Two human rights organizations announced that according to a classified document they have acquired, the Islamic Republic officials have intensified their monitoring and restrictions over citizens of Baha’i faith in Iran’s northern province of Mazandaran.
The International Federation for Human Rights and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran released the document about these pressures and urged the international community to question the Islamic Republic officials regarding Iran’s commitment to the “freedom of religious beliefs and practices” international conventions.
One case proving these persecutions mentioned in the documents points at the seizure of the lands of 27 Baha’i families.
The released documents also mention the efforts made by different Islamic Republic organizations to control the Baha’i community. According to the report, the Ministry of Education and the schools must make effort to “identify” Baha’i students and “attract” them to Islam.
“These actions show the increasing persecution of people of Baha'i faith by the government of Iran,” Abdol-Karim Lahiji, the chairman of Defense of Human Rights in Iran said.
In another part of the document, it states that a committee of 19 representatives of security and intelligence organizations held a meeting in Mazandaran’s capital of Sari to assess the latest situation of Dervishes and Baha’is.
Since the 1979 Islamist Revolution in Iran, Baha’is have been persecuted by the regime as a “subversive cult” and Baha’is have been denied jobs and higher education, arrested, and killed without repercussions, and have seen their properties seized.
Elementary Teacher Arrested In Iran For Protesting Iran-China
An elementary school teacher, Batoul Amini Dehyadegari, was arrested by the Islamic Republic security forces in Mashhad city a week ago for protesting the 25-year comprehensive cooperation deal between Iran and China.
According to her son, the security forces on Monday arrested the elementary school teacher Batoul Amini at her home in Mashhad city and took her to an undisclosed location.
Foad Sojoudi Farimani, former political prisoner and the son of Batoul Amini Dehyadegari announced the news on a Telegram channel he has created for his mother and said the security forces searched her house and confiscated some of her personal belongings.
He also tweeted that the reason for his mother’s arrest was that she participated in the protests against the 25-year deal between Iran and China. According to him other protesters against the Iran-China deal have also been arrested in the past few days but their families have refused to announce their arrests to the media.
Amini’s son also said that since his mother’s arrest last week, she has not been allowed to make a phone call or contact her family, and no bail has been set for her release.
Since the announcement of the deal, there have been many protests across Iran with many celebrities, sports figures, and filmmakers voicing their opposition to the deal.
Hashtags associated with opposition to the pact or calling for its abolition have topped the list of most used Twitter hashtags. Many allege that the pact means Iran's capitulation to China, or call it a "colonial contract" similar to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmanchai, which followed the military defeat and ceded large parts of Iran's northwestern territories to Tsarist Russia.
Iran Demands Efforts From South Korea To Release Frozen Funds
Political Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Abbas Aracghchi in a meeting with his South-Korean counterpart asked for pragmatic action by the South-Korean government to release Iran’s frozen funds in that country.
In the meeting with his South-Korean counterpart, Araghchi said: “The illegal action of Korean banks in freezing Iran’s funds has resulted in the loss of Iran’s trust in Korea, and making up for it will not be easy.”
“The visit of South-Korean prime minister to Tehran is unprecedented in the history of the two country’s relations after the revolution,” Araghchi added. “With the negotiation of delegations at such level, South Korea must make efforts to resolve the issues between the two countries.”
A few months ago, the President of Iran’s Central Bank Abdolnaser Hemmati said in a TV interview that over seven billion dollars of Iran’s funds have been frozen in South Korean banks.
In response the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) detained a South-Korean tanker and its crew in the Persian Gulf, claiming environmental violations as the cause. The Islamic Republic officials initially claimed that the tanker and the frozen funds are unrelated issues. But later some Iranian and Korean officials confirmed that the release of the funds would impact the release of the ship.
Last month it was announced that the US has approved of South Korea releasing a portion of the Iranian funds, and a few days later Iran released the crew of the tanker, with the tanker itself being released last week.
Despite Pressures, 43 More Filmmakers Sign Statement Against Iran-China Deal
After a statement by 18 Iranian filmmakers against the 25-year deal between Iran and China faced heavy backlash by the Islamic Republic security forces and its signatories were pressured to take back their signatures, 43 more filmmakers and writers joined the signatories of the statement.
The statement released on April 3 denounced “Islamic Republic’s four decades of secretive policies” and announced that the signatories do not consider the 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Iran and China in line with Iran’s national interests, since the content of it was “kept hidden from Iranian people.”
Since the release of the statement, media outlets close to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and to the Supreme Leader, including Kayhan, Tasnim News, and Mashregh news have heavily criticized the filmmakers who signed it. In recent days, several filmmakers reported receiving threats to withdraw their signatures.
Despite this, reports on Monday indicates that 43 more filmmakers have joined the signatories of the statemen
Many artists and celebrities have joined the protest movement against the deal with China and people protested in various Iranian cities inside and abroad, including in the United States.
Hashtags associated with opposition to the pact or calling for its abolition have topped the list of most used Twitter hashtags last week. Many allege that the pact means Iran's capitulation to China, or call it a "colonial contract" similar to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmanchai, which followed Iran's military defeat ceding large parts of Iran's northwestern territories to Tsarist Russia.
After Natanz Attack, Netanyahu Says He Will Never Let Iran Obtain Nukes
A day after a purported Israeli cyberattack on an Iranian nuclear facility, dubbed ‘terrorism’ by Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated claims that Iran was pursuing efforts to construct nuclear weapons. Netanyahu said he would “never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capacity to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel.”
The Israeli premier was addressing reporters alongside visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, but he made no comments on media reports that Israel was behind Sunday’s attack on Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Israeli outlets widely claimed that Israel and its secret service Mossad targeted the power generation system at Natanz, causing an explosion, fires and damaging some enrichment centrifuges. These claims contrasted with more guarded comments on earlier attacks, including the killing in November of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Netanyahu has said many times, well before he became prime minister in 2009, that Iran was within grasp of a nuclear weapon. His latest remarks come as United States President Joe Biden attempts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, with multilateral talks indirectly involving Washington underway in Vienna.
Netanyahu opposes these moves to revive the agreement, which his ally President Donald Trump left in 2018 before imposing draconian sanctions on Iran. Some defenders of the JCPOA in the US have suggested Israel attacked Natanz to embarrass Austin or to rally hardline critics of the deal in Tehran, while one opponent of the JCPOA in the US said “Israel greatly impressed” him.
The New York Times has quoted US intelligence suggesting the disruption at Natanz would delay progress in Iran’s program by nine months.
Iran Minister Says Sanctions Push Up Foreign Banking Costs 20%
International banking transactions for Iran have become 20 percent more costly during United States sanctions since 2018, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Mohammad Shariatmadari told the official government Iran Daily on Monday [April 12]. The minister explained that without normal ties with international banks, Iran had to rely on middlemen to transfer funds.
Shariatmadari said that vendors, money middlemen, entities carrying goods all imposed a surcharge – with sellers increasing prices in what they dub as “Iranian terms.”
While Iran’s primary challenge is the oil export and banking sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump in 2018 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran has also failed to adopt the rules of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF), whose members host the world’s leading financial sectors.
The FATF has asked Iran to accept its regulations aimed at increasing transparency and preventing discrete movements of money including laundering and financing of ‘terrorism.’ Iran has ratified two laws to this end, but conservatives have delayed ratification of two other pieces of legislation leaving Iran on a blacklist where the FATF placed it in February 2020. Even if US sanctions ease, without internal financial reforms Tehran would struggle to correspond directly with the conventional international banking system and to attract back Western energy majors who abandoned contracts after 2018.
The government and private businesses use a network of money changers, obscure financial entities, bitcoin, and small banks for international business. Critics of joining FATF say accepting its terms will restrict Iran's ability to assisst regional groups, such as Hezbollah.
EU Sanctions Top IRGC Commander, Others For Deadly 2019 Crackdown
The European Union targeted eight Iranian militia commanders, police chiefs and three prisons over a deadly crackdown in November 2019 by Iranian authorities, the EU said in its Official Journal on Monday.
The travel bans and asset freezes are the first time the EU has imposed sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses since 2013. The individuals to be targeted include members of Iran's hardline Basij militia, who are under the command of the Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful and heavily armed security force in the Islamic Republic.
As protests began after a hike in fuel prices in mid-Novemebr 2019, nationwide protests started and form the very first hours government forces used military weapons to target protesters. Estimates of protesters killed range from 300 to 1,500. At least 8,000 were arrested.
One the the most senior Iranians to be targeted was the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami. The EU also targeted Gholamreza Soleimani, head of the Basij militia.
"The Basij Organisation used lethal force to suppress the November 2019 protests in Iran, causing the deaths of and injuries to unarmed protesters and other civilians in many cities across the country," the EU said.
Reuters reported on March 31 that EU ambassadors had agreed the sanctions, which now take effect.
Iran has repeatedly rejected accusations by the West of human rights abuses, but UN experts and international human rights organizations have documneted arbitrary detentions, executions and torture.
With reporting by Reuters
Iran Top Official Says Talks Over Prisoners Underway Through 'Mediators'
President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi has said Sunday that there are ongoing negotiations “through mediators” to free Iranians imprisoned in the United States and other countries.
Vaezi did not mention who the “mediators” are, but the White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said on April 8 that the fate of Americans held in Iran was being raised during nuclear talks in Vienna. She stated that the United States had raised the matter “with partners around the world and those who are having direct discussions with the Iranians.” The US is not directly part of the Vienna talks under the rubric of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which the Trump administration left in 2018.
Prisoner exchanges have taken place during both the Obama and Trump administrations. Iran detained several Americans and other Western nationals and dual nationals after the 2015 nuclear deal was reached with the West. UN rapporteurs and human rights organizations have accused Tehran of essentially taking hostages to gain leverage in negotiations with the West.
President Joe Biden’s Administration has pledged that the fate of Americans held in Iran is a priority amid nuclear talks, but critics say that Washington must make sure detainees are released before any sanctions’ concessions to the Islamic Republic.
Psaki in her remarks had said that the US expected some clarity on the issue of American detainees by last Friday, but no news emerged as negotiators took a break until Wednesday.
Iran Reports Highest COVID deaths Since Early December
Iran has reported 258 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Sunday, the highest daily toll since early December.
That brings the officially reported total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490 in Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East. Many politicians, health experts and media say the pandemic toll is underreported by the government and the real figures are much higher.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141. "Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours 258 people have died from the virus," Lari said. State TV said it was the country's highest daily death toll since Dec. 10.
Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki, in a televised news conference, warned about more fatalities in the coming week if Iranians fail to adhere to health protocols. On Saturday, Tehran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country to curb the spread of a fourth wave of the coronavirus. The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces.
Critics say that from the onset of the pandemic the government made repeated mistakes in its handling of the crisis. In January Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned American and British vaccines, saying he does not trust them. As a result, Iran has remained behind in vaccination from its neighbors such as Turkey and the Gulf Arab states.
Israel Says It Will Work 'Closely' With US On Iran
Israel views the United States as a "full partner" and will work closely with its ally to ensure any new diplomatic accord with Iran does not compromise regional security, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told his US counterpart on Sunday.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, making the first Israel visit by a senior Biden administration official, told his host that Washington views the alliance as central to regional security as well as "enduring and ironclad".
After four years of close ties and coordination with the Trump Administration, Israel found itself facing a different US White House in January, committed to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. Israel had opposed the Obama-era agreement signed in 2015 and was happy to see President Donald Trump withdrawing from the accord in May 2018 and reimposing sanctions on Iran.
"The Tehran of today poses a strategic threat to international security, to the entire Middle East and to the State of Israel and we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world, of the US, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel," Gantz said.
The US has said it will consult its regional allies on talks to revive the nuclear deal, but clearly both Israel and Gulf Arab countries are deeply worried.
Just days earlier on April 7, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had issued a sharp warning that any agreement with Iran that allows it a path to nuclear weapons will not be binding on Israel.
Reporting by Reuters, Jerusalem Post
Every 16 Minutes One COVID-19 Death Occurs In Tehran
The head of Tehran’s coronavirus task force Alireza Zali reported an increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths in Tehran and said in the past 24 hours one patient has died every 16 minutes in Tehran.
Zali reported that on Saturday for the first time the number of hospitalized patients passed 6,126, and one patient was lost every 16 minutes. This means at least 90 patients died in Tehran in the past 24 hours.
Although according to several hospitals this is the fourth wave of the virus in Tehran, the death toll is close to the peak of the first and second waves and the official numbers of daily deaths during the third wave.
According to Islamic Republic’s Health Ministry officials, the actual death toll is 2.5 to 3 times the official numbers that are announced.
A member of Tehran’s city council, Mohammad Javad Haghshenas previously questioned the official Tehran numbers: “I believe the official numbers are not real. The numbers I have from the cemetery do not match the official numbers.”
So far less than one percent of Iran’s population has been vaccinated.
The chairman of Tehran’s coronavirus taskforce criticized the mismanagement of lockdowns and said: “Last week alone 800 thousand people used the subway each day in Tehran. The whole city must be shut down, what we currently have is not an actual lockdown.
Araghchi Says 1,500 Sanctions Must Be Removed Before US Can Rejoin JCPOA
The United States must remove 1,500 sanctions in order to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told the Iranian state broadcaster on Saturday.
The negotiations in Vienna this week were about preparing the list of these sanctions, Araghchi said. He added that all sanctions lifted by the JCPOA, as well as all sanctions imposed by the previous US administration must be removed. These include sanctions related to areas of activities, as well as against individuals and entities.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 and launched his ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against the Islamic Republic, imposing and reimposing hundreds of sanctions. Some of those are designated as terrorism sanctions and lifting them would be politically difficult for the new administration.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter has told Iran International of sanctions “inconsistent” with JCPOA that can be removed, but it is not clear what those are.
A senior US State Department official told reporters on Friday that "If Iran sticks to the position that every sanction that has been imposed since 2017 has to be lifted or there will be no deal, then we are heading towards an impasse.”
In a separate appearance, Araghchi told Iran’s Press TV that negotiations should reach a conclusion in six weeks, when still a three-month temporary agreement of inspections is in place with the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. Otherwise, the restoration of the nuclear agreement will become more complicated.