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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 179

Edited by Ilan Berman and Evelyn Johns
October 9, 2017

Iran has confirmed the conviction of an American citizen who regime authorities have labeled a "spy." An Iranian court recently upheld the guilty verdict for Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American who was arrested by authorities in August 2016 and tried on national security grounds. Wang had been in the Islamic Republic conducting research for a university dissertation, as part of which regime sources say he collected "highly confidential articles" relating to national security and defense matters. Wang now faces a decade in prison. (
BBC, September 3, 2017)

[EDITORS' NOTE: Wang's case, while unfortunate, is far from unique. All told, Iranian authorities have divulged that as many as 70 individuals deemed to be "spies" - a number of them U.S. nationals - are currently being held by the regime.]


A large number of international journalists have been targeted, intimidated and extorted by the Iranian regime as part of a far-reaching campaign to guarantee positive press coverage, an explosive new report has alleged. The study, issued by press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, charges that agents of the Iranian regime have engaged in a broad range of egregious activities - including issuing death threats and targeting the family members of reporters - to minimize, block and shape coverage of the Iranian regime's human rights abuses and military activities. "In the past year, RSF has learned of ten families of journalists who have been summoned to such interviews, usually with intelligence ministry agents," the report lays out. "In all, at least 50 journalists based abroad have been threatened in some way in the same period. At least 16 of them have received death threats."

The BBC's Persian service has been one of the most conspicuous targets of this campaign, but it is hardly the only one. "It is not just BBC Persian employees who are targeted," the report notes. "All international media outlets with Persian-language services are concerned, regardless of the country in which the media are based. Journalists with Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe's Persian-language section), with such state-funded broadcasters as Voice of America, Deutsche Welle and Radio France Internationale, and privately-owned broadcasters such as Manoto TV and Radio Zamaneh have also been threatened by Iran's intelligence services or judicial system." (
Washington Free Beacon, September 6, 2017)


The controversial practice of child marriage is alive and well in the Islamic Republic. Current sharia-based law in Iran permits marriage of boys aged 15 and girls aged 13, though girls can be married off at an even younger age with the consent of their father or guardian and the permission of a court. And while the practice is prohibited in the West, and frowned upon in Iran's urban centers, it remains prevalent in rural parts of the country. Last year, the UN estimated that some 17 percent of girls in Iran were married before age 18. But the figure could actually be significantly higher, experts note, because many child marriages are not officially registered. The result is that "spouses in unregistered marriages have no civil rights and the children from these marriages have no birth certificates," putting them outside of Iranian society and preventing their access to education, medicine and social services. (
Deutsche Welle, September 11, 2017)


The Iranian regime is getting into the nation-building business. Iranian officials have reportedly signed several deals and memorandums with the Syrian regime to fix the war-ravaged country's electrical infrastructure. The deals, concluded in Tehran in early September by visiting Syrian Electricity Minister Zuhair Kharboutli, include the sale of several gas-fired power plants to the city of Aleppo, as well as Iranian help in the "restoration" of electricity plants in Latakia, Deir al-Zour, and Homs. Under the new arrangement, the Islamic Republic will also take part in "the construction of several wind and solar plants" on Syrian soil. (
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
, September 12, 2017)

Related Categories: Terrorism; Radical Islam; Iran Freedom Initiative; Iran

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