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Week of February 16th

Why did you choose to protest on a Monday?

Because I did not want to do it on a Wednesday. I wanted to completely separate from Miss [Masih] Alinejad’s [White Wednesdays] movement. For this reason I chose Monday because Monday still is to me ‘Green Monday.’ The Green Movement was a movement free of violence, and this movement by [the first anti-hijab protester] Vida Movahed was for me also free of violence. I also tied a green band to my hand to show that I have no affiliation with anyone, and if I affiliate with something, it’s the Green Movement. I wanted to link these two moves in any way. The peaceful protest of the Green Movement and this protest I continued of the very beautiful action by Vida Movahed, and I did not want it to fade away. No matter how many times the judge told me in court that ‘Vida Movahed was a madwoman,’ I said that I have nothing to do with the situation of this woman, and I think she did the most beautiful action and I want to continue it. I did not want this action to fade away.”

- Second anti-hijab protester Narges Hosseini, in a phone interview from prison



LOVE IN THE TIME OF REVOLUTION
FILED UNDER:
 Domestic Affairs
Police in Esfahan confiscating Valentine's Day-related gifts. (Twitter)

Some Iranians celebrated Valentine’s Day even though authorities have banned the festivities as they are seen as being part of “decadent Western Culture” (AP). Coffee shops and restaurants were crowded with couples exchanging romance-themed presents.

On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Iranians rallied on the streets to mark the 39th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution (AP). Demonstrators burned American and Israeli flags, as well as effigies of U.S. President Donald Trump. Some demonstrators burned a white sheet reading “BARJAM,” the Persian acronym for the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers. Such activities commonly commemorate the overthrow of U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, which began a period of hostilities between Iran and the West, including the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the subsequent hostage crisis.

President Hassan Rouhani said too many Iranians have been alienated by the ruling establishment and proposed holding a referendum to heal divisions (The Guardian). In a speech to mark the 39th anniversary of the revolution, the president called for unity and told thousands of flag-waving Iranians at a rally: “When the revolution took place, we were all together and there were plenty of passengers on the train of the revolution; some of them wanted to get off the train themselves, and we got some of them off the train, whom we didn’t have to.” He also said, “Today, we need everyone, including principlists, reformists, moderates and everyone who recognizes the constitution, for the country’s development and progress. The constitution should be our point of reference … If we disagree on some issues, we should refer to the Aarticle 59 [the constitutional article on holding referendums].”

Fifteen prominent Iranians from cultural and political spheres inside Iran and in exile have signed a statement calling for a referendum on Iran’s mode of governance (Radio Farda). The group of civil rights activists, lawyers, film directors, a Nobel laureate, and current and former political prisoners demanded a nationwide referendum held under the supervision of the United Nations in order to bring about peaceful change. In a statement, the group said: “The only way out of the current situation is a peaceful transition from an Islamic Republic toward a secular state based on parliamentary democracy and free people’s votes, which fully respects human rights, eliminates all institutionalized discrimination, particularly against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and all other minorities.” The statement was published just a few days after President Rouhani proposed holding such a referendum.

The referendum proposed by President Rohani was attacked by his hardline opponents but provided an opening for establishment critics to go a step further (RFERL).

The IRGC Qods Force commander defended the supreme leader (Radio Farda). At a ceremony commemorating the revolution anniversary, Major General Qassem Soleimani lambasted those who “enjoy the establishment’s feast,” but “pose as opposition” to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Soleimani added, “It is saddening that some people have labelled themselves as followers of [Islamic Revolution leader Khomeini’s] line, but instead of writing open letters criticizing the enemy and its global arrogance, they write letters criticizing the guardian of Islamic jurisprudence [Khamenei] who is standing on the frontline.” This comment appeared to take a stab at Mehdi Karroubi, one of the Green Movement leaders under house arrest. This week marks the seventh anniversary of the leaders’ house arrest.

Here’s the U.S. State Department statement on the Green Movement leaders' incarceration (State Department).

An Iranian photographer’s unflinching look at his country’s revolution (New York Times).

A somber revolutionary anniversary in Iran (Al Jazeera).

Iranians are furious with their government and Trump, but whether the regime can survive is up for debate (The American Conservative).



IRAN AT THE OLYMPICS
FILED UNDER:
 Sports

Iranian athletes finally received their Olympic edition Samsung Galaxy 8 phones. (Twitter)

Iranian skier Forough Abbasi competed for pride and peace at the Olympics (AP). 24-year-old Abbasi is competing in her second Olympics for Iran, finishing 49th out of 54 finishers in the women's slalom. Abassi said she has made friends with athletes from all over the world, including the United States, through traveling and international competitions. Abbasi said, “I love the American people so much because, really, we don't have any problems with the people. Maybe the governments have some problems together, but the people don't really have problems. We love everyone around the world and we are friends with everyone. Iranian people want to be friends and have peace with other countries.”

Who was the Iranian flag bearer? Samaneh Beyrami Baher was overcome with emotion (Romper).


IRANIAN DRONE SHOT DOWN, BASES HIT
FILED UNDER:
 Foreign Policy

The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone after it penetrated the country’s airspace (CNN). The drone is said to be a copy of Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170, also known as a Sentinel. The CIA lost one of these drones in 2011 over Iran, and in 2014 Tehran said that they had reverse-engineered its components. In retaliation, Israel launched airstrikes on the alleged Iranian base from which the drone originated, near Palmyra, Syria. During the operation, an Israeli F-16 was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Israel retaliated, bombing a dozen military sites in Syria including Iranian ones. After the Iranian drone was shot down, the country’s officials called the incident “ridiculous.” Russian President Vladimir Putin urged both sides to show restraint (Haaretz). The United States came out firmly in support of Israel.

Israel’s prime minister said his country will defend itself “against any attack (BBC). Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel’s policy is to defend itself against “any attempt to harm our sovereignty” was “absolutely clear” and that his country held Tehran and Damascus responsible for the recent escalation.

The Israeli intelligence minister said the airstrikes sent clear message to Iran (AP). Israel Katz said that by striking key Iranian sites in Syria, Israel sent a clear message to Tehran that it would not tolerate an Iranian military foothold on its doorstep and would act decisively to counter any further provocations.

The head of Iran’s Qod’s Force lashed out at Israel during a commemoration for a Hezbollah figure killed in a 2008 Damascus car bombing that the group blamed on Israel (AP). Major General Qassem Soleimani pledged retaliation for Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s ex-military chief who was considered one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists by Israel and the United States. Soleimani said the appropriate revenge for Mughniyeh’s slaying is “not launching one missile or killing one person, but the dismantling and uprooting of the baby-killing Zionist regime.” Iran does not recognize Israel.

Will the Israeli-Iranian showdown be in Syria—or New York? (Defense One)

The downing of an Israeli jet won’t fundamentally alter the Middle East’s strategic balance (Foreign Policy).

President Donald Trump is all talk on Iran (Washington Institute).

Why America shouldn’t try to influence Iran’s future (National Interest).

Meanwhile, President Rouhani arrived in India for a three-day visit (The Statesman). The Iranian president is holding talks with his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss bilateral relations especially in trade, banking, and energy. This is President Rouhani’s first visit to India. The Iranian president will be seeking billions of dollars of Indian investment during his New Delhi visit (AP). India and Iran have collaborated on many key projects with the most notable being Chabahar port in southeastern Iran that was inaugurated in 2017. Soon after sanctions related to the Iran Deal were lifted, India said its firms could spend as much as $20 billion on not just the port but also petrochemical plants, railway lines and other industries in the areas. But progress has only been made on the port. Iranian officials say the slowdown is largely because India has become hesitant following Trump’s attempts to undermine the nuclear deal and that Rouhani will be urging India to make good on its commitments.


RIAL CRASHING DOWN
FILED UNDER:
 Economy

Iranian authorities detained some 100 currency traders and froze bank accounts reportedly worth 200 trillion rials ($5.3 billion) in the biggest crackdown on foreign exchanges in six years (Financial Times). The operation is aimed at tackling a slide in the value of the rial, which is down more than 10 per cent this year, caused by a dollar shortage that has spooked businesses reliant on hard currencies. The Iranian government has repeatedly called on people to refrain from rushing to panic to buy hard currencies or follow speculators. Many foreign exchange shops are refusing to sell more than $1,000 to individuals. Officials ruled out suspicions that the central bank was seeking to manipulate the difference between the official and market currency rates to meet rising rial expenditures before the Iranian new year next month. President Rouhani is under pressure from political opponents and ordinary Iranians to revive the economy. The rial reportedly fell to a record low of 50,000 to the dollar during unregulated trading, according to state media (Bloomberg). It strengthened to 47,170 on Thursday but is still about 23 percent weaker than a year ago.

How do Iran’s 'corrupt networks' operate? (Al-Monitor)


DUAL NATIONAL DIES IN PRISON
FILED UNDER:
 Rights
King Raam's Instagram post from his father's burial: "Dad" (Instagram)

A prominent Canadian-Iranian professor and environmentalist died in prison in Tehran (New York Times). 63-year-old Kavous Seyed-Emami was one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iran’s foremost NGO focusing on the environment. Seyed-Emami and seven other of his colleagues were arrested on January 24, including Morad Tahbaz, a visiting Iranian-American businessman. Seventeen days after Seyed-Emami’s incarceration, his son, rock star King Raam, wrote in an Instagram post that his father had committed suicide while in Evin Prison. Prison authorities claim that at least three prisoners who were arrested during the nationwide protests last month also died by suicide. Many prominent Iranians have assailed that conclusion. Seven other environmental activists and journalists—Amir-Hossein Khaleghi, Houman Jowkar, Morad Tahbaz, Niloufar Bayani, Sepideh Kashani, Taher Ghadirian and Sam Rajabi—are still detained and without access to legal counsel. Iranian officials say Seyed-Emami used endangered Asiatic cheetah surveys as pretext for spying on behalf of the CIA and Mossad, but no evidence has been cited (The Guardian).

Similarly, a senior military advisor to the supreme leader said environmentalists may be using lizards to spy (Radio Farda). Major General Hasan Firouzabadi said that “in the context of hybrid warfare, every environmentalist and scientist active in agricultural studies or foreign tourist in Iran might be a spy.” Adding that, “We found out that the lizard-like animal skins attract nuclear waves. They were nuclear spies who wanted to find out where we had uranium mines and where we were involved in atomic activities. Many of the foreigners and Iranians who are involved in espionage inside the Islamic Republic are not even aware of the fact that they are actually spying.” Accusations of spies using animals are not unprecedented in Iran (CNBC).


Seyed-Emami’s son said on Instagram that a video of his father’s last hours does not show him committing suicide, and that the family will be using “every legal channel” to launch an independent investigation (CHRI). He also wrote that his mother was “interrogated and threatened” for three hours and told not to speak to the media before she was informed that her husband had died. Seyed-Emami’s family said they were under pressure from authorities to immediately bury him in a private funeral—without receiving any independent and medically corroborated information on the cause of his death—and remain silent regarding the death.

The mother of one of the environmental activists who was arrested said her son was not a spy (CHRI). The Mother of Sam Rajabi said, “He had the opportunity to live abroad but he preferred to stay and serve his own country. My son is instinctively honorable. He’s not a spy.”

UN officials urged the Iranian government to respect the work of environmental activists (The Guardian).

After countless prominent Iranians—including academics, celebrities, and MPs—demanded answers, President Rouhani appointed a committee to probe the prison suicides (Radio Farda).

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined the ranks of those criticizing officials for unexplained prison deaths (Al-Monitor).

The deputy head of the Department of the Environment was arrested on Saturday, interrogated, and released (New York Times). The arrest of 36-year-old Kaveh Madani, an American-educated academic on leave from London’s Imperial College, was particularly embarrassing for President Rouhani, who had recruited him as a sign the country is ready to welcome back expatriate Iranians. Madani posted a live video of himself on Instagram saying that all was well and that his Telegram, email, and Twitter accounts had been shut down, likely to prevent intelligent agents from gaining access to them. These accounts are all online again. According to an anonymous source, Madani remains under surveillance by the IRGC (IranWire).

Iranian academic’s death puts spotlight on political infighting (Bloomberg).

Also, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran passed away (The Guardian). Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir led the way in the struggle for human rights—especially those of women, children and religious minorities.


OTHER NEWS THAT MADE HEADLINES
RIGHTS
+ Security agents killed at least 20 in Sistan and Baluchistan province in 2017.
+ 25 legal experts urge official to address “public archive” of abuses against Baha’is.
+ Two political prisoners refusing food and water over sudden transfer to new prison.
+ Mother of ailing hunger striker assaulted in front of Evin Prison
+ Follower of Sufi order expelled from university after refusing to sign pledge.
+ Christian convert arrested in Tabriz still in jail.
+ Treatment of British-Iranian mother in prison ‘amounts to torture’ says family.
+ Swedish resident facing details how he was forced to make false statements.
+ How a rock star of Iranian digital activism built a culture of misogyny and fear.
 
DOMESTIC ISSUES
+ Some university students still detained a month after protests despite officials’ claims.
Pollsters arrested while conducting survey showing majority of Iranians dissatisfaction.
+ Thousands of undocumented Iranians denied affordable kerosene in winter months.
+ Iranian women must remain united to advance rights.
+
Iranian women steadfast in campaign to attend soccer matches.
+
Iran Air: A woman in command. 
+ Female MPs demand action on stalled bill aiming to preventing child abuse

FOREIGN AFFAIRS
+
Dangerous escalation: Why Trump’s pressure tactics won't work on Iran.  
+ U.S. and Iran both pledge support to rebuild Iraq after defeating ISIS.
+ Iran-backed militias 'used U.S.-made tanks' fighting ISIS in Syria.
+
Russia, Iran, Turkey foreign ministers to discuss Syria in Astana next month.
+ Britain troubled by the threat from Iran, says UK foreign affairs chairman.  
+
Behrouz Boochani: Living in limbo on Manus Island.  
+ Iran and Azerbaijan warm up ties after years of frost.

IRAN DEAL + SANCTIONS
+
Total chief told President Trump to stick with Iran Deal.
+
Top Democrat’s return sows uncertainty for Iran Deal.
+ Europe risks destroying the nuclear agreement with Iran.
+ France says Iran's missile program must be put 'under surveillance'.
+ Russian delegation discusses retuning Fordow nuclear facility in Iran. 
+ Sanctions a bane of Iran art auctions.

ECONOMY + TRADE
+
Iran’s January LPG export highest since sanctions removal.
+
Europe reaffirms support for Iran investment
  
ART + CULTURE
+
Iranian graffitists feel walled in.
+
Review: ‘Tehran Taboo’ exposes double standards about sex in Iran.

SPORTS
+ Ali Karimi attacks Iran Football Federation over lack of transparency.

OTHER
+ ‘You don't sound American,’ TV host tells Iranian-American blogger from Oklahoma.

EVENTS
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