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Iranian Crackdown on Citizens Commenting on Raisi’s Death Escalates

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The Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown on citizens who have expressed joy over the death of Ebrahim Raisi or shared content not aligning with the state’s rhetoric regarding the incident.

Since the news about a helicopter crash killing late President Ebrahin Raisi and his entourage on May 19 was announced, numerous individuals have been threatened or arrested in various cities across the country, including Tehran, Lahijan, Sabzevar, Gorgan, Kerman, and Tabriz.

Raisi’s sudden death has rattled the Islamic ruling elite in Iran in different ways. One consequence is the spread of conspiracy theories among the public that the helicopter crash was not an accident and some insiders might have eliminated the president.

Arrests and Judiciary action

Arasalan Nik, a civil engineer and resident of Lahijan in Gilan province northwest of the country, was arrested by intelligence agents after expressing skepticism about the circumstances of Raisi’s death on his Instagram page, as reported by human rights group, Hengaw on Friday. Nik was accused of “publishing false information” on social media. Local rights group, Hyrcani Human Rights Media also confirmed details of Nik’s arrest, further adding that there is no information on where the authorities have taken him. 

Agents deleted all of the content from Nik’s Instagram account on Thursday and added two new posts to his account stating that “the page was shut down for publishing criminal content”. Nik’s arrest is part of a broader campaign targeting citizens across the country.

In Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran, Ali Reyhani Kachvar was detained on Wednesday for his comments on social media about Raisi’s death. Kachvar was transferred to Tabriz Central Prison – notorious for its human rights abuses of political prisoners. 

Northeast of the country, Maryam Dolabadi, a Doctor of Pharmacy residing in Sabzevar, in Razavi Khorasan province, was arrested for publishing content on social media about Raisi’s death. A source close to Dolatabadi’s family told Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) that state security forces apprehended her on Tuesday. Dolatabadi remains in custody without her family being informed of her condition or whereabouts. 

In Qom province, the operator of a restaurant in Kahak city was arrested, and the establishment was closed by authorities for allegedly spreading “offensive content” about Raisi’s death. State-affiliated Borna news agency reported that the restaurant operator was arrested for “upsetting” the families of those who died in the helicopter crash.

Earlier this week, former political prisoner, Reza Babrnejad was arrested for criticizing Raisi on Instagram.

On Tuesday, Iranian journalist Manijeh Moazzen wrote on X that a new case has been opened against her due to her coverage of Raisi’s death. 

Summons and Threats

In the country’s capital, Tehran, numerous students who expressed joy on social media regarding Raisi’s demise or shared related humor have been summoned to university disciplinary committees. According to reports received by Iran International, some students received text messages alleging violations of university standards.

HRANA reported that on Monday the intelligence ministry summoned former political prisoner, Behrouz Izadi Rad in connection with Raisi’s helicopter crash.

Mohammad Ardeshir Khamooshi, a resident of the city of Bakharz in Khorasan province was summoned by the intelligence ministry agents similarly for his posts on social media regarding Raisi’s death.

Photojournalist and former political prisoner Alieh Motalebzadeh also announced on X that Iran’s Cyber Police in Karaj had called her and summoned her. On Friday, Motalebzadeh further stated on X that despite a request for a legal written notice of the summons, and Wednesday being a holiday, her bank accounts were blocked. 

Family members of slain teen Iranian protestor, Artin Rahmani Piyani were also threatened by the intelligence ministry earlier this week. 

Other individuals working in media in Iran, including economic journalist, Hirsh Saidian, journalist Amirhossein Mosalla, and blogger Mohammad Moini, have reported receiving threatening calls from Iran’s security agents in recent days.

Former political prisoner and blogger, Hossein Shanbezadeh also reported receiving similar calls. 

As security forces intensify their efforts to silence critics, the Iranian government seems determined to stifle any opposition and control the narrative surrounding Raisi’s death. This ongoing repression underscores the fraught state of human rights and free expression in Iran.