Letter Of 24 Iranian Authors To PEN Pleading For Release of Four Iranian Authors | Iran International

Letter Of 24 Iranian Authors To PEN Pleading For Release of Four Iranian Authors

In a letter to PEN international association of writers and human rights organizations, 24 Iranian authors, translators, and university professors pleaded with them to make efforts to release three Iranian authors and a journalist in Iran.

The signatories of the letter asked for the immediate release of Bektash Abtin, Kayvan Bazhan, Reza Khandan Mahabadi, three members of the Iranian authors association, and also Khosrow Sadeghi Boroujeni, journalist and social researcher.

“Let the world hear the voice of our incarcerated colleagues and use all your resources to demand their immediate release from prison,” the letter pleads.

Yervand Abrahamian, Dariush Ashouri, Sohail Asefi, Babak Ahmadi, Sohrab Behdad, Azadeh Parsapour, Akram Pedram Nia, Saeed Hariri, Nasim Khaksar, Mehrdad Darvishpour, Moirou Ravanipour, Faraj Sarkouhi, Reza Allamehzadeh, Morad Farhadpour, Farshin Kazemi Nia, Arash Kia, Amir Kianpour, Iman Ganji, Mehran Mostafavi, Akbar Masoum Beigi, Farhad Naamani, Azar Nafisi, Payman Vahabzadeh, and Mohsen Yalfani are the signatories of the letter.

The signatories state that the charges against these four prisoners are “baseless and pure lies” and say the main purpose of these arrests and convictions are to put more pressure on the authors and the people.

The authors also express concerns in the letter about the crisis of the rising number of coronavirus patients in Iranian prisons.

Previously, PEN International had expressed “deep concerns” about the three Iranian writers' trial. PEN had also demanded the release of Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh earlier.


Iran Hardliner Paper Urges Destructive Attack On Haifa To Deter Israel

The hardline Kayhan newspaper in Iran published an opinion piece on Sunday urging a destructive “deterrent” attack on Israel’s port city of Haifa, after the assassination of the country’s top nuclear operative on Friday.

The piece, written by a commentator Sadollah Zarei, advocated a large-scale attack on Haifa to inflict maximum pain and civilian casualties, as the only way to establish a deterrence against “the Zionist enemy” and the United States. It added that previous Iranian reactions to Israeli air attacks in Syria targeting Iran-backed forces were weak. Zarei argued that even Iran’s January 8 ballistic missile attack against US bases in Iraq was not sufficient warning.

Iran claims it has evidence that Israel was behind the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, considered the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Although he is called a scientist by Iran’s officials and state media, in fact he was a high-ranking member of the notorious Revolutionary Guards or IRGC. Israel has not acknowledged or denied its role in the attack.

Kayhan is financed by the office of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and its editor has the title of Khamenei’s representative at the newspaper. It usually advocates uncompromising and even extremist domestic and foreign policies.

President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday said that although Iran should avenge the killing, now would not be the right time as the assassination was planned to force Iran to react, thus reducing chances of any negotiations with the incoming Biden administration. But in a statement Khamenei directed all officials to find and punish those involved in the operation and those who issued the order.


Flood Shuts Down Four Cities In Khuzestan Province of Iran


After heavy rain in several cities of the southwestern province of Khuzestan in Iran, all businesses were shut down on Sunday in the cities of Ahvaz, Mahshahr, Ramshir, and Omidiyeh.

At the same time, local officials in Bushehr province also reported houses flooding in two cities and in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, first responders are on full alert.

The chairman of Khuzestan’s crisis management office announced that due to the flooding and the problems that it will cause the citizens, all government buildings and banks in Ahvaz, Mahshahr, Ramshir, and Omidiyeh are closed on Sunday; the shut down does not include hospitals and centers of the relief operation.

The director of Red Crescent in Khuzestan province said the aid workers of Red Crescent have provided relief to 729 people stuck in the flood and 133 people were moved to safer locations. It also reported that nine houses were destroyed in Izeh and Baghmalek counties.

The governor of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province said the meteorologists have projected heavy rains and floods in the rivers in the upcoming days and people need to be more careful.

Local officials in Lorestan province in the west of Iran have also issued flood warnings and asked people to avoid unnecessary travel.

Iran witnessed heavy rain and flooding last year in 10 provinces across the country which caused millions of dollars in damages and many dead or injured.

Iranian Nursing Organization To Rouhani: 30 More Nurses Died Of Coronavirus In November

In a letter to President Rouhani, members of the board of Iranian Medical Organization warned about the increasing objections and discontent and of the medical staff and the increasing number of casualties among the nurses.

The Nursing Organization lists the problems the nurses face, including exhaustion, heavy workload, staff shortage, decreasing wages, partial overtime, job security, and high rate of contraction.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, this is the fifth time that the leaders of the Nursing Organization are writing a letter to the president of Iran.

The letter states that in November alone, 30 nurses died across the country from coronavirus.

According to the letter so far 84 nurses have died of coronavirus in Iran and 50,000 nurses have contracted COVID-19, and 8000 have left their job.

The board member of the organization said in some hospitals and coronavirus wards sometimes a nurse has to manage 10 or more patients.

The letter asks Rouhani to form a workgroup to provide better financial and mental support and a better working environment for the nurses.

In recent months, health workers in several cities across Iran have protested their wages and working conditions during the pandemic.

In July, nurses in Mashhad had planned on a peaceful protest in front of the courthouse regarding their low income. Reports indicate that the security forces attacked the nurses and beat them with tasers and batons.

In September, nurses at the Rouhani Hospital gathered to protest over low and unpaid wages in Babol city in Mazandaran province, northern Iran. They told ILNA they were faced particular challenges due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In October, health care workers in Iran’s capital gathered outside the parliament to protest about their inadequate work conditions, as the coronavirus crisis has worsened in the country.


Energy Official Says Nakhichivan Corridor Spells Losses for Iran

Iran is set for serious losses due to a new transport corridor between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan through Armenia, Hamidreza Salehi, Chairman of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce Energy Committee, told the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Saturday. The corridor, he said, would allow Azerbaijan to supply Nakhchivan directly rather than through Iran under the terms of a 20-year agreement, signed in 2005, under which Iran transfers 350 million cubic meters of gas annually, and for which Tehran nets a transit fee in the form of a 15 percent cut of the gas.

The Nakhchivan-Azerbaijan transport corridor has been established under the Nagorno-Karabakh peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on November 10. The corridor – to be supervised by Russian peacekeepers for five years – will create a direct transit route for Azerbaijan not just to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic but on to Turkey.

This new link also raises the possibility that Turkey will switch from buying Iranian gas – under an agreement signed in 1996 – to buying Azeri gas, which is around 30 percent cheaper. Iran’s pipeline to Turkey, which carries around 10 billion m3 a year, saw its supply interrupted earlier this year after an attack by Kurdish militants, who were resuming a campaign that had been quiet since a 2013 ceasefire.

Salehi also told ILNA that after its discovery of natural gas in the Black Sea, Turkey would now begin seek its own markets and was set to become a rival to major regional gas exporters, including Iran, and would stop its gas imports from Iran and Russia.


Two More Former Officials Arrested In Large Corruption Case In Iran

Authorities have arrested two more former officials in Iran on charges of bribery and corruption in a case involving dozens of judicial and other high-ranking managers, many of whom have already been convicted and sentenced to long prison terms.

The former of head of security in Iran’s Judiciary and the former of head of intelligence in Mazanderan province were taken into custody according to media in Iran. Their charges relate to what has become known as the Tabari network, a former top Judicial official. Akbar Tabari himself received a 31-year sentence in September for establishing and running a vast corruption and bribery network involving dozens of officials.

The former chief of Judiciary’s security, Mohammad Javad Rashidi is accused of receiving a draft from Mostafa Niaz-Azari who was involved in the Tabari network and got convicted for smuggling two metric tons of gold and is currently a fugitive abroad. His father, Kiumars Niaz-Abadi who was the head of the intelligence department in Mazanderan from 2006-2016 has also been arrested.

The network was involved in all sorts of corrupt activities for years during the tenure of former Judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, who was removed from his post in early 2019. The Larijani family enjoyed unparalleled power and influence for more than a decade. Ali Larijani was Speaker of Iran’s parliament until May 2020.

The court also demanded Tabari pay back around $1.5 million to the treasury and a string of luxury properties he acquired as part of his corruption schemes. But many defendants have fled Iran after the case was launched in April 2019, raising questions of how they could travel abroad in a country with tight border controls.


EU, Germany Urge Calm After Assassination Of Iran's Top Nuclear Man

Germany and the European Union have urged “all parties” to remain calm and avoid escalating tensions after the killing near Tehran of leader Iranian nuclear scientists Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Friday. “A few weeks before the new US administration takes office, it is important to preserve the scope for talks with Iran so that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme can be resolved through negotiations,” a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry told Reuters in an email on Saturday.

Germany, France and Britain – who are among the signatories of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal - have in recent weeks said they would work hard to preserve the deal, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018. Trump’s only ‘comment’ on the killing of Fakhrizadeh was his retweeting on Friday Israeli journalist Yossi Melman calling it “a major psychological and professional blow for Iran.”

In a short statement on Saturday, the spokesperson of the European Union urged calm. The EU said the killing of “an Iranian government official and several civilians…in a series of violent attacks” was a criminal act counter to the EU’s belief in human rights. “In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for all parties to remain calm and exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalation which cannot be in anyone’s interest,” the EU High Representative Josep Borrell was quoted as saying.

Iran has not released any details on casualties other than Fakhrizadeh and it is not clear who the "several civilians" are that the EU statement refers to. There have been reports that one bodyguard might have been killed but no confirmation of civilian deaths.

Nimitz Strike Group Returning To Persian Gulf Amid Rising Tensions

The United States ordered its aircraft carrier Nimitz and its strike group to return to the Persian Gulf region to provide “defensive capabilities” during the pullout of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military said Friday.

Although the move was reportedly made public shortly before the assassination of a top nuclear operator in Iran, allegedly by Israel, many will see the return of Nimitz as a deterrent action at a time of high tensions.

"This action ensures we have sufficient capability available to respond to any threat and to deter any adversary from acting against our troops during the force reduction," the Pentagon said in a statement. President Donald Trump ordered a significant reduction of US forces in Afghanistan and Iran earlier this month.

Top Iranian officials have accused the United States and Israel for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh near Tehran on Friday and have vowed punishment for the perpetrators and “those who ordered” the assassination. Iran has large ballistic and other missile capabilities can threaten Israel and US arab allies in the region.

The Nimitz left port in April and was in the Persian Gulf before joining an exercise with the Indian, Japanese and Australian navies. The Pentagon statement thanked the servicemen for their "dedication".

Labor Activist Lashed 74 Times For Participating In Protests

Labor activist Davoud Rafiei who was fired from Pars Khodro automobile company and was arrested by the order of the Ministry of Labor for participating in protests was lashed 74 times after arriving at Evin Prison courthouse without notification or a finalized verdict.

Rafiei was fired from Pars Khodro after a workers’ protest in 2012. He was arrested in November of 2016 along with two other workers who had visited the company to follow up on their case.

In 2017 he was repeatedly targeted by the police for his protests in front of the Ministry of Labor.

The Ministry of Labor offered Rafiei 2 billion rials (around $7500) to end his sit-in, but he insisted on his legal right regarding his firing and unemployment from 2012 to 2018.

In 2018 Rafiei was once again arrested by the complaint of the ministry and was released after a while on bail.

According to the reports, in recent weeks, the person who put up the bail money for Rafiei was being pressured by the judiciary officials, therefore Rafiei visited the Evin Prison courthouse on Thursday to discuss the issue, but he was arrested and was lashed 74 times without receiving a final verdict or any notification.

At the same time, a letter by the former minister of labor was published which said he has taken back his complaint against Rafiei.

Another worker, Rasoul Taleb Moghaddam, also received 74 lashes in the summer of 2020, after being arrested in a labor protest in 2019.


Iran's Defense Ministry Confirms Assassination of Nuclear Scientist

After a hardliner news website in Iran, Raja News, reported that a senior Revolutionary Guard official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, with a major role in the country’s nuclear program, was assassinated today north of the capital, Tehran, the Defense Ministry confirmed the news. 

Earlier, the spokesman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Behruz Kamalvandi told ISNA news website that “No incident has happened to any of our country’s nuclear scientists” and all scientists “are in full health”. The statement is not necessarily a denial of Fakhrizade's death, if officially he is not considered a 'nuclear scientist'.

Eyewitnesses told local sources that several other people were killed during the attack. People heard an explosion and then automatic gunfire.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was the head of the New Defense Research Organization (NDRO), with the Persian acronym Sepand. Recently the opposition group Mojahedin Khalq had reported that NDRO was operating two sites for the purpose of building a nuclear weapon.

Reports in the past have mentioned Fakhrizadeh as the “mysterious” man of Iran’s nuclear program and a top official directing nuclear efforts. He is sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. Reports also have indicated he was a former Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commander.

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Ahmadinejad Says Iran Hijab Rules Should Follow Views Of the Majority

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has suggested that rules over hijab should reflect the views of a majority of Iranians.  In a video debate with conservative commentator Mehdi Nassiri, Ahmadinejad said: “If parliament has passed a law and the majority of the people reject it, can you say I will enforce it no matter what?”

Compulsory hijab has been enforced without formal legislation since the 1979 Revolution. In recent years, many women have been defying ‘proper hijab’ with ever loosening head coverings and tighter manteaus. Some have removed their headscarves in protest against the rules, and social-media clips show women confronting clergymen and religious conservatives in public when told to fix their ‘bad hijab.’

Ahmadinejad was the first – and so far, the only – president in the Islamic Republic not to be a cleric and had at times a difficult relationship with senior clergy, who regarded him as an upstart. Against the wishes of many ayatollahs, Ahmadinejad championed the right of women to enter sports stadiums. While Ahmadinejad known as a foreign-policy hawk partly through his enthusiasm for Iran’s nuclear program, his closest associate Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei floated notions of reconciliation with Israel. In his second term, Ahmadinejad openly defied Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and once he left office in 2013 he issued still more critical video messages.

The Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog barred Mashaei from the 2013 election, when Ahmadinejad was ineligible to stand for a third consecutive term, and in 2017 it barred Ahmadinejad himself. There has been speculation that the former president may try again for the presidential election in June 2021 when President Hassan Rouhani will be ineligible.

Business Representative: ‘Iran Factories Working At Minimum Level’

Most factories are at their minimum work schedules as industrial production has declined, a member of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce has told the Iranian Labour News Agency, ILNA.

Nima Basiri-Tehrani said that the combination of US sanctions and the Covid19 pandemic had led to reduced production across the board, with some exceptions, such as health products. Basiri-Tehrani, who is the deputy of the Chamber’s industry commission, said that while the pandemic had hurt industries in other countries, their governments had been proactive in assisting companies in various ways. In Iran, he said, the industrial sector had not benefited from government’s attention.

Basiri-Tehrani complained there had been no tax relief and that instead the government had insisted on collecting full taxes even as tax revenue increased along with rising prices.

Iran has been suffering from high inflation since 2018 when President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement and imposed tough sanctions. Price rises have accelerated in the past few months. – Consumer price inflation reached 41 percent in 2019, and is projected at 30.5 percent for 2020 by the International Monetary Fund.

Basiri-Tehrani said that the fall in production was evident in small factories in industrial parks, as companies lacked the capital to expand production and faced rising prices of raw materials. He added that banks were acting with extreme caution and that one lending institution had told him it had received a government directive not to issue loans.

The IMF currently projects a 5 percent contraction in Iran’s GDP in 2020 followed by a rise of 3.2 percent in 2021. In October, the World Bank noted that the Covid pandemic had “amplified the impact of economic sanctions and existing structural imbalances in Iran’s economy.” The bank forecast “weak” recovery in 2021-2 driven by the non-oil sector.


Iran Lawmaker Claims Parliament Reviewing 25-Year Agreement With China

A member of the Iranian parliament’s presidium, Ahmad Amir-Abadi Farahani says lawmakers are reviewing the 25-year agreement between Iran and China, which Iran has been publicizing since July.

Farahani said the 25-year contract between Iran and China is finalized and the members of parliament are now reviewing the text of the agreement. Farahani did not offer more explanation about the matter.

His comments come at a time when the government is yet to send a bill to the parliament regarding the much-touted "strategic" deal with China.

Iran is in an economic crisis due to US sanctions, having lost most its banking ties with the world and its oil exports. Any major economic or trade deal would be a break for the isolated country. However, China has been generally observing US sanctions, reducing trade with Iran. 

According to a draft of the contract that Iran International has received, the Islamic Republic officials have invited China to invest in all sectors in Iran, including industry, communications, agriculture, security, financial, oil, and energy in return for China buying Iranian oil.

The publication of some of the articles of this contract has caused a huge uproar among Iranians in recent months. But the Islamic Republic officials have denied the reports and said the agreement has not been finalized between the two countries.

So far, the Chinese side has not officially acknowledged that there is a 25-year strategic deal in place, but Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who initially denied the existence of such a contract has said in recent months that the idea of a comprehensive cooperation agreement between the two countries was first discussed during a 2016 meeting in Tehran between China's President Xi and Ali Khamenei.