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The Farda Briefing

Friday 7 October 2022

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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center) attends an armed forces graduation ceremony on October 3 amid ongoing anti-government protests in the country.

Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter.

I'm RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I’ve been following during the past week and what I’m watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

Iran has faced more than two weeks of anti-government protests triggered by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Protesters, the majority of them young women and men, have called for the clerical establishment to be overthrown.

The authorities have reacted with force, killing at least 52 people and detaining more than 1,200, according to Amnesty International.

Despite the crackdown, scattered protests have been reported in major cities, including at universities. At Tehran's prestigious Sharif University, security forces were reported to have used tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Dozens of students were reported to have been detained.

Why It Matters: The protests are the most significant challenge to the authorities in years. But, at least for now, they do not threaten the survival of the regime.

There are no major divisions within the establishment or the security forces. There have been no major strikes like the ones that preceded the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Even so, prominent rights advocate Nasrin Sotoudeh told TIME magazine that there is “a very real possibility of regime change.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed the protests on the United States and Israel. Parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf accused those outside the country of inciting the protests with the aim of overthrowing the system.

What’s Next: Scattered protests are likely to continue despite the ongoing state crackdown. It's also likely that there will be more acts of civil disobedience, particularly in defiance of the hijab law.

In recent days, an increasing number of women have walked through the streets of Tehran and other major cities without their mandatory head scarves.

During an October 1 protest at Ferdowsi University in the holy city of Mashhad, young women removed and then waved their veils defiantly in the air while chanting, “Freedom, freedom,” according to an amateur video posted online.

Stories You Might Have Missed

• Iran has arrested a singer whose song about the ongoing protests in the country has gone viral, RFE/RL's Radio Farda has learned.

Shervin Hajipur composed his song using tweets by Iranians expressing their grievances against the clerical establishment in the aftermath of Amini’s death. Hajipur’s song, For, has been sung at protests and from rooftops during the night.

Hajipur was reportedly released on bail on October 4. It is unclear what charges were brought against him. Before it was removed from Instagram on September 29, his song had garnered more than 40 million views

• Former lawmaker and women’s rights advocate Faezeh Hashemi has been arrested and accused by state media of encouraging the anti-government protests.

Just days before her arrest, Hashemi, the outspoken daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, expressed support for the protesters while accusing the authorities of having a Taliban-like view of women.

Hashemi said that the authorities refer to the protests that have rocked the Islamic republic as “riots” and “sedition” in order to suppress them.

“What [authorities] want to convey is that these are not protests, they’re riots, but in fact they are protests,” Hashemi said in an audio recording obtained by Radio Farda.

What We're Watching

Iran has allowed detained 85-year-old Iranian-American Baqer Namazi to leave the country to receive medical treatment abroad while his son, businessman Siamak Namazi, was released on furlough after being jailed since 2015.

Baqer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, was detained in 2016 after traveling to Iran to seek his son's release. Both were convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Washington has dismissed the charges against the men as baseless.

Why It Matters: The release of the Namazis is a rare concession by the Islamic republic, which has long been accused of using detained foreign and dual nationals as pawns to gain leverage in its dealings with Western countries.

It is unclear if Siamak Namazi’s one-week furlough will lead to his full release. It is also unclear if the release of the Namazis could lead to the release of other U.S. citizens detained in Iran.

Iranian state media claimed that, in return for releasing the Namazis, Washington would release billions of dollars of Iran's frozen assets held by the United States. Washington said reports linking the unfreezing of Iranian funds to the release of the Namazis were “categorically false.”

That’s all from me for now. Don’t forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Wednesday.

Iranian demonstrators take to the streets of the capital, Tehran, during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody.

Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter.

I'm RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I’ve been following during the past week and what I’m watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

Woman, life, freedom.” “Death to the dictator.” These are some of the chants of Iranian protesters, men and women, who have taken to the streets of dozens of cities across Iran in the past 12 days despite a crackdown by security forces, stern warnings by officials, and severe Internet cuts.

The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by Tehran’s morality police, which has galvanized Iranians in an unprecedented way while also highlighting four decades of state violence and discrimination against women who have been pushing back against state repression for years.

The government has recently arrested more than 1,200 protesters as well as 20 journalists, four lawyers, and about 25 activists and students. According to official figures, more than 40 people have been killed, including several members of security forces, while rights groups believe the real number of those killed is much higher.

Why It Matters: The protests have been going on despite a violent crackdown during which security forces used water cannons and tear gas while also firing birdshot and live rounds at protesters, according to rights groups. Amateur videos posted online also show the riot police brutally beating protesters, including women who have played a prominent role in the demonstrations. Many of the protesters appear to feel that they have nothing to lose.

An increasing number of Iranians have had enough of life under a repressive regime, a deteriorating economy crushed by U.S. sanctions, and a lack of freedom.

What’s Next: Even if the clerical establishment manages to end the protests through the use of force and intimidation, which is likely, the fury and the many grievances of Iranians, including women who have been burning their compulsory hijabs, will not go away. The bloody crackdown is likely to make Iranians even more furious with the clerical establishment.

In 2009, hundreds of thousand of Iranians held a silent protest against a disputed presidential vote. The government cracked down on the protests, killing over 70 people while arresting at least 5,000. In recent years, protests in the Islamic republic have grown more violent while protesters have moved from the 2009 chants of “Where is my vote?” and demands for reforms to calls for an end to the Islamic republic and for the clerics ruling Iran “to get lost.”

Stories You Might Have Missed

• Iranian soccer star Ali Karimi has angered authorities in the country over his support for the protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Tehran's morality police. Calls have been made for the arrest of the highly popular Karimi, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, while others have said his properties should be confiscated.

Karimi is among a number of well-known public figures who have in recent days shown solidarity with the protesters while condemning state violence.

• Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that Tehran has received a new signal from the United States that the "will and goodwill" exist in Washington to reach an agreement to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. The official IRNA news agency quoted Amir-Abdollahian on September 25 as saying he responded by urging the U.S. side to demonstrate "realism" so the sides could finalize a deal.

U.S. officials have not confirmed any exchange of messages. Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said he met with the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization in Vienna for talks about an ongoing investigation into traces of uranium particles found at three undeclared sites in Iran.

What We're Watching

Ties between Iran and Ukraine have deteriorated over Iran’s sale of drones to Russia for use in its unprovoked war on its neighbor. Ukraine announced over the weekend that it was reducing diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic and withdrawing the accreditation of the Iranian ambassador over Tehran's decision to supply Russian forces with drones, a move Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called "a collaboration with evil.”

Iran reacted by announcing that it will give “an appropriate” response to Ukraine’s decision while also saying that the decision was "based on unconfirmed reports and resulted from media hype by foreign parties.”

Why It Matters: Tehran has in the past dismissed accusations by the United States and Ukraine that it has supplied Russia with drones. But the Ukrainian Air Force has in recent days said that it has shot down and identified Shahed-136 kamikaze drones and Mohajer-6 drones that carry munitions and can also be used for reconnaissance. The ties between the two countries could deteriorate further should Tehran continue to provide Russia with drones.

That’s all from me for now. Don’t forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Wednesday.

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