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Week of February 2nd

“When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom. I am asking the Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal.”

- U.S. President Donald Trump, during State of the Union address

 Domestic Affairs
Snow in Tehran (New York Times)

During a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Iran’s president warned that Tehran must heed the lessons of 1979 (AFP). “As long as people love the culture of Islam and love their Iran and safeguard their national unity, no superpower can change the path of this nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said, taking a jab at the United States. While speaking at the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran, Rouhani added that, “All officials of the country should have a listening ear for people’s demands and wishes. The previous regime thought monarchical rule would last forever, but it lost everything for this very reason—that it did not hear the criticism of the people.”

Green Movement leader who is under house arrest criticized the supreme leader in an open letter (Reuters). Mehdi Karroubi accused Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of abusing power and urged him to change the way he runs the Islamic Republic before it is too late. In an open letter published on Saham News, the official website of his reformist party, Karroubi wrote, “During the last three decades, you have eliminated the main revolutionary forces to implement your own policies, and now you should face the results of that.” Karroubi also criticized Khamenei for letting the IRGC take a commanding role in the economy as this “has tarnished the reputation of this revolutionary body and drowned it in massive corruption.” He said that under Khamenei’s leadership, bodies formed at the beginning of the 1979 Revolution to wipe out poverty had turned into conglomerates that own half of Iran’s wealth without a supervisory organization to regulate their actions. Karroubi added, “Under such conditions, it is natural that the lower classes, who were the grassroot supporters of the Islamic Revolution, will turn into a gunpowder barrel.” Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi along with his wife Zahra Rahnavard have been under house arrest since 2011 for their involvement in the post-election protests known as the Green Movement.

Also, the supreme leader agreed to transfer $4 billion from the National Development Fund of Iran to the national budget (IranWire). Ali Asghar Yousefnejad, the spokesman for the parliament’s Budget Reconciliation Committee, announced the decision, which will increase funding in areas such as disaster relief, environmental damage and disease prevention. At the same time, it allows for more spending on defense and state-run media, leading to accusations that some of Iran’s most powerful institutions are reaping benefits to which they are not entitled.

A blizzard that started Saturday evening descended on Iran, blanketing large parts of the country with snow (New York Times). Iran has a full-blown water crisis drying out much of the country, but the situation changed after the snowfall. Schools in many parts of Iran were closed, most people could not go to work, and the police called the situation “critical.” Tehran normally gets a lot of snow, but in recent years the city has mainly been covered in smog during the winter months. This year, when snow finally came, Tehranis started cheering, and had fun building snowmen and engaging in snowball fights. After the snow, Tehran and Lahijan hosted snow sculpture festivals (IFP).

One month after Iran protests: A climate of uncertainty (Al Jazeera).

The fire that fueled the Iran protests (The Atlantic).

The revolution that didn’t happen in Iran and the reforms that should (Atlantic Council).

The case for net neutrality in Iran (Al-Monitor).

 Foreign Policy

This past week, Israel has been running a concerted campaign against Iran’s alleged plan to manufacture and upgrade missiles on Lebanese soil (Haaretz). It started with IDF Spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis publishing an opinion piece on Lebanese opposition websites, claiming that “Lebanon is turning into one big missile factory... Iran and Hezbollah are currently trying to build a precision missile factory.” Then Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned the Knesset that “we know the sites for building and upgrading missiles in Lebanon, and we know the people who are involved in the manufacture.” It also topped the agenda in the meeting between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Netanyahu said, “I made it clear to Putin that we will not agree to these developments.” Afterwards, a high-level Russian delegation visited Israel to continue discussions.

A top adviser to the supreme leader said Iran’s leadership had no intention of reining in its influence across the Middle East despite U.S. pressure to do so (Reuters). Ali Akbar Velayati said, “Iran’s influence in the region is inevitable and to remain a key player in the region, this influence will continue.”

Iran’s regional allies are keeping a close eye on the protest aftermath (Al-Monitor).

 Iran Deal
Iran's foreign minister tweeting about the Trump administration's evidence (Twitter)

The Trump administration escalated efforts to put pressure on Iran by taking United Nations Security Council ambassadors on a field trip and hosting a White House lunch (New York Times). Fourteen ambassadors visited a military hangar at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling near Washington, DC, to inspect what American officials called remnants of Iranian missiles and other weaponry illegally supplied to Yemeni rebels. The missile fragments, along with other military equipment, were unveiled last month by Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She presented them as proof that Iran had violated United Nations sanctions by supplying weapons to Houthi rebels.

Iran’s foreign minister fired back on social media (Twitter). Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, “In the fake news department, Trump and co. attempt to create an Iranphobic narrative at the UN Security Council—through wining and dining and fake ‘evidence’ provided by a warring neighbor—that would pass muster with only the same desperate neighbor and its accomplices in war crimes.” He also wrote, “A while ago U.S. showed a Saudi-supplied Iranian missile intact. They must’ve been told a missile destroyed by a Patriot does not land fully assembled. So now U.S. shows UNSC missile fragments with Iranian Standard Institute logo, as on our foodstuffs. Try fabricating ‘evidence’ again.”

Moscow does not believe there is a case for the United Nations to take action against Iran (CBS News). In remarks published by the UN Mission of the Russian Federation, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said there is “nothing definite” on a push for a new Iran sanctions resolution. Adding that, “Everyone knows Yemen hosts a pile of weapons from the old days” while pointing to the fact that Tehran vehemently denies supplying anything to Yemen.

After ending a week-long European trip, the U.S. Secretary of State said he has secured support from European parties of the P5+1 to rework the Iran nuclear deal (Reuters).

Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs expressed hope that Europe will remain committed to the nuclear deal (Al-Monitor).

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator on the missile dialogue between Iran and the west (LobeLog).

 Human Rights
By @Behtoons (Twitter)
Iran released woman protester that waved her white headscarf (RFERL). Vida Movahed—a 31-year-old mother with a 19-month baby—took off her headscarf and waved it on a stick while on Tehran’s busy Enghelab (Revolution) Street on December 27. Movahed was arrested and released shortly afterwards, only to be arrested again, according to a Facebook post written by prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. On January 28, Sotoudeh wrote in a separate Facebook post, “The girl of Enghelab Street has been released.”

A second young woman arrested for protesting the headscarf had bail set for $140,000, according to human rights lawyer (Radio Farda). The woman was arrested on January 29 after removing her hijab on a busy street in downtown Tehran. Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh said that the second protester’s name is Nargess Hosseini and that the bail was “intended to keep her behind bars.” A note under Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code stipulates that “women who appear in public without the Islamic hijab can be sentenced to up to two months in prison and be issued a fine up to 500,000 rials (roughly $13).”

More Iranian women have been inspired by the “Girl of Enghelab Street” (Radio Farda). During the past week, several dozen photos and videos emerged online of women taking off their headscarves and waving them on sticks. Even Iranian men have shown solidarity, including one man holding a red sign that reads, “You’re not alone.” Similarly, at least two photos showed women in traditional black chador robes, standing on pillar box with signs supporting freedom of choice for women.

Iran’s chief prosecutor called the recent protests by women “trivial” and “childish” moves possibly incited by foreigners (AFP). Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said, “I think those who committed these acts did it out of ignorance and being incited. They could have been influenced from outside the country.” The prosecutor was referring to journalist Masih Alinejad's social media campaign, "My Stealthy Freedom". Alinejad works as a presenter and producer for Voice of America's Persian Service.

Police in Tehran have arrested 29 women accused of being “deceived” into joining the anti-hijab protests (The Guardian). Tehran police said that the campaign had been instigated from outside Iran through illegal satellite channels.

Meanwhile, a wealthy Iranian-American art gallery owner and his wife were sentenced to long prison terms on espionage and other charges (Wall Street Journal). Karan Vafadari, a member of the Zoroastrian faith, was sentenced to 27 year in prison, 124 lashes, and a cash fine of $243,000, as well as the confiscation of all his assets, according to a letter he wrote. His Iranian wife Afarin Neyssari received a 16-year prison sentence. The two were reportedly arrested by the IRGC in July 2016. Little information has come out about their case since then, though some reports suggested they were detained for having parties where men and women mingled and alcohol was served. According to Iranian law, Zoroastrians are allowed to have alcohol and aren’t subject to Iran’s Islamic laws.

Also, Iranian authorities granted a week-long prison leave to an ailing U.S. citizen convicted of espionage (IranWire). The temporary leave from Evin Prison allowed 81-year-old Baquer Namazi to be released from a Tehran hospital where he was being treated for an irregular heartbeat and visit the house where his wife is staying. The temporary reprieve comes almost two years to the day after he was arrested when he came to Iran to try to secure the release of his son, Siamak, a businessman who had been arrested a few months earlier. Both men were eventually convicted of espionage and collaborating with a foreign government.

Fictionville Studio’s Hamid Rahmanian talks to The Iranist about his Shahnameh audiobook, ancient Persian history, and why Game of Thrones resonates with the Persian epic.

+ Political prisoner Ramin Hossein Panahi sentenced to death
+ Labor rights activist’s health ‘deteriorating’ in prison.
+ Iranian-Kurdish activist sentenced to death says he was wrongfully convicted.
+ Iranian pastor’s wife sentenced to 5 years in prison for 'acting against national security'.
+ Activists Atena Daemi and Golrokh Iraee beaten and transferred to different prison.
+ Eleven MPs visited notorious Evin Prison to check on the treatment of prisoners.
+ Iranian lawyer persecuted for investigating a prisoner's suspicious death.  
+ Unable to locate activists, Intelligence Ministry illegally detains their family members.
+ 300 Iranian women’s rights advocates voice support for protests and demand equality.
+ 40 MPs call for immediate release of detained university students.
+ Detainees arrested during protests facing charges that carry death penalty.
+ More than 150 detained protesters have 'requested' opioid addiction treatment pills.

+ President Rouhani under fire over criticism of Shiite Imams
+ Iranians denounce acquittal of Quran reciter accused of sexual abuse

+ Claims about Iran’s 'billions' in military spending abroad not backed by evidence.
+ Sunni cleric faces travel restrictions: 'It all comes down to intolerance'
+ After unrest, Iran seeks control through 'halal' internet.

+ Iranian state television: 'Even if he beats you, kiss his feet.'
+ Tehran is losing its Jihad on tobacco
+ Life expectancy in Iran sharply increased in past four decades
+ Revolutionary Guards clash with ISIS in western Iran.
+ How Sanchi's spill could spread
+ Fire injures 31 workers at paper mill in southern Iran.
+ Iranian women build 5km road to remote village.
+ Water and conflict in Iran.

+ 'I’m more optimistic about Iran’s future than about Israel’s'
+ Iran blasts Jordan's king over ‘unfair’ statement.
+ Urgently needed: A new security framework for the Persian Gulf.

+ Will Brexit jump-start Iran-UK trade
+ France to finance exports to Iran, aims to sidestep U.S. sanctions.
+ Iran ready to seek arbitration in Turkmenistan gas row
+ Tehran is booming digitally.

+ Iran native is translating Federalist Papers into Farsi on video.

+ Four alpine and cross-country skiers qualify for the Winter Olympic Games.
+ Slacklining turning into popular sport in Iran.

+ Being an Iranian stand-up comedian is no joke.

...تا هفته بعد
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