Houthis and Saleh forces clash in Sanaa, at least 2 dead

A supporter of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh holds his photo during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP)
Updated 27 August 2017
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Houthis and Saleh forces clash in Sanaa, at least 2 dead

SANAA: At least two people were killed on Saturday when supporters of Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh clashed with Houthi fighters in Sanaa, marking unprecedented violence within the alliance fighting a Saudi-led coalition.
Members of the presidential guard exchanged gunfire with thae Houthi fighters who had tried to set up a security checkpoint near the home of Saleh’s son and his media office in an upscale district, residents said.
Intermittent fighting continued for several hours, cutting off access to a main road in the Hadda neighborhood, they said.
The Houthi-controlled state news agency SABA said two members of popular committees were killed in the violence. Media reports of more casualties on both sides could not immediately be confirmed.
The tactical alliance between Saleh and the Houthis has often appeared fragile, with both groups suspicious of each other’s ultimate motives and sharing little ideological ground.
Saleh rallied thousands of supporters in Sanaa on Thursday in a show of force a day after Houthi fighters decried him as “evil” and condemned his description of them as a “militia.”
Both sides jointly run northern Yemen and have been fighting the internationally recognized government, based in the south and backed by the Saudi-led coalition, for 2-1/2 years.
The coalition intervened in the civil war in 2015 to restore the government to power in Sanaa. But the conflict, which has killed at least 10,000 people, is in stalemate.
Big switches of loyalty are a feature of Yemen’s byzantine political landscape, particularly since 2011 “Arab Spring” unrest which led to Saleh’s fall in 2012.
 


Iran govt faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

Since protests began in December, Iranians have had their internet access disrupted and have lost access to the messaging app Telegram. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Iran govt faces angry online backlash over activists’ abuse claims

  • The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government

GENEVA, LONDON: In early January, labor activist Esmail Bakhshi posted a letter on Instagram saying he had been tortured in jail, attracting support from tens of thousands of Iranians online.
Bakhshi, who said he was still in pain, also challenged the intelligence minister to a public debate about the religious justification for torture. Late last month, Bakhshi was rearrested.
Sepideh Qoliyan, a journalist covering labor issues in the Ahvaz region, was also rearrested on the same day after saying on social media that she had been abused in jail.
Bakhshi’s allegations of torture and the social media furor that followed led Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to call for an investigation, and the intelligence minister subsequently met with a parliamentary committee to discuss the case, a rare example of top officials being prompted to act by a public backlash online.
“Each sentence and description of torture from the mouths of #Sepideh_Qoliyan and #Esmail_Bakhshi should be remembered and not forgotten because they are now alone with the torturers and under pressure and defenseless. Let us not forget,” a user named Atish posted on Twitter in Farsi on Feb. 11.
“When thousands of people share it on social media, the pressure for accountability goes up,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director at the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Sham investigations won’t put it to rest. Social media is definitely becoming a major, major public square in Iran.”
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said last month, without naming Bakhshi, that allegations of torture online constitute a crime.
His comments follow growing pressure from officials to close Instagram, which has about 24 million users in Iran. Iran last year shut down the Telegram messaging app, which had about 40 million users in the country, citing security concerns.
“Today you see in cyberspace that with the posting of a film or lie or rumor the situation in the country can fall apart,” Dolatabadi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “You saw in recent days that they spread a rumor and announced the rape of an individual or claimed suicide and recently you even saw claims of torture and all the powers in the country get drawn in. Today cyberspace has been transformed into a very broad platform for committing crimes.”
The arrests of Bakhshi and Qoliyan are part of a crackdown in Ahvaz, center of Iran’s Arab population. Hundreds of activists there pushing for workers’ and minority rights, two of the most contentious issues in Iran, have been detained in recent weeks.
The Arab minority in southwest Iran has long claimed that it faces discrimination from the central government.