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Iran: Secret execution of wrestler Navid Afkari a ‘travesty of justice’


Iran: Secret execution of wrestler Navid Afkari a ‘travesty of justice’

Amnesty International    |    September 12, 2020

The secret execution this morning of wrestling champion Navid Afkari, without prior notice to him, his family or lawyer, after a grossly unfair trial, is a horrifying travesty of justice that needs immediate international action.

“Navid Afkari was a young man with a promising future ahead of him. Carrying out his death sentence with such utter disregard for the basic principles of justice further demonstrates the cruelty of the death penalty. A series of judges in different courts used forced ‘confessions’ obtained under torture to convict him, and consistently failed to investigate his complaints of torture.”

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Before his secret execution Navid Afkari, 27, was subjected to a shocking catalogue of human rights violations and crimes, including enforced disappearance; torture and other ill-treatment, leading to forced “confessions”; and denial of access to a lawyer and other fair trial guarantees.

“This young man desperately sought help in court to receive a fair trial and prove his innocence. Leaked voice recordings of him in court expose how his pleas for judges to investigate his torture complaints and bring another detainee who had witnessed his torture to testify were unlawfully and cruelly ignored,” said Diana Eltahawy.

Before his execution, another voice recording from inside prison was released, in which he said: “If I am executed, I want you to know that an innocent person, even though he tried and fought with all his strength to be heard, was executed.”

“Given the impunity which prevails in Iran, we urge the international community, including UN human rights bodies and EU member states, to take strong action through public and private interventions,” said Diana Eltahawy.

“We deplore the Iranian authorities’ repeated use of the death penalty, which has earned it the shameful status of consistently being among the world’s most prolific executioners. There is no justification for the death penalty, which is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and we urge the Iranian authorities to abolish it.



The Only Economic Fix for Iran At This Point Is Regime Change


Real Clear    |    By Abbas Davari    |    August 07, 2020

In between headlines about the impact of US sanctions on the Iranian economy and the “grand” Sino-Iranian deal billed by Tehran as an economic elixir, important questions linger: Why has the Iranian economy struggled to prosper over the past 40 years despite massive oil revenues? Who is to blame for the current devastation? And, will the current medieval theocracy finally craft an economic panacea?

Long before international sanctions, the Iranian economy fell victim to a clique of unelected mullahs itching to seize Iran’s immeasurable riches. They began to run affairs much like the mafia would. Economic policies were designed to facilitate the mullahs’ theft and extortion rather than developing the overall economy. Those who protested were brutally silenced.

As one example of unbridled policies, compared to 1979 when the mullahs came to power, the money supply has grown 10,000-fold. Most of this money supply is now controlled by at most 5% of the population, according to state-run media. Meanwhile, the bankrupt government has accrued a debt to the banking system that is nearing 380 trillion tomans (roughly $90.5B).

This state of affairs is symptomatic of profound structural malpractice, particularly since Iran is otherwise blessed with world-renowned oil and gas riches. Over the past 30 years, three trillion dollars worth of oil revenues alone have been obtained by Tehran ($100B a year). What happened to all that money? Why are millions of people wrestling with abject poverty and unemployment?

The Iranian economy has been hit by a much worse enemy than the coronavirus: the clerical rule (Velayat Virus), as the Iranian people have dubbed it. For decades, budgets declared by successive governments have included a 70% share for state-run companies and institutions, with no credible oversight. Therefore, the bulk of officially declared state revenues feed the vicious feast of corruption whose pervasiveness is now at “pandemic” levels.

The majority of these state institutions are tax-exempt. According to official state-run news agency IRNA in 2018, ten such large commercial institutions earning net profits close to $2B have paid absolutely no taxes. Yet, amusingly, they are state budget beneficiaries.

Another deliberate policy executed by the regime to amass exorbitant profits at the expense of the general population has been with respect to the national currency. Many point to international sanctions as the cause of a 70% plunge in the value of the Rial national currency since early 2018. Perhaps an immediate cause, sanctions were a catalyst in a much larger context.

The regime’s disastrous policies have led to a 300,000% drop in the value of the national currency since 1979. Since the beginning, the regime implemented a dual-price system for foreign currencies: an official lower and more stable rate (reserved for the well-connected) and an unofficial floating market rate for the general public. In the first 10 years of the regime’s rule, the average official US dollar exchange rate was 7.5 Tomans, but 53 Tomans for the market rate (more than seven times). In other words, the regime and its cronies obtained US dollars at the monopolized lower rate in order to import foreign products, only to sell them later at market rate prices and thereby pocketing profits well over 700%.

Therefore, economic foundations have been steadily eroded by the regime long before sanctions.

With every dollar making it into ghost accounts and murky transactions, the regime got richer and the Iranian people got poorer. Whether sanctions are imposed or lifted, in other words, poverty and corruption will remain as fixtures since the root cause is still in place.

But the regime is not content with oil revenues alone. One of the most important projects of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was to reach directly into the pockets of the Iranian people for their savings (kids’ college funds, retirement savings, and so on). Dozens of bogus financial institutions emerged in the 2000s that siphoned off people’s deposits. The millions of Iranians who fell victim to this scheme are part of a growing protest movement by “defrauded investors.”

Similarly, similar actors are trying to siphon off millions more through the recent Tehran stock exchange bubble. Shady companies are defrauding investors while the government, according to Rouhani, gets much needed revenues with every trade or transaction.

It is no wonder then that in such circumstances the wealth of economic powerhouses tied to the Office (Beyt) of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are now estimated to be top one trillion dollars (state-run Mostaqel daily, June 1, 2020). The newspaper estimates that the interest alone (at the prevalent rate) on this unimaginably concentrated wealth would amount to $100B, enough to cover expenses for 10 million Iranian households.

Another example is the Khatam Al-Anbia Construction Headquarters, which belongs to the IRGC. The head of Khatam, Brig. Gen. Saedd Mohammad, told state TV in October last year that 35% of all gasoline production, 20% of all natural gas production, 32% of pipelines and 50% of all dam construction in the entire country belongs to this one company, whose profits go into the mullahs’ abyss.

Add to this poisonous brew decades of deeply entrenched state cronyism and lack of public accountability that have spawned outlandish corruption. In one single recent instance, Rouhani himself complained that $20B euros in capital has made its way out of Iran without any commodities in exchange.

In June, parliamentary statistics highlighted more than “seven million corruption-related cases awaiting trial.” One of these corrupt officials is Jalil Sobhani, involved in the petrochemical industry, who has been accused of misappropriating funds amounting to a whopping six billion euros. Another example: The new “private” owner of a large sugarcane factory in western Iran has been accused of obtaining $1.5B in bank loans that he later misappropriated.

The seven million cases of corruption represent the tip of the iceberg of an astronomical and unbridled scale of corruption that is widening at breakneck speed. The flip side of that coin is unbridled poverty rates.

So, contrary to what the regime’s apologists portray, it is not the sanctions that have made the lives of the Iranian people miserable but the regime’s corruption and naked theft of the national wealth. Besides, why don’t they point to the billions of dollars the regime spends on its nuclear program, missiles development and regional adventurism while people can no longer afford common items like meat? Why has one of the regime’s economic cartels with ties to its missiles program opened a large grocery chain in Venezuela? That is the Velayat Virus at work.

Iran’s wealth, resources and capital are in the hands of a medieval theocracy interested only in enriching itself. The rest of the Iranian population have been forced into poverty and miserable living conditions. They are vulnerable to the coronavirus because their country has long been inflicted with the virus of the mullahs’ regime.

Today, the middle class, officials say, is simply “being evaporated.” Over half the population now lives in catastrophic conditions in city outskirts. Inflation is skyrocketing. The money supply is multiplying. The national currency plunging.

In these circumstances, no Sino-deal, Euro-trade, or US-bargain can save the ruined economy that is designed only for enriching the few ruling mullahs. The only elixir is regime change.

Mr. Davari, a political prisoner under the Shah’s regime for six years, is the Chairman of the Labor Committee of the National Council of Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).



Marjan, Iranian actress and singer who became symbol of rebellion, dies at 71


Washington Post    |    By Matt Schudel     |    June 12, 2020

 Marjan, a popular singer and actress in pre-revolutionary Iran who, after being imprisoned by the country’s Islamic authorities in the 1980s, lent her voice to the cause of political freedom in her homeland, died June 5 at a hospital in Los Angeles. She was 71.

The cause was complications from surgery, the National Council of Resistance of Iran said in a statement.

Marjan, the stage name for Shahla Safi Zamir, acted in more than 30 Farsi-language films in the 1960s and 1970s and was one of Iran’s best-known celebrities before the overthrow of the country’s Western-backed leader, or shah, in 1979. She also made hit records, often evoking nostalgic sentiments, that were popular with Iranians.

When Islamic leaders, or mullahs, seized power in Iran, filmmaking was temporarily stopped, and women were forbidden from singing in public. Marjan joined an opposition movement to fight the newly imposed strictures and was first arrested in 1980 for singing a song translated as “Homeland”: “My homeland, my home, I have no place but here, I have no future without you.”

Arrested again in 1982 for her association with political dissidents, Marjan spent two years in prison, including nearly nine months in solitary confinement. She was held with other women and later highlighted the plight of female prisoners and artists in Iran.

Maryam Rajavi, NCRI president-elect, said in a statement that Marjan was prominent among the women “who rose up and fought the regime” and “are genuine representatives of the suffering of Iranian women and their passionate desire for liberation.”

Marjan fled Iran in 2001 for Dubai.

“There I went to the U.S. Embassy and introduced myself,” she said in a 2015 interview with Al Arabiya TV. “They found out that I was a famous actress and singer and they agreed to give me asylum.”

She and her husband settled in Los Angeles.

Marjan’s voice was not heard again in public until 2005, when she sang at Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall before a gathering of Iranians in exile. One of the Farsi songs she performed that night served as a rallying cry for resistance toward Iran’s clerical regime:

My young branches have been wounded by axes
But, what will you do with the roots?
What will you do?

In another verse, she sang that birds may have been banned from flying, “but what will you do with the young birds sitting in the nest?”

During the next few years, Marjan recorded and helped write dozens of rousing anthems with overt political messages, including “Time to Overthrow,” “We Will Build a Nation” and “We Must and We Can.”

She rarely presented commercial concerts, preferring to appear at rallies of the NCRI and other dissident groups in the United States and Albania, home to a large community of Iranian exiles.

She performed at annual rallies in Paris before crowds of as many as 100,000 people. In June 2018, an Iranian state-sponsored attempt to plant bombs at the rally was thwarted by French, German and Belgian law enforcement authorities, according to French officials.

Although officially banned in Iran, Marjan’s music made its way into the hands of a new generation who chafed against the mullahs’ repressive rule.

“Marjan’s songs, and her commitment to freedom and the people of Iran,” the NCRI’s Rajavi said at a ceremony in Albania, “are inspiring to the young people of Iran and particularly to defiant young women.”

Shahla Safi Zamir was born July 14, 1948, into a wealthy family in Shiraz, Iran. She was a radio broadcaster before appearing in her first film in 1969, “A World Full of Hope,” opposite Mohammad Ali Fardin, one of Iran’s best-known actors.

Marjan appeared in many films during the 1970s, often cast in somewhat racy roles. She gave a more substantial dramatic performance in “Resting Against the Wind” (1978), directed by her husband, Fereydoun Jourak. It was her final film before the Iranian Revolution.

Her first marriage, to radio actor Mehdi Ali-Mohammadi, ended in divorce. Survivors include Jourak, of Los Angeles; a daughter from her first marriage; and several grandchildren.

When she reappeared in public during her 2005 concert in Washington, Marjan seemed to connect her return to the stage to the fate of Iranian dissent, singing:

Don’t think that I’ve been forgotten
I have been etched in history and memories
I’ve become so united with my people
That you’d think I’m their voice
Their voice
Their voice.


Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority of House Members Calls on Administration to Extend Iran Arms Embargo


Press Release    |    May 4, 2020

Washington—Today, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives called on the Trump Administration to extend the United Nations arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire in October of this year. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel and Ranking Member Michael T. McCaul, Representative Stephanie Murphy, and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick led a group of 387 members encouraging robust diplomacy to prevent the expiration of the embargo and of U.N. travel restrictions on Iranians engaged in proliferation activities. The group of members—more than three quarters of the House—underscored that permitting Iran to buy and sell weapons would pose a grave risk to security and stability around the world.

Chairman Engel said, “The U.N. arms embargo will be the first provision of the Iran nuclear deal to expire. This letter, supported overwhelmingly by both parties in the House, represents an imperative to reauthorize this provision—not through snapback or going it alone, but through a careful diplomatic campaign. The Trump Administration has promised a better deal and it falls to the administration to solve this crisis, not make it worse. Iran continues to be a danger to the United States, our interests, and our allies. We need a realistic and practical strategy to prevent Iran from becoming a greater menace.”

Ranking Member McCaul said, “Nearly every member of the U.S. House of Representatives is in agreement: Iran must not be allowed to buy or sell weapons. This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue, or even just an American issue. We need to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran for the sake of international peace and security. I am proud the House is speaking with one voice to protect the world against Iran’s aggressive and destabilizing behavior.”

Representative Murphy said, “Preventing the regime in Tehran from buying and selling weapons is critical for U.S. national security and for the security of U.S. allies and partners in the greater Middle East. We all look forward to the time when Iran will become a responsible member of the community of nations. Until then, we must take all reasonable steps at the national and international level to curb Iranian aggression.”

Representative Fitzpatrick said, “Time and time again, Iran has shown that they cannot be trusted. Their efforts to destabilize the region and the world will only increase if we do not extend the U.N. embargo.  Iran must be prohibited from buying and selling weapons, and moreover, we must prevent Iran from increasing their influence in the region.  I am proud to lead a bipartisan coalition on this urgent issue, and I am encouraged to see so many of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle add their voice in support of this critical national security matter.”

Full text of the letter can be found here.





Iran: University student at risk of torture: ALI YOUNESI


Amnesty International    |    12 May 2020

Iranian university student Ali Younesi has been arbitrarily detained since 10 April 2020. His family believes he is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, where he has been denied access to a lawyer and permitted only two brief telephone calls to his family. The Iranian authorities have not provided clear reasons for his arrest. He is a prisoner of conscience targeted solely for his family ties and is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

First UA: 76/20 Index: MDE 13/2306/2020 Iran      Date: 12 May 2020


Iranian university student Ali Younesi has been arbitrarily detained since 10 April 2020. His family believes he is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, where he has been denied access to a lawyer and permitted only two brief telephone calls to his family. The Iranian authorities have not provided clear reasons for his arrest. He is a prisoner of conscience targeted solely for his family ties and is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.


Head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi
c/o Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN
Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland
Instagram account: raisi_org
Dear Mr. Raisi,

University student Ali Younesi, aged 20, has been arbitrarily detained since his arrest on 10 April 2020, and the
Iranian authorities have not provided clear information about the reason for his arrest. Instead, they have publicly accused him, and another university student arrested the same day of ties to “counterrevolutionary” groups and alleged “explosive devices” had been found in their homes, violating their right to be presumed innocent and raising serious concerns about their wellbeing. They are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

On the evening of 10 April, Ali Younesi, who had been at university that day, was taken handcuffed to his home in Tehran by 12 plainclothes security agents. His forehead was split open with a gash and he had blood all over his face and wounds on his body, raising concerns that security agents had tortured him. Security agents searched his family home and took Ali Younesi’s parents away to an undisclosed location for interrogations for several hours before releasing them. The security officials did not identify themselves and showed neither an arrest nor search warrant.

Since his arrest, Ali Younesi has been permitted two brief telephone calls with his family and has been denied access to a lawyer. His family was informed by a prosecutor that he has been charged with “undertaking destruction” without providing further information. Then, on 5 May 2020, during his weekly press conference, Iran’s judiciary spokesperson Gholamhossein Esmaili, in apparent reference to Ali Younesi and the other arrested university student, stated that two university students had been arrested for being in contact with “counterrevolutionary” groups.

He used a pejorative term to refer to one such group – People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), an opposition group based outside of Iran – apparently based on their families’ past or current association with the PMOI, and failed to provide any evidence for the judiciary’s accusations. In a public video response posted on social media later the same day, Ali Younesi’s sister, Aida Younesi, stated that the judiciary’s accusations were “ridiculous”.

I call on you to release immediately and unconditionally Ali Younesi and anyone else arbitrarily detained solely based on their families’ real or perceived ties to opposition groups. Pending this, I ask you to ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment, provided urgently with any medical care they may require, and given access to their families and a lawyer of their choosing. I also urge you to open an independent investigation into allegations that Ali Younesi had been tortured on the day of his arrest with a view of bringing those responsible to justice in proceedings meeting international standards for fair trial.

Yours sincerely,

First UA: 76/20 Index: MDE 13/2306/2020 Iran       Date: 12 May 2020


In response to statements by Iran’s judiciary spokesperson that two university students – in apparent reference to Ali Younesi and Amir Hossein Moradi, the other university student arrested – had been in possession of “explosive devices” in their homes and were affiliated with “counterrevolutionary” groups, Aida Younesi, Ali Younesi’s sister publicly stated on 5 May 2020 that “after 26 days of detention where it is not even clear what disaster you have inflicted on my brother [Ali], you come and make these ridiculous charges”. In response to the spokesperson’s allegation that “explosive devices” were found in the homes of the university students,

Aida Younesi also added that security officials told them that that they had found nothing suspicious after searching Ali Younesi’s home. Moreover, in the days following Ali Younesi’s arrest, his family was told every few days he would be soon released. The judiciary spokesperson had also, without further elaboration, attempted to connect these arrests to the COVID-19 pandemic by saying “in this corona[virus] situation, it was the enemy’s conspiracy that wanted to create chaos in the country”.

Ali Younesi and Amir Hossein Moradi are award-winning students at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Ali Younesi is a silver and gold medal recipient in Iran’s National Astronomy Olympiad and the 2018 gold medal winner in the International Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad held in China. Amir Hossein Moradi is the silver medal recipient in Iran’s National Astronomy Olympiad.

The Iranian authorities have a history of targeting family members of those who have real or perceived ties with the PMOI. Following the post-June 2009 election unrest in Iran, the authorities arrested, amongst many others, individuals who had relatives with a past or current association with opposition groups, including the PMOI. See from Protest to Prison, for more information. Those arrested in 2009 include prisoner of conscience Maryam Akbari Monfared, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence following the arbitrary interference with her privacy, family and correspondence in relation to having made phone calls to and visiting once family members who were members of the PMOI (Click here for more information).

Since the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran became publicly known in February 2020, many have been raising concerns for the wellbeing of those jailed and calling for the release of prisoners of conscience and those held on politically motivated charges. Prisoners’ families have repeatedly voiced their fears that the lack of sanitary products and poor prison conditions put prisoners at greater risk. Iran’s judiciary made a number of announcements about how it intends to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, including releasing prisoners temporarily and upon payment of bail and to grant pardons to certain types of prisoners.

However, hundreds of prisoners of conscience remain jailed and the authorities continue to arrest people for politically motivated reasons.


21 Nobel Laureates condemn Iran over coronavirus outbreak secrecy


Fox News    |    Christopher Carbone    |    March 26, 2020

The Iranian regime’s cover-up of the spread of coronavirus has resulted in an unprecedented catastrophe in the country, a group of 21 Nobel Laureates warned Monday in a scathing letter to the United Nations.

The scientists claim that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s leaders have prevented the free flow of information and reacted far too slowly as COVID-19 continued to spread unabated, infecting thousands in the country of 83 million people.

“As a result of the regime’s inaction, there has been a serious lack of preventive measures to control and ward off the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran. For example, according to experts, the initial epicenter of the virus outbreak, the central city of Qom, was not quarantined, due to the regime’s parochial political considerations,” the Nobel Laureates wrote in the letter addressed to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“As a result of all this, COVID-19 has aggressively spread death and infections across Iran,” they said.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 29,406 cases of COVID-19 in Iran and 2,234 deaths from the disease. According to The Washington Post, not long after the first coronavirus cases were announced in Iran, the country began digging football field-size mass graves that were visible from space.

“We are asking for your urgent intervention in the situation that is unfolding in Iran, as a means of preventing the further expansion of this catastrophe. We request that, with the help of the international community, all of the medical resources and treatment be taken out of IRGC’s [Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps] control and instead be allocated to treatment and prevention efforts that can halt further spread of the coronavirus,” the letter adds.


Iran Rejects Offer of Help by Doctors Without Borders to Fight Coronavirus


Radio Farda    |    March 24, 2020

Under apparent pressure from the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and ultraconservative allies of the country’s Supreme Leader, Tehran has rejected the offer of medical help by a team sent by the renowned international non-governmental group, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders.

Earlier on March 22, MSF had sent a consignment of medical aid to Iran, including one field inflatable hospital, medicines, respiratory masks, and protective clothing.

Meanwhile, MSF said in a tweet, “Iran is by far the hardest-hit country in the region and Ispahan (Isfahan) is the second most affected province in the country, and we hope that our aid will relieve, at least in part, the pressure on the local health system.”

The tweet was followed by another one, expanding on the aid, “MSF sent a 50-bed inflatable hospital and a 9-person emergency team to the second most affected province in Iran.”

However, a day later, an advisor to the Islamic Republic Minister of Health, Alireza Vahhabzadeh, announced on his Twitter account that, since the national mobilization for confronting the novel coronavirus is underway, and “the Iranian Armed Forces’ medical capabilities are entirely at its service, Iran did not need hospitals established by foreigners. [Therefore], the MSF presence in Iran is irrelevant.”

A day earlier, MSF had reported, “The inflatable hospital has been shipped by air from MSF’s logistics hub in Bordeaux, France, and is to be set up in the compound of Amin hospital in Isfahan. The unit is equipped to treat critically ill patients requiring constant medical supervision and care.”

Nine doctors and specialists were assigned to run the inflatable hospital.

Later on Tuesday, MSF expressed deep surprise in a statement sent to Radio Farda that Iranian Health Ministry officials put a stop to its plans to launch its vital mission to help critically ill patients.

In the meantime, the ultraconservative allies of the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including daily Kayhan, bombarded Iran’s Ministry of health in recent days with harsh criticism for allowing MSF presence in the country.

Speaking to the IRGC-linked Fars news agency on Monday, Kayhan’s Managing-Editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, implicitly accused the Paris-based MSF of being an American puppet.

Referring to Khamenei’s comments on Sunday, Shariatmadari said, “America knows that it has no place in Iran, and it cannot have a presence here. Nevertheless, [one should ask] is it not true that France has always cooperated with the U.S. conspiracies against Iran? Is it not true that [French President Emmanuel] Macron has explicitly declared that he supports all American plots against our country?”

Directly appointed by Khamenei, IRGC member Shariatmadari argued that MSF is a Paris-based organization, and it could not be trusted since all anti-Islamic Republic groups have a base in France.

However, while based in Paris, MSF is a non-governmental organization active across the world. From 2000 to 2010, MSF was present in Iran’s southeast province of Baluchestan, serving local people and Afghan emigrants.

In a statement in 2010, MSF announced that the Islamic Republic authorities had ordered it to close the organization’s office in the capital city of Iranian Baluchestan, Zahedan.

Fighting to contain the deadly novel coronavirus in Iran has been mired with “conspiracy theories” and the presence of alleged “enemies targeting” the whole country and its people.

In recent days, Khamenei has played a pivotal role in relating the outbreak to an imaginary “conspiracy” created by Washington. He even mentioned supernatural, mythological beings helping Iran’s enemies.

Joining the chorus initiated by media linked with the Chinese Communist Party, Khamenei accused Washington on Sunday of creating the new virus and its related deadly disease, COVID-19.

He went even further by accusing the U.S. of prescribing or exporting medicine to Iran that could spread the virus further or cause it to remain permanently.

Retaliating to Khamenei’s remarks, the U.S. Secretay of State, Mike Pompeo, tweeted on Monday, “The Iranian regime ignored repeated warnings from its own health officials, and denied its first death from the WuhanVirus for at least nine days. The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths.”

Moreover, Pompeo affirmed on Monday, “It is important to note that since 2012, Iran has spent over $16 billion on terror abroad and used sanctions relief from the [Iran nuclear deal] to fill up its proxies’ coffers,” Pompeo said on Monday. “Regime officials stole over a billion euros intended for medical supplies, and continue to hoard desperately needed masks, gloves, and other medical equipment for sale on the black market.”



How Iran’s regime set off a coronavirus bomb on its own economy


New York Post    |    By Saeed Ghasseminejad    |    March 5, 2020

 The coronavirus has shattered any hope of the Iranian economy clawing out from under two years of deep recession. To the ruling regime’s chagrin, the virus has begun to adversely affect precisely those sectors that seemed poised for growth after weathering the return of US sanctions.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the Iranian economy contracted 4.8 percent in 2018 and 9.5 percent in 2019. The closest thing to good news was that both the IMF and the World Bank forecasted zero growth in 2020. That would be abysmal for most economies, but the Islamist regime in Tehran considered it a ray of light. No more.

By sacrificing public health to politics, the clerical regime turned Iran into a coronavirus bomb exploding across the Middle East. When the epidemic broke out, Tehran failed to cut, limit or even supervise contacts with China. As always, ordinary Iranians have been the main victim of the Islamist regime’s incompetence and psychopathic indifference toward its own citizens.

Beginning in late January, social media reported cases of the virus in Iran, especially in the holy city of Qom. Rather than taking action, the regime issued denials and accused the individuals who reported the problem of “spreading rumors.” The result one month later is an official death toll of 77, likely massively understated, while the country’s deputy health minister admitted to testing positive for coronavirus the day after a news conference at which he sweatily insisted the situation was under control.

The outbreak will hit Iran’s economy in three ways. The first is diminishing trade with China; the second, a decline in trade with regional neighbors; and third, a reduction in economic activities within Iran. The result will be another year of recession. The magnitude of these effects will depend on how long the outbreak lasts in China, the Middle East and Iran.

China is Iran’s top trade partner. In 2019, bilateral trade was $23 billion, already down from $35 billion in 2018, but still enough to keep China as Iran’s No. 1 partner. Trade data show Iran’s non-oil exports to China comprise 23 percent of its total non-oil exports. China is also the only paying customer for Iranian oil. In 2019, it purchased $7 billion of crude from the Islamic Republic and was also the top customer for Iranian petrochemical products.

As the Chinese economy slows down, so will Chinese demand for Iranian goods. A prolonged disruption of trade will also hit Iran hard because 25 percent of Iran’s imports, including key inputs for manufacturing and service industry, comes from the Middle Kingdom.

Then there’s the gloomy regional picture. Due to sanctions, Iran adjusted its trade strategy to focus more on regional partners to replace the European and East Asian countries that restricted economic ties. More than half of Iran’s non-oil exports now go to Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan. The spread of coronavirus will disrupt this trade. As the epidemic grows inside Iran, foreign restrictions are likely to tighten, which will disrupt much of Iran’s non-oil trade and tourism.

Finally, the virus will hit domestic markets once the regime recognizes it has to quarantine some cities and temporarily shut down non-essential businesses. Many workers may decide to stay home for an extended period due to fear of infection. This will compound the Chinese and regional headaches. Both the speed of production and services will go down, which will no doubt depress gross domestic product.

Sadly, the Islamist regime has compromised its citizens’ health and then ridiculed an American offer of assistance. According to experts, the coronavirus is most lethal for high-risk patients with previous health problems. The Islamist regime in Iran is a high-risk patient that may soon find itself on economic life support.

Saeed Ghasseminejad is senior Iran and financial economics adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Twitter: @SGhasseminejad


Bahrain Prosecutes Iranian Bank Officials for Money Laundering


Asharq Al-Awsat    |    Obaid Al-Suheimy    |    February 14, 2020

Bahrain’s prosecution on Thursday submitted a case involving several people accused of money laundering for Iran and violating sanctions on Tehran through the Manama-based Future Bank.

Attorney General Ali bin Fadhel al-Buainain said: “Bahrain’s Public Prosecution Office has sent over to the court the cases of the people suspected of laundering enormous sums of money for Iran through one of the largest Bahraini banks, Future Bank, to finance terrorist activities.”

He added: “The central bank conducted an investigation with the bank’s employees and checked tens of thousands of documents with the participation of the interior ministry and independent international experts.”

Future Bank, which was based in Bahrain but set up and controlled by Iran’s Bank Saderat and Bank Melli, was shut down by Bahraini authorities in 2017.

“The bank has conducted thousands of financial operations providing cover to Iranian companies. The bank managed to hide approximately USD5 billion by conducting off-the-books operations,” Buainain said.

Further investigations found the bank to have executed thousands of international financial transactions worth USD7 billion while concealing the involvement of Iranian entities.

Staff deliberately removed information when transferring money via the SWIFT network – an illicit practice referred to as “wire stripping”. Another technique involved a covert messaging service as an alternative to SWIFT, which concealed transactions from Bahraini regulators.

Rasheed al-Maraj, the CBB governor, said the complexity and magnitude of the investigations were compounded by the need to disentangle the subterfuge of Iranian-backed financing of terrorism.

“Bahrain is committed to full implementation of international standards in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” he said. “Investigating and prosecuting violations is an essential part of protecting the integrity of the international financial system.”

Bahraini authorities suspended activities of the bank in 2012 due to UN sanctions on Iran. Manama has been accusing the bank of being a terrorism financing channel since Feb. 14, 2011.


Iran’s recent uprisings bring protest to UC Berkeley


THE DAILY CALIFORNIAN    |    BY OLIVIA GONZÁLEZ BRITT     |     November 25, 2019

The Iranian American Community of Northern California, or IACNorCal, gathered on UC Berkeley’s campus Friday to advocate for the millions of Iranians currently experiencing an unexpected internet shutdown by their government.

The association supports the idea that Iran should be “a democratic secular republic” and believes it should take advantage of the United States’ freedom of speech to be the voice of the people of Iran, according to the IACNorCal website. IACNorCal spokesperson Hamid Azimi said at the protest that Iran’s recent uprising was sparked about a week ago when the price of gasoline was “tripled” by the Iranian government.

“A nation that has been under a religious dictatorship for the last 40 years has now risen up to resist and ask for change,” Azimi said at the protest.

According to the association’s website, the uprising has spread to more than 150 cities in Iran. In a matter of days, about 251 people have been killed, 3,700 injured and 7,000 arrested.

In response to those who have died in the uprising, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran Maryam Rajavi urged all compatriots on her Twitter account to commemorate the deaths and provide care and treatment to the wounded Iranians.

Rajavi has previously elaborated on a “Ten point platform” which offers a vision for a future Iran, according to the IACNorCal website. The plan has 10 steps, which include the aim to achieve complete gender equality, the abolition of the death penalty and a nuclear-free Iran, among other goals.

According to IACNorCal member Peymaneh Shafi, Rajavi’s 10 point plan calls for basic human rights and is “very progressive for a constitution.”

Shafi said she agrees with Rajavi’s plan because it demonstrates opposition to the current government and will set a good foundation for a future democratic Iran.

“I want (Iranians) to live in a peaceful society with its neighbors and be able to bring the Iranian people economic stability and grant a prosperous society,” Shafi said at the protest.

Campus freshman and IACNorCal member Seena Saiedian expressed his concerns regarding Iran’s recent major internet blackout. He added that he will not have information about the condition of his family in Iran until the communication in the country is restored and that this blackout seems to show the government’s “weakness.”

Campus graduate student Aydin Golabi, who also has family in Iran, said the inability to reach his family is “a gross violation of human rights.”

According to Azimi, the rally is pushing to ensure that international organizations, such as the United Nations Security Council, take measurable actions to condemn the suppression in Iran and demand the release of the detainees.

“We are confident that, with the uprising of people in Iran, now is the time that achieving the goal of democratic change in Iran is very realistic,” Azimi said at the protest.

Contact Olivia González Britt at ogonzalezbritt@dailycal.org and follow her on Twitter at @Oliviagbritt.