Two former Sunni MPs interrogated over their promotion of minority rights


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In another sign of pressure on President Hassan Rouhani, two of his campaign managers in May’s election have been summoned and questioned by the Intelligence Ministry.

Former MPs Jalal Jalalizadeh and Hassel Dasseh (pictured) were managers in western Iran provinces as Rouhani easily won over the conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who was backed by the Supreme Leader’s office.

Dasseh was summoned on November 11 and interrogated for hours. An “informed source” said he was insulted and told to stop following up on people’s demands: “The election is over, go and sit at home.”

Several days earlier, Jalal Jalaizadeh, the campaign head in the mainly-Kurdish province of Kurdestan, was ordered to disband a committee to follow up on Rouhani’s promises to the Kurdish community.

Dasseh said agents told Jalaizadeh, “Why did you get involved in the election in the first place and invite people to come forward and vote?”

Dasseh has said Shia grand ayatollahs had contacted Rouhani and several reformist leaders, forbidding them to pick Sunnis for ministerial positions. He claimed an Interior Ministry official told him that the ministry “is not permitted” to nominate Sunnis as governors.

Both Dasseh and Jalaizadeh are Sunnis.

Kurdestan, which also has a significan Sunni population, gave a 75% vote to Rouhani. The mainly-Sunni Sistan and Baluchestan returned almost 73% to the President.

However, Rouhani avoided the appointment of any Sunnis to his cabinet, leading to Jalaizadeh’s criticism in September, “The Sunnis have taken part in these elections without any expectations, but it is unfortunate that reformists forget them after winning.” Prominent Sunni clergy warned Rouhani and his allies that Sunnis might vote for their rivals in future elections.

Leading cleric Molavi Abdol-Hamid wrote the Supreme Leader, who responded that senior officials of the Islamic Republic, based on the Constitution, are “duty-bound” to refrain from discrimination against Iranian citizens.

Under the Constitution, the official denomination of the country is Twelver Imam Shi’a. Sunnis have not been allowed to build mosques in Tehran, and religious minorities have been limited in participation in public office.

Last month an elected Zoroastrian member of the Yazd City Council, Sepanta Niknam,, was suspended.

Rouhani, who campaigned on a platform promoting citizens’ rights, has not yet formally reacted to the high-profile case.


Iranian Officials Continue Harassment of BBC Persian Staff

Iranian officials are continuing to harass and intimidate employees of BBC Persian, according to the outlet’s staff.

Negin Shiraghaei said her elderly father, who has Stage 4 cancer, had been interrogated by the security services. Rana Rahimpour, a presenter, said her parents were brought in for questioning on multiple occasions.

Another BBC Persian presenter said that Iranian agents threatened to spread rumors about her sex life and compromising pictures and that the tactics had also been used against men.

“If they want to make women silenced, they just threaten, ‘OK, we are publishing stories about your sex life’,” the reporter said. She added that Iranian officers had raided her family’s home in Tehran, confiscating cameras and laptops and arresting a family member, and sent threatening messages on Facebook and social media from different people.

In an internal survey of 96 BBC Persian employees, 44 said they had been accused of sexual impropriety and 86 said they had been harassed. Almost half said their parents had been questioned by authorities in Iran.

This summer the Iranian judiciary froze the assets of more than 150 staff.

According to the BBC, 13 million Iranians listen to the Persian service despite the official injunction against the outlet.


Rafsanjani Daughter Visits Baha’i ex-Political Prisoner

Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has again challenged the regime with a visit to Fariba Kamalabadi, a Baha’i activist who spent 10 years in prison until she was released in October.

Hashemi, who was imprisoned for six months in 2012-2013 for her activism, has periodically met members of the Baha’i faith, who face detention, harassment, and discriminatino because of the regime’s hostility to their faith.

In the latest imprisonment, Hasan Momtaz, a teacher for the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, was seized from his mother’s home on November 15 to begin serving a five-year sentence.


Rouhani Talks to Macron Amid Rift With France

Amid a growing rift with France over Iran’s ballistic missiles and regional matters, President Hassan Rouhani has spoken by phone with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

Rouhani also called for “full & precise implementation” of the July 2015 nuclear deal as “an important test for cooperation in other international arenas”.

Last week Macron demanded that Iran negotiate its ballistic missile research and development along the nuclear agreement with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia), as he accused Iran of being behind the firing of a missile by Yemen’s Ansar Allah (Houthi) insurgents on Saudi Arabia.

Macron also received Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned more than a week earlier in a message from Riyadh, as the Saudi accused Iran and its ally Hezbollah of “acts of war”.


Supreme Leader, Rouhani Declare Victory Over Islamic State

Iran’s top officials, including the Supreme Leader and President Hassan Rouhani, are declaring victory over the Islamic State after ISIS’s loss of almost major positions in Iraq and Syria.

Ayatollah Khamenei celebrated with congratulations to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Forces of the Revolutionary Guards, “[This] was a blow against the past and current governments of America and the regimes linked to it in the region who created this group and gave them every kind of support so they could expand their malevolent power in west Asia.”

The Supreme Leader added in an address to Basij paramilitary members on Wednesday, “You, the young people, managed to bring US to its knees and defeat them in the region. All their efforts and plots to drive revolutionary and Islamic ideology out of this region and to destroy resistance ideology that had spread in the region were reversed.”

Rouhani said in a broadcast on State TV on Tuesday, “Today with God’s guidance and the resistance of people in the region we can say that this evil has either been lifted from the head of the people or has been reduced. Of course the remnants will continue but the foundation and roots have been destroyed.”

Despite the proclamations, ISIS is continuing to resist in and near its last town in Syria, al-Bukamal on the Iraq border. Two Iranian commanders have been killed in the past week by ISIS operations.

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