Iran. The aftermath of the June 12 presidential election shook Iran fundamentally. The incumbent ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was challenged above all by former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi who promised increased freedom for the nation’s citizens. However, both Mousavi and the other high-profile candidates, the former Speaker Mehdi Karroubi and the former base of the Revolutionary Guard Mohsen Rezai, were conservative by Western standards.
When the election results were announced, Ahmadinejad was said to have received 62.6 percent of the vote and Mousavi 33.8 percent. Mousavi immediately claimed that extensive election fraud had occurred and hundreds of thousands of his green and black-clad supporters, most young people, walked the streets in protest demonstrations. Over the next few weeks, protests grew to the most extensive since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Ayatollah spiritual leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei declared the election valid and issued a sharp warning that the protesters would be punished. The regime deployed the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia – a type of citizen guard – which, according to official sources, killed 36 protesters, according to the opposition about twice as many. More than 4,000 were arrested, most of whom were released within a few weeks, reportedly often after severe torture and ill-treatment. Trials initiated against some hundreds of activists, journalists, lawyers and local staff at Western embassies were criticized by human rights activists who believed that recognition had been forced under torture. At least five of those arrested had been sentenced to death at year-end.
According to countryaah, the country’s establishment was fragmented. Khamenei supported Ahmadinejad but many other spiritual leaders were critical of Ahmadinejad, who has no spiritual education, and said he was a populist who had run the country’s economy at the bottom and completely militarized the political system. In Ahmadinejad’s new government, which was approved by the majlis (parliament) in early September, there were a large number of unproven ministers who were criticized as inexperienced jazz owners. There was also the country’s first female head of department, Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi.
The demonstrations continued in connection with religious and political holidays during the rest of the year. On December 20, the storayatolla Hossein Ali Montazeri, long critical of the country’s leadership, died, which drove even more protesters into the streets. At least eight people were killed in Tehran and Tabriz, among them Mousavi’s nephew. Mousavi and Karroubi were perceived as leaders of the opposition and many of their employees and relatives were arrested.
Several observers expected that Iran, in order to appease the harsh criticism received from the Western world, would show a willingness to compromise in the conflict over its expansion of nuclear fission facilities, but this did not happen. Iran announced in September that it had a new enrichment facility under construction near the city of Qom south of Tehran. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany proposed in October that Iran would allow most of its uranium in France and the Russian Federation to be used before use in a research reactor in Tehran, but no agreement was reached. On November 27, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a resolution condemning Iran for keeping the new plant secret and demanding that construction be stopped. Iran called the resolution “useless”.
Several acts of violence shook the Sunni-e Baluchistan-dominated region in the southeastern part of the country. On May 28, 25 people were killed in a blast attack in a Shiite mosque and on October 18, 31 people, at least six of whom were officers in the Revolutionary Guard, were killed in a suicide bombing. The Sunni Muslim group Jundallah (God’s soldiers) took on the responsibility for the later attack. All 168 people on board were killed on July 15 when a passenger plane of the Tupolev type crashed twelve miles north of Tehran en route to Armenia’s capital Yerevan.
Assassination attempt on a nuclear technology expert
Iran’s Defense Ministry confirms that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, considered the country’s foremost expert on nuclear energy, has been assassinated. Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear experts were assassinated and Iran has accused Israel of meddling. Fakhrizadeh, who has been described as “the father of the Iranian bomb”, was explicitly mentioned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018, when Netanyahu gave his view of Iran’s nuclear program aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Prisoner of exchange with several countries involved
Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been detained in Iran for two years, is being exchanged for three Iranians. Moore-Gilbert was arrested in 2018 after visiting Qom for a conference. She was accused of espionage and sentenced in a trial without transparency to ten years in prison. According to Australian media, she is being exchanged for three men who were arrested in Thailand in 2012 on suspicion of having planned an assassination attempt on Israelis. Iranian media report on the exchange without giving details about the three men.
Stores are forced to close
Iran, which has refrained from drastic shutdowns to stop corona infection, is now forcing stores that do not sell essential goods such as food and medicine to stay closed for upwards of two weeks. More than half of the country’s small and large cities are affected by the decision. In addition, private motoring is limited in several ways. 431 new deaths are reported. Since the beginning of November, the daily death toll has been over 400. Iran’s total number of confirmed deaths since the pandemic began, 44,327, is believed to be just below the previous level.
Stops for electricity and gas to lrak threaten
Iraq, which buys electricity and gas from Iran, is getting the go-ahead from the United States to keep imports going for 45 days despite the sanctions that the United States maintains against Iran. When the United States reintroduced its sanctions against Iran in 2018, the energy sector was blacklisted, and the United States wants Iraq to stop doing business with the Iranians. But for fear of mass protests in Iraq, against, among other things, constant power outages, the United States has granted Iraq a number of time-limited exemptions. The postponement expires in January 2021, just a few days before Joe Biden is due to take office as President of the United States (see also November 18).
The UN sees increased Iranian uranium enrichment
Iran has launched advanced centrifuges in an underground part of its main uranium enrichment plant, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Within the framework of the international agreement from 2015 on Iran’s nuclear energy, an agreement that has been in danger since the United States dropped it, Iran’s uranium enrichment must be limited. The aim is for Iran not to produce nuclear uranium. According to the New York Times, President Trump has inquired about the possibilities for the United States to attack Iran militarily before his term expires in January 2021. A possible target for a US attack could be the plant in Natanz.
Iranians among deaths in Israeli attacks
The Israeli army states that Iranian and Syrian positions in Syria have been attacked and that this was in response to explosives being found near the Israeli military on the Golan Heights. About ten deaths are reported by SOHR, of which five are Iranian. The Golan is Syrian land that Israel has occupied since 1967, Israelis have also moved into the area since the occupation began. Israel repeatedly attacks military targets in Syria, especially those linked to Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, but the Israeli military rarely confirms or comments on the operation. In this case, Israel accuses Iran of having persuaded Syrians to place the explosives on the Golan.
Under house arrest with covid-19
Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former presidential candidate who has been under house arrest for almost ten years, has been found to be infected with corona, according to a site critical of the regime. The former prime minister ran as an opposition candidate in the 2009 presidential election, which was won by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but was strongly questioned and sparked a wave of popular protests. Iran has now confirmed almost 41,500 deaths in covid-19, and health sources continue to believe that the actual number is higher. The authorities are considering new restrictions after finding 12,453 new cases of infection in one day.
Released from prison with covid-19
Human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh is temporarily released from prison. A few days later, she was diagnosed with covid-19. She went on hunger strike in prison but ended her protest action in September after 45 days (see 1 October 2020 and 12 March 2019).
Prisoners are released prematurely
In connection with the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, which is a public holiday in Iran, 3,780 prisoners are released prematurely. Some are pardoned, others have their sentences reduced. The amnesty decision is supplemented a few days later with the announcement that 157 prisoners convicted of security offenses will regain their liberty; among these are people who have taken part in regime-critical protests. In the past year, Iran has released thousands of prisoners to prevent the spread of the corona pandemic in prisons, but the decisions have generally not applied to people convicted of security crimes.