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Family Of Slain Iranian Teenage Protester Endure Threats, Intimidation As They Seek Justice

Eyewitnesses told Radio Farda that security forces attacked 17-year-old Pedram Azarnush on September 22 when he tried to help a young female protester who was being beaten by police officers in Dehdasht, a city in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province.
Eyewitnesses told Radio Farda that security forces attacked 17-year-old Pedram Azarnush on September 22 when he tried to help a young female protester who was being beaten by police officers in Dehdasht, a city in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province.

In late September, Pedram Azarnush was taking part in an anti-regime protest in southwestern Iran when he was shot dead.

Nearly five months on, the 17-year-old's family is still seeking justice. In their attempts to bring the perpetrators to account, the family has endured constant threats and intimidation from the authorities, informed sources told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Azarnush is among the at least 480 protesters who rights groups said have been killed in the state's brutal crackdown on the monthslong antiestablishment protests, the biggest threat to Iran's clerical regime in decades.

Eyewitnesses told Radio Farda that security forces attacked Azarnush, a local karate champion, on September 22 when he tried to help a young female protester who was being beaten by police officers in Dehdasht, a city in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province.

The police officers then turned on Azarnush, beating him and shooting at him with rubber bullets, said eyewitnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. A sniper located on the rooftop of a nearby building then shot the teen in the chest using live ammunition, the eyewitnesses added, killing him.

Azarnush's father suffered a heart attack when he saw his son's body, which had been taken to a hospital, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

The sources said the family filed a criminal complaint and called on the authorities to identify and punish his killer. They also demanded the police return Azarnush's personal laptop and camera, which he had with him when he died.

After reviewing the evidence, including CCTV footage, a local judge concluded that Azarnush was killed without justification, informed sources said.

But more than 20 police officers have since claimed they were assaulted and injured by the teen, an allegation refuted by Azarnush's family.

"How could a 17-year-old injure 20 [armed police officers] with his bare hands?" one of the informed sources said. "He had taken to the streets to demand his rights and the rights of his countrymen. He wasn't armed."

"[The judge] said they could have shot him in the leg instead of his heart. Yet, [the authorities] play games. [The case] has remained open and they keep summoning his father," the source added.

Azarnush's father, a veteran of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, has been warned by the authorities to remain silent about his son's killing, sources said.

Sources added that two of Azarnush's cousins -- Shayan and Reza Azarnush -- were detained in January in an apparent attempt to pressure the family.

The antiestablishment protests erupted after the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating the country's hijab law.

The protests began as a rebuke against police brutality. But they have snowballed into one of the most sustained anti-regime demonstrations against Iran's theocracy, with protesters calling for an end to clerical rule and demanding their social and political freedoms.

The protests have waned in recent weeks, although sporadic rallies continue to be reported in different parts of the country.

Sources said Azarnush was angered by Amini's death in a Tehran hospital three days after she was arrested and allegedly beaten in custody.

Azarnush told his sister that he had joined the protests because he could not remain silent about state violence against women.

"Imagine they had done this to you. How could I remain silent?" informed sources quoted the teen as saying.

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Raid On Ship Near Strait Of Hormuz Blamed On Iran

The video shows the attack earlier reported by the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations. (illustrative photo)
The video shows the attack earlier reported by the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations. (illustrative photo)

A video seen by the Associated Press shows commandos raiding a ship near the Strait of Hormuz by helicopter on April 13, an attack a Middle East defense official anonymously attributed to Iran amid wider tensions between Tehran and the West. The video shows the attack earlier reported by the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations. It described the vessel as being "seized by regional authorities" in the Gulf of Oman off the Emirati port city of Fujairah, without elaborating. The helicopter involved appeared to be one used by Iran's paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to AP.

Biden Says He Expects Iran To Attack Israel Soon, Warns: 'Don't'

U.S. President Joe Biden (file photo)
U.S. President Joe Biden (file photo)

U.S. President Joe Biden on April 12 said he expected Iran to attack Israel "sooner, rather than later" and warned Tehran not to proceed. Asked by reporters about his message to Iran, Biden said simply, "Don't," and he underscored Washington's commitment to defend Israel. "We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed," he said. Israel braced on April 12 for an attack by Iran or its proxies as warnings grew of retaliation for an attack on Iran's embassy compound last week in Damascus.

Key Iranian Commanders Are Being Assassinated Abroad. How Will That Affect Tehran's Proxy Network?

Iranians attend the funeral of seven Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike on the country's consular annex in Damascus, which Tehran blamed on Israel, on April 5, during their funeral procession in Tehran.
Iranians attend the funeral of seven Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike on the country's consular annex in Damascus, which Tehran blamed on Israel, on April 5, during their funeral procession in Tehran.

Israel appears to have ramped up an assassination campaign against key Iranian generals and commanders based abroad in recent months.

Suspected Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 members of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of Iran’s armed forces, in Syria since December.

In the latest attack, seven IRGC members, including two generals, were killed in an air strike on the Iranian Embassy’s compound in Damascus on April 1.

The targeted killings, experts say, are aimed at blunting Iran’s so-called “axis of resistance,” its network of regional proxies and militant groups against Israel and the West.

Observers say the strategy is likely to disrupt the network’s activities in the short-term, although they warned that the tactic is risky and could backfire in the long-term.

“Iran's regional network is glued together through personal, not institutional, connections,” said Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran Project at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

“Eliminating commanders with decades of experience in the region and a wide network of personal contacts certainly weakens Iran's regional deterrence,” he added.

'Risky Strategy'

Israel’s suspected targeting of IRGC members has intensified since the outbreak of the war in the Gaza Strip in October.

In response to Israel’s deadly offensive, Iranian-backed militant groups have attacked Israeli and U.S. targets across the Middle East in a show of support for Palestinians.

The conflict was triggered by an unprecedented multi-pronged attack on Israel by Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

At least three key figures of the IRGC’s overseas arm, the Quds Force, have been killed in suspected Israeli attacks in recent months.

Razi Mousavi, a top Quds Force commander, was killed in an air strike near Damascus on December 25. He was responsible for coordinating Iran’s military activities in Syria and Lebanon.

Among those killed in the April 1 strike was General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Quds Force’s top commander in Syria and Lebanon. Zahedi’s deputy, General Mohammad Hadi Haj Rahimi, was also slain in the attack.

“There’s always doubt as to whether these targeted assassinations work,” said Michael Horowitz, the head of intelligence at the Bahrain-based Le Beck International consultancy.

“These decapitation strikes, when done ‘at scale,’ can have an impact in the short- to medium-term on Iran’s ability to coordinate with its proxies, smuggle weapons into Syria and Iraq, and threaten Israel.”

Demonstrators hang an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5.
Demonstrators hang an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5.

The attack on the Iranian Embassy’s compound in Damascus came just hours after a drone strike hit a naval base in the southern Israeli port of Eilat in the Red Sea. The strike damaged a building and nearly hit an Israeli warship.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group that includes Iran-backed militias.

“My take is that Israel wanted to show it has escalation dominance over Iran, and that Iran cannot escalate without paying a price,” said Horowitz.

“Generally, when an actor wants to up the ante, they raise the stake not by one notch but by two,” he added. “Of course, this is a risky strategy. The question is whether this will work, and Iran backs down in the longer term, or [if it] actually backfires.”

'Not Safe Anywhere'

The recent spate of assassinations are not the first time that key Iranian military commanders have been targeted and killed abroad.

In 2020, Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. air strike in Iraq. He was seen as the architect of the "axis of resistance" and held great influence over its members, which includes Hamas, Lebanon’s Hizballah, Iraqi Shi’ite militias, Yemen’s Huthi rebels, and the Syria government.

Soleimani’s death led to the axis becoming more decentralized and some groups, particularly Shi’ite militias in Iraq, gaining some autonomy. But it did not significantly disrupt the Quds Force or break up the axis.

Hours after Soleimani’s death, his deputy, Esmail Qaani, was promoted.

Vaez said the death of Zahedi and his deputy, however, will likely be more disruptive.

“Unlike in the case of Soleimani's killing, there is no right-hand man to immediately step in and fill the void,” Vaez said. “If Iran fails to restore deterrence against Israel, no Iranian military official will be safe anywhere in Syria or even Lebanon anymore.”

Iranian Retaliation

Iran has described the strike on its embassy compound as an attack on Iranian territory. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on April 10 that Israel "must be punished and will be punished."

Iran’s threat to retaliate against Israel has put the region, already tense from the Gaza war, on edge.

In the past, Iran has refrained from directly hitting Israel, instead opting to increase its support for the "axis of resistance" to take the fight to Israel. But the brazen attack in Damascus may compel Iran to take direct action, experts said.

Even so, Iran is likely to avoid a major escalation with Israel, a scenario that could trigger a full-blown war between the foes and likely drag in the United States, experts said.

Recent reports suggested Iran could strike the Golan Heights -- Syrian territory occupied by Israeli forces since 1967 -- because it believes it carries less risk of Israeli retaliation. But experts say there is no guarantee of that.

“Israel has responded to attacks from Syria, for instance, that landed in the Golan, so I wouldn't exclude an Israeli response regardless,” Horowitz said.

Argentinian Court Finds Iran, Proxies To Blame For 1994 Jewish Center Bombing

A police officer prevents people from approaching the site where a powerful explosion destroyed a seven-story building housing the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina, in Buenos Aires, on July 18, 1994.
A police officer prevents people from approaching the site where a powerful explosion destroyed a seven-story building housing the Jewish Mutual Association of Argentina, in Buenos Aires, on July 18, 1994.

A high court in Argentina has ruled that Iran, and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah, are responsible for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured some 300 others.

In a ruling made public on April 11, Argentina's Court of Cassation declared the attack a "crime against humanity," saying it was part of a series of attacks coordinated by Iran and carried out by its proxies.

The decision, close to the 30th anniversary of the attack, described the bombings as a retaliatory act by Iran following Argentina’s cancellation of nuclear cooperation agreements in the mid-1980s. The Argentinian judiciary found that Lebanon's Hizballah, acting under Iran's direction, executed the attack that devastated Latin America's largest Jewish community.

This ruling underscores accusations by Argentinian prosecutors who have long claimed Iranian officials orchestrated not only the community center attack but also the prior 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.

The court decision represents "a significant victory for the victims, their families, and everyone who has contributed to documenting this crime in pursuit of justice," said the D.C.-based Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran (ABC), which actively documents extrajudicial killings orchestrated by the Islamic republic both inside Iran and globally.

The court’s judgment, coinciding with comments from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei regarding an alleged Israeli attack on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, reaffirms the fraught relations between Argentina and Iran.

The ruling also opens a path for the families of the victims of the attack to seek compensation from Tehran, which has refused to turn over Iranians convicted in Argentina for the attacks, despite arrest warrants being issued by Interpol.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, applauded the decision and said that on the back of it, Argentina should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

"Iran is the enemy of Israel as well as of Argentina and together with Hizballah leads terrorist activity in South America and throughout the world, and this decision against the Revolutionary Guards will be an important step in stopping Iranian aggression," he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. "Now is the time to stop Iran."

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

Tehran Police To Launch New Phase Of Hijab Enforcement

Women walk without the mandatory hijab in Iran.
Women walk without the mandatory hijab in Iran.

Tehran police said they will launch a new phase of enforcement of the mandatory hijab law from April 13 even though the new "hijab and chastity" bill has yet to be approved by the country's Guardians Council.

Police Chief Abbasali Mohammadian announced the new phase of tightened enforcement ahead of a similar declaration made by the police chief of the southern city of Bushehr. Both said a more "vigorous enforcement" of the law will begin in all public spaces starting April 13.

Even though the Guardians Council has yet to approve the law, a necessary step to it becoming official, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a directive during the Eid al-Fitr prayer sermon for enforcement of measures against what he called "religious norm-breaking" within Iranian society.

Khamenei also emphasized the mandatory hijab law as a "definite religious decree," underscoring the obligation of all to adhere to this and other legal decrees.

The "hijab and chastity" bill, which passed in parliament last year without public discussion, came in reaction to a wave of protests and defiance by women against being forced to wear the head covering. However, the approval process is still ongoing after some objections by the Guardians Council, including questions over how the law will be enforced.

Mehdi Bagheri, a lawmaker involved in the bill's review, said there are plans to resubmit an amended bill to the Guardians Council next week.

Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, head of Iran's judiciary, said that given Khamenei's comments, existing legal frameworks could be leveraged to enhance compliance without waiting the bill's formal approval.

The renewed focus on the mandatory hijab enforcement arrives as numerous reports suggest a decline in adherence to the head scarf among Iranian women in Tehran and other cities following widespread protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police in 2022 for an alleged hijab violation.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

The death of Amini released a wave of anger that has presented the Islamic regime with its biggest challenge since the revolution.

The Women, Life, Freedom protests and civil disobedience against the compulsory hijab have swept the country, involving tens of thousands of Iranians, many of whom were already upset over the country's deteriorating living standards.

Campaigns were also launched against the discriminatory law, although many have been pressured by the state and forced to leave the country.

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

Israel Vows Defense If Iran Responds To Attack On Consulate

An ambulance is parked outside the Iranian consulate in Damascus after a suspected Israeli strike on April 2.
An ambulance is parked outside the Iranian consulate in Damascus after a suspected Israeli strike on April 2.

Israel’s military says it is prepared to defend the country and strike back if Iran retaliates for a deadly air strike on the Iranian Consulate in Syria. Tehran holds Israel responsible for the attack earlier this month, which the U.S. military believes Israel carried out. Israel has not commented on it. The increased tensions have sparked international concern that Israel's devastating war in Gaza against Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, could spill over into the rest of the Middle East.

Lufthansa Extends Suspension Of Flights To Tehran Amid Rising Tensions

Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines are the only two Western carriers flying into Tehran, which is mostly served by Turkish and Middle Eastern airlines.
Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines are the only two Western carriers flying into Tehran, which is mostly served by Turkish and Middle Eastern airlines.

Germany's Lufthansa extended a suspension of its flights to Tehran on April 11 with the Middle East on alert for Iranian retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike on Iran's embassy in Syria. Lufthansa and its subsidiary Austrian Airlines are the only two Western carriers flying into Tehran, which is mostly served by Turkish and Middle Eastern airlines. The region and the United States have been on alert for an attack by Iran since April 1, when Israeli warplanes are suspected to have bombed the Iranian Embassy compound in Syria.

Father Of Slain Iranian Protester Detained, Whereabouts Unknown

Reza Lotfi's parents
Reza Lotfi's parents

The father of Reza Lotfi, who was among the hundreds of protesters killed by security forces during nationwide protests that swept across Iran in 2022, has been detained by police and taken to an undisclosed location, according to the HRANA news agency.

HRANA, which specializes in human rights coverage in Iran, quoted a family member as saying Kamal Lotfi was arrested on April 10 after he received a summons from the Islamic Revolutionary Court in the western Iranian city of Qorveh.

In April 2023, Kamal Lotfi was arrested and physically assaulted by security forces before being incarcerated at the Kamyaran prison. He was released from custody three months later.

Reza Lotfi was fatally shot by security personnel during protests in the city of Dehgolan in September 2022 after Mahsa Amini died under mysterious circumstances in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation.

Tensions between the government and the families of those killed or arrested in the nationwide protests have been on the rise in recent months.

The government has been accused of stepping up the pressure on the victims' families through collective arrests and the summoning of grieving families by security agencies with the aim of keeping them from commemorating the deaths of their loved ones, which the government fears will trigger more unrest.

The Islamic republic has a long-standing history, extending over four decades, of employing tactics such as intimidation, threats, job termination, arrests, and imprisonment against the family members of individuals who have been killed or executed in protests.

This pattern of repression also extends to the dismissal of parents, siblings, and occasionally more distant relatives of deceased or executed protesters or political activists from their employment or educational institutions on multiple occasions.

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

German Foreign Minister Phones Iranian Counterpart As Mideast Tensions Rise

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (file photo)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (file photo)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock phoned her Iranian counterpart on April 11 to urge de-escalation amid rising concerns of a direct Iranian attack on Israel. "No one can have any interest in a conflagration with completely unforeseeable consequences," Baerbock said in Berlin, urging all actors in the region "to act responsibly and to exercise restraint." This was the message she conveyed to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, she said. Asked whether the call had been coordinated with Israel or the United States, she responded, "All diplomatic phone lines are running hot at this time to prevent a regional escalation."

What Is Jaish Al-Adl, The Separatist Group Targeting Iranian Forces?

Jaish al-Adl portrays itself as a defender of the Sunni Baluch community against "Shi'a oppression."
Jaish al-Adl portrays itself as a defender of the Sunni Baluch community against "Shi'a oppression."

Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan has been rocked by a spate of deadly attacks targeting security forces in recent months.

The attacks have been claimed by Jaish al-Adl, a Baluch separatist militant group that is believed to be operating out of neighboring Pakistan.

On April 3, over a dozen militants attacked military and police installations in two separate cities in the province, killing at least 16 Iranian security personnel. It was the deadliest coordinated attack that had Jaish al-Adl carried out in years.

Six days later, the group ambushed a police convoy in Sistan-Baluchistan and killed five security officers.

What Is Jaish al-Adl?

Jaish al-Adl, or "Army of Justice" in Arabic, emerged in 2012 as the successor to Jundullah, a Baluch militant group.

Jundullah, formed around 2003, carried out sporadic bomb and gun attacks against Iranian security forces. But the group was largely dismantled following a brutal government crackdown and the capture and execution of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi in 2010.

Rigi's brother, Abdulrauf, established Jaish al-Adl several years later. But he soon left the group and formed Jaish al-Nassr, a separate militant group. The militant leader was killed in Pakistan in 2014, with Baluch separatists accusing Iran of assassinating him. Two years later, Jaish al-Nassr merged with Jaish al-Adl.

Abdulrauf Rigi
Abdulrauf Rigi

Jaish al-Adl is led by Salahuddin Farooqi and is designated as a terrorist organization by Iran and the United States.

Iran alleges that Jaish al-Adl is based in Pakistan and has criticized Islamabad for not cracking down on the group. Pakistan denies that Jaish al-Adl has an organized presence on its territory.

What Does It Want?

Many Jaish al-Adl fighters are members of Iran's ethnic Baluch minority. The group claims that it is fighting for the rights of the Baluchis and seeking independence from the Islamic republic.

Members of the Baluch minority, many of whom are Sunni Muslims in Shi'a-majority Iran, have long faced disproportionate discrimination and violence at the hands of the authorities. Many live in Sistan-Baluchistan, one of Iran's poorest provinces.

Baluchis make up around 5 percent of Iran's population of some 88 million. But they account for around 20 percent of all executions in the country.

During the nationwide antiestablishment protests that rocked Iran in 2022, Sistan-Baluchistan was the scene of the deadliest government crackdown. On September 30 that year, referred to as "Bloody Friday," nearly 100 protesters were gunned down.

Even as the protests died down across most of Iran by early 2023, thousands of people across Sistan-Baluchistan continued to hold weekly protests for months against the clerical regime.

Daniele Garofalo, a researcher and analyst on terrorism and armed groups, says Jaish al-Adl has portrayed itself as a defender of the Sunni Baluch community against "Shi'a oppression."

Who Funds Jaish al-Adl?

Iran over the years has accused its foes of arming Jaish al-Adl, including the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

"Attributing the Baluch resistance solely to American weapons or Saudi funding ignores Iran's decadeslong oppressive policies and its use of force to maintain control over the Baluch," said Kiyya Baloch, a Pakistani journalist and commentator who tracks militancy in the region.

Baloch said that "influential and wealthy Baluch" based in the Arab Persian Gulf states are Jaish al-Adl's primary financial backers. Another "substantial" source of revenue, he said, was the smuggling of drugs. Iran sits on a major opium-smuggling route linking Afghanistan to Europe.

Weapons left behind after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 "fell into the hands of various militant groups," including Jaish al-Adl, according to Baloch, who adds that the separatist group has also procured weapons via the black market.

Garofalo agrees that Tehran's allegations that Jaish al-Adl is backed by foreign states are "highly unfounded." He also notes that the group recently launched an initiative to collect donations in the form of cryptocurrency on its website and Telegram channel.

Is The Group Becoming More Dangerous?

Jaish al-Adl has intensified its attacks against Iranian security forces in recent months. The group claimed an attack in December that killed 11 officers at a police station in Rask, a city in Sistan-Baluchistan. In January, one police officer was killed in an attack on another Rask police station.

Garofalo said Jaish al-Adl is "becoming more brazen in their attacks" and attributed it to the group's increasing recruitment and support from the local population.

He said Jaish al-Adl's attack on April 3 in Rask and the city of Chabahar suggested that its fighters were "on a suicide mission," a tactic passed down from Jundullah.

The authorities have been unable to curb the rising number of attacks in Sistan-Baluchistan, a vast and barren region. "Iran struggles to contain these groups because they operate in extremely remote areas where they have a fair amount of support and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] has little control," Garofalo said.

The group is active along Iran's porous 900-kilometer-long border with Pakistan.

Fatemeh Aman, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said that "rising social discontent, aggravated by the government's response to recent protests, might have contributed to an increase in terrorist incidents."

"Typically, poverty, despair, and harsh treatment by the central government create fertile conditions for sympathizing with or joining militia groups," Aman said.

Nevertheless, she adds that Molavi Abdolhamid, Iran's top Sunni cleric and an influential Baluch figure, has "broad sympathy" from members of the community. Abdolhamid, she said, "firmly rejects violence."

Will The Attacks Impact Iran-Pakistan Relations?

In January, Iran carried out drone and missile strikes against what it said were Jaish al-Adl targets over the border in Pakistan.

Tehran said the move was retaliation for the group's attacks in Sistan-Baluchistan in December and January.

In response, Pakistan carried out air strikes against what it said were Pakistani Baluch separatists inside Iran.

Militant activity along the border has long been a source of tension between Iran and Pakistan.

Baloch said the rising number of attacks by Baluch militant groups in Iran as well as in Pakistan "will only deepen the mistrust between the two neighbors."

Rights Groups Call On UN To Pressure Iran On Drug-Related Executions

A noose is prepared ahead of public hanging in Tehran.
A noose is prepared ahead of public hanging in Tehran.

More than 80 human rights organizations from Iran and around the world have called on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to condition its ongoing cooperation with the Islamic republic on a halt in drug-related executions.

The groups, which include the Iran Human Rights Organization, the International Committee Against the Death Penalty, and the Global Campaign Against the Death Penalty in Iran, said on April 10 they were launching a global campaign to draw international attention to the issue amid a sharp rise in executions in Iran, especially for drug offenses.

"The execution of drug suspects has not had an appropriate international reaction. Their daily execution is accompanied by media silence and this has spurred the Islamic republic to increase executions related to drug crimes by 18 times compared to three years ago at next to no cost," the groups said.

According to a report released by Amnesty International on April 4, 853 executions were carried out in Iran last year, with at least 481 coming for narcotics convictions. Iran's government has been accused of weaponizing executions to quell unrest and in its war on drugs, even for minor offenses.

The number of executions in Iran in 2023 was the highest since 2015 and 172 percent higher that in 2021, when Ebrahim Raisi became president and Gholamhossein Ejei was made head of the judiciary.

Since the Iranian government does not publish official statistics on the number of executions, rights groups have to document cases using open sources such as state media and human rights organizations. Thus, they say, the actual number may be even higher.

"If we do not increase the cost of these executions for the Islamic republic, we fear hundreds of people will be executed on drug-related charges in the coming months," the group said.

Mahmoud Amiri-Moghaddam, the director of the Iran Human Rights organization, said the concerted campaign's aim to raise awareness among the international community that many of those executed belong to the most marginalized sections of society, including ethnic minorities such as Kurds and Baluchis, who are disproportionately affected.

The statement also highlighted the unfair trial processes for those accused of drug offenses in Iran, noting that convictions are often based on confessions obtained under torture with suspects not given access to legal representation.

The United Nations Human Rights Council recently extended the mandate of its special rapporteur on Iran, reaffirming the international community's concern over the human rights situation in the country.

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

From Our Regions: Millions Celebrate Eid al-Fitr

Worshippers are marking the conclusion of the monthlong dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan with a three-day celebration known as Eid al-Fitr.

At Least 5 Iranian Officers Dead In Clash With Militants In Restive Southeast

Members of the Baluch minority, many of whom are Sunni Muslims in Shi'ite-majority Iran, have long faced disproportionate discrimination and violence at the hands of the authorities. (file photo)
Members of the Baluch minority, many of whom are Sunni Muslims in Shi'ite-majority Iran, have long faced disproportionate discrimination and violence at the hands of the authorities. (file photo)

At least five Iranian law enforcement officers were killed in clashes with the Jaish al-Adl militant group in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan amid a surge of violence across the restive region.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported on April 9 that along with the death of the five officers, the confrontation left several wounded. The agency added that Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Telegram channel of the Baluch Activists Campaign and Haalvsh said the armed confrontation followed an attack on three military vehicles in the cities of Sib and Suran.

The Tasnim news agency, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has put the death toll of law enforcement personnel at six.

Sib and Suran, the location of the clash, is situated in the southeast of Iran bordering Pakistan, a region that has been troubled by insurgency and cross-border violence. It has seen an uptick in recent weeks, with a surge of assaults on military and law enforcement sites leading to the deaths of dozens of individuals.

Jaish al-Adl said in a statement it was responsible for the incident, claiming it targeted "an operational intelligence unit along with special forces." The group has been declared a terrorist organization by Iran and several Western countries, including the United States, due to its militant opposition to the Iranian government.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, sources indicated that Jaish al-Adl militants used silencers during the attack to try and avoid alerting security officers in the area that a clash was taking place.

On April 4, Jaish al-Adl launched attacks in Chabahar and Rask resulting in the death of 16 military forces, one of the deadliest clashes in recent months. Local media reported the battle lasted over 14 hours and also resulted in at least 18 casualties among Jaish al-Adl members.

Members of the Baluch minority, many of whom are Sunni Muslims in Shi'ite-majority Iran, have long faced disproportionate discrimination and violence at the hands of the authorities.

The area has also long been a key transit route for narcotics smuggled from Afghanistan to the West and beyond.

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

Despite Being Jailed, Iranian Activist Sentenced For Failing To Report To Prison

Hossein Razzagh (file photo)
Hossein Razzagh (file photo)

An Iranian political activist who was granted medical leave from Tehran’s Evin prison last year has been sentenced to 74 lashes for what authorities termed "absence and failure to report to prison," even though he was actually in prison when the case was filed against him.

Hossein Razzagh was arrested in July 2022 in the northern Iranian city of Amol, and was transferred to Evin prison. He was granted several days of medical leave in April 2023 due to health issues but subsequently returned to prison despite medical advice that his health was poor.

Despite his return, the Tehran Public and Revolutionary Court initiated a case against him in absentia, saying there was a "lack of access to the accused." Razzagh was subsequently sentenced to 74 lashes. The court did not explain its decision.

In March, Razzagh's Telegram channel announced that he had lodged complaints against various security and judicial officials for beatings he allegedly received in Evin prison's ward 209, under the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Ministry.

Security personnel in ward 209 reportedly subjected Razzagh to hours of torture following the beatings.

Razzagh was one of the founders of a room on the Clubhouse social-media site called "Freedom Square," which he said was removed from the platform due to pressure and threats from the ministry.

An audio-based social-media application, Clubhouse has become a major platform for dialogue among Iranians, who join virtual chat rooms to hear from analysts, journalists, and dissidents.

Razzagh is one of several political prisoners in Evin prison who have publicly condemned the judiciary for its treatment of prisoners, including the reported "exile" of Saeed Madani, a social researcher and civil activist, to Damavand prison.

Since September 2022, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation, thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights, with the judiciary, backed by lawmakers, responding to the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution with a brutal crackdown.

Several thousand have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others. At least nine protesters have been executed after what rights groups and several Western governments have called "sham" trials.

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

Turkmen Pop Star's Fate Unknown After Reported Drug Arrest In Iran

Nazir Habibov
Nazir Habibov

Having been previously convicted of a felony, imprisoned, and enduring widespread allegations of drug use, Turkmen pop star Nazir Habibov is no stranger to controversy.

But recent reports surrounding Habibov's latest troubles have shocked his fans, as it's claimed the 35-year-old singer was detained in Iran for narcotics possession and attempted drug smuggling.

Habibov is "awaiting trial in Iran" after being arrested with one of his band members on the Turkmen-Iranian border in March "with 20 grams of heroin," the independent Turkmen.news reported.

The men were arrested while they were "under the influence of drugs and in possession of drugs," which they attempted to smuggle into Turkmenistan, the Europe-based news site reported, citing an unnamed source.

It also published photos that purportedly show the two men -- with their faces obscured -- as they were detained and the alleged drugs confiscated from them. Turkmen.news claimed the photos were provided by a source at a Turkmen ministry.

RFE/RL cannot independently verify the allegations.

The Turkmen.news source claimed that despite Iran's harsh punishment for drug-related crimes, it was unlikely that Habibov would face imprisonment or the "death penalty" in Iran.

"Turkmen authorities, most probably, will seek his extradition to try him at home," it reported.

Weeks later, the fate of the ethnic Azerbaijani singer and his alleged companion remains unknown.

Officials in secretive Turkmenistan have not publicly commented on the allegations, and the strictly controlled Turkmen media has made no mention of it. There have also been no reports in the Iranian media on the allegations surrounding the two Turkmen citizens.

Meanwhile, Habibov's wife, Margarita, has shared several posts on the pop star's Instagram site that hint at "trouble" and a "misunderstanding." She expressed hope that "everything will work out" and thanked Habibov's nearly 400,000 Instagram followers for their support.

Margarita didn't explicitly say her husband was in detention, but in response to online comments she indicated the family had been facing a "problem."

"There has been news all over social media that Nazir was released in Iran," a social-media user commented under Margarita's Instagram post.

"May God allow it to be so. There's been a misunderstanding here, we'll have to wait," Margarita replied.

"Trust me, they are sorting it out now, they say there has been a mistake," Margarita replied to another comment about Habibov's situation on social media.

Margarita also heaped praise on the country's authoritarian president, Serdar Berdymukhammedov, thanking him "enormously for his help to his people" and praying for "his health and many more years in power."

"Despite my current circumstances, I am very happy that we have such president," she wrote, with Habibov's overly flattering song about the president playing in the background.

Comments on social media indicate mixed feelings about Habibov's alleged detention. Most commenters expressed support for Habibov and his wife, telling them to "stay strong," while others criticized the singer, saying that "he should have known better."

One Instagram user offered help, writing, "I live in the Iranian city of Mashhad, I can help you with anything I can, if you need."

"I just want to hug you and support you," another fan wrote. "Everything will be fine."

"Your husband is very naive and it's difficult for such people to survive in this cruel world full of setups, even by friends," another wrote.

One Instagram user wrote that "justice must prevail" and that Habibov "must face the punishment he deserves before the law." Referring to Habibov's previous conviction, the Instagram user wrote that the state will not "forgive a drug user a second time."

In 2016, Habibov was convicted of the possession and distribution of narcotics. There were conflicting reports about the length of his sentence, with some sources saying it was for 12 years, while others reported it as 15 years. The singer was freed early in an amnesty in 2022.

Habibov has since released several songs praising the country's current and former presidents -- Serdar Berdymukhammedov and his father, Gurbanguly, who still holds great power in the country.

In October 2016, Turkmen state television paraded Habibov before the media handcuffed and remorseful over his "repeated drug use." It's unknown if his confession was genuine or made under duress.

Written by Farangis Najibullah in Prague based on reports by RFE/RL's Turkmen Service

Iran Blocks 'Blind Date' As Part Of Social-Media Crackdown

Blind Date has gained significant popularity within Iran, drawing millions of viewers to its YouTube-based episodes where participants, unfamiliar with each other, engage in conversations to determine potential compatibility.
Blind Date has gained significant popularity within Iran, drawing millions of viewers to its YouTube-based episodes where participants, unfamiliar with each other, engage in conversations to determine potential compatibility.

Iran's judicial authorities have seized the Instagram page of the popular online program Blind Date, hosted by an Iranian influencer known as Viny, as part of a sweeping crackdown on social-media content.

The official announcement, made on Viny's Instagram page, which has more than 1.2 million followers, said the action was taken by judicial order and the page would remain inaccessible until further notice.

"This page is by order of the honorable judicial authority by Faraja and until further notice is unavailable," the only post now available on the page says.

Blind Date has gained significant popularity within Iran, drawing millions of viewers to its YouTube-based episodes where participants, unfamiliar with each other, engage in conversations to determine potential compatibility.

The show's success highlights how Iranian vloggers have been showcasing the lifestyle of the country's new generation even though it clashes with the conservative Islamic leadership.

Iran has long faced criticism for its extensive Internet restrictions, with many citizens relying on virtual private networks (VPNs) to access blocked content, including social media such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram.

The government's action against Viny marks a significant escalation in its efforts to control online content.

Historically, such interventions were limited to individuals whose activities garnered widespread recognition on social media.

The clampdown also reflects the authorities' concern over the rising influence of "Generation Z" and their unfiltered portrayal of life in Iran, challenging the government's narrative and censorship efforts.

This generation's documentation of their lives and then sharing their experiences often pushes the boundaries of what is traditionally acceptable, posing a new challenge for a government grappling with the pervasive reach of the Internet and social media, analysts say.

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

EU Drops Sanctions On Iranian Tech Firm Accused Of Internet Censorship

The U.S. State Department says it will maintain its sanctions, as ArvanCloud "maintains a close relationship" with Iran's Intelligence Ministry.
The U.S. State Department says it will maintain its sanctions, as ArvanCloud "maintains a close relationship" with Iran's Intelligence Ministry.

A European Union official says the bloc has removed sanctions on the Iranian tech startup ArvanCloud because it "no longer" saw the need to keep them on a company it once accused of being involved in Tehran's crackdown on Internet access.

The Council of the European Union on April 4 decided to drop its sanctions on ArvanCloud -- less than two years after imposing them -- without explanation. The EU official confirmed the decision to RFE/RL late on April 8.

The company remains under U.S. and British sanctions.

The EU placed sanctions on ArvanCloud in November 2022, at the height of nationwide protests, for its alleged involvement in Internet censorship and "efforts of the Iranian government to shut down the Internet" during the unrest.

It also accused the company of having ties to people "responsible for serious human rights violations in Iran," including the EU-sanctioned Information and Communications Technology Minister Isa Zarepour.

At the time, ArvanCloud said that it had "failed to counter rumors and defend "our innocence."

The company said it "welcomes" the EU’s decision to delist it, which it said came after it presented "technical and legal documentations" to the European Court of Justice challenging the sanctions.

An EU official speaking on condition of anonymity told RFE/RL on April 8 the bloc's member states "agreed that the reasons to keep [ArvanCloud] on the list are no longer there" during the council's regular review of its sanctions regime.

"This is based on the deliberations and assessment in the relevant council bodies, which are confidential," the official said, without mentioning the court case.

The EU's apparent lack of transparency has drawn the ire of advocates.

"To say that the delisting of a company listed for its human rights violations occurred like this is very concerning," said Mahsa Alimardani, senior program officer for the Middle East and North Africa at Article19, a U.K.-based rights organization.

"There was very little public transparency over the process or the opportunity for civil society to get involved."

A leaked document, which Alimardani said had been independently verified by Article19, suggests that the government of Iran's conservative President Ebrahim Raisi supported ArvanCloud's court case.

The United States and Britain imposed sanctions on ArvanCloud in 2023, and Washington says it has no intention of delisting the company.

"ArvanCloud will remain sanctioned by the United States for its clear role in facilitating censorship to the detriment of the people of Iran," U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a press conference on April 8.

He added that the company "maintains a close relationship" with Iran's Intelligence Ministry.

"This is a very dangerous precedent for human rights advocacy and accountability," Alimardani said of the EU's decision, but added, "The very strong and enduring U.S. sanctions might still deter the EU from doing business with Arvan[Cloud]."

U.S. Sent Seized Iranian Munitions To Ukraine

A photo released by CENTCOM on February 15 shows a shipment it said was of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen's Huthi rebels that the navy seized from a vessel in the Arabian Sea on January 28.
A photo released by CENTCOM on February 15 shows a shipment it said was of Iranian weapons destined for Yemen's Huthi rebels that the navy seized from a vessel in the Arabian Sea on January 28.

The United States has given Ukraine small arms and ammunition that were seized while being transferred from Iran to Tehran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, the U.S. military said on April 9. The transfer last week came as Ukraine suffers from significant shortages of ammunition and Republican lawmakers block new aid. "The U.S. government transferred over 5,000 AK-47s, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG-7s and over 500,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition to the Ukrainian armed forces" on April 4, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said on X, formerly Twitter.

Iranian University Threatens Female Students Over Graduation Celebration

A group of Al-Zahra University students in Bushehr celebrate their graduation.
A group of Al-Zahra University students in Bushehr celebrate their graduation.

The president of Iran's Al-Zahra University has threatened legal action against a group of female students after video of them celebrating their graduation by dancing to music surfaced on social media.

The video, which garnerned widespread attention over the weekend, depicts architecture and engineering students marking the their matriculation by dancing with each other, even riding motorcycles, while still dressed in their graduation gowns and caps. In total, around eight to 10 students -- all female -- appear in the video.

Zahra Hajiani, the president of Al-Zahra University in the western port city of Bushehr, responded to the video by stating that the university's security department was investigating the event organized by students "spontaneously without coordination and obtaining permission from the university."

"This matter is being investigated by university security. The student who made this film has been identified and will be held accountable for this work," Hajiani said.

Hajiani said that no official graduation ceremonies had been held at the college since the COVID-19 pandemic due to financial constraints. She added that the clip circulating on social media was organized independently by a group of university graduates without the institution's approval or knowledge.

"The university had no involvement in the event's organization," Hajiani said.

The incident highlights ongoing tensions between students and authorities over a lack of social freedoms and regulatory compliance in Iran, particularly concerning women's rights and the mandatory hijab policy.

The Islamic republic has faced significant challenges in enforcing its interpretation of religious dress codes in the face of civil opposition and protests advocating the Woman, Life, Freedom movement and greater autonomy over personal lifestyle choices.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls above the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities.

Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

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

Iranian Official Warns That Israeli Embassies Are No Longer Safe

Yahya Safavi (file photo)
Yahya Safavi (file photo)

A senior Iranian official said on April 7 that none of Israel's embassies was safe anymore, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. Yahya Rahim Safavi, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was speaking following a suspected Israeli strike on a building that Iran says housed the consular section of its embassy in Damascus on April 1 for which Tehran has vowed retaliation. Khamenei pledged retaliation after the attack, vowing that Israel would be "punished by the hands of our courageous men."

Updated

Iran Pardons 4 Environmental Activists As Part Of Eid Amnesty

(Left to right) Houman Jokar, Niloufar Bayani, Sepideh Kashani, and Taher Ghadirian (combo photo)
(Left to right) Houman Jokar, Niloufar Bayani, Sepideh Kashani, and Taher Ghadirian (combo photo)

Four Iranian environmental activists, who have been detained since 2017, have been pardoned as part of a mass amnesty approved by Iran's leadership to commemorate the observance of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

The activists -- Niloufar Bayani, Sepideh Kashani, Houman Jokar, and Taher Ghadirian -- were arrested in 2016 as part of a group involved with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

According to their lawyer, Hojjat Kermani, the four were told on April 7 that they were being pardoned as part of an anmesty involving more than 2,100 convicts and are expected to be released shortly.

Environmental activists in Iran have been under pressure for several years as their advocacy often highlights issues that have been exacerbated by official corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement.

The pardon also comes as a surprise in the development of a case that has drawn international attention over the years.

The activists, according to the judiciary, were involved in espionage and "collaboration with hostile governments."

The charges were widely criticized and challenged to the point where even Mahmoud Sadeghi, a former member of the Iranian parliament, noted in 2019 that the Ministry of Intelligence had found no evidence of espionage among the activists.

The activists were tried and sentenced in Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Court, with sentences ranging from four to 10 years in prison on various charges. Reports have emerged of severe mistreatment and psychological torture faced by the detainees, including threats and the use of coercive tactics.

During their imprisonment, Kashani and Bayani said in letters that they had been subjected to mental and emotional torture and threatened with death.

The case also involves Morad Tahbaz, a London-born activist with Iranian, British, and American citizenship, who was released last year in a prisoner exchange, and Kavous Seyed-Emami, a Canadian-Iranian environmentalist who died under suspicious circumstances in prison shortly after his arrest.

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

Overworked And Underpaid, Many Iranian Doctors Migrate -- And Some Even Take Their Lives

Overworked, underpaid, and "humiliated" by their seniors, many young doctors in Iran consider moving abroad -- or even suicide.
Overworked, underpaid, and "humiliated" by their seniors, many young doctors in Iran consider moving abroad -- or even suicide.

The alarming number of young Iranian doctors taking their own lives has put the future of the country's health-care system in doubt.

Overworked, underpaid, and "humiliated" by their seniors, many resident doctors -- medical school graduates in training -- are harboring suicidal thoughts or considering moving abroad.

"Suicide among residents today is more of a crisis," Nima Shahriarpur, an emergency medicine doctor, told the Iranian news website Khabar Online.

And he may have a point: 16 resident doctors committed suicide in the Iranian year ending on March 19. A year earlier, 13 young physicians took their own lives.

The most recent incident happened last week, when Parastu Bakhshi was found dead by her colleagues at her hospital residence. The 34-year-old resident doctor was reportedly under increasing pressure at work.

Parastu Bakhshi is just one recent case of a young doctor unable to go on.
Parastu Bakhshi is just one recent case of a young doctor unable to go on.

Difficult Years

The residency period starts after medical school and lasts between three and five years. For some it starts tough. For others it is even more difficult.

Resident doctors, most of whom are in their 30s, are expected to work 30-hour shifts and are paid between 80 million and 110 million rials ($125 to $172) per month. The payments are often delayed.

The doctors are not allowed to practice medicine outside of the hospital during their residency and often have to work a second job in a different field to make ends meet.

A resident doctor who spoke to RFE/RL's Radio Farda on condition of anonymity said young physicians are subjected to poor working conditions, such as putting up with their supervisors' "humiliating behavior" and "bad language," while also being forced to work extra shifts.

Two young doctors sleep between shifts at an Iranian hospital.
Two young doctors sleep between shifts at an Iranian hospital.

According to Vahdat Shariat, the head of the Iranian Psychiatric Association, 30 percent of resident doctors in Iran consider committing suicide.

In September, Shariat and Hamid Yaqubi, the head of the Iranian Scientific Society for Suicide Prevention, urged the health minister to take action.

In a letter, they cited a study that found that 25 percent of resident doctors in Tehran suffered from severe depression.

They also suggested several measures to address the problem, including reducing excessive shifts, providing insurance for resident doctors, reviewing their salaries, and offering mental health support.

In recent years, resident doctors have sought to raise awareness of their plight on social media by posting images of their colleagues who committed suicide. While this has grabbed the media's attention, there has been no official response.

Not Easy To Quit

It was even very difficult to quit, until recently.

To be allowed into a residency program, medical school graduates needed two people to guarantee they would not leave the country or quit the program in any way -- including death by natural causes. Otherwise, the guarantors would have to pay damages.

That rule was deemed illegal and struck down in 2021, but residents say they are still asked to provide guarantees. A pharmacy resident, for instance, was asked to provide a guarantee worth 9.9 billion rials (over $15,500) just to travel abroad for holidays last month.

The financial guarantees make it difficult for doctors, particularly residents, to leave the country. But reports in Iranian media suggest doctors are leaving in droves.

The economic daily Donya-e Eqtesad reported last year that 5,000 doctors had emigrated from Iran in the Iranian year ending in March 2022, around 2,000 more than in 2020.

Citing a survey published in January 2023 by the state-funded Iranian Migration Observatory (IMO), local media say 50 percent of doctors surveyed sought to leave Iran. One-third of those said they were willing to take less-specialized jobs abroad unrelated to medicine.

The most popular destinations for Iranian doctors and nurses are Western nations, particularly the United States, and Persian Gulf countries.

A December 2022 IMO report showed that as of 2018, some 29,000 Iranians worked in the U.S. health-care system, including 8,000 physicians and surgeons. The overall number of Iranian health-care workers in the United States increased to 36,000 by 2021.

A survey published in Iran's state-run IRNA news agency last year found that many doctors start planning to leave the country in their 20s while in medical school.

"Interns see the residents' situation up close and know why they are unhappy," the report said. Among other reasons cited for their desire to leave were Iran's poor economic conditions and a poor work-life balance.

Nevertheless, little has been done to help resident doctors.

In a letter to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in January, Psychiatric Association chief Shariat warned that if officials continue to ignore the plight of young physicians, the country will have to contend with the "collapse of the health-care system."

Updated

Washington Says It Has Warned Iran Not To Target U.S. Troops

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, looks at the coffins of members of the IRGC who were killed in the air strike in Damascus during a funeral ceremony in Tehran on April 4.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, looks at the coffins of members of the IRGC who were killed in the air strike in Damascus during a funeral ceremony in Tehran on April 4.

The United States has warned Iran against attacking its troops and bases in the Middle East as Tehran plans its response to a suspected Israeli strike that killed seven military men on April 1.

A deputy to the Iranian president's chief of staff said on April 5 that Iran had told Washington in a written message to "stay away" from Israel or risk getting "hurt."

"In response, [the] U.S. asked Iran not to target American facilities," Mohammad Jamshidi wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Responding to a request from RFE/RL for comment, a U.S. State Department spokesperson disputed Jamshidi's claim.

"We did not 'ask,'" the spokesperson said in written comments. "We responded by warning Iran not to use this as a pretext to attack U.S. personnel and facilities."

A building that Iran says housed the consular section of its embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus was destroyed in suspected Israeli air strikes on April 1. Seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), including two generals, were among 12 people killed.

Israel, as per its usual policy, has not commented on the strike.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledged retaliation after the attack, vowing that Israel would be "punished by the hands of our courageous men."

The IRGC's chief commander, Major General Hossein Salami, reiterated the threat on April 5, and a top military commander on April 6 again renewed the promise.

General Mohammad Bagheri, Iran's joint chief of staff, told mourners gathered for the funeral of General Mohammad Zahedi in Isfahan that Iran will decide when and how to stage an "operation" to take revenge. Zahedi was the highest-ranking commander slain in the April 1 attack.

"The time, type, plan of the operation will be decided by us, in a way that makes Israel regret what it did," he said. "This will definitely be done."

CBS News on April 5 reported that U.S. intelligence indicated Tehran is planning an attack involving a mixture of Shahed drones and cruise missiles. The target and timing are unknown, but striking an Israeli diplomatic facility would be a proportional response, the report said.

At least 18 Iranian members of the IRGC, including key generals, have been killed in suspected Israeli strikes in Syria since early December. Iran has vowed to avenge them, but has yet to deliver.

Pressure from its hard-line support base is growing on the Islamic republic to retaliate.

Analysts have told RFE/RL that Tehran may have reached a point where it needs to take action, but any response would need to be calibrated to reduce the odds of a direct conflict with Israel.

With reporting by CBS and AP

Iran Renews Vow of Vengeance at Annual Anti-Israel Rallies

People take part in a funeral procession on April 5 for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.
People take part in a funeral procession on April 5 for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Tehran has blamed on Israel.

Iran on April 5 renewed its pledge to avenge the deaths of seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) killed in a suspected Israeli strike in Syria.

A building said to house the consular section of the Iranian embassy in Damascus was destroyed on April 1 in air strikes that Tehran blames on Israel.

Israel, as per its usual policy, has not commented on the strike.

“No move by any enemy against our sacred system [the Islamic republic] goes unanswered,” the IRGC’s chief commander, Major General Hossein Salami, said in a televised speech during Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day rallies in Tehran. The annual demonstrations are held on the last Friday of Ramadan and are marked by pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli rallies.

The rallies also served as a funeral for the dead IRGC officers, including Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

As is customary, state television provided wall-to-wall coverage of the nationwide demonstrations. Protesters were seen carrying images of the IRGC officers and banners with the slogans “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”

Photos released by state media showed demonstrators burning American flags and stomping on the likeness of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier this week vowed that Israel would be “punished by our courageous men” -- a remark that some analysts say indicates Tehran will directly act against Israel rather than rely on its regional allies and proxies.

Moshen Rezaei, a former chief commander of the IRGC, told the hard-line Tasnim news agency on April 5 that a “decision has been made” about retaliating against Israel and "will certainly be implemented.” He did not elaborate.

The Islamic republic is under pressure from its hard-line support base to avenge the dead officers.

At least 18 Iranian IRGC members, including key generals, have been killed in suspected Israeli strikes in Syria since early December.

With reporting by Reuters

Wife Says Prison Transfer Of Iranian Activist Aimed At Isolating Him

Iranian sociologist Saeed Madani (file photo)
Iranian sociologist Saeed Madani (file photo)

Saeed Madani, a prominent Iranian sociologist serving a nine-year sentence in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, has reportedly been transferred to a facility on the city's outskirts in an attempt, his wife says, to further isolate him.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Mansureh Ettefaghstated said her husband was moved to Damavand prison under the directive of the Tehran Prosecutor. She added that during her last visit with Madani before his transfer on April 2, his lawyer noted that there was no explanation given in the transfer documentation.

Ettefagh also noted previous threats, which she says her husband received from interrogators -- referred to as "Ministry of Intelligence experts" -- suggesting that the relocation was premeditated.

The isolation of Madani, known for his civil activism and social research, has been condemned by fellow political prisoners who view the judiciary's action as a deliberate attempt by the Islamic republic to assert a facade of authority.

Several notable political detainees, including Narges Mohammadi and Mostafa Tajzadeh, recently made a collective statement highlighting the regime's intolerance toward peaceful dissent.

In December 2022, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran found Madani guilty of "forming and managing antiestablishment groups" and of "propaganda against the Islamic republic of Iran."

While he denies the charges, the court sentenced him to nine years in prison -- eight for the first charge and one for the second.

In January 2022, Madani was prevented from leaving Iran to begin a one-year research program at Yale University in the United States. He has published several studies on social issues in Iran, including violence against women, child abuse, prostitution, and poverty.

The publication of some of Madani's books has been banned in Iran.

He has been imprisoned several times before for membership in the banned Nationalist-Religious Alliance political opposition group and for "propaganda against the state."

In 2016, he was exiled to the southern port city of Bandar Abbas after serving four years of an eight-year prison sentence on the charges.

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

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