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Unnerved By Protests, Tehran Is Now Hounding Foreign Embassies And Iranian Ex-Pats

Amid increasing tensions prompted by ongoing anti-government protests, reports from Tehran show increased surveillance of some foreign embassies. Iranian agents are said to be particularly curious about visas to get out of the country.

military men masked standing

November 4, 2022. People attending a anti-US protest in front of the former US Embassy in Teheran.

© Rouzbeh Fouladi / Zuma Press Wire

As anti-government protests in Iran persist, well-informed sources in Tehran say state authorities have begun tracking and intimidating more targets it deems suspicious, which now includes intensified surveillance of foreign embassies.

One source told Kayhan London this week that Iranian employees of the British and German embassies have received threatening calls from unidentified private numbers, thought to be Iranian security officials, summoning them for questioning The practice of sinister invitations to undocumented interrogations has become standard in the 40-year regime of Iran's Islamic Republic.

The employees have reported the incidents to their embassies but been told "not to publicize them" for the "sensitivity" of conditions, though the embassies have informed their governments of the incidents. These coincide with European Union moves to raise pressures on the Islamic Republic for both its harsh response to the latest round of mass protests and its military aid to Russia.

Anonymous questioning

The UK government has also updated its list of sanctioned Iranian officials and agencies. But Iran is holding several foreign nationals or dual-nationality Iranians who were detained during and before the protests, and who are evidently of concern to Western governments. The Information Ministry stated on Sept. 30 that nine Europeans were being held and suspected of "spying" after being caught near the protests.

In late October, several translators and journalists involved in cultural affairs, whose work has put them into contact with embassies, were also summoned for questioning.

While these staffers or press people preferred not to divulge details of their interviews, some have said that their interrogators had asked them about "how visas were being issued in those embassies," and the scope of their relations with Western embassy staff.

Another source has told Kayhan London that interrogators were particularly keen to know about "free internet lines," and which national newspapers or websites were followed with greater interest by the embassy in question.

October 2022. People are protesting in front of Iran's Embassy in Berlin. They demand the liberation of political prisoners detained in Iran.

© Michael Kuenne / PRESSCOV via ZUMA Press Wire

Threatening Iranians inside and outside the country

Separate reports confirmed that Iranian authorities were watching the German and British embassies, which are situated close to one another in central Tehran, more closely. Reportedly, plainclothes agents of the Information Ministry and the Revolutionary Guards intelligence organization have been observing movements in and out of their premises sitting in parked cars nearby.

Khamenei has blamed "treacherous Iranians living outside the country"

Iran has rejected foreign criticisms of its harsh repression of protesters and even organized its own protest gatherings outside the British and German embassies in recent days. In recent weeks, the country's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, accused Western states of fomenting the protests that have persisted since mid-September. They began following public outrage at the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman held in Tehran by the regime's public morals police.

Khamenei has also blamed "treacherous Iranians living outside the country for collaborating with the enemy." That led one legislator, Muhammad Sadiq Jowkar, to threaten Iranians living abroad with "consequences," including being stripped of their Iranian nationality for "acting against the system."

Jowkar blamed Iranian ex-pats had "done everything to undertake terrorist acts and foment insecurity," inside Iran by backing protests in the country since 2017.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, which has selectively eliminated opponents in European cities for over 40 years, and threatened to kill figures like the writer Salman Rushdie, knows a thing of two about terrorism.

And its threats are not taken lightly. On Nov. 7, the London-based broadcaster Iran International said it had informed local police of death threats to its staff, who live and work in Western countries.

The threats, it stated, were from the Revolutionary Guards. The head of the Guards had denounced this and similar claims on Oct. 29 as "mischievous" stooges of the Saudi monarchy, working to destabilize the Islamic Republic.

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Kyiv Reality Check: What Ukraine's Friends Say Out Loud — And Whisper To Each Other

Europe's foreign ministers traveled together to Kyiv yesterday to reaffirm their support for Ukraine. It is necessary after the first signs of "fatigue" in Western support, from a Polish about-face to the victory of a pro-Russian prime minister in Slovakia.

photo of Josep Borrell listening to Zelensky speak

EU's chief of foreign affairs Josep Borrell and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during the EU-Ukraine meeting in Kyiv

Johanna Leguerre, EU foreign ministry via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — The symbolism is strong: for the first time ever, Europe's foreign ministers meet in a country outside the European Union. But it looks like a diplomatic ‘Coué’. The Coué method, named for a French psychologist, holds that a person tends to repeat a message to convince oneself as much as to convince others.

In Kyiv on Monday, the European foreign ministers solemnly reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine, perhaps because it's suddenly no longer as obvious to them as to the rest of the world.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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There has indeed been some hesitation as of late; and it was undoubtedly time for this display of unity, which has stood as one of the major diplomatic achievements since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Hungarian foreign minister was notably absent from the family photo, due to his "Putinophilia", and his Polish counterpart was officially ill, which happens to coincide with the recent Polish-Ukrainian quarrel. It's also a safe bet that, in a few weeks' time, the Slovakian minister could also be missing from such a gathering, following Sunday's election victory of the pro-Russian Robert Fico.

These nuances aside, there was a message of firmness in Kyiv, embodied by the bit of alliteration from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who predicted that Europe that would soon go "from Lisbon to Luhansk" — Luhansk, in the Donbas region of Ukraine, currently annexed by Russia.

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