At Arrival of Security Forces, Alternative Worship Turns Violent

Posted on: August 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In one of many recent attacks from security forces on Shiite sub-sects, a peaceful ceremony commemorating the death of the ninth Shiite Imam was broken up on August 12th when officers arrived and began beating those in attendance.

The owner of the shop that hosted the gathering was arrested the following day, only to be released when members of a group called “Ansar Imam Mehdi” gathered in front of the Intelligence Bureau of Torbat Heydarieh to demand his release. On August 16th, two of these protestors were arrested on orders from the Revolutionary Court.

Several individuals who have gained a following in recent years by claiming to have contact with the Shiite eschatological figure Imam Mehdi — also known as the 12th Imam — have also come under fire from security forces, particularly the Ministry of Intelligence. Iranian authorities have since appointed special divisions to address religious activities that contravene the ideology of the regime, often resulting in violent clashes.

A source close to the Ansar Imam Mehdi group told HRANA, “If they refuse to release our brothers, members plan to assemble in front of the Revolutionary Court and peacefully announce that we are not the enemy; we only demand our basic rights such as freedom of conscience, opinion, the right to life, and the right to hold our religious ceremonies for imams.”

The situation escalated on August 19th, the anniversary of the death of the fifth Imam, when a group of about 60 people were met with tear gas, electric shocks, and blunt-force assault from security forces outside the Revolutionary Court. The group, who reportedly read religious texts to appeal to a religious common ground with authorities, were heard chanting “freedom of opinion is our undeniable right” and imploring for the release of their comrades.

In a report to HRANA, the aforementioned source said the gathering served to commemorate the fifth Imam in the same manner that the group had intended on August 12th, “which should not be a crime in Iran.” He said that an elderly man with heart problems was among those beaten and that security forces, rather than relenting when the man felt pains in his chest, arrested him. “They attacked our sisters,” the source added, “not even the children were spared from beatings, and some of them were trampled.”

The group in question had been regularly congregating around Seyed Ahmad Hossein, a man who claims to have contact with Imam Mehdi. The government crackdown on the group first began on November 9, 2017, when six seminary students and professors, including Mohammad Javad Choobtarash, were seized from a residence in Qom and held in the Intelligence Bureau for interrogation. Most of those detained that day were released on bail shortly after.

Other arrests related to this religious group are as follows:

May 7, 2018: Ahmad Reza Zaraghi, a seminary student, who had been released 16 days earlier on bail, was arrested a second time by the security forces at his sister’s home in Qaem Shahr, northern Iran, and transferred to Tehran in police custody.

May 2, 2018: Cleric Mohammad Hossein Bigdeli was arrested at a holy shrine in the city of Qom.

March 7, 2018: Massoud Ghorbani was arrested, released, and again summoned to the Clerics Special Court before being transferred to Qom Saheli Prison.

February 6, 2018: Ahmad Kohandel was arrested in connection to his group affiliation.

January 11, 2018: Qom seminary student Seyyed Hamed Miri, 31, was arrested.

Security Forces Arrest Citizen in Ahvaz

Posted on: August 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Majed Savari, a citizen from the city of Ahvaz (southwestern Iran), was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence forces early morning on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. According to an informed source, Mr Savari was transferred to an undisclosed location.

“He had participated in the popular protests against environmental pollution and the transport of water out of Karoun River. His family does not have any information about the reason for his arrest yet,” says the close source.

Majed Savari is a 26-year-old civil engineering student.

Journalist & Human Rights Activist Ejlal Ghavami Summoned to Court in a New Case

Posted on: August 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Ejlal Ghavami, journalist and human rights activist, was summoned to Branch 2 of the Sanandaj Revolutionary Court (western Iran) in a new case. “I will be tried on November 18th in relation to a previous case, this is another case,” Mr Ghavami said in a note.

Ejlal Ghavami was previously charged with “Propaganda against the regime”, “Speaking to anti-regime media”, “Disseminating lies” and “Insulting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)”. He was acquitted, but upon objections from the Prosecutor, his case was sent to an appeals court.

On June 9, 2018, Mr Ghavami was summoned to the Intelligence office of the IRGC along with Hiwa Rahimi and Ahmad Khalighi, two other civil rights activists from the Kurdistan province. Late last year, he was summoned to Branch 1 of Prosecutor’s office in the Kurdistan province after he was interrogated by the Iranian Cyber Police (FATA). Mr Ghavami was interrogated by FATA in Sanandaj and on Monday, March 25, 2018, he was charged with “Relation and cooperation with anti-regime channels” and “Disseminating lies and illegal contents”.

Civil Rights Activist Mohammad Davari Arrested

Posted on: August 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- Mohammad Davari, a civil rights activist from the city of Yasouj (southwestern Iran), was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence forces on August 10, 2018, at his parent’s home. Mr Davari was reportedly held incommunicado for three days before he was transferred to Yasouj’s central prison.

A source close to Mr Davari confirmed the news and told HRANA: “After the three days, he was remanded without bail for two months, and is currently in solitary confinement. At the time of his arrest, the agents confiscated some of his personal belongings such as his mobile phone, laptop and written notes.”

Mohammad Davari was previously detained on March 5, 2018, for pulling down a banner during the widespread popular protests in Iran. He was released eight days later on a 50 million Tomans (approximately $10,000 USD) bail. The authorities reportedly told Mr Davari’s family that he was arrested on the charge of “Acting against national security through disturbing the public peace of mind”.

Mohammad Davari, 26, was born in Deshdasht and is studying master of Political Science. He was arrested another time following the death of Hashemi Rafsanjani when he pulled down a banner bearing Rafsanjani’s photo. He was later released on bail.

Protests and Marches in at Least Six Iranian Cities

Posted on: August 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Throughout Sunday and Monday in Iran, multiple protests were reported across Iran. Protesters included: a group of Azadi Sports Complex workers (in Tehran), a group of Falat-e Ghare oil workers (in Khark island in the Persian Gulf), several Northeastern Railroad workers, a group of Tehran’s Shad Abad Iron Market merchants, a group of landowners in Savojbalagh (whose properties have been recently designated as a “national resource”), and a group of residents of Asr Abad village in Marivan (western Iran).

Azadi Sports Complex

According to the state-run Fars News Agency, Azadi Sports Complex workers were protesting the dismissal of six of their colleagues in addition to unpaid severance pays.

Azadi complex is under provisional direction following the sacking of its last director in July. Twenty protesting workers first gathered in Azadi Sports Complex to voice their demands and then headed to the Ministry of Sport and Youth. Following the rally in front of the Ministry, Zhaleh Faramarzian, a Ministry VP, met and spoke with a representative of the protesters. When Ms Faramarzian reportedly promised to help resolve their issues, the protestors marched to the Development and Maintenance of the Athletic Facilities Office to hold discussions with its president, Hassan Karimi.
As a result of these discussions, it was agreed that the six dismissed workers would return to work and the other demands would be met as soon as possible.

Falat-Ghareh Oil Workers Go on Strike

Workers at the Falat-Ghareh located in Khark Island in the Persian Gulf launched a strike and rallied in protest to a $50* cut to their salaries. According to the state-run Tasnim News Agency, the employer is refusing to heed to the demands of the workers.

Railroad workers continue their strike

The news website Radio Zamaneh reports on the continued strikes of railroad workers and that the North East railroad workers blocked railroad tracks to stop train services.

There are reports of continued strikes in the cities of Sarakhs, Shahroud, Damghan, and Semnan. The workers in these areas have reportedly not received their salaries, insurance, and severance pays for the past three months.

Railroad workers in Iran who number 7,000 nationally demand that temporary and contractual agreements are scrapped and replaced by permanent positions. They also ask for their unpaid salaries and benefits and seek insurance coverage [by the employer].

Iron Market Strike Continues

Radio Zamaneh reports that for the second day in a row, merchants at Tehran’s Shad Abad Iron Market went on strike. A video clip disturbed on social networks shows closed shops at this market.

Land Owners of Kowsar Remain in Limbo over Legal Status of Their Properties

According to Radio Zamaneh, a group of landowners at Savojbalagh assembled in front of Alborz Province’s Agricultural Jihad Ministry to protest broken promises by officials and the legal limbo surrounding the status of their properties.

The owners of these 1,200 pieces of land had purchased their properties from Habitation Coops. However, the lands were declared “national” property in 2016. The owners have been passed between the Natural Resources Office and the Housing and Urban Planning Organization.

Back in March, the Savojbalagh county director claimed that the issues surrounding the properties were resolved and the landowners would receive good news.

Residents of Asr Abad Village Protest Their Village Being Used as Landfill

According to Radio Zamaneh, Asr Abad residents protesting the burial of the city of Varamin’s garbage in their village have blocked the burial for the past three days. Photos of the large piles of garbage in a parking lot have been distributed. Marivan’s Governor had promised to remove the trash but no concrete action has been taken.


* Calculated based on an exchange rate of $1=10,000 tomans

Report: New Wave of Mass Protests in Iran

Posted on: August 5th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) –  A new wave of widespread protests that began on Tuesday, continued across Iran through the week for six days. Protesters included merchants, shopkeepers and other citizens who gathered in objection to the worsening economic conditions in Iran. Their main concerns were centered around the issues of unemployment and the rising of prices and exchange rates. Rising prices, inflation, and unemployment have led to protests since December 2017.

First Day of Protests
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Protests in Isfahan on Shapur Jadid Street began with a strike by merchants and shopkeepers, which led to other citizens joining in on the protest. The gathering quickly turned violent when security forces attempted to disperse the crowd with tear gas and gunshots.

In Karaj, people gathered in Gohardasht Square to hold a protest rally. According to reports, many women participated. Some protesters were reportedly arrested by security and plainclothes forces and are currently held at a Basij-operated center in the Gohardasht neighborhood.

Second Day of Protests
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Protests in Rasht and Shiraz were accompanied by the heavy presence of security forces. Some of the videos from Shiraz indicate that a 7-year-old was shot with tear gas by police forces.

Protesters in these burned tires on the streets to counter the effects of tear gas and chanted slogans including “Our enemy is right here, they are lying claiming it’s the U.S.”, “Guns and tanks are no longer effective, mullahs should get lost,” “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon — I give my life only for Iran,” “The nation begs while *He acts like he’s God” and “Down with high prices”.

Mass protests also occurred in Isfahan and Karaj.

Third Day of Protests
Thursday, August 2, 2018

Protests were reported in twelve Iranian cities: Isfahan, Shahinshahr, Najafabad, Karaj, Mashhad, Shiraz, Sari, Tehran, Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Qahderijan and Arak.

Peaceful protests turned violent in Isfahan and Shiraz when security, plainclothes and Basij forces shot at the protesters with guns and tear gas. In the videos from Thursday, protesters are seen throwing rocks at the Iranian authorities in response to the gunshots. Protesters are also seen starting fires in order to counter the effects of the tear gas.

Many protesters were reportedly arrested in Mashhad and Shiraz.

Fourth Day of Protests 
Friday, August 3, 2018

Protests occurred in five different cities: Karaj, Qahderijan, Tehran, Qazvin and Kermanshah.

Fifth Day of Protests 
Saturday, August 4, 2018

Since the early hours of Saturday, a strong presence of security forces had created an ambience of intimidation in many of the Iranian cities. Reports indicate that large protests were held in the central city of Qom, Karaj and Tehran.

People were heard chanting “Iranians, it is time to demand your rights from this regime”, “Down with the dictator”, “Don’t let fear conquer, we are all together”, “The nation begs while He acts like he’s God”.

Some reports claim that 50 of the female protesters were arrested in recent days and transferred to the quarantine ward in *Varamin’s Garchak Prison.

Many of the state-run media or news agencies with ties to the government have either denied the existence of protests or play them down as rallies incited by opposition or simply gatherings with strictly syndical demands.

The police forces in the cities of Mahdasht and Gohardasht (both located in the Alborz province) imposed restrictions on traffic and banned driving after 6PM in these areas.

Reports from sources close to security institutions, one person was shot dead in Karaj and at least 20 others were wounded.

Ali Hendiani, the director of the seminary in Eshtehard county, said: “Protesters threw stones at the seminary building and broke the prayer room’s windows…These people were dispersed by the anti-riot security forces, and the police have identified them and are on the search for them. Some have been arrested, and the mission to find the other protesters continues.”

Sixth Day of Protests 
Sunday, August 5, 2018

Despite the persistence of security measures and the heavy presence of security forces aimed at intimidating citizens, protests were held in the city of Kazerun (located in the Fars province).

There are reports that protesters attempted to rally in Shiraz (capital of the Fars province), Tehran, Karaj and Qom, but strong police presence prevented these rallies from taking shape.


Mobile Services Cut Off

Subscribers of Irancell, an Iranian telecommunication service provider, reported that mobile services in parts of central Tehran and the city of Zanjan were interrupted. Some of the clients of Operator Network, another cell phone service provider, reported that they received a message regarding a temporary and nation-wide interruption to their service. It is not yet clear whether this stoppage is part of the Iranian security apparatus’ attempt to control the protests. In previous protests, there was precedence in taking such measures to curb protests.

Protester Death

Reza Shakarami, General Prosecutor for the Alborz province, denied reports attributed to him about the death of a young man from Karaj during a night protest. “The shooting [leading to the protester’s death] and the circumstances surrounding it are under investigation. Any quote cited from me regarding the murder of the victim by the rioters or any other individual is denied,” he said. The victim referred to by Mr. Shakarami was identified on social media as Reza Otadi.

Salman Samani, the Interior Ministry spokesperson, has reacted to online invitations to assemble. “In the last month, dozens of invitations and calls to protest rising prices, inflation and living conditions have been widely distributed. The source of the majority of such calls is outside Iran, but the invitations have been reposted and shared by people inside Iran,” he said.

Reactions from Iranian Authorities

Ali Motahari, Member of Parliament for Tehran, told a state-run newspaper that the authorities are trying hard to resolve the issues [the protesters have voiced their concerns about], and if the people wait and be patient a few more months, the conditions will improve. He also blamed certain movements who made attempts for the Iran Nuclear Deal to fail and whose actions paved the way for a Trump presidency, the pretext to withdraw from the **Deal.

Meanwhile, Kheirollah Tarkhani, a security official in the Alborz province, stated: “We have been trying to appease the protesters and listen to them. However, we have realized that their protests are not about economic demands and are aimed at the political structure. The small, scattered protests are not the sum of the people’s economic grievances and demands.”

* Reference to Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei
** Gharchark is a women’s prison south east of Tehran; reports point to prisoners facing deplorable conditions in this prison (
*** Ali Motahari is implicitly referring to the Revolutionary Guards commanders and some hardliners whose interference in neighboring countries coupled with their push for an aggressive missile program created the conditions for Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka Iran Nuclear Deal)