Recruiting Afghan Migrant Children In Wars By Iran

In The “Moj” Program On Amu TV, Parastoo Azizi (Director Of The Spreading Justice) And Sharif Ghalib, Former Advisor To The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of Afghanistan, Discussed And Analyzed The Improper Use Of Children In Wars. A New Report By Human Rights Activists Reveals Iran’s Involvement In Recruiting And Using Child Soldiers, Especially Afghan Citizens, In The Fatemiyoun Division. This Research, A Collaboration Between Spreading Justice, The PDP Initiative, And HRANA, Aims To Expose Violations Of International Laws And Children’s Rights.

در برنامه موج از شبکه آمو، پرستو عزیزی (مدیر پایگاه اطلاعاتی دادگستر) و شریف غالب، مشاور سابق وزارت خارجه افغانستان به بحث و بررسی پیرامون استفاده ناروا از کودکان در جنگ‌ها پرداختند. گزارشی جدید مجموعه فعالان نشان دهنده دخالت ایران در جذب و استفاده از کودک سربازان، به ویژه شهروندان افغانستان در تیپ فاطمیون است. این تحقیق که حاصل کار دادگستر، ابتکار پاسداران و هرانا است، افشای نقض قوانین بین‌المللی و حقوق کودکان را هدف قرار داده.

Three protesters face death in Iran, in year of more than 200 executions

By Miriam Berger, The Washington Post, May 17, 2023 at 4:52 p.m. EDT

Cars and crowds gathered outside Dastgerd prison in the Iranian city of Isfahan on Sunday night, in the hopes that their demonstration could halt the execution of three men facing death on charges connected to the anti-government protests that began last year and swept the country.

Days earlier, Iran’s state broadcaster had aired footage of the harried-looking men — Majid Kazemi, Saeed Yaqoubi and Saleh Mirhashemi — appearing to confess and incriminate one another. Rights groups said the statements, which authorities often air ahead of executions, were very likely given under torture or duress.

The men survived the night. But the executions, for which authorities have not publicly provided a date, are thought to be imminent. The three are not alone: In response to the protests, Tehran has wielded the threat of capital punishment to crack down on and deter dissent, local and international rights groups say, amid a spate of executions in 2023 — at least 209 in just five months, according to the United Nations.

Executions overall were on the rise in Iran last year, according to human rights group Amnesty International’s annual report on global executions, released this week — a trend that appears set to continue.

Since December, Iran has executed four men for alleged crimes committed during the protests. Forty have been charged with capital offenses and the Supreme Court has upheld eight cases, the Isfahan ones included, according to Skylar Thompson, the head of global advocacy and accountability at HRANA, a Virginia-based activist news agency focused on Iran.

The three men are accused of fatally shooting two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Basij volunteer force, and one police officer, on Nov. 16, 2022, during the height of the “women, life, freedom” movement that erupted this fall amid protests rejecting clerical rule. The ordeal became known as the Isfahan House case after a historical site close to the alleged attack.

The three men were arrested on Nov. 21. After a swift trial, one of the judges most associated with sentencing protesters to hang found them guilty of “waging war against god,” a charge that can merit the death penalty under Iran’s legal system, which is based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Advocates say the government did not present credible evidence of a connection between the defendants and the bullets and guns allegedly used in the killings, or a consistent account of the central facts of the case. The defendants were reportedly denied access to a lawyer of their choosing — as is the norm in Iran’s Revolutionary Courts, which serve as a parallel legal system to protect the Islamic republic.

Soon after the trial, Kazemi called his mother from Isfahan’s Dastgerd prison and told her they were tortured and forced to confess, according to the family. “We were told to say these things in court all of it under torture. I did not have any gun or do anything,” Kazemi told his fiancee, according to a recording of the call obtained by HRANA, which The Washington Post has not verified independently. A judge upheld the ruling in early May.

On Monday, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, the head of Iran’s judiciary, said that his institution would use “the utmost decisiveness and speed of action” in cases of killed Iranian security forces, according to comments carried by state media outlets. He did not directly address the Isfahan case.

Before his arrest, Kazemi, 31, had a business making copper kitchenware, according to news reports. Mirhashemi, 36, is a karate champion and bodybuilder instructor. Yaqoubi, 38, worked at a real estate company and was the sole caretaker of his elderly parents, Thompson said.

More than 20,000 people were arrested and at least 500 people killed during the anti-government protest movement that swept Iran for months after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in mid-September, in the custody of the country’s so-called morality police. Iranian authorities have released many protesters starting in February but have simultaneously stepped up enforcement of mandatory hijabs for women.

In tandem with the ongoing political repression, Iran has carried out this year a “frightening” spate of executions unrelated to the protest movement, mainly of men from minority communities charged with drug offenses, U.N. rights chief Volker Turk said in a recent statement. The country’s more than 200 executions this year form an “abominable record” amounting to about 10 people killed each week, in a country among those leading the world in executions.

Exact figures are likely higher yet impossible to determine: there is little transparency around charges, trials and the outcomes of these cases. Families of those executed or on death row are often under extreme government pressure to stay silent.

Last year, Iran executed at least 576 people, an increase of 83 percent from the previous year’s record of at least 314 people, according to the Amnesty International report.

The recent “alarming surge in executions” is part of a broader pattern of impunity that’s been ongoing for years, said Thompson. Individual cases often draw international attention for a period, she said. But executions continue “because of a complete lack of accountability.”

“In the meantime, people’s lives hang in the balance,” she said.

At the heart of Iran’s crackdown, a small group of judges sentences protesters to hang

The Washington Post By Miriam Berger

January 25, 2023 at 4:05 p.m. EST

Iran’s governmentis doubling down on repression to stamp out the months-long uprisingbent on its ouster. At the heart of these efforts: a small circle of judges connected to the country’s clerical leaders and security services, meting out long prison terms and death sentences to protest supporters.

There is little judicial transparency in Iran, where charge sheets and verdicts are often kept under wraps, so it is difficult to determine the true scale of arrests, sentencings and executions. But a picture of the trials and the judges presiding over them has emerged from a range of sources — including state media outlets, rights groups, activist telegram accounts and networks of lawyers in and outside of Iran.

In recent weeks, seven judges — Abulqasem Salavati, Mohammad Reza Amoozad, Hadi Mansoori, Musa Asef al-Hosseini, Ali Mazloum, Iman Afshari and Morteza Barati — appear to have issued between them at least 17 death sentences, some of which Iran’s high court has overturned on appeal. The names of judges issuing death sentences in other cases remain unconfirmed.

These trials, which rights groups say are part of a brutal campaign designed to crush the uprising, are “controlled by very few judges that collaborate a hundred percent with security agencies,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group. “They are trusted and loyal and they are believed to follow orders that have already been made extrajudicially about what the sentences should be.”

The protests, in which women and youths have played a leading role, broke out mid-September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in police custody after she allegedly violated the country’s conservative dress code for women. The demonstrations have since cascaded into a broad uprising driven by calls to end clerical rule. Security forces have killed more than 500 protesters and authorities have issued at least 22 death sentences and charged more than 100 people with crimes that could merit the death penalty, according to the activist news agency HRANA.

Detainees and their families are under heavy pressure to stay silent, making it impossible to tally the number of arrests and sentences, but HRANA estimates that there have been nearly 20,000 arrests, and some 700 have been sentenced.

At the center of many of the most serious trials is a clique of judges whose identities have become known to, and feared by, the public.

The United States has vowed to intensify sanctions on those involved in the deadly repression. The United States placed Salavati, nicknamed “the judge of death,” under sanctions in 2019 for overseeing “the Iranian regime’s miscarriage of justice in show trials.” Six other judges responsible for issuing death sentences are not under U.S. sanctions, which would entail tightened travel bans and frozen assets. In late December, the Biden administration added Iran’s general prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, to its blacklist for human rights abuses.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury, speaking on the condition of anonymity under departmental protocol, said they could not offer comment on whether sanctions targeting these judges were or had been considered. Afshari, Mazloum and Amoozad were placed under sanctions by the United Kingdom on Dec. 9 for “prosecuting protesters with egregious sentences including the death penalty.”

A majority of protesters jailed are released on bail and pending trial. But an unknown number stand accused of national security-related crimes, such as alleged attacks on security forces, in a system stacked against them. Rather than facing trial in a criminal court, political prisoners are tried in the Revolutionary Court, a parallel judicial system set up after the 1979 revolution to protect Iran’s system of clerical rule.

These judges “strongly believe in and depend on the ruling Islamic establishment and for this reason have absolute or blind obedience,” Iranian lawyer Saeid Dehghan, who lives in Canada, said in an email. Dehghan fled Iran to escape persecution for trying to defend clients before some of these judges.

In the Revolutionary Court, defendants are typically denied access to their lawyer and cannot review the evidence against them, said Dehghan. They are frequently forced to make false or incriminating statements under torture or extreme duress, according to Ghaemi and other rights groups, while judges often rely on fabricated or misleading evidence to issue heavy sentences in speedy trials.

Members of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the intelligence wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a security force with wide-ranging powers designed to defend the Islamic Republic, conduct interrogations. In the courtroom, interrogators typically guide sentencing rather than judges, said Dehghan.

Rulings are often “written by the legal department of the intelligence and security agencies,” he said.

Detainees or their lawyers do not generally receive official copies of the verdicts. Sometimes the presiding judge’s name is kept private “because they know how much their decisions increase public anger,” said Dehghan. He said colleagues involved in recent death penalty cases in the northern city of Sari shared verdicts with him, but the judge’s name had been deleted, “probably for security reasons.”

The judges of branches 15, 26, 28 and 29 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran — Salavati, Afshari, Amoozad and Mazloum — have been among the most notorious forlong and harsh sentences amid the protests, said Shiva Nazarahari, a member of the Volunteer Committee to Follow Up on the Situation of Detainees, an activist group based outside Iran.

Salavati and Amoozad presided over the trial of the first participant in the ongoing protests to be executed, Mohsen Shekari, a 23-year-old barista from Tehran.

Salavati has sentenced at least three other protesters to death, including a 19-year-old whose mother said he suffered from bipolar disorder. Iran’s high court accepted appeals for the two other confirmed cases, though the defendants remain jailed. The outcomes of three other death penalty cases tried in his court remain unclear, according to news reports and a list by the detainees’ committee.

Amoozad has issued death sentences to Manouchehr Mehman-Navaz, 45, and writer and artist Mehdi Bahman, Dehghan said.

On Dec. 12, authorities hanged Majid Reza Rahnavard, a 23-year-old shopkeeper sentenced to death by Mansoori according to coverage of the trial by Mizan News Agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s judiciary. On Jan. 7, Tehran executed two protesters, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, 22, and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, 39, after they were found guilty by al-Hosseini.

Karami and Hosseini were among five people al-Hosseini sentenced to death in a mass trial, which included three minors, charged with killing a member of the IRGC volunteer police force, according to Mizan. The high court suspended the other three sentences on appeal.

Barati has sentenced three people to death by hanging, according to Dehghan and local media reports: Saeid Yaghoubi, Majid Kazemi and Saleh Mirhashemi, accused of killing security force members.

Both Mazloum and Afshari have each issued one death sentence, according to HRANA, though the high court has accepted repeals in each case, the Committee to Follow Up on the Situation of Detainees found.

Verdicts “don’t fit the crime, if one was even committed,” said Nazarahari. Instead, these judges “listen to orders from high or what interrogators say. They don’t issue their verdicts according to any law.”

At least 58 Iranian children reportedly killed since anti-regime protests began

The Guardian, 20 Nov 2022
By Deepa Parent, Ghoncheh Habibiazad, and Annie Kelly

Rights groups say children as young as eight are among the victims of the crackdown by security services since the death of Mahsa Amini

Top row: Abolfazl Adinehzadeh; Sarina Esmailzadeh; Kumar Daroftadeh. Bottom row: Asra Panahi; Kian Pirfalak; Nika Shakarami.
Top row: Abolfazl Adinehzadeh; Sarina Esmailzadeh; Kumar Daroftadeh. Bottom row: Asra Panahi; Kian Pirfalak; Nika Shakarami

At least 58 children, some reportedly as young as eight, have been killed in Iran since anti-regime protests broke out in the country two months ago.

According to Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), 46 boys and 12 girls under 18 have been killed since the protests began on 16 September, sparked by the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody.

In the past week alone, five children were reportedly killed by security forces as violence continued across the country.

Those who died last week include the nine-year-old Kian Pirfalak, who was one of seven people – including a 13-year-old child – killed in the western city of Izeh on Wednesday.

Speaking at Kian’s funeral on Friday, his family said security services had opened fire on the family car, where Kian was sitting next to his father. Iranian security services have denied responsibility for his death, blaming the shooting on “terrorists”.

Iran’s mounting child death toll comes amid escalating violence in cities across the country, with protests showing no sign of abating.

Families in Iran spoke exclusively to the Observer about the death of their children, who they say were killed by government forces.

Hassan Daroftadeh said his son Kumar had always told his family he would grow up to be a “great man”. Instead, they said, Kumar has become a martyr after dying on the streets of his home town of Piranshahr in west Iran on 30 October. His father said he died after being shot multiple times with metal pellets at close range.

“Kumar was just standing on the street. He didn’t even say a word. I don’t know with what conscience they martyred him. Piranshahr is a small town. There were no protests that night, yet they martyred my son. He was just a little boy,’’ said Daroftadeh. A video of Daroftadeh weeping by his son’s grave went viral on social media.

“I’m shattered. Kumar was his mother’s lifeline,” he said. “The Iranian regime denies killing him. They later said ‘foreigners’ have killed him. I don’t know how the officer who killed my son hugs his own children. I don’t know how he sleeps at night.”

The same afternoon, a month before Kumar’s death – which human rights groups have since called “Bloody Friday” after 93 people were killed across Iran – Mohammad Eghbal, 17, was on his way to Friday prayers when he was shot in the back by a sniper in Zahedan, the capital of the Sistan and Baluchistan province. According to Amnesty International, 10 children were killed in Zahedan that day.

Mohammad Eghbal had worked as a construction worker from the age of nine to support his large family and had dreamed of saving up enough money to buy a smartphone so he could open an Instagram account.

His last words were to a stranger, according to one of his relatives. “He asked a bystander, ‘Please take my cellphone from my pocket and call my dad. Tell him I’ve been shot.’” The relative added that when they arrived at the hospital to look for him, the family found a “war zone”.

“Dead bodies were lying across the floor with the screams and cries of mothers filling the air,” the relative said.

The family member said that after his death, the teenager was labelled a terrorist in pro-regime media outlets. “They said Mohammad was a separatist. He was only a child, he had no idea about what being a separatist means. His father is even feeling worse than his mother. Mohammad used to sleep beside his dad at night.”

According to the human rights group Hengaw, 12 children have died in the Kurdistan province since the beginning of the protests – and three died in the custody of Iranian special forces. An additional 200 Kurdish teenagers have been arrested and 300 injured after being fired on by government forces.

A week after Mohammad Eghbal died, the 17-year-old Abolfazl Adinehzadeh went into the streets of his home town of Mashhad and never came home.

“We buried Abolfazl with more than 50 shotgun pellets still inside his body,” said a family member. “The medical team could only remove 27. We fear for his mother and sisters who are broken and will never be able to come to terms with his death.”

His family said the teenager had been motivated to take to the streets out of love for his three sisters. “Abolfazl was a well-mannered kid and, having been raised with three sisters, he was well aware of the challenges Iranian women face. He was truly a feminist who wanted equal rights for men and women,” one of his relatives told the Observer.

“As soon as his sisters heard of the news [that he had been shot], they ran towards the street screaming his name. The entire family is inconsolable. He was adored by us all.”

Young people have been at the forefront of anti-regime protests, which started after Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police. She had been arrested for not wearing her hijab correctly.

The deaths of two teenage girls, Nika Shakamari and Sarina Esmailzadeh, both allegedly beaten to death by security forces for protesting, provoked further outrage.

Videos of schoolgirls across the country protesting against their killing by removing their hijabs and taking down pictures of Iran’s supreme leaders went viral on social media, leading to raids on schools where children were beaten and detained. According to Iran’s teachers union, another 16-year-old girl, Asra Panahi, died after she was attacked by security forces in her classroom in the north-western town of Ardabil on 18 October.

The attacks on children in schools is continuing, according to Hengaw, which said a 16-year-old girl from Kurdistan is on life support after throwing herself from a school van, having been arrested at her school last week.

HRA says more than 38o protesters have been killed since the protests began and more than 16,000 people have been detained, including children. The figure is disputed by the authorities.

Shutdown impact stories: how internet shutdowns affect women in Iran

Access now, 23 JUNE 2022 
By Skylar Thompson and Felicia Anthonio 

“This job insecurity may involve everyone, but it must be admitted that girls face more obstacles to finding financial independence.”

Women in Iran face an incredible array of legal and social obstacles to gaining financial independence. The worsening economic situation across Iran — owing to a barrage of economic sanctions and domestic corruption and mismanagement, among other things — has only made matters worse. Women are disproportionately affected by the crisis, and some have turned to selling goods online to earn income and support their families. But what happens when the internet goes dark?

As a new report from the United Nations confirms, internet shutdowns, by their very nature, restrict human rights, and there are almost no circumstances under which they can be justified according to international human rights law. Yet Iran’s regime systematically imposes internet shutdowns to silence dissent and simultaneously repress the right to peaceful assembly and association. Often, these shutdowns entail cutting off mobile phone networks, slowing down broadband speeds, or completely cutting internet access across regions or on a national scale, affecting both national and international networks.

Most recently, Iranian authorities imposed nationwide slowdowns or “throttling,” as well as blanket internet blackouts, when Iranians held protests to speak out against the soaring price of bread and other basic necessities. In May 2022, authorities reportedly disrupted internet access for 26 days out of the month. The same thing happened in 2021, as Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA) documented: authorities responded to dissent and protest over government mismanagement of water by cutting internet access in Khuzestan province, then extending the shutdown across the country.

These and other shutdowns have a devastating impact on the lives of the Iranian people. But what about the effects on women? Below you will find the stories of Samane, Susan, and Mehrnoush, gathered by HRA and Access Now to show how women who use the internet to achieve financial independence in Iran are impacted by the regime’s tightening grip on internet freedom.

Ex-Tehran police chief linked to rights abuses spotted working out at Toronto-area gym

Morteza Talaei headed the police force in Iran’s capital city when Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was arrested and tortured to death in a Tehran prison

By: Tom Blackwell
Publishing date: Feb 11, 2022 

Iranian ex-patriates and human-rights groups are voicing outrage after evidence emerged that Canada had issued a visitor visa to a former Tehran police chief linked to various human-rights abuses.

Morteza Talaei also headed the capital city’s police force when Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was arrested and tortured to death in a Tehran prison.

The ex-chief was photographed at a gym in Richmond Hill, Ont., near Toronto, and later told a European-based Iranian journalist the visit to see his daughter was a private matter and no one else’s business.

Talaei is best known for launching a special unit to crack down on women wearing supposedly un-Islamic dress, aggressively quelling protests and spearheading an operation to seize TV satellite dishes used to bring in Western programming.

Before becoming police chief, he was an officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the politicized military force that shot down an airliner packed with Canadians in 2020 – accidentally according to Iran.

Canada should not be offering a safe haven and “impunity abroad” to individuals like Talaei, said a coalition of Iranian rights groups in an open letter to the federal government last week. The organizations urged Ottawa instead to impose sanctions on such officials under its “Magnitsky” law for punishing foreign rights violators.

“Allowing Morteza Talaei to freely enter Canada sends a dangerous message, a message that is an affront to Iranians who have themselves sought refuge in Canada,” the letter said. “Human rights violators must not be included in the Prime Minister’s ‘everyone is welcome’ campaign.”

Swiss-based Iranian journalist Abdollah Abdi, who broke the story after a viewer sent him video from the gym about two months ago, said he was baffled by this country’s decision.

“I have a lot of questions for (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau,” he said. “This is a scandal…. It threatens Canada’s security when you permit someone like this to enter the country.”

It threatens Canada’s security when you permit someone like this to enter the country

Critics contrasted Talaei’s visit to the experience of some other Iranians who have tried and failed to get into Canada recently.

The brother of a passenger killed in the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was refused a visa to attend ceremonies marking the disaster’s two-year anniversary last month, said Hamed Esmaeilion, president of an association of victims’ relatives.

The brother of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose videotaped shooting by a government militia member drew international attention to the 2009 Green movement demonstrations in Tehran, says he and his sister Hoda were also denied entry to Canada.

“Over the years, the Canadian government has easily granted visas to countless (Iranian) human-rights violators … while my family was not granted visas as victims of this government,” Mohammad Agha-Soltan said in a statement to the National Post. “This is a great shame.”

He’s not alone in his anger. When Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad reposted the gym video, it was viewed more than 1.8 million times and triggered almost 9,000 comments.

I really want Canadians to do an investigation about how he got a visa

“It made Iranian people furious,” Alinejad said. “I really want Canadians to do an investigation about how he got a visa.”

Jeffrey MacDonald, an Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesman, said the department couldn’t comment on the case because of privacy laws.

But he said “security screening and risk assessment” are an important part of determining whether someone is admissible to Canada on national-security grounds.

The National Post sent questions about the affair to Talaei through his Twitter account but had not heard back by deadline.

It’s unclear if Talaei had anything directly to do with the detention or death in custody of Kazemi — who had been photographing relatives of arrested demonstrators outside a prison — but he was certainly an integral part of the city’s law-enforcement system at the time, said Alinejad.

Other acts are well documented. He spearheaded formation of a new unit of the Tehran police in 2006 that deployed 50 cruisers around the city to enforce the country’s strict dress code for women, as well as rules against owning dogs.

“In our campaign, we will confront women showing their bare legs in short pants,” Al Jazeera news outlet quoted Talaei as saying at the time. “We are also going to combat women wearing skimpy headscarves, short and form-fitting coats and the ones walking pets in parks and streets.”

That background as a morality enforcer prompted social media critics to call him a hypocrite, noting the gym video shows unveiled women working out near him.

As chief, Talaei also backed a push to remove satellite dishes from private homes, deemed illegal by the regime, a report by the U.K.’s Border and Immigration Agency notes. Many citizens used the dishes to beam in Western TV programming.

And journalists Masih and Abdi say he was part of the police force when protests instigated by students at Tehran University in 1999 were suppressed violently by authorities.

After retiring as police chief in 2006, Talaei (whose name is sometimes also transliterated as Talai) was elected to city council, and even then was involved in controversial policies.  He had a heated exchange with a female journalist in 2014 — saying the reporter was “compromising her dignity” — as he defended new rules on the role of women in the city government. The policy separated the offices of men and women and limited female access to managerial and clerical positions, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

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Abdi said he received the video of the scene at Richmond Hill’s Movati Athletic from an audience member and later contacted Talaei directly. The former policeman declined to answer how he had obtained a visa to enter Canada, said the journalist, and chastised the reporter for interfering in his private affairs.

“Why should individuals’ personal issues be dealt with in the media space?” Talaei asked Abdi in a part of the interview aired by the BBC’s Persian-language service. “Why should I come to the media and say which trip I have gone to or not?

Abdi said Talaei also made veiled threats, accused him of being a member of the anti-Tehran Mujahedin-e-Khalq, once listed by Canada as a terrorist group, and revealed that he knew who his parents were and where they live in Iran.

Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter in the Flight PS752 shoot-down, said he hoped to raise the incident with Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. The gym where Talaei was spotted is actually close to his home.

“We don’t feel safe here,” he said, “when the IRGC commanders and their families come freely to Canada.”

Iranian journalist Manoochehr Aghaei begins 8-month prison sentence

November 1, 2021

Washington, D.C., November 1, 2021 — Iranian authorities must release journalist Manoochehr Aghaei immediately and unconditionally, and cease jailing members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On October 27, Aghaei, the editor-in-chief of the independent, social media-based news outlet MiandoabPress and a reporter for the state-run news website Young Journalists’ Club, presented himself to authorities at Miandoab Central Prison, in West Azerbaijan province, to begin an eight-month prison sentence, according to reports by the exile-run news website IranWire and the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a U.S.-based outlet that covers Iran.

Earlier that day, Aghaei tweeted that he had been convicted of “spreading propaganda against the system.” Neither that tweet nor those news reports specified when he was charged or tried.

“Iranian authorities must release reporter Manoochehr Aghaei immediately and unconditionally, and stop jailing journalists in connection with their work,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities need to recognize that not every piece of journalism or commentary is anti-state propaganda, and must cease their brutal censorship of the press.”

Aghaei’s conviction stemmed from readers’ comments on MiandoabPress’s Telegram and Instagram accounts. According to IranWire, authorities considered those comments to be anti-state propaganda, and held Aghaei responsible for them.

MiandoabPress is an independent news outlet that covers daily national news topics, such as politics and finance, as well as local news in West Azerbaijan, according to CPJ’s review of its Telegram channel, which has about 21,000 followers, and Instagram, where it has 82,000 followers. The outlet publishes in both Azeri and Farsi.

In the tweet before his imprisonment, Aghaei wrote, “I have to present myself to judicial officials to start serving my sentence only due to people’s comments. Pressuring journalists is not the solution to the problems.”

CPJ called the Miandoab judiciary office for comment, but no one answered.

Police fire tear gas at protesters in Iran’s city of Isfahan

Online videos show police firing tear gas and fighting protesters with batons in a central Iranian city that has seen days of demonstrations demanding government action over a drought
By The Associated Press
27 November 2021

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Police fired tear gas and birdshot while fighting protesters with batons on Friday in a central Iranian city that has seen days of demonstrations demanding government action over a drought, online videos show.

The social media videos and others from activists show police and protesters clashing in the dry bed of the Zayandehrud River in the city of Isfahan. The videos correspond to reporting by The Associated Press and satellite images of the area, as well as some semiofficial Iranian news agency accounts of the unrest.

Videos from Human Rights Activists in Iran show demonstrators throwing stones at police, while others depict bloodied protesters, including one man who appeared to have wounds in his back from birdshot. They also show similar unrest in nearby streets in Isfahan, which is 340 kilometers (210 miles) south of the capital Tehran.

The Iranian semiofficial Fars news agency said a heavy presence of security forces brought the gathering of some 500 people in Isfahan to an end. A separate report carried by the semiofficial Tasnim agency said unknown perpetrators had damaged a pipeline that transfers water from Isfahan to other provinces Thursday night.

Some people in Isfahan later Friday reported that mobile internet service was disrupted in the city. The group NetBlocks reported an outage in recent days that also affected the southwestern city of Ahvaz amid water protests there.

Iran in the past has shut down both mobile and landline internet to halt protests. That included a nationwide shutdown during 2019 protests over rising government-set gasoline prices that Amnesty International says saw over 300 people killed.

Farmers reportedly ended a long protest in the area on Thursday after authorities promised to compensate them for losses suffered in drought-stricken areas of central Iran.

Drought has been a problem in Iran for some 30 years, but it has worsened over the past decade, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The Iran Meteorological Organization says that an estimated 97% of the country now faces some level of drought.

The farming area around Isfahan was once well supplied by the Zayandehrud River, but nearby factories have increasingly drawn on it over the years. The river once flowed under historic bridges in Isfahan’s city center, but is now a barren strip of dirt.

In 2012, farmers clashed with police in a town in Isfahan province, breaking a water pipe that diverted some 50 million cubic meters of water a year to a neighboring province. Similar protests have continued sporadically since then.

November 2019 Protester In Iran Sentenced To Death

Author: Maryam Sinaee

A protester accused of shooting a Special Riot Force commander in Mahshahr, southern Iran in the nation-wide November 2019 protests has been sentenced to death.

The foreign-based Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported Friday that authorities informed the family of Abbas Shelishat (Driss), 45, that he has been sentenced to death on a number of charges including taking up arms against the Islamic Republic and shooting a commander of the Special Anti-Riot Forces, Reza Sayyadi, during protests in Mahshahr in November 2019.

A source close to the family told HRANA that the judicial authorities gave a verbal notice of the sentence to the family four months ago and have since refused to provide any official confirmation of the sentence to them or Shelishat’s two lawyers who have also not even been allowed to read the case files.

The Judiciary has also sentenced several others to death for the protests in November 2019 including three young men whose death sentences have been confirmed by the Supreme Court but not carried out yet.

Abbas Shelishat, sentenced to death. Undated photo

Abbas Shelishat, sentenced to death. Undated photo

Shelishat’s brother, Mohsen, who has also been accused of complicity in the killing of the anti-riot officer, has been sentenced to life in prison, the family have said.

Karim Dahimi, Iranian Arab activist, told Iran International Saturday that this case has been sent to the Supreme Court for approval. According to Dahimi, a second expert has testified to the court that Shelishat could not be responsible for the killing of the officer as Shileshat’s position at the time of the killing made it impossible for him to shoot the officer in the back.

Sources close to the family have told HRANA that Shelishat’s wife died of a brain stroke after finding out about the sentence. In the past four months the family apparently kept the news of the death sentence secret waiting to get official confirmation.

A few weeks after the protests, the state-run television aired a video of Shileshat and other prisoners whose faces were obscured and presented as “confessions of armed terrorists”. The state media described the Mahshahr protesters as terrorists and Arab separatist groups.

In the video, a man allegedly Shileshat, said with his brother’s complicity he had shot an officer in a green uniform during the protests from the roof of his house.

In the same program, two other prisoners spoke about the events at the time of the killing with one of them claiming that two protesters who arrived on motorcycles shot at police officers while the officers were praying together.

The events described in the program happened during a bloody crackdown by the Revolutionary Guards and other security forces against largely unarmed protesters in the southern city of Mahshahr and its suburbs after protesters gained control of the city’s transit roads.

The port city of Mahshahr is in the oil-producing Khuzestan province and close to large petrochemical plants and other oil facilities.

The crackdown on protesters seeking refuge in the marshlands on the outskirts of the city security forces reportedly opened fire indiscriminately. The lethal attack has come to be widely referred to as the Mahshahr Massacre among Iranians.

President Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, on December 11, 2019 confirmed the reports about the killing of protesters in Mahsharhr but claimed that a group of armed individuals were responsible for the violence and shooting at both the protesters and the security forces.

Two weeks after the incident in Mahshahr, the New York Times reported that between 40 to 100 protesters were killed during the crackdown based on multiple interviews with eyewitnesses including a nurse at a hospital where the wounded were treated.