Iran’s reformist ex-president endorses Rouhani

Supporters of Iranian President and presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani hold up his portrait during a campaign rally in the capital Tehran on Saturday. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
Updated 14 May 2017
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Iran’s reformist ex-president endorses Rouhani

TEHRAN: Iran’s reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami on Sunday endorsed President Hassan Rouhani in a video message, calling on voters to give him another term in this week’s election.
“Mr Rouhani’s government has been a successful one, despite all the limitations, problems and the great expectations,” he said in the video posted on social media.
“We should all go and vote for Rouhani, for freedom in thought, logic in dialogue, law in action, securing the rights of citizens and enforcing social and economic justice.”
Khatami praised the government for taming rampant inflation of above 40 percent in 2013 to below 9.5 percent and the “steps” taken against stagnation.
Unemployment has increased in the past four years from 10.5 percent to 12.5 percent, while youth joblessness stands at 27 percent.
“Many issues have been resolved but bigger issues remain, which we must all help to solve,” he said in the video published on his Telegram messenger account.
Khatami, the de facto leader of the reformist camp, has been under a media ban during the past few years for supporting the Green Movement protesters in the 2009 presidential election that saw hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected.
In 2016, he released a video that played a crucial role in helping pro-Rouhani candidates to defeat ultra-conservatives in parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.
The video became well-known for his use of the phrase “I repeat.”
“This time, it is you who should repeat. Repeat the vote for dear Rouhani, to boost hope for future,” he said on Sunday, referring to Friday’s presidential election.
In 2013, Khatami helped Rouhani take office by convincing reformist Mohammad Reza Aref to step aside in Rouhani’s favor.
It is yet to be seen if Khatami does the same in this election to the reformist First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri who is running alongside Rouhani.
Khatami also warned people against being deceived by “baseless promises” from Rouhani’s conservative rivals who have vowed to increase cash handouts and create millions of jobs in four years.


Mardini — refugee from Syria rising fast after fleeing war

Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, the Olypmpia swimmer, escaped conflict in her homeland. A year later she famously competed at the Rio Olympics. (Photo/UNHCR)
Updated 22 July 2019
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Mardini — refugee from Syria rising fast after fleeing war

  • The 21-year-old girl almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago

GWANGJU/SOUTH KOREA: Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who almost drowned at sea fleeing her war-torn country four years ago, heaved a deep sigh after failing to set a personal best at the world swimming championships on Sunday.

Representing FINA’s independent athletes team, the 21-year-old looked up at the giant scoreboard and winced at her time of 1 minute 8.79 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly heats in South Korea.
“I’m not very happy actually,” Mardini told AFP.
“I had some problems with my shoulder but I’m back in training. I still have the 100m freestyle and I’m looking forward to that.”
Mardini’s time was more than 12 seconds slower than that of reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom and 47th overall, but she has come a long way since risking her life crossing from Izmir in Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos in the summer of 2015.
Refugee swimmer Mardini knows what she is talking about when it comes to family separation for asylum seekers.
In 2015, she and her sister Sarah had escaped conflict in their homeland when the boat they were aboard with other refugees began sinking. They jumped out and swam part of the journey from Turkey to Greece.
They then embarked on an overland trip from Greece to Germany, evading local authorities in countries with immigration policies that barred them from legal entry. Along the way the sisters slept in train stations or wherever they could find shelter.
Mardini empathizes with families currently separated along the US southern border.
“This is the most terrible thing anyone can have — to live without a mom or to live without a family,” she said on Sunday at the world swimming championships where she’s competing as an independent athlete.
“I arrived in Greece in only jeans and a T-shirt,” said Mardini, who also swims in the 100m freestyle later this week. “Even my shoes were gone.”
“In the beginning I refused to be in a refugee team because I was afraid people would think I got the chance because of my story,” said Mardini, who now lives with her family in Berlin.
“I wanted to earn it. But then I realized I had a big opportunity to represent those people — so I took the chance and I never regretted it,” she added.
Mardini was 17 at the time. She is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She famously competed at the Rio Olympics a year later under the refugee flag.

FASTFACT

• In 2015, she and her sister had escaped conflict in their homeland when the boat they were aboard with other refugees began sinking. They jumped out and swam part of the journey from Turkey to Greece.

• Mardini was 17 at the time. She is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Rio was amazing. It was really exciting to see the reaction of people to the team. Now I’m representing millions of displaced people around the world and it really makes me proud.”
It is a far cry from life back in Syria, where rocket strikes would often shake the pool she trained at in Damascus.
“There were bomb attacks sometimes that would crack the windows around the pool,” said Mardini, who has addressed the UN General Assembly and whose story is set to be told in a Hollywood movie.
“I know people who lost their moms on the way or in the water — that got drowned — and I feel this is terrible,” she said.
Mardini said that from the time she left Syria she lived without her mother for six months. Eventually, they were reunited in Germany, where they now live in Berlin. “I felt so alone,” she said. “So lonely.”
The experience has prompted her to stand up for fellow asylum seekers in similar situations.
“Someone has to do something about it,” Mardini said. “The least we can do is talk about it, not just ignore it like everything else happening in the world.”
Mardini finished 47th out of 52 swimmers in the 100-meter butterfly heats on Sunday. Her other event in Gwangju is the 100 freestyle on Thursday.
She is attempting to again qualify for the Olympics as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team.
“My goal now is just to swim a new personal best,” she said. “And my next goal will be Tokyo 2020.”
Fellow Syrian Ayman Kelzieh was also forced to flee the country before competing at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Returning to Korea five years later, the 26-year-old now owns a fistful of national swim records, including the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly.
“When the war started I had just moved to Damascus and I couldn’t get back home to Aleppo,” said Kelzieh, who now lives on the Thai island of Phuket.
“But even in Damascus bombs sometimes even went off at the swimming pool we trained at,” he added after taking a poolside selfie with his idol, South African star Chad le Clos.
“There were even attacks at the hotel I stayed in — I was lucky.”