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Human Rights Watch Says Iran Recruiting Afghan Children To Fight In Syria

IRGC commanders; Mohammad Pakpour and Mohammad Taghi Osanlou in an operation in northwest of Iran, undated.

Human Rights Watch says Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been recruiting Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in the conflict in Syria.

The New York-based rights advocate said in a statement released on October 1 that Afghan children as young as 14 have fought in the Fatemiyoun division, an exclusively Afghan armed group supported by Iran that fights alongside government forces in the Syrian conflict.

“Iran should immediately end the recruitment of child soldiers and bring back any Afghan children it has sent to fight in Syria,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.

Human Rights Watch said a review photos of tombstones in Iranian cemeteries identified eight Afghan children who apparently fought and died in Syria.

Iranian media reports corroborated some of these cases and reported at least six more instances of Afghan child soldiers who died in Syria, according to Human Rights Watch.

The advocacy group said that due to misrepresentations of some ages on tombstones could indicate that “instances of Iran recruiting children to fight in Syria are likely more prevalent.”

“Rather than preying on vulnerable immigrant and refugee children, the Iranian authorities should protect all children and hold those responsible for recruiting Afghan children to account,” Whitson said.

The Interior Ministry estimated in 2015 that there were 2.5 million Afghans in Iran, many without proper paperwork.

Infographic - 15,500 Children Were Victims Of Armed Conflict In 2016
Infographic - 15,500 Children Were Victims Of Armed Conflict In 2016



Human Rights Watch has previously documented cases of Afghan refugees in Iran who “volunteered” to fight in Syria in the hopes of gaining legal status for their families.

There are no official public statistics on the size of the Fatemiyoun division, but according to Tasnim News, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, it has about 14,000 fighters.

Under international law, recruiting children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities is a war crime.

Read more: U.S. Hits Iran, Russia For Failings On Human Trafficking Crackdown

Upscale Tehran Restaurants Charging $150 Entry

Luxury Restaurant in Tehran, undated

When you readily pay a $150 entry fee with no hassle, it won’t matter that the prices of the dishes aren’t mentioned on the menu, says a regular customer of Tehran’s most upscale restaurants, adding, “These restaurants give you the feeling of being someone special.”

The higher the price, the more customers are ready to spend at such places, reported the official Iranian government daily, Iran.

The price these patrons pay for a three-course meal turns out to rival the monthly salary of an average white-collar office worker
Report by Iran Daily

The people who frequent these ultra-expensive restaurants are branded as VIPs, the newspaper maintained noting, “The only reason to count them as VIP is the fact they are super-rich and can easily afford high entry fees plus ordering dishes on the ‘priceless’ bills of fare.”

The price these patrons pay for a three-course meal turns out to rival the monthly salary of an average white-collar office worker.

Majeed, who frequents one of these top-notch restaurants, tells the daily Iran, “In these restaurants’ ambience, one feels serenity and tranquility. One feels different from others. It’s precisely that: one feels special.”

In addition to paying $150 to just enter one of these restaurants, Majeed proudly maintains, he also insists on treating his guests.

He says he and fellow patrons pay no attention to the price of individual dishes after hefting out for the entry fee. “The waiters propose different dishes, and you pick your favorites, no matter the price. No prices are printed on the menus, whether it’s a starter, main course, salad or dessert.”

According to Majeed, these restaurants have a regular clientele.

The waiters propose different dishes, and you pick your favorites, no matter the price. No prices are printed on the menus, whether it’s a starter, main course, salad or dessert
Luxury restaurant customer in Tehran

“When one steps into such a restaurant, they should know they are going to spend a lot of money. And I mean ‘a lot’ -- something close to 20 million rials (roughly $600) for three people. It is highly unconventional, I believe,” Majeed said.

Most of these restaurants are located in the northern neighborhoods of the capital city, Tehran, daily Iran reported, adding, “To attract customers, they all have their own special methods and styles.”

“Most of the regular customers of these posh eateries prefer to have their meal in a calm atmosphere and a cozy ambience where nobody bothers them. They hate noise pollution and eyesores while eating their precious starter, pricey main course, and succulent dessert,” the newspaper said.

Children under the age of 10 are usually banned from such establishments since they are counted as sources of noise pollution.

The customers, a manager of one luxury restaurant tells daily Iran, “love to spend money. Sometimes, the higher the price, the more they want to spend.”

Meanwhile, the same manager asserts, “The reason behind our high prices is the fact that we use first class and Grade A materials plus presenting a collection of good services and facilities.”

A salad featuring Persian caviar and avocado dressed costs 4 million rials (roughly $120).

Earlier, in 2011, a Tehran restaurant serving gold-flecked ice cream for almost $130 a scoop made international headlines.

“Gold-flecked ice cream wasn’t part of the picture that Shi’ite Muslim clerics painted during the Iranian [Islamic] Revolution, when they promised to lift the poor by distributing the country’s vast oil income equally across society,” Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post reported at the time.

“But more than three decades later, record oil profits have brought in billions of dollars, and some people here are enjoying that decadent dessert. The trouble is, it’s just a small group of wealthy Iranians. Despite the promises of the revolution, many here say the gap between rich and poor has never seemed wider,” he noted.

Labor Activist Reza Shahabi Conditionally Ends Hunger Strike

Iranian labor activist Reza Shahabi, undated

The detained treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC), Reza Shahabi has conditionally ended his hunger strike, the trade union announced on Wednesday, September 27.

Reza Shahabi had joined a hunger strike on August 9 to protest against what he called “inhumane” detention conditions in the Islamic Republic’s prisons.

The detained workers’ rights activist ended his long hunger strike after a “high security official” promised to swiftly review Shahabi and his family requests, SWTSBC reported.

Reza Shahabi has warned that if his requests are not considered in “a reasonable period of time”, he would resume hunger strike.

Hours earlier, Shahabi’s wife, Robabeh Rezaei had raised concern over her husband’s poor health condition.

Referring to Shahabi’s 51-day long hunger strike, Iran Labor News Agency, ILNA reported, “Shahabi’s grave health condition has led to a widespread concern among workers’ and social rights activists to the extent that many of them have signed a statement calling for his release”.

Meanwhile, ILNA cited Ms. Rezaei as saying, “Mr. Shahabi’s health on 50th day of his hunger strike was so deteriorated that he was taken to a hospital. I was given a chance to briefly meet him at the hospital”, Ms. Rezaei lamented, adding, “Apart from an acute back and neck pain, he was suffering from sight and hearing loss to the extent that he was not immediately able to recognize his own son who was standing few yards away”.

According to the SWTSBC, Shahabi was on medical furlough days before completing his term. Soon, he found out that the Prosecutor-General had not endorsed his furlough and decided to punish him. You have gone on an unauthorized medical furlough, Shahabi was told; “Therefore, you are condemned to stay behind bars for another 968 days”.

With no success, Shahabi tried to clarify the case by explaining that his medical furlough was approved by the Forensic Medicine Organization, FMO.

As his protests fell on deaf ears, Shahabi went on hunger strike and soon his health deteriorated to the extent that shocked international human rights organizations and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), prompting them to issue statements, calling for his unconditional release.

“I am worried about my husband’s health condition and my only wish is his healthy return to our home”, Mrs. Shahabi said.

Shahabi’s health condition has been so deteriorated that according to ILNA, “The members of the High Center for Islamic Labor Councils have intervened and called upon the Labor Minster to imply all his influence to release Shahabi”.

The outcome of the request has not yet reported.

In an earlier statement the SWTSBC had insisted, Shahabi’s sole crime was trying to establish an independent syndicate where the workers can peacefully demand their rights.

Sentenced To Death For "Insulting Prophet" Soheil Aarabi Releases Taped Will

Iran -- Soheil Arabi, Death Sentence for “Insulting the Prophet” on Facebook, Nov2014

Farewell life, bury me right here in my cell in Evin [prison], says Soheil Arabi in “taped will” that is widely circulated on social media.

Soheil Arabi, 32, has been on hunger strike for the past 38 days. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) security agents arrested Arabi at his home in Tehran in November 2013. He then spent two months in the IRGC's Ward 2-A in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. He is currently kept in section 350 of Evin, run by the judiciary.

“Today (September 23, first day of school year in Iran) is the third year that my daughter goes to school and I am not with her. I have gone on dry and liquid hunger strike since I do not want her to see me behind bars, anymore”, Arabi wrote in a letter.

Furthermore, in what he has called as his “taped will”, Arabi has also referred to his poor health, suffering from gastric bleeding and five over six blood pressure.

Bury me right here in my cell in section 350 of Evin”, Arabi laboriously pleads, adding, “I am sure that soon Evin will be transformed into a museum [of injustice]
Soheil Arabi in taped message from Evin Prison

“Farewell, life”, says Arabi in his taped message, addressing his wife and daughter and asking them forgiveness.

“Bury me right here in my cell in section 350 of Evin”, Arabi laboriously pleads, adding, “I am sure that soon Evin will be transformed into a museum [of injustice]”.

Panting with much difficulty, Arabi insists, “Please do not shed tears for me. On my death anniversary, play Edith Piaff’s ‘la Vie en Rose’ for me”.

On Friday, September 29, Amnesty international (AI) raised concern over Arabi’s deteriorating health condition, called for his “immediate” and “unconditional” release and providing him with full access to medical care.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Radio Farda, Arabi’s mother said “The last time I saw Soheil was two weeks ago. I am so worried for my son who needs urgent medical attention. However, they have allowed me to talk to him every day through telephone”.

On September 27, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement said that it is “extremely concerned about the prison conditions of detained journalists and citizen-journalists in Iran, especially those who are ill or on hunger strike. The plight of Soheil Arabi and Ehssan Mazndarani is particularly alarming”.

According to RSF, “More and more Iranian prisoners, including journalists, are risking their lives by going on hunger strike in protest against prison conditions or mistreatment, or simply to demand proper medical care”.

Focusing on Soheil Arabi’s case, RSF introduces him as a citizen- journalist held since December 2013, , and reiterates, “Arabi has been on hunger strike for the past 25 days in protest against the way the IRGC intelligence services have been harassing and threatening his wife, Nastaran Naimi.

“Naimi was arrested at her home by plainclothes intelligence officers in July and was held for eight days. Since then, she has been constantly harassed and threatened, and was fired from her job at their request”.

RSF points out to the Iranian authorities that they are required to respect both Iran's own laws and regulations and the international standards established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has signed.

During interrogation, he was reportedly forced to confessing his alleged crimes, including “insulting the Prophet [Muhammad]” which, under the Islamic Republic’s penal code is punished by death.

Arabi’s lawyers argued that he had done this while "in poor psychological condition", and that he was merely "sharing views held by others", according to Human Rights Watch.

However, Article 263 of the revised Islamic Penal Code stipulates that a person who "insults the Prophet" while intoxicated or by quoting others, among other acts, will be subjected to 74 lashes and not sentenced to death.

According to CHRI, Arabi was sentenced to death in October 2015 for allegedly “insulting the prophet” in comments he posted on Facebook, but upon appeal his sentence was reduced to seven and a half years in prison and two years of religious studies to prove his repentance, as well as a two-year ban from traveling abroad.

He was then transferred to Section 350 of Evin, which is under control of the Iranian judiciary. On 30 August 2014, a five-judge panel of Branch 76 of the Criminal Court of Tehran sentenced Arabi to death for "insulting the Prophet of Islam" on eight Facebook accounts allegedly belonging to Arabi, Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement on November 26, 2014.

According to International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, on 4 September 2014, Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court also sentenced Arabi to three years in prison on charges of "insulting the Supreme Leader" and "propaganda against the state" in his postings on Facebook.

In late September 2015, his sentence was commuted to "reading 13 religious books and studying theology for two years", the daily Guardian reported on 30 September 2015.

Referring to the prisoners, including Arabi, who are currently on hunger strike behind bars in Evin and other prisons, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the head of International Center for Human Rights in Iran, Shirin Ebadi says, the Islamic Republic’s Justice Department by “disregarding prisoners’ legal and absolutely justified requests” have set the scene for their “silent death”.

Iran is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Read more: UN High Commissioner Lambastes Iran Human Rights Record

Read more: Iranian Journalists Abroad Targeted By Islamic Republic

U.S. Does Not Recognize Kurdish Vote

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, undated

The United States does not recognize the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement on Friday, September 29.

In his statement Mr. Tillerson reiterated that Washington continues to support a "united Iraq".

"The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq", Mr. Tillerson's statement read.

Elsewhere in the press release posted on the official website of the U.S. State Department, Rex Tillerson branded the Kurdish vote as "unilateral".

The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

"Prior to the vote, we worked with both the KRG and the central government in Baghdad to pursue a more productive framework and to promote stability and prosperity for the people ‎of the Kurdistan region. These aspirations, ultimately, cannot be advanced through unilateral measures such as this referendum", Tillerson wrote.

Urging both sides to find a calm end to vocal recriminations and threats of reciprocal actions the head of U.S. diplomacy called on Iraqi Kurdish authorities to respect the constitutionally-mandated role of the central government.

Meanwhile Mr. Tillerson asked Baghdad to reject threats "or even allusion to possible use of force".

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also addressed Iraq’s neighbors, to refrain from what he called "unilateral actions and the use of force".

"The fight against ISIS/ Daesh is not over, and extremist groups are seeking to exploit instability and discord", Mr. Tillerson stated.

Amid mounting pressure on the Iraqi Kurdistan following the independence referendum, Iran, Iraq and Turkey conducted military exercises at the border to autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Read more: Putin, Erdogan Pledge To Closely Cooperate On Syria

Read more: Iranian MPs Condemn Kurdish Vote

IRGC Commanders And Rouhani Meet On Khamenei Cue

Iran President Hassan Rouhani Meets IRGC Commanders in Tehran, July 24, 2017

After months of bitter exchanges, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders and Iran President Hassan Rouhani met to "eliminate apprehension", IRGC Chief Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said in an interview with state-run TV IRIB on September 27.

The IRGC strongmen's meeting with President Rouhani took place on July 24, weeks after the incumbent was declared the winner of the May 19 presidential election, beating his main challenger reportedly backed by the IRGC.

The two sides had apparently agreed to meet each other by some tacit recommendation by the supreme leader.

The only official photo released after the meeting shows Rouhani alone, while all the IRGC top commanders are facing him in full force.

[Those who are running the government] are incapable of employing people for eliminating crises and financial problems, as well as implementing ‘economic resistance.
IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari a month after meeting President Hassan Rouhani

The meeting was critical, Jafari admitted, noting without any elaboration, “The characteristics of the situation after the presidential election necessitated such action [tete- a-tete meeting Rouhani in full force].”

Therefore, Jafari maintained, “We met the president and expressed our apprehensions and he welcomed [discussing IRGC’s concerns]".

Jafari referred to “creating unity,” “coherence,” and “preventing division among the [Islamic] revolutionary forces” as the main topics the IRGC top commanders discussed with Rouhani.

“It was a critical discussion, but he (Rouhani) welcomed it since it was an honest one and based on integrity,” Jafari asserted. “Rouhani’s response to us (our requests) was positive.”

Still without any elaboration, Jafari claimed that, since the meeting, everything between the president and the IRGC has smoothly gone forward.

The meeting on July 24 took place after weeks of saber rattling and a bitter war of words between the incumbent and IRGC commanders who, it was widely believed, had supported Rouhani’s main conservative challenger, mid-ranking cleric, Ebrahim Raeisi.

The generals at the meeting were Jafari, Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, IRGC Aerospace Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Basij Commander Gholam-Hossein Gheybparvar, and deputy chief of Sarallah security base in Tehran, Esmaeil Kousari.

The senior commanders were ostensibly there to congratulate Rouhani on his victory in the May presidential election.

“Unity among all forces is essential to realize the guidelines of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and also to serve the people,” Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, quoted Rouhani as saying.

While “appreciating IRGC forces' efforts in their assigned capacity,” Rouhani expressed his “hope for armed forces attempts to serve the needs of the people,” IRNA reported.

Meanwhile, the IRGC-backed news agency, Tasnim, reported, "Rouhani appreciated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its services to the country and highlighted his administration’s full support for the services provided by the IRGC.”

According to Tasnim, Jafari congratulated Rouhani on his re-election and voiced the IRGC’s readiness for “all-out cooperation” with the administration to materialize the “objectives of the Islamic Revolution.”

Besides interchanging such pleasantries mixed with mild sarcasm, little detail concerning the gathering has been published so far.

However, reactions to the gathering were rosy with a trace of caution on both sides.

“This is not an image, it’s a course; [a course on the way to] freedom, security, peace, and progress for the people as well as for the system, which depends on strategic unity between the government and the defensive forces of the country as a whole,” said Rouhani’s cultural adviser, Hesameddin Ashena, on his Telegram channel.

Iran’s newspapers have widely reported and welcomed the gathering. The daily Shahrvand praised the meeting on its banner headline as a “milestone.”

Another pro-government daily, Sharq, described the gathering as “the end of some of recent weeks’ misunderstandings that heralds more cooperation between the government and the IRGC.”

However, in his latest comments, the IRGC top commander once again targeted the government.

A day after describing the outcome of the meeting with Rouhani as productive and based on mutual understanding, Jafari accused the government of inefficiency and incapability.

“[Those who are running the government] are incapable of employing people for eliminating crises and financial problems, as well as implementing ‘economic resistance, " Tasnim cited Jafari as saying on September 28.

Jafari insisted that calls for resistance, not only in defense and security matters but in all fields, have fallen on deaf ears.

Addressing Khamenei as “Imam” and the “Guardian of the Islamic Jurists” who has repeatedly stated similar comments, the IRGC commander lamented, “Yet, some people insist on their own comments and continue going forward on their wrong path.”

Rouhani and his cabinet ministers have not yet reacted to the commander’s latest comments.

U.S. Says Russia Trying To 'Shield Iran' From Some Nuclear Inspections

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on September 28 said Russia is trying to "shield Iran" from inspections by the UN's nuclear watchdog of some activities that could contribute to developing a nuclear bomb.

Nikki Haley has been pushing to increase and broaden the inspections conducted by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is charged with monitoring compliance with restrictions on nuclear activities that Tehran agreed to in exchange for sanctions relief under the 2015 nuclear deal.

But while Haley has been urging the watchdog to broaden its inspections in Iran, UN diplomats say Russia has been trying to diminish the agency's role by arguing it has no authority to police one critical section of the deal.

That section, known as section T, bans "activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device." It lists examples such as using computer models that simulate a nuclear bomb, or designing multi-point, explosive detonation systems.

Unlike many other parts of the deal, section T makes no mention of the IAEA and does not specify how compliance with the section will be verified.

UN diplomats said Russia is arguing that means the IAEA has no authority to monitor compliance with the section by conducting inspections. Russia is one of the six world powers that signed the deal with Iran.

The United States and its Western allies Britain, France, and Germany, which also signed the deal, disagree with Russia's interpretation, and Haley took their case public in a statement at the UN.

"If the Iran nuclear deal is to have any meaning, the parties must have a common understanding of its terms," Haley said.

"Iranian officials have already said they will refuse to allow inspections at military sites, even though the IAEA says there must be no distinction between military and non-military sites.

"Now it appears that some countries are attempting to shield Iran from even more inspections," Haley said. "Without inspections, the Iran deal is an empty promise."

The matter is particularly important to the United States right now because U.S. President Donald Trump faces a mid-October deadline for deciding whether to certify that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

Haley has said his certification is in doubt unless the IAEA is able to conduct broader and more vigorous inspections of Iran's sites and activities.

Iran and Russia have not commented publicly on the matter.

Earlier this month, the head of the Iranian nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, accused Washington of trying to sabotage the agreement by demanding more inspections, and called on the IAEA to resist Washington's "unacceptable demands."

Read more: Trump Questions Nuclear Deal After Iran Tests New Missile

Read more: European Reactions To Renegotiating The Iran Deal

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Iran To Boost Military Cooperation With Iraq After Kurdish Vote

Chief of Staff for the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Baqeri (R) and his Iraqi counterpart Major General Othman al-Ghanmi (L) meet in Tehran on September 27, 2017. (Photo by ISNA)

Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of Iran Major General Mohammad Bagheri has confirmed that military delegations from Iran and Iraq visit the common borders from the Iranian side.

After a meeting with the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Othman al-Ghanemi on Wednesday September 27, shortly after the Kurdish independence vote, Bagheri said Tehran would support Iraqi military forces to be stationed at common borders.

Bagheri’s statement could mean Iran would allow Iraqi forces to be stationed on Iranian territory at the border with Kurdistan.

Read:Iranian MPs Condemn Kurdish Vote

“In our meeting we talked about not recognizing the recent referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and we announce that any geographical change in Iraq and the secession of part of it would not be acceptable”, Major General Bagheri added.

According to Iran’s Army Chief of Staff, Tehran solely recognizes a unified and integrated Iraq and did not not accept the sovereignty of “any party or group” in northern Iraq.

Based on official results, more than 92% of voters in Iraqi Kurdistan have voted for independence from Baghdad on Monday. The referendum has sparked heavy criticism from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

In recent days, Iran, Iraq and Turkey conducted military exercises at the border to autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Iran also had halted flights to airports in Iraqi Kurdistan at the request of the central government in Baghdad a day before a Kurdish independence referendum.

In our meeting [with the Iraqi C of S] we talked about not recognizing the recent referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and we announce that any geographical change in Iraq and the secession of part of it would not be acceptable.
Iran's C of S Major General Mohammad Bagheri

Nevertheless, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has refused to deploy the military to the country's Kurdish region in response to the recent independence referendum following calls by some Iraq MPs on Thursday.

"We are not looking for military confrontation," Abadi said. "We will impose our federal authority all over Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, as per the power of the constitution and law."

Tehran Municipality $8 Billion In The Red

New Mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Ali Najafi, undated

The outstanding debt of Tehran Municipality is 1.7 times more than the the organizations's total budget for the fiscal year, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi said on September 25.

Tehran Municipality is more than 300 trillion rials (roughly $8 billion) in the red. The creditors are mainly banks and contractors.

Najafi put the municipality's budget for the current year at 179 trillion rials, twice its outlay for the Iranian fiscal year ending March 2012.

However, the former head of Tehran City Council’s Budget and Planning Commission, Alireza Dabir, had put the municipality’s debt to banks and contractors at more than 200 trillion rials.

“Tehran Municipality's financial resources and getting access to stable resources are the first challenges the capital’s municipality is facing,” Najafi noted.

Mehr News Agency (MNA), citing Tehran’s mayor, reported, “While the municipality’s budget in 2000 was 8.5 trillion rials, it is currently 17,900 trillion rials.”

“Although the budget has doubled in the past 10 years, in inflation-adjusted terms and taking purchasing power into account, this budget is 20 percent weaker than six years ago,” he said.

Corruption in Tehran’s municipality is so deeply rooted that it has become institutionalized
Former Tehran Mayor Morteza Alviri

Nevertheless, Najafi maintained, “Based on five-year Development Plan, the municipality’s current budget should have been 22,800 trillion rials---that means a deficit of 50 trillion rials or 22% reduction in the budget”.

Moreover, Tehran mayor insisted that the organization needs 22,500 trillion rials credit to successfully complete its current projects.

Najafi said he is specifically unhappy with what he brands as “costs invasion”, as well as the fact that 39 percent of its total budget is spent on the municipality’s inevitable expenditures.”Calling the ever-increasing process of expenses “alarming,” he promised to employ more efficient human resources rather than adjusting personnel.

Earlier, on August 9, Najafi had insisted his plan would be based on outsourcing and reviewing TCH’s personnel.

Former Tehran Mayor Morteza Alviri (1999-2002) has also reiterated that the capital’s municipality needs an overhaul to survive.

The volume of “corruption and law violation” in Tehran’s municipality is so high that other financial fraud looks like small change in comparison, Alviri said.

“Corruption in Tehran’s municipality is so deeply rooted that it has become institutionalized,” Alviri said August 14.

Outgoing Mayor Bagher Ghalibaf has been target of repeated accusations of financial corruption, May 14, 2017
Outgoing Mayor Bagher Ghalibaf has been target of repeated accusations of financial corruption, May 14, 2017

“The expenses in Tehran City Hall have gone so high that it will be the greatest challenge facing incoming Mayor Mohmmad Ali Najafi,” Alviri cautioned.

Alviri also criticized outgoing Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf for not being transparent.

Ghalibaf, an Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) commander and former chief of police, challenged Hassan Rouhani in May’s presidential election but dropped out midway in favor of another conservative candidate. Although he has widely been accused of corruption, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed him as a member of the Expediency Council on August 14.

Pentagon, NATO Chiefs Issue Warning To Taliban During Surprise Visit To Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (C), U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a news conference in Kabul on September 27.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have pledged continued support for Afghanistan during a surprise visit to Kabul.

The two vowed at a September 27 joint conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to do everything so the country "doesn't again become a safe haven for international terrorists."

Stoltenberg said NATO is aware of "the cost of staying in Afghanistan, but the cost of leaving would be even higher."

He added that "if NATO forces leave too soon, there is a risk that Afghanistan may return to a state of chaos and once again become a safe haven for international terrorism."

Stoltenberg also said the alliance was committed to funding the Afghan security forces until at least 2020. He said NATO would keep providing almost $1 billion each year to the Afghan defense and security forces.

Mattis said that "through our partnership, we will suffocate any hope that Al-Qaeda or [Islamic State],...Haqqani or the Taliban have of winning by killing," referring to militant groups operating in Afghanistan.

He added that he wanted "to reinforce to the Taliban that the only path to peace and political legitimacy for them is through a negotiated settlement."

"The sooner the Taliban recognizes they cannot win with bombs, the sooner the killing will end," Mattis said.

Meanwhile, at least five civilians were wounded in a rocket attack at Kabul's international airport, the spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

Najib Danish said one rocket hit a nearby home, injuring the five, including at least one woman.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, which Ghani said special-forces troops have brought under control.

Mattis called the attack a crime.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa

Iranian MPs Condemn Kurdish Vote

Iranian Parliament, Undated

210 Iranian MPs have branded the referendum on independence in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, KRG, as “illegal” and “conspiracy”.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, September 27, the legislators said “Taking into account the Iraqi government’s position that categorically rejects the KRG’s referendum as illegal, as well as taking into account the U.N.’s position on the case, we, the members of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, firstly believe that creating crisis in Iraq is detrimental to its democratic path and, secondly, any secessionist measure is [also] harmful to the Iraqi nation and the entire region”.

Earlier on the day, the Parliament had reviewed the plebiscite in a closed session with the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council as guest speaker.

Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) also cited the legislators’ statement as saying, “The Iraqi people adopted the constitution and formed the central government in a democratic way and also cleared Iraq from ISIS’s presence with national unity. But conspiracies against Iraq have not ended and now the illegal referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan can damage this national unity and territorial integrity".

Condemning the KRG’s referendum, the statement says, “We support the decisions made by the Iraqi parliament and government and call upon the [Islamic Republic of Iran’s] administration to respond to Iraq’s central government and prepare the necessary means to cooperate with it and in no way let the Zionists’ [Israel] adventurism occur in Iraq”.

Israel has supported KRG’s separation from Iraq and in recent months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians have repeatedly welcomed the secession in more explicit ways.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Israel to stop supporting independence-seeking behavior in KRG, otherwise Ankara will halt the process to normalize its relations with Tel Aviv.

We support the decisions made by the Iraqi parliament and government and call upon the [Islamic Republic of Iran’s] administration to respond to Iraq’s central government and prepare the necessary means to cooperate with it and in no way let the Zionists’ [Israel] adventurism occur in Iraq.
Excerpt from Iranian MPs statement

Iranian government official News Agency, IRNA reported on Wednesday that Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was present in parliament's closed session to review the KRG’s referendum and latest regional developments.

Speaker Ali Larijani, later confirmed the topic of the meeting was the Kurdish referendum.

According to the spokesman of the Iranian parliament board of directors, Behrooz Ne’mati, “Shamkhani insisted that the Islamic Republic does not recognize the KRG’s referendum”.

However, Shamkhani reportedly has commented that the dispute should be addressed through diplomatic channels.

The closed session was held as a follow-up to an array of disparaging remarks against the Kurdish referendum by Iranian officials.

Nevertheless, the parliament’s deputy speaker and Tehran’s MP, Ali Motahari has urged the Islamic Republic authorities to avoid “oversensitivity” against the plebiscite, since “the case of ethnicity is on the table and Kurds support the referendum”.

On Monday night, thousands of Kurdish people in favor of KRG’s secession from Iraq took to the streets in Erbil, to celebrate.

A few hours after the polling stations had opened in Iraq's Kurdish region, the local Islamic Republic Broadcasting (IRIB) channel, carried reports of street rallies in a few Kurdish-populated cities in Iran. Mahabad and Sanandaj are two key Kurdish-populated cities that have witnessed rallies.

Based on reports on social media by eyewitnesses, there were some clashes with security forces and demonstrators chanted slogans in solidarity with Iraqi Kurds.

Meanwhile, Political, Social and Security deputy to West Azarbaijan province’s governorship, Alireza Radfar had earlier declared that no license was issued for rallies on the referendum.

Yet, the Islamic Republic’s news agency, IRIB, under the title of “Supportive Gathering” said on Tuesday, “People of [Iranian] ‘Kurdestan’ held rallies to congratulate the people of [Iraqi] ‘Kurdistan’ who speak the same language as they do”.

Iraqi Kurds Count Referendum Votes Amid Celebrations
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The recent referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan region, took place in the three provinces that officially make up the Kurdish autonomous region -- Dahuk, Irbil, and Sulaimaniya -- and some neighboring areas. These areas include disputed cities such as oil-rich Kirkuk, Makhmour, Khanaqin, and Sinjar, over which Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have established control while fighting against Islamic State militants who captured large parts of Iraq in 2014.

Female Head Of Iran’s Polo Federation Fired Over Private Photos

Former head of federation of polo, Golnar Vakili Gilani sacked by The Sport and Youth Ministry on Sunday, September 25, 2017.

Iran’s sports federation has fired Golnar Vakil Gilani, the head of the Polo Federation, over leaked private photos. Gilani told Iranian news agencies that she had not received any letter in this regard but the sports authorities had appointed another woman as temporary president for the federation.

Defying the decision, Gilani said she will continue her job as president until the last day. She told Iranian media that she had been under pressure by the sports federation to resign for months.

“They threatened me several times and used some unfair tools against me, but I refused to resign,” she said in an interview with the Iranian newspaper Sharhvand. She did not provide any explanation about the nature of the dispute.

According to some reports, Gilani’s opponents had come into possession of her private photos and apparently threatened to publish them.

Iranian law requires women to wear hijab in public. Leaked private photos or videos of famous figures showing them without Islamic covering have caused them trouble in the past. Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamed Arya faced a temporary ban due a leaked photo showing her unveiled while attending an international film festival.

“Certainly, Iran would face consequences by the Federation of International Polo if I am fired,” Gilani said in an interview about the recent incident.

Iran Parliament Reviews Kurdish Vote In Closed Session

Grab: Iraq -- Kurds celebrate after independence referendum, Irbil, Sep 25

Iranian Parliament has reviewed the referendum on independence in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region in a closed session, Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency (ICANA) reported on September 27.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was reportedly the guest speaker. According to the report published by ICANA, Mr. Shamkhani briefed the legislators about "regional developments".

Speaker Ali Larijani, later confirmed the topic of the meeting was the Kurdish referendum.

The session was held as a follow-up to an array of disparaging remarks against the Kurdish referendum by Iranian officials.

Iranian Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani reportedly briefed Iranian MPs about the Kurdish vote
Iranian Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani reportedly briefed Iranian MPs about the Kurdish vote

ICANA’s report did not contain further details about the meeting between Mr. Shamkhani and the Parliament members.

Iran, along with neighboring Turkey, the United States and the UN have already voiced concerns about the consequences of the vote. They say any effort by the Kurds to found a new state could further escalate tensions in a region already besieged by years of armed conflict and war.

A few hours after the polling stations had opened in Iraq's Kurdish region, the local Islamic Republic Broadcasting (IRIB) channel, carried reports of street rallies in a few Kurdish-populated cities in Iran. Mahabad and Sanandaj are two key Kurdish-populated cities that have witnessed rallies.

Based on reports on social media by eyewitnesses, there were some clashes with security forces and demonstrators chanted slogans in solidarity with Iraqi Kurds.

Rally in Iran's Kurdish-populated city of Sanandaj celebrating Monday vote
Rally in Iran's Kurdish-populated city of Sanandaj celebrating Monday vote

The recent referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan region, took place in the three provinces that officially make up the Kurdish autonomous region -- Dahuk, Irbil, and Sulaimaniya -- and some neighboring areas. These areas include disputed cities such as oil-rich Kirkuk, Makhmour, Khanaqin, and Sinjar, over which Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have established control while fighting against Islamic State militants who captured large parts of Iraq in 2014.

Iran Book Publishers Suffer 'Cancer'

Iran -- People walk at 29th Tehran International Book Fair in "Aftab shahr" South of Tehran, 06May2016

The book publishing industry in Iran is suffering from “a lethal disease,” branded as the Publishers’ Cancer, the head of Iran’s Publishers and Booksellers Union (IPBU) has lamented.

Mahmoud Amouzgar, who is also the spokesman for the Taskforce to Combat Illegal Printing and Circulating Books, maintains that “necessary seriousness” has yet to be seen in fighting the so-called disease.

The self-appointed task force was recently launched after IPBU and Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry signed an agreement to stop the copying, printing, and publishing of books already produced and circulated by the publishers.

As an example, Amouzgar cited a publisher who illegally reprinted books already owned and published by 40 different publishers.

Whenever a publisher decides to legally sue those behind illegal reprintings, they are threatened, he said.

Under [Ahmadinejad's] policies, many books already published by our house were listed as unlicensed. Therefore, these books were illegally reprinted, circulated and helped book smugglers to grow.
Manager of a publishing house in Tehran

However, he stopped short in his interview with Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) of elaborating on the identity of “book smugglers” or the type and the nature of the alleged threats.

Meanwhile, the IBPU’s head insisted, “Hopefully soon, after completing our discussions on different aspects of the publishing industry’s problems, the number of publishers willing to seriously sue book smugglers will grow.”

“Another main concern of the publishers in Iran roots in the fact that their products are illegally circulated on the Internet, as well,” Amouzgar said on September 21.

One of the reasons behind the success of book smugglers is that they present other publishers’ products much cheaper since they pay no copyright to the authors or translators.

Years of banning books and Iran's non participation in Berne Convention Have boomed offset black market
Years of banning books and Iran's non participation in Berne Convention Have boomed offset black market

Meanwhile, the manager of Qoqnous Publishing House, Amir Hosseizadegan, said that the “supervisory policies” of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s government have led to the spread of the book-smuggling business in Iran.

“Under those policies, many books already published by our house were listed as unlicensed. Therefore, these books were illegally reprinted, circulated and helped book smugglers to grow,” Hosseinzadegan said. “We did not protest illegal reprinting of our products because we did not want to deprive the people of reading our banned books.”

“Many books banned under Ahmadinejad were reviewed and licensed again under Hassan Rouhani, but the greedy book smugglers have reaped a fortune that encourages them to stay in and carry on their illegal business,” he said.

In a note for Iran’s Books News Agency (IBNA), prominent translator Assadollah Amraei also complained, “Illegally circulating a book amounts to selling stolen property,” calling upon the authorities to “seriously step in.”

Iranian publishers are unhappy with what they deem a cancer at a time when foreign authors have long objected to their works being translated into Persian, published, and sold in Iran and Afghanistan without their consent or respecting their copyrights.

Iran is not a party to Berne Convention, an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886.

Iran has long attempted to join the World Trade Organization but one prerequisite for its membership is accession to the Berne Convention.

Reportedly, there are currently more than 12,000 licensed publishers in Iran.

Five Years Prison for Teachers' Spokesman

The sentence for the spokesman of the Iran Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA) has been upheld by a court, sources close to Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi say.

Langroudi is currently behind bars at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, serving his term for a separate conviction.

In an interview with Radio Farda, Langroudi’s son, Abouzar, said that with the new verdict in, his father is slated for 14 years behind bars.

The recent five-year sentence upheld by the judiciary is related to charges that led to Langroudi’s imprisonment two years ago, Abouzar noted.

According to Abouzar, his father was detained in 2004, 2006, and 2010 and has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

“The charges that have been repeated in all legal cases against my father are assembly and collusion against national security and anti-regime propagation,” Abouzar told Radio Farda.

However, Abouzar insists, “My father joined teachers’ rights activities in 1999 and since has never given them up.”

In many cases, Iranian institutions do not recognize trade association or union activities. Therefore, many workers in Iran are practically deprived of the right to launch a trade union.

The Iranian teachers’ society has lost almost all of its hope and confidence in the judiciary, yet it still expects to see the president to take action toward defending teachers’ rights.
Iranian Teachers' Union Activists In Open Letter to Hassan Rouhani

The police and security forces harshly suppress peaceful union assemblies and detain workers’ rights activists.

Recently, on September 3, two international labor unions supporting teachers and workers’ rights bitterly criticized Iran for its actions against activists and peaceful union assemblies.

Furthermore, in an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani, Teachers' Union activists from several provinces in Iran have called upon him to dismantle legal and real hurdles blocking union activities and establish a committee to defend activists and stop discrimination against them.

Referring to the Intelligence Ministry’s complaint against Langroudi, the signatories appealed to Rouhani to force the ministry to halt filing complaints against teachers.

“By re-arresting teachers' rights activists Esmaeil Abdi, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, Mohssen Omrani, and Mokhtar Assadi on the verge of the new educational year, the judiciary has increased its aversion against the teachers,” ITTA Telegram Channel quoted the letter as reading.

Based on the heavy sentences issued against activist teachers, the letter insists, “The Iranian teachers’ society has lost almost all of its hope and confidence in the judiciary, yet it still expects to see the president to take action toward defending teachers’ rights.”

Earlier, in an open letter reflected on social media, Langroudi had said, “I was expecting [Rouhani’s] Intelligence Ministry to stop persecuting political and civil rights activists, but my summons and other recent harsh actions show that nothing has changed.”

“I have warned the Tehran prosecutor’s office that I will go on a dry hunger strike the day I am returned to prison,” he said in a post on the Telegram social media service on August 28.

“I am a teacher and a trade union activist and board member of the Teachers’ Trade Association, a lawful organization,” he emphasized.

Langroudi, who was convicted in a brief trial, believes the charges against him were politically motivated.

Nevertheless, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Article 168 of the Iranian Constitution stipulates, “Political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice.”

Since his return to Evin, Langroudi has been on hunger strike, pledging to continue until his 14-year combined prison sentence is reviewed in a public trial.

However, on September 17, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei insisted that no one in Iran is imprisoned for their religion or union activities.

Russian Air Defense System S-300 Displayed In Heart Of Tehran

People take a picture next to a Russian-made S-300 air defense system displayed on Baharestan square in Tehran, September 24, 2017

For the first time, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps displayed the S-300 advanced Russian air defense system in the heart of capital Tehran near the parliament building.

Iran has been celebrating the 29th anniversary of the end of the Iran Iraq war, with military parades and public gatherings.

The S-300 air defense system was displayed on Sunday, September 24, as part of the celebrations.

Iran had been trying to possess the $800 million system for 10 years but Russia was delaying the delivery due to the UN sanctions.

Finally, Russia began delivering components of the system in February 2017.

Iranian media have published photos and videos of the S-300 next to ballistic missiles Sejjil and Ghadr.

Tehran’s ballistic missile program is the focal point of criticism by the United States, its European allies and specially by Israel and some Arab countries. United States has described missile tests by the IRGC as a violation of the spirit of the 2015 nuclear agreement Iran signed with world powers.

Israel was also lobbying the Russian government for a long time not to sell Iran the S-300 system.

On Saturday, the IRGC announced that it had successfully tested Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile. Tasnim News Agancy called the Khorramshahr “Israel’s nightmare”. In a Tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump used the occasion to renew his criticism against the nuclear deal.

Last month, Mr. Trump signed a bill imposing penalties on those involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. He also has said that he might renegotiate the nuclear deal or abandon it.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said recently that Tehran would react strongly to any “wrong move” by Washington on that issue.

Infographic - S-300 Russia Air Defense System
Infographic - S-300 Russia Air Defense System

Rafsanjanis Barred From Leaving Iran

Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjan. UNDATED

Faezeh Hashemi, the youngest daughter of the late former speaker of the Iranian Parliament, president, and chairman of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has bitterly complained about her family’s plight in recent months.

“Five of the members of my family have been barred from leaving Iran or are repeatedly summoned to different courts,” Hashemi lamented in an interview with the Tehran daily Shahrvand.

Born in the sacred Shi’ite city of Qom, Hashemi -- who once garnered more than 860,000 votes and served as Tehran’s representative to parliament (1996-2000) -- says she is one of the Rafsanjanis legally barred from leaving Iran by the Justice Department.

The former MP and publisher of women’s rights magazine Zan (Woman, banned in 1999) insists she has experienced mounting problems since her father’s death in January.

“I have never had so many legal cases against myself. Well, I was sued a couple of times before. Yet during the past four or five months, I have received summons on a constant basis,” she said.

Hashemi always complies with the court summons but, “Whenever I present myself, the court finds out that complaints against me are totally unfounded. Nevertheless, it seems that summoning me to the courts of law are endless”.

Four years ago, in a court in Tehran, Hashemi was sentenced to six months in prison and banned for five years from any media or political activity. Based on her interview with an Iranian news website outside Iran, Roozonline, she was accused of propaganda against the regime and convicted.

In the interview with Roozonline, Hashemi had vehemently criticized violations of individual and human rights, management of economy affairs, and Iran’s foreign relations with outside world.

Hashemi Rafsanjani Family
Hashemi Rafsanjani Family

Meanwhile, she had decried an attack against her and several companions by a gang of so-called “Hezbollahis” in the city of Shahr-e Rey.

The attack was widely reported on social media, triggering an avalanche of responses condemning the attackers’ impunity and arrogance.

Referring to the assailants, Hashemi had explicitly regretted, “Iran is run by these rogue elements, mobs, and thugs, today.”

Her campaign for women’s right to ride bicycles, attending gatherings with her former inmates, including Faran Hosami, a Baha’i, and courageously visiting the tomb of the former king of Iran, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in Cairo are a few examples of cases that dragged Faezeh into the limelight.

Faezeh, who supported the incumbent Hassan Rouhani in his second bid for the presidency, has not lost the chance to present her disappointment over the absence of women in ministerial positions, in Rouhani’s new cabinet.

“President Rouhani should be held responsible for the absence of women in his new cabinet,” she said. “Probably more than 50 percent of those who voted for Rouhani are women. Ignoring such a fact and disregarding women’s absolutely reasonable demands are unfair.”

Faezeh Hasehmi meeting with Bahais
Faezeh Hasehmi meeting with Bahais

Injustice against Iranian women is not limited to their omission from cabinet positions, she told Shahrvand.

“I have always asked why there is no female representative to the Expediency Discernment Council, why there are no female deans managing Iranian universities, and so many more similar questions,” she said.

Hashemi’s father was unquestionably one of the pillars of Iran since the 1979 revolution who acted as the main decision maker in the political drama to install current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the successor of the founder of the regime, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Hashemi Rafsanjani continued to be a major player in Iranian politics, at times, only second to Khamenei. His power also brought with it allegations of corruption and a vast wealth the family seemed to have amassed. This was later used by Rafsanjani’s political enemies.

Iranians gather around a hearse carrying the coffin of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during his funeral ceremony in the capital Tehran, 10Jan2017
Iranians gather around a hearse carrying the coffin of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during his funeral ceremony in the capital Tehran, 10Jan2017

​After the 2009 controversial presidential elections, the hardliners turned against Rafsanjani, for his support of the Green Movement. His younger son, Mehdi was accused of corruption and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is still behind bars.

Rafsanjani died on January 8 of a heart attack at age 82, reportedly while swimming in his private pool. Since then, his death has been a base for conspiracy theorists. Their main question is why he was allowed to swim in relatively cold weather in a pool where CCTV cameras were turned off and none of his bodyguards was present.

Moreover, skeptics wonder why an autopsy was never allowed.

One of Hashemi’s brothers, Mehdi, is still behind bars after being sentenced to 10 years in 2015 for alleged financial corruption.

Her elder brother, Mohsen, was recently elected president of Tehran’s City Council.

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The Metals Magnate And Manafort: A Kremlin Confidant Is Drawn Into The Trump Investigation

A composite photo of Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman (right), and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

WASHINGTON -- Paul Manafort was looking for an investor, and Oleg Deripaska was his man.

It was 2008, and a famed Manhattan building known as the Drake Hotel was being eyed by the American lobbyist and political adviser Manafort for purchase and development. On June 30, Manafort met with Deripaska, a Russian who had earned his fortune and reputation as a hard-knuckled, take-no-prisoners businessman in the 1990s consolidating control over Russia's metals industry.

According to a memo generated by Manafort's then-partner Rick Gates to two Deripaska associates, the Russian billionaire was definitely interested in investing, telling Manafort "to lock the other financing elements and then come back to him for the final piece of investment."

"Based on the interest in this opportunity expressed by Mr. D during his meeting with Paul, we would like to discuss the parameters of this deal with you further and as soon as possible," said the memo, which was submitted as evidence in a lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court on an unrelated dispute.

The Drake deal, which ultimately fell through, is one of many illustrating Manafort's dealings with Deripaska, whom U.S. officials consider to be a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (file photo)
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller (file photo)

Those and other dealings are now under the glaring scrutiny of Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel investigating alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and contacts between Russian officials and associates of U.S. President Donald Trump. Three different congressional committees are also investigating.

Continue reading the article

Motahari Sees A glimmer of Hope for Green Movement Leaders

Tehran MP, Ali Motahari, speaking in parliament. File photo

The outspoken deputy speaker of Iranian parliament sees a glimmer of hope for the leaders of the Green Movement who have been under house arrest for more than six years.

Ali Motahari says he is hopeful that the Islamic Republic’s Supreme National Security Council, SNSC, will soon vote on lifting the house arrest. He says he is guessing that the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei has changed his opinion on the case.

Motahari, a Tehran MP, who is visiting France, has also told the daily Le Monde, “Many of the ‘principalists’ (conservative hard-liners) who were earlier supporting the house arrests, have reached a new conclusion and believe that the continuation of the house arrests does not serve the interests of the country any longer”.

Referring to a discussion he had with the Supreme Leader two years ago on the fate of house detainees, Mehdi Karroubi, 80, Mir Hossein Mousavi, 76, and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, 72, Motahari says, “The Supreme Leader was against ending the house arrests, yet, after two years, the situation has changed, as Mousavi and Karroubi are suffering from health problems”.

Therefore, Motahari thinks that the Supreme Leader’s position on the case has probably changed.

Mirhusssein Mousavai, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karoubi
Mirhusssein Mousavai, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karoubi

Motahari said in the past that ayatollah Khamenei had rejected his proposal to try the Green Movement leaders in a court of law, warning, “Their trial would lead to issuing a ‘heavy’ verdict against them”.

Besides Motahari, many other political figures have insisted that no one, but the Supreme Leader, can end the house arrests.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have repeatedly demanded to be tried in an open and competent court of law. Nevertheless, the judiciary has rejected their demand, arguing that the Supreme National Security Council has ordered the house arrests and it is responsible for ending or upholding the verdict.

Earlier in September, a dispute erupted between the Judiciary and Rouhani’s government, as to whether the president has raised the issue of the house arrests at a National Security Council meeting or not. While the government claimed he did, the Judiciary denied it on two occasions.

Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, who were running against the incumbent in 2009 presidential election, protested the official result that declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

An Iranian opposition protester holds stones as he stands opposite security forces during clashes in Tehran on December 27, 2009.
An Iranian opposition protester holds stones as he stands opposite security forces during clashes in Tehran on December 27, 2009.

Their protest led to more than five months of demonstrations that left several killed and hundreds imprisoned.

Later, the couple along with Mehdi Karroubi and his wife, Fatemeh, were confined to their houses after they called for street demonstrations in solidarity with “Arab Spring” or pro-democracy movements in Egypt and Tunisia. Fatemeh Karroubi was later freed, but the trio remained under house arrest.

Now, considered opposition leaders, the detainees and specially Mr. Mousavi are regarded as leaders of the Green Movement, which demanded the reversal of the 2009 official election result.

One of the main promises President Hassan Rouhani tabled during his presidential campaigns in 2013 and 2017 was doing his utmost to lift the house arrests. However, the promise that was always followed by long cheers of the audience has not yet been fulfilled.

Meanwhile, several prominent political figures of the Islamic Republic, including reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami have joined the chorus, calling for the lifting of house arrests.

Mohammad Khatami appealed to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to end the house arrest of two reformist leaders who have been restrained without charge for more than six years.

Supporters of Mir-Hossein Moussavi connect a mobile phone to an amplifier so protesters can hear Musavi addressing them near Ghoba mosque in Tehran, 28 Jun2009
Supporters of Mir-Hossein Moussavi connect a mobile phone to an amplifier so protesters can hear Musavi addressing them near Ghoba mosque in Tehran, 28 Jun2009

Khamenei has frequently criticized the 2009 protests as "sedition" and has said that the leaders of the protests must repent before he would consider releasing them.

Karroubi, 80, is reportedly in poor health and has been hospitalized several times in recent weeks. Some analysts have expressed concern that if he dies in custody, new protests could ensue.

Furthermore, in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, several Religious-Nationalist activists inside Iran have called for the immediate release of the leaders of the Green Movement.

In another interview with French weekly, Le point, Ali Motahari has maintained that the members of the SNSC have all agreed that the question of house arrests should be addressed, one way or another.

Tehran’s MP also asserted that Mousavis and Karroubi should either be freed or tried in an open court of law, adding, “Of course, the other party [former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] has to be tried, as well [and answer the charges against him]”.

Iranian Police Defends Beating Labor Protesters

One of the gathering by Hepco workers in protest of non-payment of their salaries

A provincial police chief has defended the storming of a peaceful labor protest by his anti-riot forces in the Iranian provincial capital city of Arak.

“The police forces are in no way against workers’ livelihood but, in some cases, they are dutybound to use their legal means to preserve law and order”, said Commander Kioumars Azizi.

According to media reports, as well as pictures and video clips published on social media, the anti-riot police forces attacked two industrial complexes, Hepco and Azarab, in Arak, on Tuesday, September 19 and arrested several protesters.

Employees of HEPCO Protest In Front Of The Governor's Office In City Of Arak
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Dozens of workers were wounded and transferred to hospitals, Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers reported.

Later, on Thursday, the director of “Cooperation, Labor and Social Welfare” in the Central province of Arak, Mohammad Taqi Abaei confirmed that four workers were detained but freed hours later.

Based on a report by a local news website, Arak Emrooz (Arak Today), workers at Hepco blocked the city’s railway briefly, while their colleagues at industrial unit Azarab, blocked Tehran-Arak highway to highlight their plight.

Azarab and Hepco are two privatized industrial units where wages have not been paid for the past four to six months. Earlier, workers had also repeatedly held peaceful rallies to protest delayed wages.

Nearly two thousand workers are employed by the two privatized industrial units.

Referring to the latest protests, the Iran Labor News Agency, ILNA, cited the Azizi, as saying, “The police forces were reluctantly forced to use their legal means to control the situation”.

However, ILNA, quoting Rouhani’s government representative in the Central province, Mohammad Taqi Abaei, saying, “The reason that we are witnessing such clashes and restlessness is the fact that the entrepreneurs at Azarab and Hepco have not respected their commitments”.

According to some local reports on social media, police had assured that the workers can protest without any harassment, yet, all of a sudden, the anti-riot forces stormed their gathering, beating them with batons.

Some of the anti-riot forces, riding motorbikes, drove in to disperse the protesters, while firing tear gas and beating them with sticks, the reports say.

In one of the video clips published on social media, protesters are heard chanting slogans, shouting “Poor workers don’t deserve to be battered”.

“The police and anti-riot forces went on the attack and beat and arrested anyone they could and took them to the security police detention center [in Arak, 173 miles south of Tehran],” A labor activist who asked not to be identified for security reasons told the Center for Human Rights in Iran, CHRI. “We don’t know how many are in detention or what they have been charged with. But we think there are 20 to 30 in custody.”

However, the reports on police using violence to disperse the protesters have not been yet confirmed or denied by authorities. The state-funded ILNA reported on the protests but omitted the use of force by the police.

Meanwhile, an Iranian member of Canada’s Labor Congress and a consultant at the International Trade Union Confederation’s, Mehdi Kouhestaninejad told Radio Farda, “Apparently, we are witnessing a new wave of suppression by the regime against workers who dare to protest and raise their voices demanding their rights”.

Kouhestaninejad insists that the recent “widespread use of anti-riot police” against Hepco and Azarab workers was “unprecedented”.

Referring to the latest developments, Kouhestaninejad notes, “The struggle of workers for their rights has reached the point of no return. Despite all attacks, the workers are not going to give-in and retreat”.

“Workers protests all over Iran are spreading fast and it will mean new crisis confronting the government”, he added.

According to Article 27 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, “Public assemblies and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”

“The workers were unarmed and their gathering had nothing to do with Islam and yet it was the police who were armed and fired shots into the air,” a labor activist confided with CHRI. “I hope the judiciary will look into these unconstitutional actions by the police.”

Independent labor unions are banned in Iran, strikers are often fired and risk being detained, and labor leaders face long prison sentences on trumped up national security charges.

at/ms

Teachers Call Upon Rouhani for Help

Iran -- Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, jailed member of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA-Tehran), undated.

In an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani, Teachers' Union activists from several provinces in Iran have called upon him to dismantle legal and real hurdles blocking union activities and establish a committee to defend activists and stop discrimination against them.

Referring to the Intelligence Ministry’s complaint against the detained spokesman of the Iran’s Teachers' Trade Association, ITTA, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, the signatories appealed to President Rouhani to force the ministry to end filing complaints against teachers.

“By re-arresting teachers' rights activists; Esmaeil Abdi, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, Mohssen Omrani and Mokhtar Assadi at the verge of the new educational year, the Judiciary has increased its aversion against the teachers...”, ITTA Telegram Channel quoted the letter, as reading.

Based on the heavy sentences issued against activist teachers, the letter insists, “Iranian teachers’ society has lost almost all of its hope and confidence in the judiciary, yet, it still is expecting to see the president’s action and steps taken toward defending teachers’ rights”.

The signatories have also called upon Rouhani to launch a special committee to look after teachers’ rights and defend them against different kinds of discrimination.

Mahmoud Beheshti-Langroudi believes that his convictions are primarily due to charges brought by the Intelligence Ministry when it operated under conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) before “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani replaced him in 2013.

Furthermore, the letter appeals to Rouhani to help scrap verdicts against Esmaeil Abdi, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi,Mohssen Omrani and Mokhtar Assadi and give them a chance to defend themselves in an open and competent court.

Earlier, on Wednesday, September 13, Tehran’s Teachers Association had protested detention of its spokesman, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, and demanded his unconditional and immediate release.

Beheshti Langroudi, 57, has been sentenced by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to prison, on three occasions in the past ten years.

The ITTA’s spokesman, was taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison on September 12, 2017, to serve the sentences that were issued for his peaceful defense of labor rights.

Mahmoud Beheshti-Langroudi believes that his convictions are primarily due to charges brought by the Intelligence Ministry when it operated under conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) before “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani replaced him in 2013.

“I was expecting [Rouhani’s] Intelligence Ministry to stop persecuting political and civil rights activists, but my summons and other recent harsh actions show that nothing has changed,” he said on social media.

“What we are witnessing in the revolutionary courts, such as the sentences against me, which were issued in a closed session in a matter of minutes, are in no way compatible with Article 168 of the constitution”

“I have warned the Tehran prosecutor’s office that I will go on a dry hunger strike the day I am returned to prison,” cautioned Beheshti-Langroudi in a post on the Telegram on August 28, 2017.

“I am a teacher and a trade union activist and board member of the Teachers’ Trade Association, a lawful organization,” he added.

Beheshti-Langroudi who was convicted in abrief trial behind closed doors, believes the charges against him were politically motivated.

However, on Sunday, September 17, the judiciary’s spokesman insisted that nobody in Iran is imprisoned for their religion or union activities.

According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, CHRI, the teachers’ rights activist, in an interview with Teachers’ and Workers’ Rights Persian language website, asserted, “My demand is completely lawful. Based on Article 168 of the Islamic Republic Constitution, cases like mine should be tried in public in an open court in the presence of a jury.”

“What we are witnessing in the revolutionary courts, such as the sentences against me, which were issued in a closed session in a matter of minutes, are in no way compatible with Article 168,” he added in the interview.

CHRI confirms that based on Article 168, “Political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice.”

Since his return to Tehran’s notorious prison, Evin, Beheshti-Langroudi has been on hunger strike, pledging to continue it until his 14-year combined prison sentence is reviewed in a public trial.

Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense; independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms, CHRI says.

British Investor Plans $600 Million Iran Solar Project

Small-scale solar energy being used in Iran.

Specialist renewable energy investor Quercus will invest nearly $600 million in a solar power project in Iran, with construction slated to start in the first half of 2018, according to the company’s chief executive.

The planned 600-megawatt (MW) plant, located in central Iran, will be the sixth largest globally, behind projects of up to 1.5 gigawatts (GW) in China and India.

Diego Biasi, chief executive of Quercus, which has a track record of investing in renewable energy in Europe, said the firm had decided to go for such a big project to get an endorsement from Iran’s Energy Ministry.

“This is a project of national interest, so we got special support. We had enough investors interested, so instead of splitting that across smaller projects -- which wouldn’t have given us the same relationship with the ministry -- we decided to go for one,” he said. The hope was this would lead to more solar projects.

Established in 2010, independently owned Quercus has a portfolio of around 40 renewable energy plants across Europe. The Iran project is its first investment outside Europe and came in response to client demand, Biasi said.

Under the terms of the agreement signed by Quercus and Iran’s Energy Ministry, the firm will be responsible for the construction, development, and operation of the plant.

Construction is expected to take three years, with each 100 MW standalone lot becoming operational and connecting to the grid every six months, to mitigate the risk for investors.

Rather than investing via a fund structure, Quercus will set up a project company and investors will hold shares via a private placement. It has already attracted interest from private and institutional investors, including sovereign funds.

Iran is heavily reliant on natural gas and oil to generate power, but air pollution is driving interest in renewables, and Iran has made a commitment to develop 5 GW of new renewable energy capacity by 2020.

Current and former Iranian and UK officials gathered in London to announce a 600-million euro plan to develop a giant solar park with cash from investors in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The agreement underscores how difficult it will be for Trump to dismantle the 2015 nuclear accord, or JCPOA, between six world powers and Iran.

Iran’s installed solar energy capacity is currently 53 MW, according to Iranian Energy Ministry data, but 76 firms have signed deals to study building an extra 932 MW of capacity. Interest has grown since the lifting of international sanctions on Iran in 2016.

Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, “The UK deepened its economic relationship with Iran in a solar deal worth $720 million less than a day after the U.S. president called the Persian Gulf nation a ‘rogue state’ and threat to global security.”

Current and former Iranian and UK officials gathered in London to announce a 600-million euro plan to develop a giant solar park with cash from investors in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The agreement underscores how difficult it will be for Trump to dismantle the 2015 nuclear accord, or JCPOA, between six world powers and Iran.

“The British government has made it absolutely clear that it sees JCPOA as important, it thinks the JCPOA should continue,” said Norman Lamont, a former chancellor of the exchequer who is also chairman of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce. “The British government is also backed by other governments in the UK and in Europe.’’

The future of JCPOA, which halts suspicious Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, has been at risk since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Trump told world leaders at the UN annual General Assembly on September 18 in New York City that it was “one of the worst” deals the United States has ever entered.

However, the U.S. permanent representative to UN, Nikki Haley, has pointed out that Trump’s latest comments on JCPOA do not necessarily mean Washington has decided to drop out of the deal.

The United Kingdom’s trade with Iran rose 42 percent from January to October in 2016 and 57 percent in the same period in 2017, according to Lamont. Global trade with Iran rose 13 percent last year to $113 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

at/fg

NATO Expert Says Morgan Freeman May Be Russian Troll Target After Calling Out Putin

American actor Morgan Freeman (file photo)

A top NATO expert on Russian Internet propaganda and disinformation campaigns says U.S. actor Morgan Freeman appears to have been targeted by "coordinated, pro-Kremlin social-media attacks" after charging that Russia "attacked" the United States last year and criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin in an online video.

Rols Fredheim, a data analyst at NATO's Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, says the online attacks against Freeman follow a "classic pattern" seen in previous, anti-NATO, social-media campaigns out of Russia that were aimed at manipulating Western public opinion and influencing public debate.

Fredheim told RFE/RL on September 21 that he could not say whether the avalanche of recent English-language attacks against Freeman on Twitter, YouTube, and other social media were directly coordinated by the Kremlin.

But he said the timing and similarity of many of the initial attacks suggest an army of pro-Kremlin, online trolls may have taken a cue from the criticism of Freeman by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on September 20, one day after the Freeman video's release.

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Nobel Laureate Says No Conditions For Peace In Iran

According to the UN calendar, September 21 is International Peace Day, an occasion to urge people all over the world to commemorate peace and friendship.
Respect, safety, and dignity for all are the themes of this year’s International Peace Day.
Paying homage to the day, Radio Farda’s Elaheh Ravanshad has prepared some straightforward questions on the themes for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. Here’s an extract.

Radio Farda: Everybody has their own definition for the word “peace.” As a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, how would you define it?

Shirin Ebadi: Peace does not mean the absence of war. Peace has its own conditions. Under those conditions, people should be able to live freely while keeping their human dignity intact. It doesn’t make any difference if one is killed by the enemy’s bullet or because of being deprived of the right to have access to the needed medicine or vaccination. It doesn’t make any difference if one is captured by the enemy or forced to spend years behind bars for writing a report. It also makes no difference if an alien force kicks you out of your home and occupies it or, in the middle of the night, you are forced to wander around the world after your assets are confiscated.

Therefore, all these cases disturb the correct meaning of the word “peace,” which is calmness and tranquility.

The real meaning of peace, I reiterate, is a collection of conditions in which people can live freely without losing their human dignity.

Any kind of law or act that disturbs mankind’s calmness and tranquility will result in the disturbance of a society’s peace. That’s why, in many societies, we see a peaceful facade, i.e. there we see tranquility, but I compare its quietness to the quietude of a cemetery.

Radio Farda: Based on your definition, to what degree there is peace and reconciliation in Iran?

Ebadi: Sadly, the conditions necessary for peace in Iran are missing since the human dignity has been damaged and human rights have systematically and frequently been violated there. Looking at the number of journalists behind bars leaves you with no option other than concluding that if there’s peace in Iran, it’s the same as the calmness and tranquility ruling over cemeteries. Sooner or later, such peace and tranquility are doomed to be disturbed.

Radio Farda: Who is responsible for the establishment of peace in a society: the citizens, without receiving any assistance from the government or the regime, or is it solely the ruling system’s responsibility to keep the people happy and satisfied?

Ebadi: Peace, truthfully, is a culture that should be learned from childhood. Every citizen, as well as the ruling system, is responsible for safeguarding and promoting the culture of peace.

We are living in a society suffering from widespread discrimination against religious minorities, including Baha’is and even Sunnis. We are also living in a society in which ethnic minorities’ rights are violated; they are not allowed to participate in politics at higher levels. Such society, quite naturally, is deprived of peace and tranquility and, furthermore, I would like to refer to the regime’s foreign policy and its meddling and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries of the region.

I am sad to say the ruling system has deployed military forces to interfere in internal affairs of Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. This has disturbed Iran’s peace. It has created so many foreign enemies for Iran. Therefore, people are always worried about foreign enemies and the possibility of being attacked from outside.

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More than 70 Iranian Baha'is Denied University In September

Iranian students take part in a state university entrance exam. Undated

More than 70 Baha’i students have reportedly been denied entry to universities in Iran despite successfully passing the national admissions tests.

According to some sources, the number of Baha’is who have been deprived of entering universities in the current year is more than 100. They were all denied entry solely for believing in their faith, Baha’ism.

Iran officials have not yet reacted to the news.

All of the Baha’i applicants who checked their test results online received a short message saying, “Dear applicant, there’s a flaw in your dossier. Please contact the Response Unit of the Appraisal Agency.”

This was the second year that Foad, a Baha’i applicant, received the message. “I have not yet visited the Response Unit of the Appraisal Agency this year. However, last year I had a long discussion with one of the agency’s officials, who told me I was denied entry on the orders of security agents of the Intelligence [Ministry],” he told Radio Farda.

Foad quoted the official as saying, “Therefore, we cannot let you enter a university,” and added, “When I asked the reason behind it, the official said, ‘They have disqualified you because of your faith.’ ”

The answer was not good enough for Foad. “I asked the official to respond to my enquiry in writing. He wrote down my address and telephone number, saying, ‘We’ll send your request to the Intelligence [Ministry] and will let you know if we receive an answer.’ ”

“I never received any answer,” Foad added.

Screen shot of an official document showing a Baha'i student passed the university entrance exam in September but denied entry.
Screen shot of an official document showing a Baha'i student passed the university entrance exam in September but denied entry.

The Baha’is insist their faith is not a secret matter and is usually reflected in their high-school applications, where students are required to specify their religion.

Another Iranian Baha’i citizen, Omid, who successfully participated in this year’s national university admission contest but was denied entering a university, told Radio Farda, “Yesterday, I went to the Response Unit of the Appraisal Agency. They introduced me to an expert who was there exclusively for Baha’i student cases. They didn’t respond to my enquiry in writing but told me I do not have the right to enter a university because of my belief in the Baha’i faith.”

Denying Baha’is entry to universities in Iran is not an unprecedented matter. Even dozens of Baha’is who have successfully passed the national examinations and other hurdles to continue their education at the university level have been forced to drop out, even after several years.

Farzad Safaei was one semester away from a bachelor’s degree in industrial metallurgy at the Islamic Azad University in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, when he was expelled this past May by the security office for being a member of the Baha’i faith, reported the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

"I discussed my case with the members of the Central Appraisal Board. They said, ‘You know that you are a Baha’i and Baha’is do not have the right to education.’ I was deprived of further education solely because my school of thought is different. They insisted the only way for me to return to the university was to write a letter saying I had converted to Islam and rejected Baha’ism.”

A Baha’i citizen nicknamed Maryam, who used to study at Tehran’s Beheshti University, told Radio Farda, “They did not deliver me anything in writing. They simply closed down my site and, after two semesters, tried me in absentia and expelled me from the university. I called them to find out why I was deprived of continuing my studies. They did not tell me why.”

Maryam had no choice other than to visit the Response Unit of the Appraisal Agency. “There, I discussed my case with the members of the Central Appraisal Board. They said, ‘You know that you are a Baha’i and Baha’is do not have the right to education.’ I was deprived of further education solely because my school of thought is different. They insisted the only way for me to return to the university was to write a letter saying I had converted to Islam and rejected Baha’ism.”

Vesal Laghifar,a Bahai student, fired from Amir Kabir University in 2017.
Vesal Laghifar,a Bahai student, fired from Amir Kabir University in 2017.

Farzad Safaei, an Open University student in the southwest city of Ahvaz; Vafa Hovaidaei, an Amir Kabir University student in Tehran; and Vessal Laqaeifar, an Amir Kabir University student in Tafresh are three Baha’is deprived of their rights for education in recent months.

Geneva-based International Community of Baha’is spokeswoman Simin Fahandej told Radio Farda, “From the beginning of the [Islamic] revolution [nearly four decades ago] up to now, Iranian Baha’i citizens have been deprived of their right to enter universities. A document was revealed by one of the UN Special Rapporteurs in 1991 that specified, ‘Baha’is should be treated in a way to deny them the right for education and progress and whenever somebody’s faith proved to be Baha’ism, they should be blocked from entering a university or immediately expelled from it, regardless of the semesters completed by them.”

Fahandej regretfully added, “Sadly, the situation has not been changed, and talented youth who can serve their homeland are deprived of their right to education solely because of their faith.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, has criticized “widespread violation of Baha’is rights and persecuting them in Iran.”

Denying Baha’is the right for education, according to Jahangir, is an obvious example of violating their human rights.

According to Article 1 of Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolution Council’s Student Qualification Regulations, approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 1991, students who take the national enrollment exam must either be Muslim or followers of other constitutionally sanctioned religions. Article 3 states that if a student is discovered to be a Baha’i after enrolling in a university, he or she will be expelled, CHRI had earlier reported.

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