On November 25, the Iranian coalition opposition National Resistance of Iran (NCRI) announced that at least seven prisoners have died of the novel coronavirus since November 21. However, the Iranian government, judiciary, and the Prisons Organization concealed the news as of this report.
The NCRI announcement indicated that the deceased were held in wards seven and eight. “Four of the victims died in the quarantine section of Evin Prison’s ward eight, where inmates with financial charges are being held. The other three died in ward seven, where most political prisoners are being held. The number of victims might exceed this figure,” the NCRI added.
Furthermore, the regime cut Evin Prison phone services, preventing the news from spreading. On the other hand, prisoners reported that the Prison Organization had transferred several bus-loads of prisoners from Evin’s ward eight to the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, Fashafuyeh.
They believe that the reason for the transfer is the spread of COVID-19 to Evin Prison. This may result in the virus spreading to Fashafuyeh Prison alike. Last month, Evin Prison clinic denied testing inmates, saying, “We will not test you for coronavirus because it is obvious that your tests are going to be positive. So, go to your ward and rest.”
Rearrest of Former Political Prisoners
Earlier, since November 11, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) launched a new series of rearresting former political prisoners, mostly relatives or supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
“In recent days, after declaring the shutdown of 150 cities and counties across the country, the regime has continued to arrest families and supporters of the MEK. The regime is using the coronavirus situation as a pretext to further increase repressive measures and to tend to its main worry, which is the resurgence of nationwide protests,” PMOI/MEK official website reported on November 23.
MOIS agents detained Pouria Vahidian, Sina Zahiri, and Hamid Sharif in Tehran. Intelligence officers also raided at homes of former political prisoners in Kermanshah province, western Iran, and detained Saeid Asghari, 51, Saeid Samimi, 24, and Kasra Bani Amerian, 24.
The mentioned arrests were carried out on the cusp of the first anniversary of the November protests in Iran. At the time, many citizens flooded into the streets in over 190 cities across all of Iran’s 31 provinces to complain about gas price hikes.
However, they faced brutal suppression. According to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s order, the State Security Forces alongside the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and MOIS agents used lethal force to silence protests. As a result of the regime’s unprecedented crackdown on fed-up people, over 1,500 demonstrators were killed, and at least 12,000 others were detained arbitrarily.
Interrogators and judicial officials severely tortured inmates into admitting to what they had never committed. Officials forced several prisoners to make enforced confessions, which later filed against them in the Revolutionary Courts. Judicial authorities sentenced several prisoners to the death penalty based on torture-tainted admissions, according to Amnesty International.
The Iranian regime practically did whatever it could to halt further protests and create fear and disappointment among protesters, particularly youths and women. However, they could never spur society on silent.
On Friday, both sets of complications will be magnified by the proceedings at a terrorism trial in Belgium. The four defendants include a high-ranking Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi who is accused of masterminding a plot to blow up a gathering of expatriate activists outside Paris in June 2018.
He and his co-conspirators each face between five and 20 years in prison, and if they are duly sentenced the result will most likely be condemned by the clerical regime, via its own state media as well as any international outlets that will listen.
Regardless of that response and regardless even of the outcome itself, the trial will shine new light on Iranian terrorism, thereby raising questions about the wisdom of granting sanctions relief to the regime behind it.
The investigations leading up to the trial have already established that the entire regime bears responsibility for the terror plot. The French government made an announcement to this effect several months after the initial arrests.
And Belgium’s intelligence and security agency more recently delivered a note to federal prosecutors which stated, “The planned attack was conceived in the name of Iran and at its instigation.”
Such statements undercut a familiar strategy of deflecting responsibility from the clerical regime by suggesting that Assadollah Assadi was operating on his own initiative. This interpretation of the incident has been promoted less by Iranian authorities themselves than by their apologists in Western political and journalistic circles, who are entirely too eager to see a back into appeasement policy even in the face of Iran’s malign activities.
But the Iranian regime itself has actually undercut that defense with its efforts to help Assadollah Assadi to escape from justice. Without offering any defense for his actions or any plausible suggestion that the allegations against him are wrong, Iranian officials attempted to block his extradition and to claim that his position at the embassy in Vienna afforded him diplomatic immunity throughout Europe and presumably throughout the world.
Tehran continued to stand by Assadollah Assadi even after it was revealed that he had resorted to blackmail and intimidation in an effort to secure his own release.
Transcripts of his interviews indicate that the former third counselor at the Vienna embassy told Belgian investigators that there were a number of militant groups in Iran and the surrounding region which were sure to watch his case closely and determine whether or not European authorities would “support them.”
The clear implication was that further terror plots could be expected to emerge on Western soil if Assadollah Assadi is convicted and sentenced.
Meanwhile, the implication of Tehran’s ongoing support for Assadollah Assadi is that the regime’s leadership shares his impulse to use terrorism and terrorist threats as forms of statecraft. Of course, this is consistent with everything that we already knew about Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.
At the same time, it’s difficult to imagine that Tehran will adopt a policy of contrition after being called out in this way. More likely, leading officials will double down on their recent threats to continue violating the nuclear deal and otherwise threatening Western interests until the US and its allies provide substantial new financial benefits and concessions.
This is as it should be since the 2018 terror plot demonstrated that the period of maximum pressure coincided with an upsurge in Tehran’s belligerence not just toward the authors of that policy but toward all actual and perceived adversaries of the clerical regime.
In light of Assadollah Assadi’s arrest and the ensuing revelations that he had been acting at the direction of leading Iranian officials, all Western policy decisions regarding Iran should be influenced by the awareness that when that regime obtains new financial resources, there is a good chance they will be spent in a way that puts Western lives at risk.
Last Friday, a group of United Nations human rights experts issued a statement highlighting the case of one detained human rights defender and urging Iranian authorities to take action on it and all similar cases.
However, this week, reports pointed to those authorities not only dismissing appeals for the release of political detainees but also initiating a new wave of arrests while also continuing to implement harsh sentences for persons who have taken part in protests such as the nationwide uprising that marked its one-year anniversary this month.
The UN statement was signed by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and a number of other experts.
It began by giving credit to the Iranian regime for granting temporary release to the human rights attorney NasrinSotoudeh. But it then went on to emphasize that temporary release is not adequate in light of the nature of the charges against her, the mistreatment she has suffered since starting her sentence in 2018, and the conditions she is likely to face if she is returned to prison prematurely.
Such premature re-incarceration would be in line with standard practice in the Islamic Republic. Sotoudeh herself was already subjected to that practice when she was briefly transferred to a hospital outside the prison system after her health deteriorated as a result of a 50-day hunger strike.
Far from being permitted to receive treatment that would fully restore her to health, Sotoudeh was soon transferred to a notorious facility known as Qarchak Prison—a move that some of her supporters viewed as a deliberate effort to endanger her life.
That transfer was cited by the UN experts alongside acknowledgment of preexisting fears that she and countless other political prisoners could be exposed to Covid-19, which is spreading in a third wave through Iranian society and is particularly uncontrolled in the prison system.
Qarchak was believed to present a particularly serious risk of infection. So it was perhaps little surprise to her jailers of her advocates when Sotoudeh began testing positive for the coronavirus.
That positive test was apparently the basis for the prisoner’s furlough, although the Iranian judiciary did not publicly sight any particular reason. On one hand, it is possible that her infection is precisely the outcome that authorities were expecting to achieve when they arranged her transfer.
On the other hand, some of those same authorities may have been concerned about the international scrutiny that would fall upon them if she was allowed to suffer through the illness or even die while still behind bars.
It is not clear whether Tehran anticipates the same level of scrutiny if Sotoudeh suffers serious effects from the disease while on furlough. And it is perhaps on account of this uncertainty that the UN experts’ statement notes the possibility of the furloughed prisoner still being barred from prompt and thorough access to medical treatment.
“We now urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that Ms. Sotoudeh is able to obtain unhindered access to the health care she requires to treat both her underlying conditions and the COVID-19 disease,” it said.
The statement went on to say that Sotoudeh’s case “shows the real risks for those in detention in Iran,” making it imperative for “all arbitrarily detained individuals” to be granted the same temporary release, at a bare minimum.
Of course, the ultimate goal for the statement’s authors and other human rights advocates is to guarantee that any such release is made permanent. But notwithstanding any concerns over public scrutiny that the regime is coping with now, it does not appear the least bit amenable to changing its overall practices in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which in turn emerged in the wake of a dramatic upsurge in popular unrest.
On the same day as the UN human rights experts issued their statement, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Court had sentenced three university students to multi-year terms in connection with their peaceful activism.
At least one of them, MaryamEshaghi, received one year in prison plus a four-year suspended sentence simply for participating in the nationwide uprising of November 2019. That participation was specifically identified in her charging document as “assembly and collusion against national security.”
Persons familiar with the recent proceedings have said that the students’ sentencing was likely intended as a warning to others who would take part in anti-government protests or labor organizing.
A similar warning was delivered to activists focused on the issue of forced veiling when, on November 9, the country’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Saba Kord-Afshariregarding her total sentence of 24 years. In line with Iran’s penal code, she will now be expected to serve the longest single sentence, 15 years on the charge of “encouraging corruption and prostitution” by protesting the compulsory Islamic dress code for all women in Iran.
It is very likely that in the near future there will be more sentences like the above, for all manner of Iranian activists. This was the implication of a report from Iran Human Rights Monitor, which observed that “the clerical regime’s Intelligence Ministry has launched a new wave of arrests in Iran to fend off the outbreak of a spate of protests.”
The report specifically notes that raids were conducted on the homes of several former political prisoners, at least three of whom were arrested and subjected to several hours of interrogation.
These actions were undertaken without prior summons or advance notice, and likely without legal warrants. Such abrupt raids are a relatively commonplace phenomenon in the Islamic Republic, and they underscore the unaccountable nature of hardline entities like the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
It is naturally feared that those tactics will help the regime to continue a trend of repression that has been ongoing at least since the time of the November 2019 uprising, when it was alleged that the IRGC took the lead in opening fire on crowds of protesters, resulting in as many as 1,500 deaths.
That death toll is apparently the worst to emerge from a single incidence of repression since the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. And the website Iran Human Rights stated last week that the ensuing crackdown makes the situation in Iran “more grave today than it has been the last three decades.”
This claim was published in the site’s summary of its own report on the situation of human rights defenders in Iran. It looks at 53 examples of those individuals, acknowledging that this is only a small portion of the total figure, and reported that they had collectively been sentenced to nearly 400 years in prison and 787 lashes.
The report also noted that the past year had seen a continued rise in the number of persons who, like NasrinSotoudeh, have been targeted by regime authorities at least in part because they dared to practice law in defense of other activists.
Iran Human Rights emphasized that judicial punishments were not the only consequences that people have suffered for the crime of promoting human rights. Detainees their family members, and other supporters have suffered harassment, financial, and social consequences for their activities, and this phenomenon was notably put on display in recent days as citizens throughout the Islamic Republic attempted to commemorate the deaths associated with last November’s uprising, only to be barred by authorities from entering cemeteries or assembling peaceably.
Some of this harassment was reported in real-time on social media, where Iranians also joined in condemning public and private statements from regime authorities which seemed to demonstrate a disregard for the public’s concerns about the fallout from the uprising.
The regime’s effort to downplay and distract from that issue lends support to the idea behind an emerging movement to use makeshift civilian authorities in order to address last year’s alleged crimes against humanity.
On Saturday, Iran Human Rights joined with Justice for Iran and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort in announcing the formation of an “international people’s tribunal,” known as the Aban Tribunal in reference to the month on the Iranian calendar in which last year’s crackdown took place.
The announcement explained that “the Tribunal provides a mandate to a group of renowned international lawyers on behalf of the victims’ community and the public to investigate human rights violations by Iran during a wave of national protests in November 2019.” It is now scheduled to hear from expert witnesses during three days of hearings before issuing a judgment regarding the regime’s culpability in April 2021.
Iran Human Rights quoted Sir Geoffrey Nice, a British barrister with a background in international human rights law, as saying that tribunals such as this one “fill gaps in knowledge and information, created because national and international bodies fear to tell the truth.”
In the case of the November 2019 crackdown, allegations of such fear have naturally been levied against the obstructionist Iranian authorities, but also against Western policymakers who have made little public effort to confront the apparent crime against humanity over the past year.
Back in July, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Maryam Rajavi gave an interview to the Washington Times about her work with the NCRI, but we think it’s important to revisit it now. In this part, we will look at three topics: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the arms embargo against Iran, and the explosions at missile and nuclear facilities in Iran earlier this year.
Ali Khamenei’s Future
Speaking about Khamenei’s future influence and the regime’s ongoing survival if he dies, Maryam Rajavi explained once more that the Iranian regime is not at all popular, citing the three incredible uprisings that the country witnessed between December 2017 and January 2020, where millions turned out to show how determined they were to overthrow the regime.
“[This] substantially weakened the supreme leader’s position more than ever before, to the extent that even members of the regime’s own factions no longer take his words and orders seriously,” she said.
As evidence, Maryam Rajavi cited the parliamentary elections in February, which were the subject of massive nationwide boycotts. Khamenei terrified of the people’s recent uprisings tried to consolidate power among those most loyal to him but even this just resulted in more Iranians publically opposing him.
“It is certainly true that Khamenei’s death will generate an insurmountable crisis for the regime since all of the regime’s domestic and foreign policies were based on the principle of the velayat-e faqih [the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist] and Khamenei’s absolute rule,” she added.
“Without him on the scene, this bedrock will be removed and there is no one else left that can simply replace him. This eventuality will spawn more discord and tensions within the regime and it will particularly lead to a more extensive and accelerated wave of defections among the regime’s forces, especially in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the paramilitary Bassij Force,” the NCRI President-elect said.
“This is because these forces acquire their perceived legitimacy and raison d’être from the supreme leader. Khamenei’s death will undoubtedly and substantially accelerate the trend of the regime’s collapse, bringing closer the prospect of its overthrow,” Maryam Rajavi told in an interview with the Washington Times.
She also called on the international community to recognize the Iranian people’s struggle against the regime and for the regime leaders to be put on trial for crimes against humanity.
Iran’s Explosions at Nuclear and Missile Sites
“The MEK [Mojahedin-e Khalq] has a clear stance in this regard. We seek a non-nuclear Iran. Iran does not need nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are only valuable for extending the clerical regime’s survival,” Maryam Rajavi said.
“Therefore, the events that happened in Khojir and Natanz are a reaction to the nuclear weapons project pursued by the religious fascism ruling Iran, which has brought nothing for the Iranian people but poverty, suppression, terrorism and war,” she added.
She said that the regime wasted money on this while the people were dying from coronavirus, which is truer than ever.
Please note: The Iranian arms embargo was due to expire in October when this interview took place, something that Maryam Rajavi argued against, and since then, the US has instituted sanctions that mean that this lifting means virtually nothing. Countries still won’t trade with Iran because they fear U.S. sanctions.
Opposition to the extension of the Iranian regime’s arms embargo, inaction vis-à-vis #HumanRights abuses in #Iran, indifference towards constant movement of MOIS &Qods Force agents in Europe, are against the interests of the people of Iran &against global peace and security pic.twitter.com/G157f7DhmY
“We have always stated and repeat once again that this regime must not be allowed to acquire even a single bullet. It must not pocket profits from a single barrel of Iranian oil. And, it must not spend for its own survival even a single dollar from revenues that belong to the Iranian people, the NCRI President-elect said.
“The Iranian Resistance calls for the re-imposition of the six UN Security Council resolutions against this regime. We stress the need to extend international sanctions regarding any form of weapons trade with the regime,” Maryam Rajavi concluded.
On Wednesday, November 25, Swedish media reported that 49-year-old Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmadreza Djalali imprisoned in Iran faces imminent execution. Recently, authorities transferred him from Tehran Evin Prison to Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj city where the government implements death sentences. On Tuesday morning, Djalali had told his wife Vida Mehrannia in a short phone call that he would be executed soon, the media cited Mehrannia as saying.
In April 2016, Iran’s intelligence officers arrested the dual-national scientist on espionage charges while he was on a trip to Tehran to attend a scientific conference. The Revolutionary Courts sentenced him to death the following year.
To justify Ahmadreza Djalali’s death penalty, the state-run television wired a video of him, confessing to working with the Israeli Mossad. Djalali and his family denied the charges, saying that the alleged confession was torture-induced.
“Sweden condemns the death penalty and works to ensure that the verdict against Djalali is not enforced,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde tweeted on November 24 following the reports about the risk of the imminent execution of Ahmadreza Djalali.
Mot bakgrund av uppgifter om att Iran eventuellt planerat att verkställa dödstraff mot den svenske medborgaren Djalali har jag idag pratat med Irans utrikesminister Zarif. Sverige fördömer dödsstraff och verkar för att domen mot Djalali inte ska verkställas.
In response, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh falsely claimed that “The Islamic Republic’s Judiciary in independent and any meddling in the issuance or execution of judicial rulings is unacceptable.” This is while in Iran, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei endorses both the judiciary chief and president. In other words, they are just puppets and the Supreme Leader pulls all the strings.
Supreme Leader Is Iran’s Final-Say
In the past four decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran frequently used hostage-taking as a method to coerce other nations to accept its ambitious demands. However, once, Mesbah Yazdi, a close ally to Khamenei, explicitly explained the ayatollahs’ expectation of the rule heading by Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist.
“In the Islamic State, the people’s vote has no legal or religious credit. Neither in choosing the type of their country’s political system, nor in the validation of the constitution, or the election of the president, members of the Assembly of Experts, or the leadership. The only verification is the Supreme Leader’s satisfaction,” Parto weekly quoted Yazdi as saying on December 28, 2005.
“If there are elections so far, it was because the supreme leader has believed that the elections still hold, and the people express their opinion… The government’s legitimacy not only does not rely on the people’s votes and satisfaction but also the nation’s vote has not any impact and influence in its verification,” he added.
Previously, the Islamic Republic Founder Ruhollah Khomeini simply institutionalized the Supreme Leader’s power. “If all the nation vote for something but the Supreme Leader opposes, the Supreme Leader’s opinion must be implemented.”
Several Facts of Iran’s Hostage-Taking Method
U.S. Hostage-taking Crisis (1979-1981)
The Islamic Republic began its terrorist activities by raiding the United States embassy in Tehran in November 1979. Khomeini’s thugs, who called themselves “Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line,” took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days until Khomeini ordered the thugs to release hostages in fear of the then-U.S. President-elect Donald Reagan’s approach.
At the time, former hostage-taker and current vice president Massoumeh Ebtekar announced her readiness to shoot and kill the hostages in an interview with foreign media. Furthermore, almost all hostage-takers, including Ali Khamenei, Mohammad Ali Jafari, Hamid Abutalebi, Ezzatollah Zarqami, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, and others, were awarded high-ranking positions in the religious rule.
Abduction of President of American University in Lebanon
In July 1982, Iran-backed forces in Lebanon abducted David S. Dodge and transferred him to Tehran. Kidnappers hoped to use the president of American University in Beirut as a part of a prisoner swap between Iran and Israel. However, the exchange never happened, and Syrians circumvented Tehran and swapped Dodge with several of their captives.
Hostage-Taking and Bomb Attacks for Releasing Tehran’s Terror Squad
In 2009, in his book “I narrate for the history,” former Minister of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Mohsen Rafighdoost revealed damning details about the IRGC’s extraterritorial and blackmailing operations.
He explained that he dispatched a terror squad under the command of Lebanese terrorist Anis al-Naqqash to assassinate the Shah’s last Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar in France.
However, their plan was exposed, and French authorities detained al-Naqqash and his operative cell. To release the Iran-backed assassins, the IRGC launched a series of terror activities, including bomb attacks in Paris and the abduction of French civilians in Lebanon.
Finally, al-Naqqash demanded French authorities for his release from prison, a $1 million ransom to Iran, and the expelling of Iranian Resistance Leader Massoud Rajavi from France in exchange for an end to Iran-backed terror activities and bomb attacks.
“The first condition is that one million dollars must return to Iran. They said OK, and what is the next demand? I told them to expel Massoud Rajavi from France,” he explained in a televised interview on February 11, 2017.
Former IRGC Commander Hassan Abbasi Explains How the IRGC Earns Money
Hostage-taking is one of the IRGC’s illegal methods for making money. In this respect, the IRGC has a notorious background of implementing these deals. The IRGC has frequently taken hostage coalition troops in Iraq and dual nationals inside Iran.
In February, former IRGC commander Hassan Abbasi explained how his comrades blackmailed the former U.S. administration on releasing a “journalist.” However, the journalist later became one of Tehran’s lobbies to whitewash the religious tyranny’s crimes against dissidents and improve the ayatollahs’ misinformation campaign against the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
“Look at how the IRGC generates funds. The IRGC detains a spy like Jason Rezaian. The U.S. pleads for him to be released,” Abbasi said and added that in response to the U.S. appeal, “we say: No, you have to pay for him. Our government gets paid $1.7 billion to hand over this spy. Thus, by detaining just one spy, the IRGC earns the equivalent of the $1-2 billion it was supposed to receive from the government budget.”
Iran’s Detained Diplomat Threatens Belgian Authorities with Retaliation
In July 2018, European law enforcement detained a senior Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi for being involved in a bomb attack against the annual gathering of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The foiled attack was supposed to kill dozens of Iranian dissidents and foreign dignitaries who attended the event.
On November 27, Assadi will stand for trial for recruiting the operative team, transferring and delivering one pound of explosive material TATP and detonation, and in summary, orchestrating the terror plot. In the past months, Iranian authorities did their best to release terrorist diplomat.
They tried their previous experience. For instance, Assadi bluntly threatened Belgian authorities on retaliation attacks by armed groups. “During his preventive detention, Assadolah Assadi refused to collaborate with the Belgian justice, but he threatened reprisals,” Le Monde reported.
On March 9, 2019, he informed the director of Beveren prison that he wished to meet with an investigator. He told him that if he was convicted, ‘armed groups’ were ready to act against police officers, witnesses, or the PMOI/MEK supporters,” the report reads.
Earlier, Tehran took Franco-Iranian Fariba Adelkhah as a hostage, pushing French authorities to force Belgium to release Assadi. In fact, Iranian authorities repeated the same method they used to free al-Naqqash. However, their approach did not answer this time.
The Language of Firmness and Power Is the Only Solution to Release Ahmadreza Djalali
In conclusion, as the Iranian government has no Belgian-Iranian hostage, it would pressure other European nations to persuade Belgium to release its jailed terrorist. However, the release of Assadi or any hostage swap that would include Assadi’s release would have disastrous outcomes.
First, the ayatollahs will grasp that their hostage-taking method is still working. They can take hostage the fate of many innocent people in the European States in return for political-economic incentives.
It would also be a hazardous message by the international community that it is ready to turn a blind eye to terror activities to decrease Iran’s terror machine. In other words, the appeasement policy toward Tehran’s terrorism and hostage-taking will only fuel the ayatollahs’ unlawful activities.
Instead, the Swedish government must exert pressure on the Iranian government and compel Iranian authorities to release Ahmadreza Djalali unconditionally. Experience shows that Iran’s ayatollahs only respond to pressure. They only understand the language of firmness and power, and the international community must deal with them in the language they know.
On Sunday, November 22, employees of a healthcare company in Yazd province held a rally, protesting systematic discrimination. In their rally in front of the provincial governorate office, they also demanded their unpaid and delayed salaries.
Protesters also urged the Health Ministry to dissolve healthcare companies. According to employees, these companies are out of the labor law’s framework. On the other hand, protesters said that the company has deprived them of 50 percent of pensions that the article 10th of civil service management law granted them.
“We have not the right to the company’s parking. We never received welfare facilities, overtime, and incentives so far,” protesting personnel explained.
Currently, more than 900 employees are working in such companies and as contract personnel. In the past nine months—since the Covid-19 disease began in Iran—, they were working alongside official medical staff in different hospitals and medical centers.
Covid-19 Death Toll Break All Records in Yazd Province
Furthermore, in parallel with the start of the autumn season, coronavirus fatalities have dramatically increased and broken all records. In the past week, the government’s failure in containing the health crisis and politicians’ interference in medical issues led two high-ranking officials to resign from the Health Ministry.
On November 20, Reza Malekzadeh, Deputy Health Minister, and Ali Nobakht, advisor to the Health Minister, resigned in protest of the government’s failures in combating the health crisis. In their resignation letters to Health Minister Saeed Namaki, they openly blamed him for the rampant rise of the death toll.
Former Sciences Minister and current head of Iran’s Supreme Medical Council Mostafa Moeen also blamed the Health Ministry for unscientific methods and medicine. “Negligence regarding the consequences of unscientific measures and authorizations by the Health Ministry are the mediums that lead to various issues such as Islamic, traditional or Iranian medicine that literally plays with people’s lives while they are scientifically unfounded,” Hamshahri daily quoted him on November 22.
Notably, Yazd is among the Iranian worst-hit provinces with a death rate higher than the national average. During recent months, physicians and nurses of the public sector time and again launched rallies, demanding their arrears.
Alongside medical staff in the provinces of Khuzestan, Kerman, Markazi, Lorestan, Razavi Khorasan, and Western Azarbaijan, healthcare workers in Yazd held several rallies in front of the provincial governorate.
Employees of Contract Healthcare Companies Demand the Health Ministry Intervene
The situation of employees of Yazd healthcare company is the tip of the iceberg. Healthcare workers of contract companies believe their employers are working out of law and exploiting them.
In this context, these selfless people have demanded the Health Ministry to dissolve these companies many times. These companies deprive their personnel of their minimum rights while the Health Ministry and its subordinates give a salary that is several-fold more than contract employees’ paychecks.
Of course, all contract medical staff face similar problems. Previously, the head of Tehran’s Covid-19 Task Force Alireza Zali demanded the health ministry to hire these healthcare workers officially.
Hassan Rouhani’s administration initially accepted the plan and announced it would hire at least 3,000 of whom. However, after several months, the plan remained on the paper and has yet to implement.
Since its creation in 1981, the Iranian coalition opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), its members, and its subsidiary groups have been the target of several deadly attacks planned by the Iranian regime, according to the UK’s Parliamentary Human Rights Group.
Here are just a few of the most heinous examples outside of Iran:
March 14, 1990: Attempted assassination of NCRI member Hossein Abedini in Turkey
I am a survivor of one of many #terrorist attacks of the regime. I narrowly escaped death when my car was ambushed by so-called Iranian diplomats in Turkey. My liver and lungs were badly damaged and I have undergone many surgeries since then—@HoAbedinihttps://t.co/sXWtX5Jd5y
April 24, 1990: Assassination of Kazem Rajavi, NCRI representative to the United Nations and brother of NCRI founder Massoud Rajavi, in Geneva. His assassins were traveling on Iranian government passports.
March 16, 1993: Assassination of NCRI representative Mohammad Hossein Naghdi in Italy. One of his assassins was made an ambassador for the UN headquarters in New York in 2014, but the U.S. refused to admit him.
June 1995: Failed assassination attempt of NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi during a large meeting in Dortmund initiated by Iranian ambassador to Germany Hossein Mousavian
February 1996: Assassination of NCRI member Zahra Rajabi in Turkey by regime agent Reza Berzeger, who was sentenced to life in prison and one year in solitary confinement for the murders of Rajabi and Ali Moradi.
March 21, 2018: The attempted bombing of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) headquarters in Albania, the biggest member group of the NCRI, for which two Iranian Intelligence Ministry agents were deported.
June 30, 2018: Forgive the slight step out of order, but it is necessary to discuss the biggest attack planned against the NCRI outside of Iran. The attempted bombing of the NCRI rally in Paris, attended by 100,000 people, for which Iranian ambassador Assadolah Assadi and his three hired terrorists will soon be on trial for. The European police investigation showed that this had been planned for at least a year and was sanctioned at the highest levels of the regime.
August 2018: Two Iranian regime secret agents were detained and prosecuted in the United States for spying on the NCRI at two separate gatherings
“With the rise of popularity among Iranians abroad and the widespread support of politicians in Western countries, especially the support over the years of more than 4,000 parliamentarians from about 40 countries, including most parliaments of European countries (France, England, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, …) and the U.S. Congress, the Iranian regime tried to stop the organization of the event. Every year at the same time as the meeting, all the regime’s organs focused on preventing the convention from happening,” the NCRI wrote.
The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) launched a new wave of dissidents’ arrests to create an atmosphere of fear in society and prevent possible protests.
In recent weeks, MOIS agents arrested several former political prisoners, including a young man who suffers from leukemia, and his health condition is at serious risk.
The MOIS launched these arrests on the November 2019 protests‘ anniversary, which immediately engulfed over 200 cities across Iran.
On Wednesday, November 11, the security forces arrested three Kurdish political activists, Saeed Asghari, 51, Saeed Samimi, 24, and Kasra Bani Amerian, 24, at their homes. After hours of interrogation, MOIS agents transferred them to Ward 4 of the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. Neither judiciary nor any security apparatuses have issued a prior summon for these citizens to the prison.
Back in 2018, the MOIS had arrested Saeed Samimi and Kasra Bani Amerian. However, the authorities finally released them on bail after two months of imprisonment in Ward 209 of Evin Prison.
Previously, the revolutionary Court Branch 28 had sentenced these Kurdish citizens to five years imprisonment while they had been deprived of access to their lawyer. The court had punished them for connections and cooperation with the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Afterward, the Revolutionary Court Branch 36, headed by Judge Zargar, confirmed these citizens’ sentences in absentia.
Kasra Bani Amerian has leukemia and was undergoing chemotherapy. His life is in grave danger due to the spread of the coronavirus in Iran’s prisons.
Also, according to information obtained from dissidents, authorities have summoned Hamid Sharif to Evin Prison. The Revolutionary Court has sentenced him to one year in prison.
Another former political prisoner, Sina Zahiri, is also summoned to Evin Prison to serve his five-year imprisonment. The court had previously sentenced him to two years in prison for supporting the PMOI/MEK. He was released in 2012.
On the anniversary of the November 2019 protests, the Iranian authorities have intensified oppressive measures. In this respect, the government has harassed or imprisoned many dissidents, protesters, and family members of the crackdown victims.
Officials pressured the November 2019 crackdown families to remain silent and not to hold public mourning or memorials for their loved ones.
According to reports provided by the PMOI/MEK domestic network—known as Resistance Units—, security forces, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and MOIS agents gunned down more than 1,500 protesters during the bloody crackdown on November 2019 protests. Many women and even children were among the victims. In separate reports, the U.S. State Department and Reuters confirmed that security forces killed at least 1,500 defenseless people during the anti-establishment protests.
On November 22, the Iranian diaspora took part in a twitterstorm, expressing their dismay over the international community’s lack of action against Iran’s terror plot. They also shared their personal experience about the Iranian regime’s foiled bomb attack against the Free Iran gathering in June 2018.
There are less than four days left until the historic court case of the trial of AssadollahAssadi, a senior Iranian diplomat. According to undeniable evidence and documents, Assadi was the orchestrator of the bomb attack that targeted a huge Iranian opposition gathering in Paris.
Iranian netizens join twitterstorm by #IWasATarget, sharing their experiences once they had been targeted by a bomb attack in 2018 #FreeIran Rally. Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi was the attack's mastermind. He is supposed to be tried on November 27.https://t.co/o9gusKAWHg
The trial will take place on the 27 November and the Iranian diaspora have taken to social media in the run-up to the momentous occasion to express their ongoing outrage over what could have been the biggest terrorist attack on European soil.
The Iranian opposition gathering in Paris is an annual gathering, drawing over 100,000 supporters of the democratic Iranian opposition, as well as hundreds of dignitaries from across the world, including Mayor Rudi Giuliani, the former Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and Ingrid Betancourt, former Senator of Colombia.
Assadi, alongside two other agents of the regime, Amir Saadouni, and his wife, NasimehNaami, were attempting to bomb the event, targeting Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main opposition to the religious dictatorship ruling Iran.
In its issue on the 14 November 2020, Peter Conradi wrote in The SundayTimes: “The plot to target it appears to have been hatched after popular protests that erupted in December 2017 in more than 100 Iranian cities and were blamed by Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, on “enemies of the republic”.
In a speech the following month he claimed the streets were under the control of the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main element in the NCRI, and threatened “retribution”.
Two years after the event, it is now time for the court to hold those responsible to account. The international community, and European governments, in particular, must not allow the regime to act with impunity.
The Iranian diaspora joined a Twitter storm on the evening of Sunday 22 November, using the hashtag #IWasATarget, to express their dismay at the lack of united action against the regime and their crimes against humanity.
They have called for the embassies of the Iranian regime to be closed, and all agencies and affiliated organizations to be locked down, as it is evident that the regime has been using them as a base for terrorist activities and espionage against the opposition.
Zolal Habibi, an attendee of the 2018 resistance rally, wrote on Twitter on 22 November: “When a ‘diplomat’ hands explosive to operatives to target 100k in Paris, isn’t that enough to expel all Iranian diplomats from European countries and close their embassies? Where do you draw the line? #IWasATarget.”
I was among the 100,000 who came together for a #FreeIran in Villepinte,Paris but the regime plotted to bomb the gathering of the Iranian resistance#IWasATarget if the attack had been carried out this would have been the greatest terrorist attack on European soil in history pic.twitter.com/YKgfPXCi99
Another attendee, SaeidMaghsoodi, wrote on Twitter on 22 November: “#IWasATarget. This wasn’t an ordinary bombing + assassination attempt against an individual. It was an attempted mass murder against a large gathering which could’ve had severe implications for countries represented at the event. Among the plaintiffs of the case are 18 politicians!”
#IWasATarget: This wasn’t an ordinary bombing+assassination attempt against an individual. It was an attempted mass murder against a large gathering which could’ve had severe implications for countries represented at the event. Among the plaintiffs of the case are 18 politicians! pic.twitter.com/SlQ8cavFNF
Afshin Motevalli, who was also present at the gathering, wrote on 22 November: “I took this picture together at the ‘Free Iran’ grand gathering in Paris. 100K people were present, incl. hundreds of political dignitaries, human rights champions, freedom fighters and our dear friends. At this gathering #IWasATarget.”
My good friends, @behrouz__, @86Ehsan and I took this picture together at the ‘Free Iran’ grand gathering in Paris. 100K people were present, incl. hundreds of political dignitaries, human rights champions, freedom fighters and our dear friends. At this gathering #IWasATargetpic.twitter.com/KelEOZGQNG
Dowlat Nowrouzi, the NCRI-UK Representative, who was participated in the event tweeted:
“The religious dictatorship in Iran ordered its terrorist diplomat to bomb the Free Iran Gathering in Paris in June 2018 to silence Iran’s organised opposition & the democratic alternative led by NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi. UK must #ExpelIranDiplomatTerrorists#IWasATarget“
On November 21, the Iranian regime’s State Security Forces (SSF) raided a house belonged to a poor family in Fasa county, southwest of Fars province. Afterward, the SSF razed the house and displaced the family under the pretext of baseless claims.
To justify their brutality, the regime’s oppressive forces resorted to ridiculous excuses such as illegal construction on “national occupied lands.” Despite the nearly two-decades residence, authorities rejected the family’s official permit for living in the place.
This is while the father of the family is disabled and his son is the sole breadwinner to the family. “Our house was built more than 18 years ago,” the son said.
Iranian Regime Amplifies Pressure on the People
Earlier this week, the SSF in the coastal city of Bandar Abbas, the center of Hormozgan province, stormed the house of a 35-year-old woman.
They destroyed her house and paid no attention to her cries. The woman was a poor and unemployed single mother, living in a self-made shelter with her small children.
After the incident, she set herself ablaze, protesting the regime’s brutality in making her children homeless. Local officials confirmed that the woman suffered 17 percent burns, mostly on her left arm, and is undergoing treatment at a local hospital.
The footage of the incident, filmed and posted on social media, caused a wave of public anger and outrage across the country. However, this was not the first instance of the Iranian regime’s cruelty in recent weeks.
A few weeks ago, the SSF caught and tortured a young man Mehrdad Sepehrai in Mashhad city, northeastern Iran, to death. The police officer used electric shocks and pepper spray to torture the poor young while he was tied with a handcuff to a pole.
Some days later, the police used fatal force against a citizen in the city of Esfarayen, northeastern the country, caused to his death. Also, in support of a corrupt CEO of the oil company, SSF agents beat and trampled a young pregnant woman to prevent her from revealing the CEO’s moral scandal.
Other Facts of Raiding and Destroying Poor People’s Houses by Security Forces
Earlier this year, in Kermanshah province, western Iran, the SSF destroyed the shed of a 58-year-old woman, Asieh Panahi, and killed her in the process.
Furthermore, in recent weeks, the security forces destroyed the houses in Zardoui Village in Paveh city, Kermanshah province, Golshahr district of Chabahar, Sistan and Baluchestan province, Hajiabad village, Hormozgan province, and Ismailabad village in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province.
Rampant poverty in Iran is the main reason for the increase in the construction of self-made houses in the suburb of metropolitan areas. Today, a considerable number of Iran’s population reside in slums due to financial dilemmas.
The country suffers an economic woe, and the government fails to handle the situation. On the other hand, systematic corruption and government mismanagement have devalued the national currency and increased inflation.
Public outrage has mounted against the regime as many officials live wealthily and line their pockets with billions of dollars of the country’s assets. Iranian citizens also expressed their fury against the regime’s foreign policies and squandering Iran’s national resources on proxy wars and domestic suppression.
On November 18, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported air raids against Iran-backed militias in Syria. According to the Observatory, five members from the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force (QF) and two Lebanese or Iraqi Shiite militiamen were among casualties.
Political analysts believe recent attacks were precise in sending a public message about Iranian involvement in Syria. In such circumstances, Iranian authorities consider U.S. political developments as a window to heighten their influence in the region, particularly in Syria. However, these bombardments show that they might have miscalculated.
Eight targets were hit, belonged to the Syrian army or the IRGC-QF, in areas stretching from the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights to the Damascus periphery. They included an Iranian headquarters at Damascus international airport, a “secret military site” that hosted Iranian military delegations and the 7th Division of the Syrian armed forces.
A former Syrian military commander told Reuters the attacks also targeted bases of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah in Syria.
For years, the IRGC-QF is behind proxy conflicts in the Middle East. The mullahs supported their radical allies with missiles, monetary aids, and basic needs.
Following the U.S. & U.K., Germany banned all #Hezbollah activity on its territory & designated the #Iran-backed group a terrorist organisation. Hezbollah as Iran's infantry plays significant role in destabilizing the Middle East on the ayatollahs' favor.pic.twitter.com/Mf6XTpmn0H
“The world knows, and we are announcing to the world that Hezbollah’s power, expenses, food, water, weapons, and missiles are provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said the chief of Lebanese Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah on June 24, 2016.
Furthermore, in December 2017, the then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley highlighted the Iranian regime’s destructive role in the region. “It’s hard to find a conflict or terror group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it,” she said.
Also, on Saturday, the Observatory reported more than ten airstrikes positions of Iran-backed militias on Deir Ezzor province, on the border with Iraq. “At least 14 Iran-backed militia fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan were killed in airstrikes in war-torn eastern Syria,” al-Arabiya.net cited the war monitor.
According to the rights group, eight Iraqis and six Afghan fighters were among casualties. The raids destroyed two bases and several military vehicles.
Since 2011, Iran plays a crucial role in suppressing the Syrian people’s anti-regime protests. In this respect, the IRGC-QF former chief Qassem Soleimani directly attended Damascus to ensure the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship. Soleimani recruited and dispatched Afghan migrates to fight on behalf of the IRGC-QF in Syria. He also received massive money from the Mostazafan Foundation to finance Afghan militants, known as Fatemiyoun Division.
As a result of Tehran’s bloody interference in Syria, over 700,000 people have died and at least 10 million more have been displaced. On July 20, Naser Al-Hariri, a prominent figure of the Syrian opposition, emphasized the Iranian regime’s complicit in Assad’s massacre against Syrian protesters.
“We are struggling against the same enemy. We must reaffirm our commitment against the Iranian regime and its policy of hatred. The regime has consumed the resources of the people and abandoned them in poverty. They don’t listen to the demands of the people. They employ terrorism to destroy the opposition,” he said at Free Iran 2020 global summit.
According to Iranian media, two senior officials of the Health Ministry resigned on November 20. These simultaneous resignations clearly display the Iranian regime’s failure in containing the coronavirus crisis, as two former officials mentioned in their letters to the health minister.
In his letter, former Deputy Health Minister Reza Malekzadeh openly blamed Health Minister Saeed Namaki for his mismanagement of the country’s health crisis. “Extremely incorrect management and full of violations during the coronavirus pandemic, due to your refusal to consult and your neglect to recommendations and warnings issued by the country’s health experts has led to a very high death toll in Iran,” the state-run Hamshahri daily cited Malekzadeh’s resignation letter.
“In the meantime, you are claiming to provide knowledge in managing Covid-19 to other countries. You have made unscientific remarks and hasty remarks on an Iranian coronavirus vaccine, which remains in the initial stages while raising a brouhaha about the production of such a vaccine,” he added.
“Unfounded claims made by you and the Food and Drug Organization on herbal medicine being effective… and your lack of understanding of research and the neglect you have shown for all scientific and research activities by medical experts during the past seven years are among your failures,” Malekzadeh emphasized.
Notably, a day earlier, November 19, Namaki bluntly slammed his colleagues and their estimations at a conference in Isfahan province. In other words, he evaded himself of all responsibilities, laying blame on his personnel.
“What has the country’s university research apparatus done on Covid-19? What article have they presented to the sitting minister saying if you do this and that our health apparatus will be heading in better directions? Provide me one model on Covid-19 showing the estimates were correct,” Mehr news agency affiliated to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) quoted Namaki as saying.
“Not even one estimate was right. Name me one minister who can manage the country’s health apparatus with such failed research results. The estimates so far have not been correct and ten epidemiologic models have been provided to me, none of which were correct and none was adequate to take any measures,” the health minister added.
In his resignation letter, Malekzadeh also reminded the health ministry’s previous estimation about the infection of 30 million citizens with the Covid-19, which Namaki had neglected. He also blamed the entire ruling system for not to allocate enough budget to counter the health crisis.
“Epidemiologic research in Iran has estimated 30 million Iranians contracting coronavirus to this day, most of whom have no symptoms. Warnings were issued that at least another 30 million Iranians will contract the virus if the status quo continues. A harsh reality is that still, our senior administration officials have yet to accept this reality that the threat of coronavirus is more serious and expansive than they imagined. They are still looking for a shortcut and short-term solution,” Malekzadeh wrote.
In April, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued an order allowed the government to allocate one billion euro from the National Development Fund to comparing coronavirus due to pressures exerted by public opinion. However, the health ministry did not receive the budget but less than 30 percent according to the minister.
Finally, Namaki announced that he would never pursue the budget due to the sensitive situation that the state faces. He unilaterally declared, “My personnel would work even without any paycheck but I will never demand the allocated budget.” He spoke on behalf of thousands of nurses and medical staff who had not received their meager salaries for months. Those who face heavy economic pressures in addition to overwhelming work in hospitals and medical centers for nine consecutive months.
Another resigned official is Ali Nobakht, advisor to the health minister. In his resignation letter to Namaki, Nobakht also questioned his former superior’s remarks in Isfahan against the medical staff. “After your remarks in Isfahan, where you criticized the scientists and selfless doctors of Iran, and after the response of the research department, there is unfortunately no longer any way to work with you,” he wrote.
The fact that while daily Covid-19 deaths have reached nearly 500 cases and Spokesperson of the National Covid-19 Task Force declared that “four-digit daily death numbers are not far from expectation,” health authorities see no solution but laying blame on each other.
However, none of them mention how many lives were lost due to their mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis in the past nine months. In this respect, as the Covid-19 fatalities have surpassed 162,800—according to the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)—, all administrative officials must be tried for their role in the regime’s silent crime against humanity.
Earlier, on July 9, Namaki openly admitted that he had ordered his ministry personnel to wrote protocols for reopening businesses and crowded sites. “Instead of telling me you go worry about health issues, we’ll support you with the economy, the Health Minister has to now worry about the economy more than the people’s health. The personnel should be told to write protocols on how to reopen and not how to close. We receive security reports, that [people] are resorting to protests due to poverty,” he added.
According to Minoo Mohraz, member of the National Covid-19 Task Force, and Iraj Harirchi, Deputy Health Minister, after the reopening and lifting of restrictions, the spread of the virus has become worse.
The regime’s horrible approach toward the coronavirus crisis even prompted members of the Parliament (Majlis) to explicitly slam the authorities and health officials. “Officials are blaming everything on the people. They should be reporting on what they have done and are doing?… They should get a hold of themselves! It’s as if they have sworn to kill all the people!” ICANA news agency affiliated to the Majlis quoted Amangholich Shadmehr, MP from Gonbad Kavus in Golestan province, on July 22.
Furthermore, in its August 17 edition, the state-run Mostaghel daily quoted former science minister Mostafa Moein as saying, “Who will accept responsibility for an impending human catastrophe across the country? The president? The government? The Majlis? The health and science minister?”