Iran. At least 30,000 people were killed in the earthquake that shook the city of Bam in southern Iran. December 26. Bam, which with its surrounding area had about 200,000 residents, was a historic city, and about 90% of the buildings in the city collapsed during the earthquake, which measured 6.7 on the Richter scale. According to Countryaah.com, Iran Independence Day is April 1. Rescuers from some 40 countries also included Americans, which was a milestone as the United States lacks diplomatic relations with Iran since the Revolution of 1979. To facilitate disaster relief, the United States also eased its financial sanctions against Iran.
In June, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found small amounts of plutonium and enriched uranium, which could be used in nuclear weapons, in advance of Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran claimed that the enriched uranium had been on imported equipment and that the plutonium was the result of innocent chemical experiments.
In September, the IAEA called for unannounced checks and Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium and prove that the country had no nuclear weapons production. The French, British and German foreign ministers visited Iran in mid-October, after which Iran pledged to comply with all IAEA requirements. The United States believed that the finds in Iran proved that the country violated the IAEA rules. The IAEA made another interpretation and reported in November that there was no evidence that Iran had a nuclear weapons program.
Otherwise, Iranian politics was characterized by the power struggle between reform friends and conservatives. The Conservative camp significantly strengthened its positions in the February 28 local elections. In the capital, Tehran, a coalition calling itself Islamic Iran’s developer took 14 out of 15 mandates, and equally smashing victories won the Conservatives in Esfahan, Kerman, Meshed, Qom, Shiraz and Yazd. The turnout was a low 39%.
Student protests in Tehran June 10 soon attracted protesters outside student circles. Demonstrators reportedly were encouraged by American television broadcasts in Persian. In mid-June, the protests spread to other cities. In total, nearly 1,000 protesters were reportedly arrested, about 400 of them students.
The 80-year-old storayatolla Hossein Ali Montazeri, the country’s most prominent regime-critical religious leader, was released Jan. 20 from the house arrest he has been held in since 1997.
On February 14, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence against university teacher Hashem Aghajari for blasphemy. The court remitted the case to the court in the city of Hamadan who issued the verdict.
The country’s highest leader, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, in the spring, pardoned the ten Iranian Jews who have been incarcerated since being convicted of espionage in 2000.
Canadian freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi, of Iranian origin, was beaten to death July 11 in a detention center in Tehran, where she has been accused of spying after taking pictures outside Evin Prison in the capital. A parliamentary inquiry set up to investigate the case in October revealed that Tehran’s top prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, had tried to prevent the truth from leaking.
Lawyer Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October. President Khatami urged Ebadi “not to be exploited” and said the price was not very important.
Just before the Iraq war broke out in March, Iran and Iraq exchanged the last of the prisoners of war they had held since the war between 1980-88.
During the year, Iranian authorities arrested a number of people suspected of colluding with the al-Qaeda terror network. Some of the arrested were extradited to countries with which Iran has friendly relations. Iran, on the other hand, refused to extradite terror suspects to the United States.
Criticized death sentence executed
A man arrested in 2007, suspected of stabbing to death when he was 16, is executed in a prison in Rasht. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty, which criticizes Iran for the executions of minors when the crimes were committed, have demanded that he be given a new trial because there is evidence that he confessed to torture. The UN notes that at least eight people were executed in Iranian prisons between 19 and 26 December alone.
Iran specifies compensation for air casualties
Iran promises to pay $ 150,000 or the equivalent in euros to all families who lose a relative when Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner on January 8. All 176 on board perished. Many were Iranians and 85 were Canadians or had residence permits in Canada. The government of Kiev reacts with criticism: the size of damages should be decided through negotiations between the countries, Ukraine believes (see July 2).
Iran is singled out for kidnapping separatists
Turkish police confirm that eleven people have been arrested on suspicion of, among other things, espionage and kidnapping on behalf of Iran. The detainees are Turkish citizens. There is a disappearance behind the arrest: Habib Chaab, who lived in Sweden but was accused of having links to Arab separatism in Iran, is believed to have been abducted from Istanbul and smuggled to Iran in October. In southwestern Iran, there is an area of Arab population around the city of Ahvaz. There are political movements acting in the name of the Arabs, a conflict that has also led to the hunt for suspects in Europe (both separatists and the Iranian regime’s envoys, see 22 September 2018 and 30 October 2018).
Publisher of critical site executed
The journalist Ruhollah Zam, who via his news site on the internet has published criticism of the regime, is hanged (see June 30). Zam had asylum in France, but is believed to have been kidnapped in Iraq and taken to Iran. The EU condemns the execution and several countries in Western Europe are protesting by withdrawing from a digital business forum that would have been organized from Tehran two days later. Iran, for its part, is calling on ambassadors from France and Germany (currently the EU presidency) to protest the criticism.
Railway between Iran and Afghanistan inaugurated
Tons of agricultural products are in the cargo when a railway line between Iran and Afghanistan opens. The line between Khaf in Iran and Rozanak in Afghanistan is the countries’ first joint and it will carry both passenger trains and freight trains. The route measures 150 km, but it will eventually be expanded to Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city. The goal is also a further extension to railway networks in Central Asia and China.
US sanctions with Iran in the spotlight
Iran’s envoy to the Huthi rebels in Yemen, which, among other things, has control over the country’s capital, is subject to sanctions by the United States. Behind the sanctions against Hasan Irlu, there is dissatisfaction in Washington with the fact that the regime in Iran supports the Shia Muslim rebel movement. The outgoing US government under Donald Trump, for its part, supports the Huthi and Iranian opponents, the Yemeni government, which is also backed by Sunni regimes in the region, mainly Saudi Arabia. US sanctions are largely directed at Iran’s so-called Jerusalem Force (al-Quds). Trump is considering classifying it as a terrorist group to limit Iran’s actions in the region (see January 3, 2020).
The judiciary is pressuring Rohani’s advisers
Shahindokht Molaverdi, a lawyer and former vice president, is sentenced to 30 months in prison. She is accused of leaking secret information to foreign powers and of propaganda against the Islamic State. She denies both allegations and says she intends to appeal. For four years she was one of Iran’s vice presidents and was responsible for women’s issues, after which she has been an adviser to the president. A few days after the verdict, it appears that another employee of President Rohani, Isa Kalantari, who is vice president with responsibility for environmental issues, risks prosecution. In conservative media, he has been accused of blackening the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, and it is both these comments and an environmental issue that have led him to be scrutinized by the judiciary.
Sad milestones in covid-19 reporting
More than one million cases of confirmed corona infection have now been registered in Iran, while the number of confirmed deaths is close to 50,000. The actual number is believed to be higher. But it seems that slightly fewer are dying now, compared to most of November when daily death tolls of over 400 were reported.
Increases pressure on uranium;
Iran’s parliament adopts a law that will resume uranium enrichment up to 20 percent purity, if sanctions against the country are not lifted within two months. UN inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities would also be stopped. According to the 2015 international agreement JCPOA, which aimed to slow down Iran’s conditions for acquiring nuclear weapons, Iran gets enriched uranium up to a purity of 3.67 percent. But since US President Donald Trump terminated the agreement and reintroduced sanctions, Iran sees itself less and less bound by conditions. President Rohani disapproves of the new law on the grounds that it makes it more difficult to reach a diplomatic solution, at a time when the United States is about to have a new president, Joe Biden, who is more negotiable than Trump (see November 18).). Low-enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear power production, but not for nuclear weapons.