At the order of President Trump, US Treasury Department on Feb. 3 placed sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran's ballistic missile program or providing support to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Qods Force. The sanctions came two days after after Tehran conflrmed the Jan. 29 test launch of a Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile from its base at Semnan. The IRGC statement said that the test did not violate the nuclear deal that took effect last year. The missile apprently flew 600 miles before exploding, in a failed test of a re-entry vehicle. "As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice," National Security Advisor Michael Flynn said in response to the test. (Jurist, Tehran Times, NCRI, 38North, The Naitonal Interest, NYT, Fox News)
Iran's government and companies close to the elite Revolutionary Guards have signed major economic contracts with Syria, gaining control of large areas of the country in what appear to be lucrative rewards for helping President Bashar Assad regain control of territory from rebels. Five memorandums of understanding were signed during a visit by Syrian Prime Minister Emad Khamis to Tehran on Jan. 17, including a licence for Iran to become a mobile phone service operator in Syria, and phosphate mining contracts. "We greatly appreciate Iran's major role in combating terrorism and standing by the Syrian people in every way, politically and economically," Khamis said. Syria will give Iran 5,000 hectares of land for farming, and 1,000 hectares for setting up oil and gas terminals. A deal was also signed on providing lands for animal husbandry.
A UN human rights expert expressed concern Jan. 9 for nine human rights activists imprisoned in Iran. Among those activists, eight are believed to be on life-threatening hunger strikes, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Asma Jahangir. A ninth activist, Arash Saghedi, ended his hunger strike after his wife was released from prison on bail, although there is concern that he is in critical condition and being denied medical attention. Jahangir urged Iranian officials to release the activists, claiming they were arrested for "peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression." The statement comes just a few weeks after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani unveiled the Citizens' Rights Charter, which he says will "promote and strengthen citizens' rights," including the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Baluchi militants on Jan. 6 carried out an armed operation against Iranian security forces on the outskirts of the city of Sarbaz in Baluchistan province, claiming dozens of casualties, including senior Revolutionary Guards officers. The Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) group said the operation was carried out by its Abdulmalik Mollazadeh Brigade. A press release said their forces ambushed two military vehicles carrying a large number of Revolutionary Guards personnel in the Jekigvar area, with the drivers and nearly all passengers killed or injured. A terse report from the regime’s official Fars News Agency acknowledged only that one border guard had been killed and others wounded in an ambush by "terrorists."
The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz took responsibility for the bombing of two pipelines Jan. 3 in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province. The cell that carried out the attacks near the villages of Omidiyeh and in Deylam was identified as the Brigades of the Martyrs al-Nasser Mohiuddin. (Asharq al-Awsat, Jan. 4) The attack follows growing repression against Ahwazi Arab activists and leaders in Khuzestan. On Dec. 8, environmental activist Roqaya Jafari and journalist Rahil Mosavi were arrested after participating in a demonstration against the government's planned diversion of the Karoon River. The water diversion scheme was revealed in a leak to Iran's media, and has sparked local outrage amid fears it could leave already aridifying Khuzestan completely dry. The redirection is regarded as a "death sentence to the ecosystem of the whole southwest region of Iran." (UNPO, Dec. 12)
Thousands from various Iranian cities took part in a protest against the clerical regime's policies at Pasargade, site of the tomb of Cyrus the Great, outside Shiraz. The gathering took place on the day that his birth in 591 BCE is celebrated, Oct. 28. Protestors described Cyrus as a foundational figure in the establishment of human rights principles. The celebration is held annually, and tolerated for its patriotic theme, but has had a growing oppositional tone. Traditional slogans include: "Cyrus is our father and Iran is our homeland." but this year another chant was heard: "Freedom of thought impossible with the mullahs." (Media Express, NCRI, Oct. 28)
International outrage over the mounting wave of executions in Iran reached another milestone Aug, 27, when 12 drug convicts were hanged at Karaj Central Prison outside Tehran. Days earlier, when the 12 were transferred to solitary confinement at the facility in preperation for the executions, the United Nations issued an urgent plea. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, called on the Islamic Republic to stay the executions immediately. After they were carried out, Shaheed's response was harsh.
Dozens of Ahwazi Arab farmers held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of Iran's state sugar refinery, the Amir Kabir Company, near the regional capital Ahwaz on Aug. 25, protesting the parastatal's confiscation of over 1,000 hectares of agricultural land. The farmers from two villages, al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, brought documents they said prove their ownership of the lands, which were seized for sugar-cane farming with no warning, legal justification or compensation. Representatives of the firm clashed with protesters after security forces threatened the demonstrators with arrest if they failed to leave the area around the entrance to the headquarters building.