Britain denies official's Tehran visit linked to protests

AFP , Thursday 13 Oct 2022

Britain said Thursday that a recent visit to Tehran by a foreign ministry official was hosted by Iran, dismissing a report by an Iranian newspaper linking it to ongoing unrest.

Protests in Iran
This image grab from a UGC video made available on October 12, 2022 shows female protesters being roughly handled by Iranian security forces in the city of Rasht, in Iran s northern Gilan province. AFP


Ultra-conservative newspaper Javan had published a photograph of Stephanie al-Qaq, the head of the ministry's Middle East and North Africa department, in its Wednesday edition under the headline "English spy led the riots up close".

But British ambassador Simon Shercliff insisted that her "short visit to Tehran last month" had been for "official talks".

The visit was hosted by the foreign ministry in Tehran, and "they asked us not to say anything publicly about the visit, so we did not," Shercliff said on Twitter Thursday.

"I don't remember any part of those official talks being about instigating riots," he added.

A wave of unrest has swept Iran since 22-year-old Kurd Mahsa Amini died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the country's strict dress code for women.

The street violence has led to dozens of deaths -- mostly of protesters but also members of the security forces -- and hundreds have been arrested.

The Javan newspaper quoted "informed sources" as saying that Al-Qaq "entered the country a few days before the start of the riots and closely observed the process of managing the situation in Iran and evidence shows she had a role in leading the riots".

Al-Qaq led the British delegation to currently stalled negotiations on reviving a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

Iranian officials have accused the country's enemies, particularly the United States, of fanning the Amini protests.

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