Pompeo: Iran, China, North Korea Have Tightened Coercive Measures On Religious Freedoms | Iran International

Pompeo: Iran, China, North Korea Have Tightened Coercive Measures On Religious Freedoms

On the 22nd anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement criticizing China, Iran, and North Korea for tightening their coercive measures to silence their people.

The statement begins by mentioning the fact that the United States was the country that enacted the International Religious Freedom Act, and reiterated that ”religious freedom and other themes of human dignity are – and will always remain – a core US foreign policy priority." 

The statement continues: Today, three of the world’s most egregious religious freedom abusers – the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Iran, and North Korea – have tightened their coercive measures to silence their own people.  Worse, the PRC has sought to eradicate all forms of faith and belief that don’t align with the Chinese Communist Party doctrine.

The treatment of Uighur Muslims by the Chinese Communist Party has caused global criticism and backlash, especially by the US. China has kept millions of Uighur Muslims in “re-education camps” in terrible condition.

Iran discriminates against religions and sects not officially recognized by the government. The Baha'i community is the most persecuted but other groups, such as Dervishes also find themselves under pressure. If the large Muslim Sunni community experiences various discriminations, including restrictions on holding high office or freely building their own mosques.

In its previous annual statement on religious freedom, the US Department of State had demanded that the violators of religious freedoms in Iran be identified and sanctioned.

The statement concludes: Every person, everywhere, has the right to believe or not believe, change one’s beliefs, speak one’s beliefs, gather, and teach.  On this International Religious Freedom Day, the United States is proud to promote and protect religious freedom.

Rouhani Government Allocates Budget For Foundation Run By Soleimani’s Daughter

As the regime of Iran continues to invest in propaganda for Qasem Soleimani, the killed commander of Quds Force, the Rouhani government allocated $340,000 fund in the next year’s budget to the foundation that Soleimani’s daughter Zeinab Soleimani manages.

The next year’s budget draft was sent to the parliament on Wednesday and in it, 85 billion rials (almost $340,000) have been allocated to Qasem Soleimani Foundation, run by Zeinab Soleimani.

Since the founding of the foundation last year, the names of its founders, the content of its constitution, and its objectives have not been announced.

The office of the representatives of Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic congratulated Zeinab Soleimani on her appointment as the president of the foundation, stating that this appointment was the leader’s idea.

However, refusal to announce any more details about the foundation was even criticized by an online media close to the armed forces, which speculated that the foundation will most likely work in parallel to other foundations helping those in the armed forces killed or injured abroad and their families.

Zeinab Soleimani, born in 1991, married the son of Hashim Safi Al-Din, Hezbollah’s number two and a specially designated global terrorist.

Since the killing of her father, Zeinab Soleimani has appeared and spoken at many media and political events of the regime of Iran and Friday prayers, calling for avenging Qasem Soleimani.

Since the killing of Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in January, the regime of Iran has allocated huge funds for propaganda about him.

Immediately after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, the Iranian parliament passed an urgent bill to allocate 200 million Euros to the Quds for of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).



Activist Student Sentenced To 13 Years In Prison

Student Activist Hamed Qareh Ughlani was sentenced to over 13 years in prison by three judges of the Urmia Revolutionary Court on national security and political charges.

According to the reports, the Urmia Revolutionary Court has convicted him on charges of propaganda against the regime, insulting the leader, and cooperating with dissident groups.

His sister Hanieh Qareh Ughlani told Iran International that her brother Hamed is a student of architecture at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University and he was arrested in July of this year by the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and was transferred to Urmia prison.

She went on to say that her brother has told her that aside from the confessions that they took from him “under coercion” in the Intelligence Ministry, there is no document or evidence against him.

Hanieh Qareh Ughlani said other charges such as “connection with Israel” were added to her brother’s case later.

There are currently many university students in Iranian prisons for political activity or participating in peaceful protests. In recent years the Islamic Republic judiciary has been mostly using national security-labeled crimes when charging political activists. However, insulting the leader and propaganda against the regime remain the most common charges for political activists, along with conspiracy to act against national security, disrupting public order, and cooperating with dissident groups.


Iranian MP Calls Taliban 'A Noble Movement'

A member of Iran’s parliament has referred to the Taliban as “one of the noble movements in the region with a Pashtun background.”

Iranian MP Ahmad Naderi tweeted that the visit from a Taliban delegation at the Iranian embassy in Qatar to offer condolences for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is “a good omen”. Fakhrizadeh was a top official in Iran's nuclear program who was killed last Friday in broad daylight near Tehran. Iranian officials have blamed Israel.

Naderi emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s cooperation with the group can “lead to increased stability in Afghanistan and prevent the infiltration of society by groups such as ISIS.”

The Islamic Republic’s embassy in Doha reported on Monday that a delegation from the Taliban’s political office has visited the embassy to offer condolences, and welcomed Ahmad Dehghani’s arrival as the new ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Qatar.

In recent years, US and Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Iran of supporting the Taliban but the Islamic Republic has denied the allegations.

Members of the Taliban’s political office visited Iran several times in the past two years and talked with the Islamic Republic officials about the peace process in Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan has condemned these visits. 

Last year, a report from the US Defense Department claimed that Iran is providing weapons, money, and training to the Taliban in order to fight US influence in Afghanistan.


Spokesman Says Iran Knows Who Brought Means to Kill Nuclear Scientist

Ali Rabiei, Iran’s government spokesman, said Wednesday that Iranian intelligence had discovered who had brought into Iran the means used to kill top nuclear official Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last Friday.

Speaking to state television, Rabiei offered no details and did not say whether those involved were Iranians. “The Intelligence Ministry has identified individuals who had brought equipment and used technologies,” he said.

Iran has multiple intelligence and security organizations with wide-ranging powers that work in collaboration with the country’s all-powerful judiciary, and often arrest political prisoners who can be held on ‘security grounds’ without public trial or effective legal protection.

Shockwaves are still reverberating in Iran from the daylight assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top manager and scientist involved in Iran’s atomic program and reputedly in its weaponization research before 2003. The Islamic Republic leaders and intelligence organizations appear at a loss to explain how the killing was possible and why perpetrators have not been arrested.

Scenarios put forward so far have often been contradictory, ranging from a dozen assassins taking part in the attack, to a claim that a remotely controlled machine-gun fired on Fakhrizadeh’s convoy in a high-tech and “complex” operation.

Other than the 2017 attacks on the parliament and Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini, claimed by the Islamic State group (Isis) and in which 17 died, violent attacks in Iran during recent years have generally occurred away from Tehran, mainly in Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Sistan-Baluchestan, areas with ethnic or sectarian minorities. Iranian officials have often claimed to have uncovered ‘terrorist’ cells, arresting opponents and capturing arms and explosives, with such announcements rarely followed up with evidence of trials or further actions.

Iran Budget Bill Counts On State Property Sales And More Oil Exports

Iran's government presented a draft state budget of about $33.7 billion to parliament on Wednesday, promising less reliance on oil revenues and higher growth despite U.S. sanctions that have crippled the Islamic Republic's economy, Iranian media reported.

The value of the draft budget is set about 8,413 trillion rials, up 74% from last year's figures in rial terms but lower than last year's budget of $38.8 billion in hard currency terms because of the sharp fall of Iran's currency.

"The next year's budget bill focuses on infrastructure reforms, health, creating jobs, non-oil exports and the nation's welfare," according to Iran's state news agency IRNA. Iran's next fiscal year starts on March 21.

But more spending in rials would add to an already very high rate of inflation and less money in real terms for promised spending programs.

President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting that Iran expected to sell more oil next year, adding that the government planned to use state bonds and selling of state properties as sources of revenue.

"We believe Iran will sell more oil next year, around 2.3 million barrels per day, including the exports and domestically," Rouhani said. "But the revenue will be used to develop or empower the underprivileged. This does not mean that our budget has become more dependent on oil."

It is estimated that Iran exports less than 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), compared to a peak of 2.8 million bpd in 2018, when Washington exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have hit Iran's economy hard by sharply cutting its vital oil exports.

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has said that he would return to the pact and would lift sanctions if Tehran returned to "strict compliance with the nuclear deal." But the path is complicated and there is no guarantee that US sanctions will be lifted by March to allow more oil exports.

Reporting by Reuters


UN Security Council Unlikely To Act On Killing Of Iran Nuclear Official

The UN Security Council is unlikely to take any actions or make a statement on the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear official who was killed in a hail of bullets last Friday near Tehran, Reuters reports from New York.

Immediately after the killing Iran sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanding condemnation and action by the world body, but so far it appears no country has taken any initiative to bring the issue to the Security Council.

At a minimum, the Council could have issued a statement based on consensus, but South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, Jerry Matjila, council president for December, told Reuters on Tuesday that no member had so far requested to discuss the killing or Iran in general.

Iranian officials have blame Israel for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was said to be the main figure in Iran’s research and development project for a nuclear weapon, officially abandoned in 2003, but perhaps being secretly pursued. Some official also blame the United States for the assassination as Israel’s close ally.

Guterres has urged restraint and condemned “any assassination or extra-judicial killing,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Saturday.

The Security Council will meet on Dec. 22 for its biannual meeting on compliance with a resolution that enshrines a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Iran, which President Donald Trump’s administration quit in 2018. Any council member can raise the issue of the

11 Female Journalists In Iran Form Association Against Sexual Abuse Of Women

The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported a group of Iranian female journalists released a statement criticizing the silence and lack of transparency in the journalists’ association of Tehran province regarding sexual harassment of women in the media and formed an association to fight this phenomenon.

Hrana reported on Tuesday that 11 female journalists have released a joint statement criticizing the lack of transparency in the methods and actions of the committee for the investigation of sexual harassment and supporting the victim that was formed by the journalists association in Tehran.

The statement says the signatories have formed an assembly to “inform and educate” members of editorials about the issue of sexual harassment of female journalists, and draft and implement some guidelines with the leaders of the media.

The goal of the assembly is to “fight against any sexual harassment and transparency in power-based relationships and abuse of power.” The signatories have asked the members of the media to support the assembly.

Previously, the journalists’ association of Tehran province had announced that it has formed a committee to investigate the issue and support the victims.

These journalist women have also demanded changes in the constitutions of guilds and associations to eliminate sexual harassment and abuse of power in the media workplace.


Even Under Sanctions 30 percent of Medicine Comes From US: Chairman Of Iran's Medicine Importers Union

The chairman of the medicine importers union denied any problems with money transfer for importing coronavirus vaccine during sanctions, and said even under sanctions, 30 percent of Iran’s imported medicine comes from the US.

Chairman Naser Riahi told the official ISNA news: “Currently 30 percent of the medicine that enters Iran each month comes from the US, and we must note that sanctions will not include vaccines either.”

Regarding the coronavirus vaccine, he said vaccines from the American companies Pfizer and Moderna will arrive in Iran. According to the reports, the two companies have announced a 95 percent success rate for their vaccines and have received permission for mass production.

However, Riahi believes Iranians will not receive the vaccine before the Persian new year in March.

Referring to the Iranian airlines announcing their readiness to import coronavirus vaccine, Riahi said: “Maybe import conditions have changed and we have not received any information about it.”

The chairman of the union emphasized that issues like sanctions or the transfer of money create no obstacles in the import of vaccines.

“During this time of sanctions and money shortage of the Central Bank, we import 100 million Euros of medicine and medical raw material each month, and if we add equipment, it reaches around 150 million Euros a month,” he added. “We won’t have any problem putting up the money for the vaccine, of course, it would be better if we could barter the cost of the vaccine with our frozen money.”

His comments come at a time that many high-ranking Islamic Republic officials and many in the western media claim that the shortage of medicine in the country, including the recent insulin shortage, is due to the problems with the transfer of money due to sanctions.

Doctor Transferred For Execution In Iran, Call For Action To Save Him

The wife of an Iranian-Swedish medical doctor, Ahmad-Reza Djalali (Jalali), said on Tuesday [December 1] that Djajali’s lawyer had been informed of his transfer to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj in preparation for his execution.

Vida Mehrannia told Iran Human Rights that her husband would be transferred on Tuesday afternoon to Rajai Shahr, where executions are routinely carried out. Djalali, 49, was detained in 2016 and later sentenced to death for alleged espionage.  

A world-renowned emergency-medicine and disaster specialist, and lecturer at Karolinska University in Sweden, Djalali was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence agents while visiting Iran on the invitation of the University of Tehran and Shiraz University. The father of two young children was initially charged with “collaborating with hostile states” and later convicted of “enmity against God through espionage for Israel” by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran. He was sentenced to death on October 21, 2017.

Mahmoud Amiri-Moghadam, Director of Iran Human Rights, on Tuesday said Djalali was in imminent danger of execution and that his life might be saved only if the international community showed a strong and urgent reaction. A social-media campaign has been underway with the hashtag #FreeAhmadreza.

On November 25 United Nations rapporteurs issued a statement pleading for a stay of execution. “We are horrified by the reports that Mr. Djalali is soon to be executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” it read. “His torture, arbitrary detention, death sentence and now reported imminent execution are unconscionable acts that should be condemned by the international community in the strongest terms.”

Iranian state television (IRIB) aired a video of Djalali supposedly confessing, but the doctor subsequently released an audio message from prison alleging he had been coerced.

Journalist Arrested For ‘Spreading Lies’ About Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

Iranian media on Tuesday reported that Mehdi Mahmoudian, a prominent reformist journalist and political activist who had been summoned by the judiciary, was arrested due to his failure to present a ‘guarantor’ who would promise he would not abscond if left at liberty.

In a Twitter post on Monday, Mahmoudian had published an image of a letter summoning him to the office of the Culture and Media Prosecutor to answer a charge of “spreading lies with intention of disturbing the public’s mind,” brought against him by the Legal and Parliamentary Bureau of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

The case goes back at least to July, when Mahmoudian in a series of tweets said the IRGC had filed a complaint against him over his disclosure that the Guards and the Intelligence Ministry were prosecuting five managers and journalists in the official news agency (IRNA) for publishing an interview on May 30 with Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the Coordinating Deputy of Iran’s regular Army (Artesh). The following day an IRGC spokesman denounced Mahmoudian’s claims as “fake news” that was aimed at “affecting the unity of the Army and the Revolutionary Guards.”

In the IRNA interview, which disappeared from the IRNA website a few hours after publication, Sayyari had implicitly criticized the Revolutionary Guards for their role in the country’s political and economic affairs. He also expressed dismay at the state media for ignoring the achievements of the Army while constantly praising the IRGC.

Mahmoudian is no stranger to prison. His journalism has included documenting allegations of rape and abuse of detainees at the Kahrizak Detention Center, which was closed in 2009.


Saudi Arabia Condemns Killing Of Iran Nuclear Official As ‘Act of Terror’

Abdallah al-Mouallimi, the permanent representative of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, has in a short video message condemned Friday’s assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian nuclear official, which many believe was planned by Israel.

Saudi Arabia “does not accept terror acts and every Muslim scientist who is attacked, is a loss for the whole Muslim world,” al-Mouallimi told RT Arabic on Tuesday.

Iran has called on other countries and international organizations to condemn the killing. The European Union has said it was incompatible with the EU’s commitment to human rights.

While Saudi Arabia’s ally, the United Arab Emirates, had condemned the attack, Riyadh had been silent. Al-Mouallimi’s remarks are the first Saudi statement on Fakhrizadeh’s killing.

The Saudi diplomat’s condemnation of the assassination, however, did not temper his criticism of Iran. Al-Mouallimi said the Islamic Republic was responsible for “launching missiles” and supporting “troublemakers and terrorism.” He also dismissed last year’s Iranian proposal for a non-aggression pact. “We do not believe in these kinds of plans and promises,” he insisted, citing Saddam Hussein making a similar proposal weeks before invading Kuwait in 1990.

Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf Sunni-led states, and Western countries all accused Iran of being responsible for a destructive drone and missile attack on Saudi oil installations in September 2019. Relations between Riyadh and Tehran have worsened since January 2016 when protestors attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, prompting Riyadh to cut off diplomatic relations.

Al-Mouallimi repeated earlier Saudi denials of a secret meeting in late November between  Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.