prison massacres in 1988 and other crimes under international law.

BACKGROUND

The former head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, rose to the presidency in June instead of being investigated for crimes against humanity related to the mass enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions of 1988, reflecting systemic impunity in Iran. Presidential elections were held in a repressive environment with a markedly low turnout. Authorities barred women, members of religious minorities and critics from running, and threatened to prosecute anyone encouraging election boycott.

Ongoing US sanctions, Covid-19 and corruption deepened Iran’s economic crisis, characterized by high inflation, job
losses and low or unpaid wages. Strikes and rallies punctuated the year as authorities failed to prioritize adequate wages, housing, healthcare, food security and education in public budgets. Environmental experts criticized the authorities’ failure to address Iran’s environmental crisis, marked by loss of lakes, rivers and wetlands; deforestation; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; and land sinking.

Iran continued to provide military support to government forces in the armed conflict in Syria (see Syria entry).
In February, a Belgian court sentenced Iranian diplomat Assadollah Asadi to 20 years’ imprisonment for his role in a thwarted bomb attack against a rally by an exiled Iranian opposition group in France in 2018.

In March, the UN Human Rights Council renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. The authorities denied him, other UN experts and independent observers entry to Iran.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, ASSOCIATION AND ASSEMBLY

The authorities continued to heavily suppress the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They banned independent political parties, trade unions and civil society organizations, censored media and jammed satellite television channels.

1 “Iran: Ebrahim Raisi must be investigated for crimes against humanity”, 19 June

In January, the authorities added Signal to the list of blocked social media platforms, which included Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and YouTube. Security and intelligence officials carried out arbitrary arrests for social media postings deemed “counter-revolutionary” or “un-Islamic”.

The authorities imposed internet shutdowns during protests, hiding the scale of violations by security forces. In July, parliament fast-tracked preparations for a bill that is expected to be adopted in 2022 and which would criminalize the production and distribution of censorship circumvention tools and intensify surveillance.

Several thousand men, women and children were interrogated, unfairly prosecuted and/or arbitrarily detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Among them were protesters, journalists, dissidents, artists, writers, teachers, dual nationals. Also among them were human rights defenders, including lawyers; women’s rights defenders; defenders of LGBTI people’s rights, labour rights and minority rights; environmentalists; anti-death penalty campaigners; and bereaved relatives demanding accountability, including for mass executions and enforced disappearances in the 1980s. Hundreds remained unjustly imprisoned at the end of the year.

The decade-long arbitrary house arrest of former presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, and the latter’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, continued. Dissidents and journalists based abroad faced intensified threats, and their families in Iran were interrogated and/or arbitrarily detained in reprisal for their work.

In July, US prosecution authorities charged four Iranian agents for conspiring to kidnap Iranian-US journalist Masih Alinejad from US soil. In August, intelligence officials interrogated the relatives of exiled Kurdish human rights defender Arsalan Yarahmadi and threatened him with death. Iranian-Swedish dissident Habib Chaab and Iranian-German dissident Jamshid Sharmahd, who had previously been abducted abroad and returned to Iran, remained at risk of the death penalty.

Security forces deployed unlawful force, including live ammunition and birdshot, to crush mostly peaceful protests. In July, at least 11 people were shot dead during protests over water shortages in Khuzestan and Lorestan provinces while scores were injured.3 On 26 November, security forces fired metal pellets to disperse protests over water mismanagement in Esfahan, leading to scores of people, including children, being blinded or sustaining other serious eye injuries.
Over 700 petrochemical workers were unjustly dismissed for participating in nationwide strikes in June.

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT

Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread and systematic, especially during interrogation. Torture-tainted “confessions” were broadcast on state television and consistently used to issue convictions. Prison and prosecution authorities, working under the judiciary, held prisoners in cruel and inhuman conditions characterized by overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate food and water, insufficient beds, poor ventilation and insect
infestation, and denied many of them adequate medical care, placing them at greater risk of Covid-19. Increasingly, the authorities transferred women prisoners of conscience to squalid conditions in prisons far from their
families in reprisal for continuing to denounce human rights violations while imprisoned.

Leaked surveillance footage from Tehran’s Evin prison in August showed prison officials beating, sexually harassing and otherwise torturing or ill-treating prisoners. At least 24 prisoners died in suspicious circumstances involving allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, including the
denial of adequate medical care.

2Iran: Rights Groups: Iranian Dissidents Remain at Risk Worldwide Without International Action (Index: MDE 13/4480/2021), 19 July
3 “Iran: Security forces use live ammunition and birdshot to crush Khuzestan protests”, 23 July; “Iran: Security forces use ruthless force, mass arrests
and torture to crush peaceful protest”, 11 August
4 “Iran: Leaked video footage from Evin prison offers rare glimpse of cruelty against prisoners”, 25 August
5 “Iran: A decade of deaths in custody unpunished amid systemic impunity for torture”, 15 September

The Penal Code retained punishments violating the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, including flogging, blinding, amputation, crucifixion and stoning. In February, Hadi Rostami was flogged 60 times in Urumieh prison in reprisal for his hunger strikes against repeated threats that his amputation sentence would be implemented.

Hadi Atazadeh died in Ahar prison in September after being flogged.

In October, a court in Tehran sentenced a man to be blinded in one eye under the principle of “retribution-in-kind”
(qesas) for assault.

At least 152 people were sentenced to flogging, according to Abdorrahman Boroumand Center.

DISCRIMINATION

Women and girls
Women faced discrimination in law and practice, including in relation to marriage, divorce, employment, inheritance and political office. Discriminatory compulsory veiling laws led to daily harassment, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and denial of access to education, employment and public spaces. At least six women’s rights defenders remained imprisoned for campaigning against compulsory veiling.

Parliament further undermined the right to sexual and reproductive health by adopting the bill “Youthful population and protection of the family” in November which, among other things, bans state-funded facilities from providing birth control free of charge; requires pharmacies to sell contraception only with a prescription; bans vasectomy and tubectomy except when pregnancy would endanger a woman’s life or lead to serious physical harm or unbearable hardship during pregnancy or after labour; and suppresses access to prenatal screening tests.

The parliamentary Social Commission approved the long-standing bill “Defending dignity and protecting women against
violence” in July after regressive amendments by the judiciary. The bill, which awaited final approval, contains welcome provisions, including the establishment of special police units, safe houses and a national working group to devise strategies to tackle violence against women and girls. However, it fails to define domestic violence as a separate offence, criminalize marital rape and child marriage, or ensure men who murder their wives or daughters face proportionate punishments. In cases of domestic violence, the bill prioritizes reconciliation over accountability.

The legal age of marriage for girls stayed at 13, and fathers could obtain judicial permission for their daughters to be married at a younger age. According to official figures, between March 2020 and March 2021, the marriages of 31,379 girls aged between 10 and 14 were registered, representing a 10.5% increase over the previous year.

LGBTI people
The murder in May of Alireza Fazeli Monfared, who self-identified as a non-binary gay man, highlighted how the
criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct and gender non-conformity with punishments ranging from
flogging to the death penalty perpetuated violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

State-endorsed “conversion therapies” amounting to torture or other ill-treatment remained prevalent, including against children.

Gender non-conforming individuals risked criminalization unless they sought a legal gender change, which required
gender reassignment surgery and sterilization.

The military continued to characterize homosexuality as a “perversion”. Military exemption cards issued to gay and
transgender individuals indirectly disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent, putting them at risk of violence.

6Iran: Murder of 20-year-old Gay Man Highlights Urgent Need to Protect LGBTI Rights (Index: MDE 13/4129/2021), 17 May

Ethnic minorities
Ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen, faced discrimination,
curtailing their access to education, employment and political office. Despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity, Persian remained the sole language of instruction in primary and secondary education.

Ethnic minorities remained disproportionately affected by death sentences imposed for vague charges such as “enmity
against God”. The authorities secretly executed those convicted of such charges and refused to return their bodies to their families, as in the cases of four Ahwazi Arab men in March and a Kurdish man, Heidar Ghorbani, in December. At least 20 Kurdish men remained on death row after being convicted of such charges.

The authorities refused to cease and provide accountability for the unlawful killing of scores of unarmed Kurdish crossborder couriers (kulbars) between the Kurdistan regions of Iran and Iraq and unarmed Baluchi fuel porters (soukhtbar) in Sistan and Baluchestan province.

More than 200 Kurds, including dissidents and civil society activists, were swept up in two waves of arbitrary arrests in January and July-August.9 Most were released after weeks or months of being forcibly disappeared or detained incommunicado, while several remained in prison and several others were sentenced to imprisonment.

Religious minorities
Religious minorities, including Baha’is, Christians, Gonabadi Dervishes, Jews, Yaresan and Sunni Muslims, suffered
discrimination in law and practice, including in access to education, employment, child adoption, political office and places of worship, as well as arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment for professing or practising their faith.

People born to parents classified as Muslim by the authorities remained at risk of arbitrary detention, torture or the death penalty for “apostasy” if they adopted other religions or atheist beliefs.

Members of the Baha’i minority suffered widespread and systematic violations, including arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, forcible closure of businesses, confiscation of property, house demolitions, destruction of cemeteries, and hate speech by officials and state media, and were banned from higher education. In April, authorities prevented Baha’is from burying their loved ones in empty plots at a cemetery near Tehran, insisting they bury them between existing graves or at the nearby Khavaran mass grave site related to the 1988 prison massacres; authorities lifted the ban after a public outcry.10 In June, security forces demolished around 50 Baha’i homes in the village of Ivel in Mazandaran province as part of a long-standing campaign to expel them from the region.

In January, parliament further undermined the right to freedom of religion and belief by introducing two articles to the Penal Code that prescribe up to five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine for “insulting Iranian ethnicities, divine religions or Islamic denominations” or for engaging “in deviant educational or proselytizing activity contradicting… Islam”. In July, three Christian converts were sentenced to lengthy imprisonment on this basis.

Several Gonabadi Dervishes remained unjustly imprisoned, including in connection with a peaceful protest that authorities violently quashed in 2018. One of them, Behnam Mahjoubi, died in custody on 21 February following months of torture and other ill-treatment, including deliberate denial of adequate medical care.
Authorities continued to raid house churches.

RIGHT TO HEALTH

The authorities’ response to Covid-19 was marked by a lack of transparency and failure to address shortages of vaccines, hospital beds, oxygen supplies and nurses.

7 Iran: Four Ahwazi Arab men secretly executed (Index: MDE 13/3864/2021), 18 March
8 “Iran: Unlawful killings of destitute fuel porters must be independently investigated”, 2 March
9 Iran: Joint Statement: Urgent International Action Needed to Secure Release of Kurdish Activists and Others Arbitrarily Detained in Iran (Index: MDE 13/3624/2021), 3 February
10 “Iran: Stop destruction of mass grave site and allow dignified burials of persecuted Baha’is”, 29 April

Iran launched its Covid-19 vaccination programme in February, but given the Supreme Leader’s January decision to ban vaccines produced in the UK and USA, by August less than 6% of the population had been vaccinated. The ban was
lifted in August and over 80% of the population had received the first dose of the vaccine by the end of the year.
The authorities failed to devise a national strategy to ensure timely and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for
thousands of undocumented Afghan nationals, with local officials in some provinces establishing special vaccination
centres for this group from October.

In some cities, mobile vaccination teams were dispatched to informal settlements and areas where people experiencing homelessness were living, but outreach remained uneven nationally.

The vaccination of prisoners did not start until August.

Six people were arbitrarily arrested in August and tried for spurious national security charges in October solely for meeting to discuss possible legal action over the authorities’ failure to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines.

DEATH PENALTY

The death penalty was imposed after unfair trials, including for offences not meeting the threshold of the “most serious crimes” such as drug-trafficking and financial corruption, and for acts not internationally recognized as crimes.

Death sentences were used as a weapon of repression against protesters, dissidents and ethnic minorities.
Yousef Mehrdad and Saadollah Fazeli in Arak were sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet”.
Sajad Sanjari, arrested when aged 15, and Arman Abdolali, arrested when aged 17, were executed in August and
November, respectively. Over 80 people remained on death row for offences that occurred when they were children.

IMPUNITY

The authorities continued to cover up the number of those killed during November 2019 protests, dismissed complaints by victims’ families, and praised security forces for the crackdown. Throughout the year, security forces dispersed peaceful gatherings of relatives seeking justice and beat and temporarily detained them. Manouchehr Bakhtiari, the father of a killed protester, was detained in April and sentenced to imprisonment in July for denouncing impunity.

The trial of Hamid Nouri, arrested in Sweden for alleged involvement in prison massacres in 1988, began in August under the principle of universal jurisdiction. Consistent with long-standing patterns of denial and distortion, Iran’s Foreign Affairs Ministry described the trial as a “plot” concocted by “terrorists” that relied on “fake documentation and witnesses”.

The authorities continued to conceal the truth surrounding the January 2020 shooting down of Flight 752 by the
Revolutionary Guards, which killed 176 people, and harassed, arbitrarily detained, tortured or otherwise ill-treated bereaved relatives for seeking justice. In November, the prosecution of 10 low-ranking officials before a military court in Tehran started behind closed doors amid grievances by victims’ relatives about the impunity afforded to top military and executive officials.

EU Reporter     |     MARCH 5, 2022

Personalities and politicians take part in international conference in solidarity with the Iranian women in the resistance, calling for a firm policy against the ayatollahs, express support for Ukrainian women.

On 5 March, on the verge of the International Women’s Day, an international conference was held in the German capital Berlin, featuring political luminaries, lawmakers, and women’s rights activists from 37 countries around the globe that called for solidarity.

Connected online to Ashraf 3 in Albania, where thousands of members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) reside, as well as hundreds of other locations around the world. The conference expressed its support for the struggles of women worldwide, especially the resistance of Iranian women for freedom, equal rights, and elimination of unjust discriminations. They pointed the role of the Iranian women in the popular uprisings and protests, in particular in the MEK affiliated Resistance Units.

The conference’s speakers, representing a wide spectrum of political views and orientation, also announced their strong support for the heroic resistance of the people of Ukraine, particularly the women, who at times have made huge personal sacrifices to fight foreign invasion and their country’s integrity and sovereignty.

“Today, I extend my warmest greetings to the proud people of Ukraine, especially to the valiant women of that country,” said keynote speaker and the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Maryam Rajavi. “Millions of women and girls have risen up for freedom and rushed to the battlefield in droves; from ministers and parliamentarians to elderly mothers, have taken up arms. I salute those mothers who sent their children out of Ukraine so that they could themselves join the resistance.”

“The Ukrainian people’s resistance is not only an epic in defending the honor and survival of their country but also a turning point in reviving the culture of unswerving resistance in today’s world. They stood up and challenged the West’s appeasement and inaction. They stood up and motivated the world to support them. Their people and soldiers have stood firm like steel,” Mrs. Rajavi added.

Speaking about the daring struggle of Iranian women and their active role in recent uprisings, Mrs. Rajavi stated: “Throughout the past year, women were at the forefront everywhere in all protest movements, from the uprisings in Khuzestan, Isfahan, and Shahrekord to the protests of teachers, nurses, and the defrauded investors.”

Calling on her fellow countrywomen, the NCRI President-elect said: “The dark and bleak destiny does not change except through your mighty hands. The reactionary oppressors who have taken you captive will never offer you freedom and equality willingly; Rise up and overthrow them!”

“I commend Maryam’s courage and commitment to empowering Iranian women,” Urška Bačovnik Janša, the spouse of Slovenia Prime Minister told the conference. “I would like to take the opportunity of today’s event to pass a very strong message to my fellow Western women and Western governments. We must stand firm together, against the policies of the Iranian regime that strangles women’s freedoms. Words of western women’s organizations and governments must be put into action. We must be there for Iranian women.”

Ukrainian MP, Kira Rudyk connected to the conference from Kiev. She gave a passionate and moving description of life in Kiev and the people’s resistance, in particular the role of women. “All countries of the world said that we would not stand a chance and Kyiv would fall in 24-48 hours. It’s ten days and we are still standing. This happened because of our army and because of the bravery of the resistance,” she said.

Addressing the International Women’s Day in Berlin, Ukrainian MP Lisa Yasko used very inspiring words. She stated: “To everyone who is listening, don’t give up on your country. We’re fighting for all of you. If we don’t defend our freedom right now, history will never be the same. I’m very proud of my nation and I send my love to all of you. We need peace in Ukraine. We need peace in the world.”

Frances Townsend, a former Homeland Security Advisor to the United States President said: “The women of the world lead the resistance for freedom across the world, whether it’s in Kurdistan, Ukraine, or Iran. I am humbled by the courage of women in Iran who fight for choice, for freedom, whether it’s for speech or the overthrow of the misogynist regime of Iran.”

Expressing her support for the NCRI and its leader, Maryam Rajavi, former Prime Minister of Denmark‎, Helle Thorning Schmidt said: “It is remarkable that the NCRI is actually led by a Muslim woman, Maryam Rajavi. Her ten-point plan is a blueprint for the whole world to see that there is a democratic future for Iran. All democrats across the world should support this plan.

The international community should stand with the desire of the Iranian people for a democratic, secular republic. We stand with you. The world needs to stand with the Iranian people. I’m here to tell you that you inspire us.”

According to Rita Prof. Rita Süssmuth, a former president of the Bundestag who attended the conference “Iran is a highly civilized country. You can see it in the women who come from Iran, the women in Ashraf. They survived the regime. They were not weak. Suffering can lead to fresh energy,”  “Maryam Rajavi is a woman that I admire,” she added.

Another prominent German politician, former German Minister of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said: “A lot of women fight for their freedom even though they have to lay down their lives for a better Iran. A great example is Maryam Rajavi, who has laid out a plan for the future of Iran that is liberated from discrimination, where men and women are equal, a country that is not a hub of fundamentalism and terrorism.”

“Iranian women are at the forefront of all protests inside Iran. What does that mean for women who are suffering from gender apartheid across the world? Condemning suppression of women in Iran is not enough. We need to support these women in Iran and worldwide,” Mimi Kodheli, former Albanian Minister of Defense told the conference.

The conference included dozens of prominent speakers from all over Europe, US, Canada, and Muslim countries, including several members of the US House of Representatives.

https://www.eureporter.co/world/iran/2022/03/05/on-the-occasion-of-international-women-day/

Iranian activist disappears after criticizing internet bill

AP     |     Feb. 26, 2022

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian activist went missing after criticizing a proposed bill by hard-liners to implement highly restrictive internet policies, his family said Saturday.

Hossein Ronaghi, a blogger and free-speech activist, disappeared Wednesday after he criticized a bill in parliament to limit internet access in the country, known as the “Users Protection Bill.” The proposal has been criticized by many Iranians on social media.

There was no information on Ronaghi’s location or condition.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, said in March last year that social media in Iran is “unbridled” and it should not be “surrendered to the enemy.”

In a recent tweet, Ronaghi said: “The Protection Plan was a decision made by the entire system based on the demand from the Islamic Republic’s leader who had stated: ‘Virtual space must be controlled.’”

Ronaghi’s brother, Hassan, who also is an activist, said in a tweet that Hossein was kidnapped. He said his brother had received several anonymous phone calls in the days leading up to his disappearance.

Hassan Ronaghi also said his brother needs medical care because he is suffering diseases affecting several of his organs, including his kidneys.

“Anything that happens to Hossein is the responsibility of the Supreme Leaders’ office, the (Revolutionary Guard), and the judiciary.”

Reza Ronaghi, the father of the two brothers, said in an interview with Iranian foreign-base media on Wednesday that Khamenei was directly responsible for his son’s life.

A day after the first reports surfaced of his disappearance, human rights activists claimed that security forces came into Hossein Ronaghi’s home and and took a laptop and notebooks.

The language in the proposed internet legislation has yet to be finalized. But if implemented in its current form, it could lead to the disruption of international internet services and websites — like Instagram — that have not yet been blocked.

Under pressure from hard-liners, the Iranian government has long blocked access to many websites and social media platforms, from YouTube and Facebook to Twitter and Telegram.

Many Iranians, especially youths, access social media through VPNs and proxies. Instagram and WhatsApp remain unblocked.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, this is not the first time Ronaghi has been arrested. In December 2009, during the mass arrests that followed post-election protests over voter fraud allegations in the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he was arrested after discussing politics in a series of critical blogs that were eventually blocked by the government.

https://apnews.com/article/technology-iran-media-social-media-dubai-685dd71ae6299f9411c703cbbec0cc7a

 

Newsweek     |     LELA GILBERT      |     2/23/22

The Islamic Republic of Iran never seems to disappear from headlines, while its misdeeds persist—often out of sight and out of mind. A primary example is the regime’s ceaseless abuse of religious minorities—Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians, Baha’is, atheists and Christians, and even at times government recognized Assyrian and Armenian churches. These abuses are often hidden from view. Yet the highly respected Open Doors World Watch List consistently places Iran among the world’s top 10 persecutors of Christians.

“Marathon talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal have hit a new roadblock, with Iran accusing the US of refusing to make the necessary political decisions to entrench the agreement in international law or to broaden the scope of economic sanctions that would be lifted,” The Guardian noted. Negotiators claim that progress on a nuclear deal is becoming “more and more difficult.” And while those nuclear talks drag on interminably, the regime’s abuse of religious minorities continues, and in some cases, it increases unabated.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) observed that religious freedom in Iran is “egregiously poor”—the Islamic Republic’s interpretation of Islam denies minorities the freedom to worship.

The Baha’i faith has its origins in Islam and teaches the essential unity of all religions and of humanity. But it is considered heretical by Islamic fundamentalists. And Baha’is are often recognized as the most persecuted minority in Iran. However Christians—and particularly converts from Islam—also continue to pray a high price for their faithfulness. And there’s a reason for this troublesome distinction: Iran’s small but persistent Christian community has been growing at an unprecedented pace in recent years.

In 2021, commentator Daniel Pipes shared the concerns of an Iranian church leader, “What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran? What if I told you no one follows Islam inside of Iran? … What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was Ayatollah Khomeini [the founder of the Islamic Republic]?” An evangelical pastor, formerly an Iranian Muslim, concurred as far back as 2008: “We find ourselves facing what is more than a conversion to the Christian faith. It’s a mass exodus from Islam.”

Other outlets have echoed that Islam in Iran is on the decline. The Christian Broadcasting Network claimed in 2019 that “Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country.” Shay Khatiri of Johns Hopkins University wrote last year that “Islam is the fastest shrinking religion [in Iran], while Christianity is growing the fastest.”

This kind of growth encourages Christian believers, but also increases their risks of persecution. This is especially true of converts from Islam.

One young female former Muslim from Tehran, Mary Mohammadi, recently told Newsweek, “I have been threatened many times by the authorities.” She mentioned receiving intimidating messages in Farsi on Twitter, including warning that she would be attacked with acid and specifically threatened with “gang rape.” She explained, “If anything happens to me, the Islamic government of Iran, and its associates, inside and outside Iran, are responsible.” Appallingly, just days after those threats, Mary was indeed brutally assaulted. Today Mary’s future is sadly uncertain.

Christian persecution by Iranian authorities is not new but continues unabated. And despite the global pandemic, USCIRF reports that Christians in Iran faced intense religious persecution in 2021.

These include USCIRF religious prisoner of conscience Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was charged in 2016 with “promoting Zionist Christianity.” He remains in prison due to a 10-year sentence.

Iranians gather to celebrate the new year at Saint Sarkis Cathedral on Jan. 1, 2022, in Tehran, Iran.MEGHDAD MADADI ATPIMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

In February, an appeals court sentenced three Christian converts to jail for spreading “propaganda.” Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence also summoned Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi to the prosecutor’s office after he uploaded videos documenting his persecution. He was ultimately arrested and placed in prison.

On Feb. 15, Article 18 reported that three Christian converts—Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh—were officially charged with “engaging in propaganda and educational activities for deviant beliefs contrary to the holy Sharia,” and “connections with foreign leaders” and face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The men were mocked by the court and called “Satan-worshippers who believe in the end of the world, the divisions between sects and races, the return of the Jews to their promised land, and the superiority of this race [Jews] to others, which proves the claim that they are working for foreign elements.”

Unsurprisingly, as the Iran nuclear talks drag on, the regime has tried to put on a kinder, gentler face for its Western debaters. One tactic was releasing nine incarcerated Christians, after which the court quietly reversed their decisions days later. A February 2022 article was headlined “Christian Converts Absolved by Supreme Court Now Face ‘Propaganda’ Charges.”

On Feb. 14, the U.N.’s special rapporteur Javaid Rehman was less than impressed with Iran’s treatment of Christians. In his latest report he noted the arrest of at least 53 Christians between Jan. 1, 2021 and Dec. 1, 2021. He said that they were arrested “for the practice of their religious beliefs.”

Rehman pointed out that Iran should “ensure in law and practice the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association” and “that any limitation on these rights is in accordance with international law.”

Young Iranian lives are being transformed by newly found Christian beliefs, eclipsing depression and fear with love and joyful worship. However, any high hopes for positive change in the Islamic Republic’s vicious 40-plus year history of violent abuse is quite another matter, requiring us all to take an enormous leap of faith. May the persecuted get the freedom they deserve.

https://www.newsweek.com/precarious-circumstances-irans-christians-opinion-1681571?amp=1

 

Reuters     |     By Stephanie Nebehay     |     Jan. 27, 2022

GENEVA, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Prominent former U.N. judges and investigators have called on U.N. human rights boss Michelle Bachelet to investigate the 1988 “massacre” of political prisoners in Iran, including the alleged role of its current president, Ebrahim Raisi, at that time.

The open letter released on Thursday, seen by Reuters, was signed by some 460 people, including a former president of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Sang-Hyun Song, and Stephen Rapp, a former U.S. ambassador for global criminal justice.

Raisi, who took office in August, is under U.S. sanctions over a past that includes what the United States and activists say was his involvement as one of four judges who oversaw the 1988 killings. His office in Tehran had no comment on Thursday.

Iran has never acknowledged that mass executions took place under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolutionary leader who died in 1989.

Amnesty International has put the number executed at some 5,000, saying in a 2018 report that “the real number could be higher”.

“The perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity. They include the current Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and judiciary chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei,” said the open letter. Ejei succeeded Raisi as head of Iran’s judiciary.

Raisi, when asked about activists’ allegations that he was involved in the killings, told a news conference in June 2021: “If a judge, a prosecutor has defended the security of the people, he should be praised.” He added: “I am proud to have defended human rights in every position I have held so far.”

The letter, organized by the British-based group Justice for Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran, was also sent to the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose 47 member states open a five-week session on Feb. 28.

Other signatories include previous U.N. investigators into torture and former foreign ministers of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, Kosovo and Poland.

Javaid Rehman, the U.N. investigator on human rights in Iran who is due to report to the session, called in an interview with Reuters last June for an independent inquiry into the allegations of state-ordered executions in 1988 and the role played by Raisi as Tehran deputy prosecutor. read more

https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/un-urged-open-query-into-irans-1988-killings-raisi-role-2022-01-27/

 

Reporters Without Border     |    Jan. 15, 2022

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is asking the UN to set up an independent international commission of enquiry into the death of Baktash Abtin, an Iranian journalist and writer who died on 8 January as a result of not being treated when he caught Covid-19 in Tehran’s Evin prison.

A member of the Iranian Writers’ Association, Baktash Abtin was transferred too late to hospital by the Iranian authorities although prison officials had warned them that his condition was worsening dramatically, his lawyer told RSF.

Deprivation of medical care is deliberately used by the Iranian authorities as a way to eliminate imprisoned dissidents,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “We urge the UN rapporteurs on the human rights situation in Iran, on extrajudicial executions and on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to shed all possible light on Baktash Abtin’s death. It is time to put a stop to this kind of criminal behaviour, which amounts to state murder.

Depriving detainees of medical attention violates the ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It violates the laws that the Iranian authorities themselves have undertaken to respect, the rules that they have decreed, as well as international norms established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran signed.

Authorities ignored warnings

Abtin’s lawyer, Naser Zarafshan, who is also a member of the Iranian Writers’ Association, warned prison officials on 27 November that Abtin’s condition was worsening, that he had a fever and was coughing and that his entire body was aching. But it wasn’t until 5 December that he was transferred to Tehran’s Taleghani hospital and another three days went by before his family was informed.

For six days, neither the family nor friends of this journalist, who was chained to his bed, knew what he really had,” Zarafshan told RSF. “The guards even refused to let his family bring him a fruit juice.” By the time of his transfer to Taleghani hospital he had developed a severe form of Covid-19 and more than 78% of his lungs were infected. “It was too late,” Zarafshan added.

Abtin’s state of health had long been a source of concern. He suffered a previous bout of Covid-19 in April 2021, when the authorities also delayed treatment. Several doctors called for his release at the time, saying his state of health was incompatible with continued detention, but their appeal went unanswered.

Concern about other imprisoned journalists

The fate of other ailing imprisoned journalists is a source of great concern. One of the world’s oldest imprisoned journalists, Kayvan Samimi Behbahani, the 73-year-old editor of the monthly Iran Farda, continues to be detained although doctors have certified that his condition is incompatible with imprisonment. And his situation could quickly worsen following the publication of a letter in which he blames the Iranian judicial authorities for Abtin’s death. He could be transferred to another prison, putting his life in danger.

Many other journalists who are members of the Iranian Writers’ Association are also in prison. They include Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Kayvan Bagen and Khosro Sadeghi Borjeni. Although it is Iran’s oldest civil society organisation, the association’s activities have been banned under both the Shah and the Islamic Revolution. Two of its representatives, the writers and journalists Mohamad Makhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, were murdered in 1998.

Died in prison

Abtin is far from being the first Iranian journalist to die in detention. Zahra Kazemi, a 54-year-old photographer with Iranian and Canadian dual nationality, died on 10 July 2003 after being tortured while held. The blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi died in detention in unclear circumstances six weeks after his arrest in February 2009. Iran-e-Farda editor Hoda Saber, 52, died of a heart attack in June 2011 after being detained since the previous August. The blogger Sattar Beheshti died while being held by Iran’s cyber-police, the FTA, in November 2012. None of the perpetrators and instigators of these crimes has been brought to justice.

The Islamic Republic of Iran ranks 174th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-asks-un-investigate-iranian-journalist-baktash-abtins-death

Meeks Issues Statement on Passage of Stop Iranian Drones Act out of Committee

Statement     |     December 10, 2021

Washington, DC – Today, Representative Gregory W. Meeks, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement regarding the passage of the “Stop Iranian Drones Act” (SIDA), a bipartisan bill to address the growing threat of Iran’s lethal unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program, out of Committee:

“As we have seen in recent months, Iran and Iran-aligned terrorist and militia groups have been growing increasingly aggressive with their drone attacks in the Middle East – targeting US troops, commercial vessels, partner countries and more. Such activity will not be tolerated by the U.S. Congress and is actively being addressed by the Biden Administration. Our bill clarifies that existing conventional weapons sanctions against Iran include unmanned combat aerial vehicles and brings U.S. code up to date with the UN’s categories of major conventional arms. By doing so, this legislation will allow us to better respond to the threat posed by Iran and its proxies’ aggressive UAV tactics to the U.S. and our partners. This clarification makes clear to the international community that it is in everyone’s interest to work to stop Iranian UAV procurement and production.”

https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press-releases?ID=D84FAF49-D0B8-4234-ACDC-37D434FF2C5E