Iran Theater

Iran, Pakistan battle at Baluchistan border

Pakistani and Iranian forces exchanged mortar fire along their border in the divided region of Baluchistan Oct. 24. Pakistani officials said Iran fired six mortar shells, which landed near the border town of Mashkail. Pakistan is then believed to have fired back. The two countries share a long desert border which straddles Balochistan province in southwest Pakistan and Sistan Baluchistan in eastern Iran. Last week, Pakistan said a Frontier Corps soldier was killed and three were hurt in a clash with Iranian troops who crossed the border, presumably in pursuit of militants. Islamabad lodged a diplomatic protest. Pakistan is accused by Iran of failing to stop cross-border attacks on its forces by Sunni militants. But Baluch militants are also making trouble within Pakistan. On Oct. 23, two were killed in an explosion taregetting a Frontier Corps convoy near Quetta, Balochistan's capital. That same day, a gunman opened fire on members of Shi'ite Hazara minority who were returning from an open-air market in a bus, killing eight. Also that day, Fazl-ur-Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) political party, was targeted in a suicide blast in Quetta, although he escaped unharmed. (BBC NewsBBC News, The Nation, Pakistan, Express-Tribune, Pakistan, Oct. 24)

Iran: protests against acid attacks on women

Thousands took to the streets of Isfahan Oct. 22, demanding authorities act to halt a spate of acid attacks on young women in the historic Iranian city. Assailants on motorbikes have thrown acid in the face of at least eight women who were driving in the street with their windows rolled down in recent weeks. Local media say the number of victims could be higher. The attacks have so far claimed one life. Many Iranians believe that women were targeted because they were wearing clothes that could be deemed inappropriate by hardliners—a claim denied by the authorities. The protest was apparently a "wildcat" march, held in defiance of police efforts to close the streets. A similarly demonstration was held across from the parliament building in Tehran. (NCRI, Oct. 23; The Guardian, Oct. 22)

Kurdish guerillas kill Iranian army commander

Guerillas affiliated with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) have for the past days been clashing with Iranian military forces in the area of Shino (Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan province), leaving a senior army commander dead.  Iran's official media on Sept. 26 confirmed the killing of the commander, named as Sajad Takhti, by the guerilla force known as the Peshmerga of Iranian Kurdistan. The PDKI also confirmed that one of their fighters has been killed  in the area. Fighting is also reported in the Kurdish city of Mariwan (Kordistan province) on the border of Iran and Iraq's Kurdistan Region. (BasNews, Sept. 27)

Iran sends troops and drones to fight ISIS

We've noted reports that Iranian forces have intervened in northern Iraq to help fight ISIS, part of the Great Power convergence against the self-declared "Islamic State." Now Reuters reports that the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, traveled to Baghdad in June to coordinate the military counter-offensive as ISIS seized the north of the country. According to the report, "The plan included the use of thousands of militiamen who were armed and trained by Iran as well as thousands of new recruits who had volunteered after Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued a call to arms against ISIS in June." Iran has always been close to the Shi'ite-led regime in Baghdad, but now there also seems to be a rapprochement between Tehran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), traditionally suspicious of each other. The Kurdish Globe reports that KRG President Masoud Barzani met with the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif in Erbil on Aug. 26 to discuss coordinating the fight against ISIS. The independent Kurdish news site BasNews also reported Sept. 1 that an Iranian drone crashed in a village near the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Darbandikhan close to the Iranian border. Tehran's denials that it has forces fighting in Iraq seem increasingly transparent.

Iran: UN rights chief condemns juvenile execution

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on June 26 condemned  Iran's use of the death penalty for juvenile offenders and called on authorities to halt the announced execution of Razieh Ebrahimi. Ebrahimi, who was legally married to her then-28-year-old husband when she was 14, was sentenced to death after killing her abusive husband when she was 17. "Regardless of the circumstances of the crime, the execution of juvenile offenders is clearly prohibited by international human rights law," Pillay said, citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party, which prohibit the execution of those who commit their crimes while under the age of 18. In the same statement, Pillay also criticized Iran's use of the death penalty for political prisoners and for drug-related offenses.

Iran: online revolt against hijab

Iranian women by the thousands are posting their photos without a hijab on a Facebook page called My Stealthy Freedom, created by London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, and winning over 180,000 "likes" since it was launched May 3. Women post photos of themselves in varying degrees of defiance, from some only showing the backs of their heads while others standing bareface in front of government offices. "It is painful that I shall not be free so that you will not sin," comments one woman below her photo. "That I have to be covered so that your weak faith does not break!" The women, generally anonymous, are standing up against the Islamic Republic's 35-year law that requires women to dress according to sharia law. In addition to the head covering, they cannot wear clothing that exposes their arms or legs, and must wear a cloak or overcoat that covers three-quarters of the body. The semi-official Fars News Agency has condemned the page and accused Alinejad of inciting immoral behavior and collaborating with Iran's enemies. (Mid East Faces, May 14)

Iran: halt execution of political dissident

Amnesty International (AI) on May 31 urged Iran not to execute a political dissident convicted of "enmity against God." Gholamreza Khosravi Savajani was sentenced to death in 2010 on the charge of "enmity against God" for his alleged links with a banned opposition group, the People's Mojahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI). Family members of Gholamreza Khosravi fear that he may be executed as soon as June 1, after they were informed by prison officials that they must go to the prison in order to meet him outside of regular visitation hours. Khosravi is currently being held in solitary confinement, which according to AI, is in conformity with Iran's practice of placing prisoners in solitary units before their executions take place. "Yet again Iranian authorities are about to execute a man who did not even receive a fair trial in total disregard of both international and Iranian Law," said AI's deputy director for the Middle East, Hassiba Hadj Saharoui. Under the new Islamic Penal Code, the charge of "enmity against God" imposes the death penalty only for those who have actively taken up arms.

Iran: May Day marchers defy authorities

Workers in several Iranian industrial centers marched on May Day in defiance of official attempts to shut them down. In the western city of Sanandaj, placards called for the release of political prisoners and detained labor leaders. Employees of the Khuzestan Pipe Factory in Ahwaz, also in the country's west, gathered in front of the governorate office with placards reading "Deprived workers in Khuzestan Pipe factory have not been paid for 6 years," and "Deprived workers in the Ahwaz City Hall have not been paid for 5 years." Security forces surrounded the march in order to prevent the spread of protests. Similar marches, bringing out hundreds, were reported from Khorramabad, Saveh and Zanjan, although a hevay police presence in the central square of Qom prevented workers from gathering there. Quick arrests also shut down an attempt by transit workers to march in the capital. Ebrahim Madadi, a leader of the Union of the Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, is among those detained. (PMOI, May 3; NCRI, RFE/RL, May 1)

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