News Digest: Week of September 5

September 5

Human Rights: Two Iranian women, Zahra Hamadani and Elham Chubdar, were sentenced to death for their activism on behalf of the LGBTQ community. They were reportedly found guilty of “corruption on Earth,” “promoting Christianity,” and “communicating with the media opposing the Islamic Republic,” according to Hengaw, a human rights organization.


Military: Ukraine’s military cast doubt on the quantity and quality of drones that Iran was providing to Russia. “We are told that there would be hundreds of them in Russia, but there are doubts that there is such a large number,” Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for Ukraine’s air force command, said on the Espresso television channel. He also noted that the Iranian drones were made with smuggled parts.

Economy: Minister of Petroleum Javad Owji suggested that Iran could help stabilize the global energy market. “We have always declared that we are ready to contribute to our role in the supply of oil and oil products and to improve energy security in the world by avoiding politicization of oil and the political use of energy,” he said in a statement after a meeting of OPEC and its partners.

Women: Authorities plan to use subway surveillance cameras to enforce the Islamic dress code, Mohammed Saleh Hashemi Golpayegani, the secretary of the Headquarters for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, announced in an interview first circulated in late August. “Technology now allows us to match images with photos on national identity cards which leads to identifying women without hijab.”    

Domestic: A 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit southern Iran. No fatalities or damage were reported in the immediate aftermath, but rescue teams were dispatched. 


September 6

Domestic: Death sentences for three protestors—Amir Hossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi—were reduced to five-year jail sentences after a public outcry. The three men were imprisoned for participating in anti-government protests in 2019 sparked by fuel price hike.

International/Human Rights: The families of French, Swedish, German, and Austrian citizens who are detained in Iran urged E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to prioritize their cases. “After having spent years imprisoned in a country where officials have no minimum respect for justice, law and humanity, the hostages’ hopes have vanished, and they suffer in ways unimaginable,” the families wrote in an open letter.

Environment: Lake Urmia, once the largest lake in the Middle East, was at risk completely of drying up, warned Arezoo Ashrafizadeh, the head of Iran’s Environment Department’s Wetlands Unit. “If the water quotas are not delivered and the approved plans are not fully realized, the lake will definitely dry up and there will be no hope of its recovery.” She called on the energy ministry to provide the necessary water to restore the lake and for authorities to stop construction on new dams.  

Cyber: Albania severed diplomatic ties with Iran and accused it of carrying out an extensive cyberattack on Albanian institutions on July 15. Tehran tried to “paralyze public services and hack data and electronic communications from the government systems,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a statement. The two countries have had a contentious relationship since 2014, when the Balkan country allowed some 3,000 members of Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an exiled Iranian opposition group, to resettle there at the request of the United States and the United Nations.

The White House said that the U.S. government had been working with private sector partners to help Albania recover from and investigate the incident. “We have concluded that the Government of Iran conducted this reckless and irresponsible cyberattack and that it is responsible for subsequent hack and leak operations,” National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said. “Iran’s conduct disregards norms of responsible peacetime State behavior in cyberspace, which includes a norm on refraining from damaging critical infrastructure that provides services to the public.”


September 7

Nuclear: Iran has enriched enough uranium to 60 percent purity that, if enriched to 90 percent, could be used to fuel a nuclear bomb, according to a U.N. nuclear watchdog report. The International Atomic Energy Agency also said that it could  not “provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful” because Tehran failed to cooperate with an investigation into past activities at undeclared sites.