Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, a new RFE / RL newsletter that tracks key issues in Iran and explains why they are important.
I’m RFE / RL senior correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here is what I have been following for the past week and what I am looking forward to in the coming days.
The big question
Crowds of Iranian teachers gathered in more than a dozen cities on May 1 to demand fair wages, better working conditions and the release of their imprisoned colleagues. In the days before the planned demonstrations, dozens of teachers were arrested and dozens of others were reportedly summoned for questioning by the police, in a move to prevent the protests from taking place. It was unclear how many protesters were arrested during or after the demonstrations.
In central Isfahan, protesters chanted: “Iran is not a place for tyrants.” In the northwestern city of Ghazvin, teachers branded ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi a “liar” and accused him of failing to improve economic conditions in Iran.
Why it’s important: Authorities have called for, detained and detained a growing number of protesters, activists and members of the teachers’ union. Over the past three years, teachers have staged several protests. But now teachers say they are coming under “unsurpassed” pressure from Raisi’s government, which came to power in August, to stop the demonstrations.
Teachers have clear demands, but they do not demand an end to the Islamic system. The authorities want to stop them because Iran does not tolerate dissent and they can not meet their demands. The authorities also seem to fear that the teachers’ meetings may trigger more protests from public employees and others who are struggling to cope with rising inflation.
What comes next: Despite the risks, the protesting teachers are likely to continue staging demonstrations, spurred on by economic desperation. Mahmud Beheshti Langarudi, deputy head of the teachers’ union, hinted just as much when he said that the increasing pressure from the authorities had been ineffective. Nevertheless, the authorities are likely to respond with more deprivations of liberty and imprisonment. It is unclear whether the government is willing to use force to quell the protests, a move that could backfire.
Stories you may have missed Iranian security forces are said to have used force to disperse dozens of protesters in the northern city of Saravan on April 28. The protesters said their city had become a giant landfill and demanded that the authorities find a solution. Residents have complained that the waste causes health and environmental problems. The authorities had promised to build an incinerator in the area but have not yet taken action. Authorities said protesters threw stones at police and injured five policemen. More than 20 protesters were arrested. Two filmmakers have fled Iran after saying they were interrogated and harassed by authorities because of a documentary they made. Vahid Zarezadeh and Gelareh Kakavand told the BBC they were being questioned by intelligence officials. The couple also said that security forces searched their homes and confiscated their electronic devices. Their documentary is based on a book by prominent imprisoned human rights defender Narges Mohammadi on the use of solitary confinement in Iranian prisons. The filmmakers also interviewed former political prisoners who shared their experiences of torture and sexual harassment in prison. What we’re looking at
A verdict is expected in the trial in Stockholm against Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian official accused of war crimes and human rights violations over the massacres of at least 5,000 political prisoners in 1988. Swedish prosecutors have requested life imprisonment for Nouri, who at the time of the executions worked as Deputy Prosecutor at a prison near Tehran. He has denied any involvement in the killings.
In an extraordinary moment this week, a BBC reporter interviewed whose father was among the executed son of Nouri, who dismissed the allegations against his father and suggested he was a victim.
Why it’s important: Nouri is the first person to be brought to justice over mass cleansing. If Nouri is found guilty, it would be a blow to the clerical establishment, which has described the trial as “illegal”.
The case is particularly sensitive because current government officials have been accused of having a role in the 1988 deaths, most notably Raisi. Nouri’s ruling would mark a milestone victory for human rights activists and the families of victims who have long demanded justice over the executions.
That was all from me for now. Do not forget to send me any questions, comments or tips.
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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE / RL, Inc. Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036