Arab League to meet on Iran 'violations'

In this Sept. 21, 2012 file photo, a Qiam missile is displayed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard during a military parade outside Tehran. Saudi Arabia and the US now accuse Iran of supplying ballistic missiles to Houthi insurgents in Yemen, including this model. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
Updated 13 November 2017
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Arab League to meet on Iran 'violations'

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia has called for an urgent meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Sunday to discuss Iran’s destructive meddling in the region.
The call follows the launch of an Iranian-supplied ballistic missile at Riyadh from Houthi militia-held territory in Yemen on Nov. 4, and an explosion and fire at a Bahraini oil pipeline last Friday, also blamed on Iran. 
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later accused Iran of “direct military aggression” against the Kingdom by supplying the Houthis with ballistic missiles.
Bahrain and the UAE supported the Saudi request, which was also approved by Djibouti, the current chair of the League. 
In a memo requesting the meeting, Saudi Arabia attacked the “sabotage” and “terrorism” of the pipeline fire, which temporarily halted oil supplies from its territory. The memo referred to the fire and the missile attack “in addition to the violations committed by Iran in the Arab region, which undermine security and peace, not only in the Arab region, but around the globe.”
On Saturday, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa blamed Iran for the pipeline explosion. “The attempt to blow up the Saudi-Bahraini pipeline is a dangerous escalation on Iran’s part that aims to terrorize citizens and to harm the world oil industry,” he said.
Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed full solidarity with Bahrain in combating all forms of terrorism.
Abdullatif Al-Zayani, the Gulf Cooperation Council secretary-general, said: “The attack was a serious terror crime, which endangers Bahrain’s supreme interests and terrifies both citizens and residents.”
According to Reuters, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels threatened on Sunday to attack warships and oil tankers “from enemy countries” in retaliation for the closure of Yemeni ports last week by the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s legitimate government.
The coalition has said aid workers and supplies would continue to have access to Yemen.


Iran 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 min 42 sec ago
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Iran 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.