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Iran arrests 4 Sunni clerics, bans filmmaker from travel

Sunni clerics criticizing the Islamic Republic's heavy-handed response to protests were the latest to be placed in the crosshairs of the Iranian authorities, who are scrambling to crush the months-long unrest. 
An Iranian cleric walks past an anti-US mural on a wall of the former United States embassy in the capital Tehran, on March 12, 2022. - Iran said that US attempts to seize its tankers and oil cargo had failed to stop exports that are subject to sanctions imposed by its arch foe.  (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran's intelligence forces have arrested at least four Sunni clerics in Kurdistan and Sistan-Baluchistan provinces over the past 24 hours, according to multiple opposition news outlets. 

In the Kurdish city of Sanandaj, two clerics identified as Ebrahim Karimi Nanala and Loqman Amini were detained and "taken to an unknown location," the Paris-based monitor, Kurdistan Human Rights Network reported on Monday. 

As local imams, the two clerics had denounced the deadly clampdown on protests that have gripped Iran since mid-September, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody of Iran's notorious morality police.  

At least one of the clerics has been seen addressing memorials held in honor of protesters killed in Sanandaj, one of the flashpoint cities witnessing much of the unrest.  

Elsewhere in another Kurdish city, Javanroud, a young cleric named Yasser Karimi was arrested on Tuesday, according to the Oslo-based Hengaw Kurdish rights agency. Last week, the same source reported on the case of Seifollah Hoisseini, a popular Sunni cleric in the same city, who was handed down a 17-year jail term and 74 lashes by a special court, which found him guilty of security charges, after he lashed out at the killing of seven protesters in his city. 

And in the south-eastern city of Zahedan, well-known religious figure Abdul-Majid Moradzehi was taken to custody, as confirmed by the government-run IRNA news agency, which said he was to face such charges as "disturbing public opinion through contact with foreign media." The arrest came after the cleric slammed the government's beefed-up security across the Sunni-populated area.  

Moradzehi is a close associate and aide to Iran's highest-ranking Sunni cleric, Mowlavi Abdul-Hamid, known for his fiery speeches during Friday prayers in the impoverished city. Abdlhmaid's sermons have gone increasingly fierce since September 30, when Iran's security forces killed around 100 unarmed protesters, among them the elderly and the disabled.  

The Islamic Republic's ongoing push to end the unrest and silence dissenting voices has targeted a spectrum much wider than in previous rounds of protests. Journalists, celebrities, actors, footballers and even chefs have either been arrested or placed under varying bans for their mildest expressions of sympathy with the protesters in their social media engagements.  

In the latest, the Iranian Independent Filmmakers Association reported that internationally-acclaimed director Masoud Kimiai had been banned from a foreign trip at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport on Sunday.  


Individuals facing travel bans in Iran are not typically given a prior notice by the authorities, only to learn about such verdicts at passport gates before being pushed back upon departure. 

Kimiai, 81, was to fly to the Netherlands to join the 2023 edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam and screen his latest movie, "Killing a Traitor." 

In a video message after Mahsa Amini's death, the director had implied his fury over her "killing," declaring that "time has come to tighten your shoes."  

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