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Tuesday 6 December 2022

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Iranian state television has aired for the second time the "confessions" of four Kurdish political prisoners -- admissions their families and supporters say were coerced -- raising fears that they may have been executed.

Pejman Fatehi, Vafa Azarbar, Mohsen Mazloum, and Hajir Faramarzi have been detained for four months and are thought to be part of a group of people who were identified by security police in November as allegedly being "Mossad-related agents."

On December 5, Javana Teymasi, the wife of Mohsen Mazloum, wrote in a tweet that she has no information about her husband's condition and that the rebroadcast of what she called his forced confession has added to her worries.

"We don't even know if their trial was held and if a verdict was issued or not. What is clear is that the link in their case is with the accusations of 'espionage,'" she wrote.

"Rebroadcasting forced confessions and raising these accusations has worried the families."

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has previously identified the group as operatives from the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, but the party itself has denied the claim. It has said previously that several of its members have been arrested.

In early November, the judiciary of the Islamic republic announced the indictment of 10 people who were identified as "Mossad-related agents" and announced that four of them were accused of "corruption on earth" -- a charge that is punishable by death and often leveled in cases allegedly involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran's government.

Earlier this week, Iran executed four people it accused of working for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.

The four were identified as Hossein Ordukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmudabadi, Milad Ashrafi, and Manuchehr Shahbandi. They were accused of receiving weapons and funds in the form of cryptocurrency from Mossad.

Israel, as is its policy, has not commented on the accusations.

Iran is currently in the throes of unrest as people take to the streets across the country to protest against the death on September 16 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was detained by the notorious morality police for wearing a head scarf improperly.

Amini, who was taken into custody in Tehran, was from the Kurdish region of western Iran and many of the largest protests have taken there.

Police have met the unrest with deadly force.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters have been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran this year exceeds 500.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.
Iranian parliamentarian Hossein Jalali

A member of the Iranian parliament has unveiled the government's plan for alternative punishments -- including financial ones -- to try and force women to wear a hijab in public despite massive protests across the country over the issue.

Hossein Jalali, a member of the Cultural Commission of the Iranian parliament, said that under the new plan, the actions of morality police would be curbed, allowing for less intrusive methods to be used for ensuring compliance.

"It is possible to notify nonhijab wearers in the form of a text message that they did not observe the hijab rule and that they must respect the law," Jalali said in an interview with Iranian media.

He added that after two warnings, the government would move to block the bank account of the offender as a way of punishing them. He did not explain how the government intends to recognize the identities of those who are supposedly in violation of the hijab law.

The issue has sparked massive protests across the country after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in police custody. She was detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab, or head scarf, improperly.

The government has responded to almost three months of unrest with deadly force as it tries to suppress one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979.

Since the outbreak of the unrest, morality police have been less visible in cities. Still, their status is unclear since the country's chief prosecutor said over the weekend that the notorious force had been closed, only to then walk it back by saying it was a decision for the Interior Ministry, which has jurisdiction over the force.

On December 5, a spokesman for the morality police said that the mission of the police unit has ended and that new methods should be used to enforce the country's mandatory hijab law, but the ministry itself has not commented on the issue.

The hijab -- the head covering worn by Muslim women -- became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls over the age of nine after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and Jalali said that there will be no backing away from the hijab and chastity plan laid out by the state.

"Moving away from the hijab means a retreat of the Islamic republic," Jalali added.

The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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