Iran in Syria: Death buys chocolate

Shrine of Syeda Zainab
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Hezbollah convoy in Syria

Hezbollah convoy in Syria

Dutch TV reporter Roozbeh Kaboly and the Nieuwsuur team have put together this report, with English subtitles, based on a video said to show Iranian troops training militia in Syria, using a village school as a base.  The man being interviewed has been identified as Revolutionary Guards Commander Esmail Heydari, who reportedly died in Syria a few weeks ago, and was later given a public funeral in his hometown of Amol, about 180km north of Iran’s capital, Tehran. He describes the mission, working with teams which are on 25-day rotation, adding that some were previously trained in Iran. Part of the mission’s objective appears to be securing access for Hezbollah to deliver weapons and supplies.

Esmail Heydari| Photo: http://fajrenoor.blogfa.com/

Esmail Heydari| Photo: http://fajrenoor.blogfa.com/

Followers of human rights abuses in Iran, used to reading about the indescribable torture and cruelty dispensed to prisoners in the “special” IRGC detention centres and isolation wards, may be surprised by the smiling, relaxed, countenance of this commander. Heydari reveals the secret of his team’s success on their training mission is that they treat fighters with respect, “We haven’t paid them or anything,” he comments. Respect is a sentiment Heydari claims to extend to the local people: for example, by driving military vehicles slowly in civilian areas to avoid raising dust. While driving through a village Heydari says was deserted until his unit came to the area and cleaned up, he greets children warmly, offering candy. “When we came, there was no human being,” says Heydari. One of his team responds, “There are still no humans now, just Arabs.” The Nieuwsuur translation then relates the cameraman suggesting the Iranians also offer candy to the women they are passing on the road, but misses what I consider to be an implied threat in the reply: “We’ll give them some(thing), and you can film.” This is more typical of the IRGC behaviour I am familiar with.

The regime in Iran celebrated his death by burying Commander Heydari with honor, as a martyr who died defending the Shrine of Syeda Zainab, granddaughter of the prophet Mohammed.

At least 6 more videos were posted to YouTube by the admin of a rebel group’s Facebook page, and were later verified by France24 journalists working with translators, who helped to produce a detailed analysis. The links to the original videos were shared on Twitter, but were either shared only with selected contacts, or the settings were later changed to prevent public access. Copies of the videos, which seem to show Iranian military officers working with soldiers from Syria’s regular army, giving them advice and instructions for combat, can be seen here.

The film appears to have been recorded by Hadi Baghbani, a young Iranian documentary maker, who reportedly died during an incident on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, where he is said to have been on a 10-day assignment, his second such visit. A second group of Iranians reportedly died while on the road in Syria, either because of a traffic accident or because their driver was killed by a sniper. The rebels believed to have found Baghbani’s video camera, the Idblib-based Dawood Brigade, which released the video, claimed responsibility for “most” of the deaths in an interview with al-Aan TV. The group’s spokesperson, Hosam Alsermene, told Al-Jazeera that they killed about 15-20 members of an Iranian team after hearing about their Syrian operations. Their identities and operational details were confirmed after taking possession of mobile phones and the video camera of an independent journalist who just happened to be there. The 30-year-old filmmaker received a burial ceremony in his hometown of Babolsar, Iran.

Hadi Baghbani

Hadi Baghbani

It’s not completely clear, from the available accounts, how the bodies were returned to Iran. Can we assume that this happened with the help of Syrian authorities or the militia which were being trained? Alternatively, other Iranians still present in Syria might have been able to repatriate the dead themselves.

Defending the Shrine of Syeda Zainab

In July 2012, it was reported that about 5,000 Shiite Muslims were living in the neighbourhood of the shrine, including some who fled there to seek refuge from sectarian violence. Local youths armed with sticks were said to be defending the site, with Iran alleging clerics in Saudi Arabia had issued a fatwa demanding its destruction. A group of 48 Iranians, including members of the IRGC who claimed they were in retirement and making a pilgrimage to the shrine, was taken hostage in August 2012, before being traded in exchange for 2,130 prisoners of the Syrian regime in January 2013. Abdel Nasser Shmeir, interviewed by Al Arabiya and presented as the commander of Al-Baraa Brigade, claimed the hostages, plus their Afghan interpreter, were members of a 150-strong group sent to Syria by Iran for reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering. Shia news organisations claim that the shrine is now being protected by hundreds of Shia militants from Iraq and the Lebanese Hezbollah group. Recent reports say a custodian of the site, Anas Romani, was killed, and the building damaged, when it was attacked by mortar shells in July 2013.  The Syrian government accused militants of the attacks.

News from Iran – Week 20 – 2013

No_Porsche
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Prisoners’ News

A-Transfers

  • Ayoub Asadi, Kurdish political activist, transferred to Kashmar to serve his 20 year sentence.
  • Emergency transfer of Dervish lawyer Amir Eslami to hospital after heart attack.
  • Fakhroldin Faraji, Kurdish political activist, transferred to Tabas to serve his 30 year sentence.
  • Chengiz Ghadem-Kheiri , Kurdish political activist, transferred to Masjede-Soleiman to serve his 40 year sentence.
  • Kurdish activist on death row, Habibollah Golparipour, transferred to Urmiah prison from Semnan.
  • Namegh Mahmoudi, 62 years old political prisoner of Rejaei Shahr, transferred to hospital.
  • Mohammad-Hossein Rezaei, Kurdish political activist, transferred to Minoab to serve his 30 year sentence.

 

B-Arrests-Detentions

  • Javad Abou-Ali and Mohammad Danaei arrested in Behbahan.
  • Civil activist Behnam Bagheri arrested in a raid of his toy store in Maku.
  • Gonabadi dervish, Seyed Ebrahim Bahrami, arrested in Kavar.
  • Hamid-Reza Rezaei, vice-admiral in charge of special marine commandos in Sirjan arrested.
  • Abdollah Sadoughi, environmentalist, arrested at home in Tabriz.
  • Masoud Shamsnejad, law professor at Payam-e-Noor and Azad Universities of Urmia, and lawyer of death row prisoner Habibillah Golparipour, arrested.
  • Activist/poet, law student Jahanbakhsh Soltanzadeh (Salour) arrested in a raid of his home
  • Temporary detention order for Human Rights activists/journalists Masoud and Khosro Kordpour has been extended another 2 months – At the urging of his family Khosro Kurdpour ended his hunger strike after 25 days.

 

C-Liberations

  • Ali Azad, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.
  • Shohreh Azami-Kassaei freed after serving her sentence.
  • Mahmoud Dordkeshan freed after serving 1 year in prison.
  • Political prisoner Pouria Ebrahimi released from Evin after completing 1 year sentence.
  • Workers’ Rights activist, Ghaleb Hosseini, arrested 19 March, released on 150 million toman bail.
  • Zhinous Nourani freed after serving her sentence.

D-Other News

  • Shirin Ebadi accepts Golden Lily of Florence on behalf of Nasrin Sotoudeh.
  • Imprisoned journalist, Rahman Ghahremanpour, denied transfer to hospital for refusing to wear prison uniform.
  • Mostafa Nili, political prisoner of Rejaei Shahr, not allowed furlough to attend his father’s funeral.
  • Prominent Iranian union leader, Mansour Osanlou, says he left country after death threats.
  • Political prisoners in Zahedan central prison launched a hunger strike to protest their continued illegal imprisonment and prevention of their basic rights.
  • Mohammad-Reza Ahmadi-Nia, member of Pen club, sentenced to 3 years in prison + 1 year suspended.
  • Court overturns the exile sentence of Mokhtar Asadi, member of Teacher’s Union.
  • Mohsen Ghashghaeizadeh sentenced to 2 years.
  • Sirwan and Shirzad Hossein Panahi, Kurdish civil activists sentenced to 6 months each.

 

News of injustice in Iran

  • One hanging in Kermanshah on Sunday.
  • Three hangings in Rajaei-Shahr on Wednesday.
  • One public hanging in Noshahr.
  • Seven hangings in Rasht prison.

 

University – Culture

  • 8 booths closed and 883 books withdrawn at Tehran International Book Fair.
  • Mohammad-Rezā Lotfi’s concert canceled by ministry of Culture and Guidance.

 

Protests

  • Khatoon Abad Copper strikers attacked by the guards.
  • “Bouazizi of Ahwaz”, Mehdi Hadi Mojadam, dies of burns injuries.
  • 400 building workers protest in Seyyed Alshohada mosque in Shariati Street of Tehranpars.
  • Taxi drivers are on strike in Sanandaj
  • Journalists of Shahrvand go on strike.
  • 150 bus drivers of Tehran protest in front of Tehran Town Hall.

 

Iran abroad

  • Afghanistan says nine migrants killed by Iranian border guards.
  • Lotfollah Forouzandeh, Iranian Vice President, meets Head of Turkish Parliament in Ankara.
  • Iranian convicted over Nigeria arms.
  • US to block sales of gold to Iran in sanctions pressure.
  • First group of 14 Iraqi members of MKO moved to Albania.
  • Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade leaves for Vietnam.
  • Two Iranian diplomats declared “personae non grata” by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Security Ministry.

 

Iran Economics

  • Akhshan seat-belt factory closure in Shiraz leaves 500 unemployed.
  • Iran banned luxury car imports (Benz + Porsche).
  • South Korea cut crude imports from Iran by half in April.
  • Sharp decline in IRI Shipping Lines revenues.

 

Iran Politics

  • A total of 686 hopefuls have registered for Iran’s presidential election.
  • 35 reformist candidates disqualified in municipal elections.
  • Guardian Council extends deadline to announce final list of Iran presidential candidates to May 21.
  • 100 Majlis deputies ask Gardians Council not to approve candidacy of Rafsanjani and Mashaei.
  • 2 sites close to candidate Rahim Mashaei filtered.
  • Vice President Rahimi withdraws presidential candidacy.
  • Foreign Minister Spokesman resigns amid presidential bid.
  • Ayatollah Sistani deems that being a candidate at the presidential election is a duty for Rafsanjani.
  • The Reformists Advisory Council and The Participation Front have officially endorsed Hashemi Rafsanjani.
  • The manager of Keyhan newspaper threatens Rafsanjani of clashes with Hezbollah and Supreme Guide support.
  • Young Reformists supporters of Rafsanjani were prevented from holding a pre-approved meeting in Rasht.

 

Miscellaneous

  • Earthquake of magnitude 6.2 hits Southern Iran near Minab.
  • Ban on the Reuters bureau in Tehran lifted.

News from Iran – Week 19 – 2013

Wearing women's clothing is not a punishment
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Prisoners’ News

Transfers

  • Saeed Abedini stops hunger strike after his return to 350. – Transferred to Modarres hospital for stomach bleeding then back to Evin.
  • Abolfazl Abedini Nasr, Kamran Ayazi, Mohammad and Pouria Ebrahimi, Siamak Ghaderi, Amir Khosro Dalirsani, Saeed Madani, Abdollah Momeni and Mohamad-Hassan Yousefpour-Seifi stopped hunger strike after return to 350.

Arrests-Detentions

  • Mohammad Ehiaee workers’ rights activist, arrested at his work place
  • Fardin Ghaderi, Hamed Mahmoudinejad, Shahpour Hosseini, Jalil Mohammadi and Aram Zandi workers’ rights activists arrested in Sanandaj.
  • Mohammad Ghasem-Khani Bahram Saeedi, all workers at Iran Khodro, arrested at work.
  • Baztab news site managing director Ali Ghazali has been reported arrested.
  • Idris Karimi, Adel Moradi and Naaman Manouchehri arrested in Ravansar.
  • Eilghar Moazzenzadeh Azeri poet arrested with his brother Ehsan at their home in Meshkin-Shahr and transferred to Ardebil Intelligence detention center.
  • Baha’i Parisa Shahidi was arrested in a raid of her home. Her husband is imprisoned in Rajaei Shahr.

Liberations

  • Ali Azad, workers’ rights activist, released on bail.
  • Shohreh Azami-Kasaei was freed at the end of her 8 month sentence.
  • Zhinoos Nourani was freed at the end of her 1 year sentence.

Other News

  • Saeed Abedini, Abolfazl Abedini Nasr, Kamran Ayazi, Mohammad Ebrahimi, Pouria Ebrahimi, Siamak Ghaderi, Amir Khosro Dalirsani, Saeed Madani, Abdollah Momeni and Mohamad-Hassan Yousefpour-Seifi launched a hunger strike to protest detention in Evin prison solitary after they protested against repressive conditions in Ward 350.

News of injustice in Iran

  • Davoud Alijani, Ahvaz pastor Farhad Sabok-Rouh and Naser Zamen-Dezfouli summoned to serve 1 year sentences in Sepidar prison.
  • Akbar Amini has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and 5 year ban from any political activity.
  • Mohammad Parsi and Pejman Zafarmand both sentenced to 3 years in prison and 5 years ban from any political activity.
  • Ayat Mehrali-Biglou, Shahram Radmehr, Mahmoud Fazli, Behboud Gholizadeh and Latif Hassani, Azeri political activists, sentenced to 9 years in prison.
  • Shahnaz Jayzan, wife of Pastor Sabok-Rouh, summoned to serve her 1 year sentence.
  • Gonabadi Dervish, Mehran Rahbari sentenced to 2 years in prison.
  • 3 public executions in Kermanshah on Monday.
  • 3 executions in Isfahan prison.
  • Flogging sentence carried out in public in Abiek.
  • 3 hangings in Shahroud on Thursday.
  • One hanging in Semnan on Thursday.

University – Culture

  • Internet proxies no longer effective in Iran.
  • Book of former President Rafsanjani banned at Tehran Book Fair.

Protests

  • The protest movement started by Kurdish men posting photographs of themselves dressed in women’s clothing in a Facebook campaignBeingawomanisnothumiliatingandshouldnotbeconsideredpunishment – started after police paraded a convicted criminal through the city of Marivan dressed in traditional Kurdish women’s clothing – continues to gain international media attention.

Iran abroad

  • Kenya jails two Iranians for life for plotting attacks.
  • Kuwait upheld a life sentence against 2 Iranians for their role in a pro-Iran espionage network.
  • Houtan Kian receives Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers’ award.
  • FM Salehi meets Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
  • Yusuf Bin Alawi, Omani foreign minister arrives in Tehran.

Iran Economics

  • Iran cuts bread subsidies.
  • Statistical center reports show record inflation in March/April at 38.7%, and inflation over past 12 months at 29.8%.
  • Osve Iran factory closes; 24 workers fired.

Iran Politics

  • Head of the Pharmaceutical Division in the Food and Drug Organization resigns due to shortage of vital drugs, accuses Ahmadinejad government of managerial failure.
  • Raziyeh Omidvar is the first woman in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran to stand as a candidate in the 11th presidential elections..

Miscellaneous

  • Islamic Dress Code: Compulsory staff uniforms for female employees of Tehran University.
  • Ali Parvin receives AFC Distinguished Service Award.
  • Earthquake strikes port in Hormozgan province.
  • Iran plunges 62 places in quality of life ranking in comparison with other countries over the past five years.

News from Iran – Week 18 – 2013

ali_moezi-politicalprisoner
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Prisoners’ News

A-Transfers

  • Saeed Abedini, Abolfazl Abedini-Nasr, Kamran Ayazi, Amir-Khosro Dalirsani, Mohammad Ebrahimi, Pouria Ebrahimi, Siamak Ghaderi, Saeed Madani, Abdollah Momeni, Mehdi Yousefpour transferred to Evin 240 solitary for protesting against warden’s request of dismissal of political prisoners’’ representative Saeed Madani.
  • Sanaz Tafazoli and Noura Nabilzadeh, children’s rights activist, transferred from Vakil-Abad prison to Minister of Intelligence detention center.

B-Arrests-Detentions

  • Maryam Alengi, widow of Mohsen Dogmechi-political prisoner who died of cancer while in custody, was summoned to serve her 3-year sentence for interview with media.
  • Ashura detainee Behzad Arabgol transferred to Evin prison.
  • Former diplomat Bagher Asadi was arrested last month.
  • Somayeh Bakhtiari, Christian, has been arrested.
  • Mostafa Bani-Sharif arrested after summon by Intel in Shahre-Kord.
  • Adel Simari, Majid Bavi, Ahvazi civic activists, arrested in Ahvaz.
  • Shirzad Beigzadeh, former political prisoner, arrested on Urmiah street.
  • Haj Ali Chilan, 103 years old, is serving a 8 years sentence in Maku prison.
  • Gonabadi dervishes Mohammad-Ali Dehghan, Mohsen Esmaili, and Mohammad-Ali Sadeghi arrested in Kavar.
  • Shamim Etehadi arrested in Yazd.
  • Abdolghafour Ghalandari Nejad released from Bandar Abbas’s Central Prison.
  • Omid Habibi and Awat, Kawan and Rouhollah Heidari arrested in Sarv-Abad.
  • Chairman of the Coordination Council of the Reformists in Fars province, Abdolhamid Moafian has been arrested.
  • Ronak Samavat, Christian, has been arrested.
  • Civil rights student activist Vahid Sheikh-Beigloo arrested to serve his sentence.
  • Medical furlough extension was denied for student activist Hassan Tarlani, he is back in Kerman prison.

 

C-Liberations

  • Hanif Atarzadeh released on furlough.
  • Pan-Iranist member Milad Dehghan was released on bail from Karoon prison in Ahvaz.
  • Christian convert, Ebrahim Firouzi, was temporarily released on 30 million Toman bail.
  • Golrokh Firouzian freed on 100 million toman bail from Semnan prison.
  • Dina Karimi released on furlough.
  • Mohammad-Hossein Nakhaei, 87 years old, freed on bail from Birjand prison.
  • Asef Rezaeian released on furlough.

 

D-Other News

  • Jailed journalist Khosro Kordpour is on hunger strike.
  • On furlough Human Rights activist Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki underwent surgery for the 6th time.
  • Mohammad Ali Taheri is on hunger strike in Evin Prison.

 

News of injustice in Iran

  • Political prisoner Ali Moezzi who refused to take part in his trials sentenced in absentia to 1 year in prison exile.
  • 4 hangings in Kerman prison.
  • A prisoner hanged in Bandar Abbas prison the day after he attempted to commit suicide.
  • One person hanged in Zahedan on Sunday.
  • 4 people were hanged in Arak prison on Thursday.
  • The Guardian Council approved the new Islamic punishment code; it will be implemented from June this year.
  • Stoning retained in penal code.
  • Three Majlis deputies found guilty in Iran’s biggest embezzlement case.

 

University – Culture

  • A Reformist newspaper banned in Kerman.
  • Kavir Publication denied participation in the International Tehran Book Fair for the 3rd year in row.
  • Reformist daily, Asr-e Zohur, closed until after the elections.
  • Security forces prevented a meeting to celebrate Rumi’s Masnavi at the The Hosseinieh Ershad Public Library.

 

Protests

  • Severe confrontation between the people of Hormozgan and Security Forces.
  • Shushtar municipality workers on strike re unpaid wages.
  • Shahran residents gathered in front of Tehran City Council protest felling of trees and neglect of municipal park.
  • More than 1000 workers of the Bushehr Sadra Company are on strike.

 

Iran abroad

  • Bosnia expels two Iranian diplomats.
  • Senior Egypt officials in Iran for Syria talks.
  • Iranian Embassy in Damascus hit in explosion.

 

Iran Economics

  • Rising price leads Iranians to drink less milk.
  • 16 months delay in the salaries of 43 workers in Mahabad ranch.
  • 600 Lifeguards in Mazandaran province have not received their wages since last year.
  • ZamZam Cola Company liquidated in East Tehran leaving over 500 without jobs.
  • More than 1000 workers of the Jabal Bor Company in Bandar Abbas have been fired.

 

Iran Politics

  • The parliament rejected the new labor law of the government.
  • Conservative MP Ali Motahari supports reformist presence in election.
  • IRGC will not support any presidential candidate.

 

Miscellaneous

  • Exorbitant cost of pollution damage: $8 billion per year.

 

News from Iran – Week 17 – 2013

Peyman Aref
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Prisoners’ News

A- Transfers

  • Abdolghafour Ghalandari Nejad was transferred to Bandar Abbas central prison.

 

B-Arrests-Detentions

  • Peyman Aref has been arrested and released after three days.
  • Amir Chamani returned to Tabriz prison at the end of furlough.
  • Mohammad Davari returned to section 350 of Evin prison at the end of his furlough.
  • Afrasiab Faraji-Fard arrested in Ahvaz.
  • Faramarz Firouzian begins serving his one year sentence in Semnan.
  • Freedom Movement of Iran member Jafar Ganji is back in prison after furlough extension was denied.
  • Abdolghafour Ghalandarinejad, dervish Gonabadi, arrested in Bandar Abbas.
  • Mehdi Khodaei returned to the section 350 of the Evin prison at the end of his furlough.
  • Political prisoner Mohammad Hossein Naeemipour is back in Evin after furlough extension was denied.

 

C-Liberations

  • Peyman Chalaki released on furlough with a 400 million bail deposit.
  • Ardeshir Fanaian, Baha’i from Semnan, released on 50 million toman bail.
  • A Baha’i from Semnan, Faramarz Firouzian, released on 50 million toman bail

 

D-Other News

  • Political prisoner Raheleh Zokaei is on hunger strike in Gharchak prison in Varamin.

 

News of injustice in Iran

  • Court hearing held for Kurdish activists Shirzad et Sirwan Hossein-Panahi in Sanandaj.
  • Political prisoner, Ahmad Karimi, sentenced to 1 extra year in prison.
  • Journalist Mohammad-Reza Nesab-Abdollahi sentenced to 6 months in prison.
  • Gonabadi Dervishes member Kasra Nouri has been sentenced to 4 years and 4 months by the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz.
  • Hojatoleslam Hamid Rasaei, managing editor of 9 Dey weekly, sentenced to 1 year in prison + 1 year ban on journalism.
  • 4 executions in Kerman prison.
  • 2 executions in Karaj.
  • 2 Afghan nationals executed in Mashhad.
  • 2 women and 2 men executed in Dizel-Abad prison of Kermanshah.
  • Five prisoners including two Afghan nationals hanged in Zahedan.
  • 3 people hanged in Bam on Wednesday.
  • 3 hangings in Urmia prison on Wednesday.

 

University – Culture

  • Mehdi Bigdeli expelled from University after being marked as a “starred student” – the regime’s secret code for student repression.
  • 60% of Iran’s population are Internet users.
  • Bahai student Navid Keyhanirad expelled from Shiraz Technical University.
  • Arts and HumanRights in Iran an exhibition of Mir-Hossein Mousavi paintings at Akademie der Künste –Berlin
  • Clerics Special Court has banned the 9 Dey weekly.
  • Mellat-e Ma (our nation), belonging to Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council and presidential election candidate closed due to financial problems.
  • In Zanjan over the past year, 16,800 satellite dishes have been seized.

 

Protests

  • Gonabadi Dervishes gather in front of Bandar Abbas’s Intelligence Office.
  • Sugar- and sugar-refining factory workers protest Ahmadinejad’s visit to Khuzestan.
  • Yazd railway workers gathered in front of the Governor.
  • Sit-in protest at the entrance of the Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province governor’s office.
  • Ahwazi sets himself alight at the entrance to the governor’s office building in jobs protest.
  • Safa Rolling & Profile Mills workers’ strike.

 

Iran abroad

  • Nasrallah holding secret negotiations with Iranian authorities.
  • Russian fleet docks in Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
  • Iranian agent with Canadian passport arrested in Bulgaria.
  • UK government blocks Shell paying Iran oil debt in food and medicine.
  • Two men arrested in Al Qaeda US-Canada train plot – allegedly directed from Iran.
  • Majlis Speaker meets with Iraqi Justice Minister.
  • A delegation of European Parliament will visit Iran.

 

Iran Economics

  • Meat prices up by 60% since Norooz in Tehran.
  • Energy prices to increase by 38%.
  • All flights of Iranian airline SAHA have been stopped due to its outdated aircraft.

 

Iran Politics

  • FIFA continues to warn Iran about executions on football fields.
  • 3 Iranian MPs to face trial in huge bank fraud case.

 

Miscellaneous

  • Iranian woman Dr. Zahra Alizadeh Thani named world inventor 2013.
  • Ayatollah Gholam Reza Rezvani, a member of the Guardian Council died.
  • 5 cases of death recorded due to imported Penicillin from China.