World reacts, UN weighs in and Iran responds

People demonstrate in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate in support of the protests in Iran.(Reuters)
Updated 02 January 2018

World reacts, UN weighs in and Iran responds

The EU pushed Iran on Monday to guarantee the right to protest as authorities have moved to crack down on days of unrest across the nation. Protests broke out Thursday and have quickly grown to become the biggest test for the regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.

“We have been in touch with the Iranian authorities and we expect that the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression will be guaranteed,” a spokeswoman for the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor developments,” the spokeswoman added.

The violent protests, which left at least 21 people dead, were sparked by concerns about rising living costs and a stagnant economy, but have escalated into a broader outcry against the regime.

The latest demonstrations on Monday came despite president Hassan Rouhani’s vow that the nation would deal with “rioters and lawbreakers.” Authorities have confirmed more than 400 arrests since the outbreak of the unrest, of whom around 100 have been freed.

Meanwhile, Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson called for Iran to engage in meaningful debate about issues raised by protesters which he said were “legitimate and important,” as the worst wave of unrest in almost a decade in the Middle Eastern country continued. Johnson called for freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully to be respected. “The UK is watching events in Iran closely. We believe that there should be meaningful debate about the legitimate and important issues the protesters are raising and we look to the Iranian authorities to permit this,” he said in a post

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed concern on Monday about the death of protesters in Iran and appealed to the Iranian government to respect people’s rights. The protests by tens of thousands of people are the biggest in Iran since unrest in 2009 that followed the disputed re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “We appeal to the Iranian government to respect the rights of the demonstrators to assemble and to peacefully raise their voices,” Gabriel said. “After the confrontations of recent days, it is all the more important that all sides refrain from violent actions.” Germany is one of the world powers that agreed to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in which sanctions were lifted in return for Iran taking steps to limit its enrichment of uranium.

France said it is concerned by the number of victims and arrests in Iran, a foreign ministry spokesman said as the death toll from anti-government demonstrations rose, declining to confirm the French foreign minister would visit Tehran this week. “The right to protest is a fundamental right,” the spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday. Asked if foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian maintained a planned visit to Tehran, the spokesman said he had no information on this at this stage.

Turkey said today it was concerned by reports of people dying and public buildings being damaged in Iran during a police crackdown against anti-government demonstrations that began last week. “We believe it is necessary to avoid violence and not succumb to provocations,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement, adding it hoped foreign interventions would be avoided.

Canada urged Iranian authorities on Tuesday to respect the rights of protesters after days of unrest have left at least 21 people dead and hundreds arrested. “Canada is encouraged by the Iranian people who are exercising their basic right to protest peacefully,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We call on the Iranian authorities to uphold and respect democratic and human rights.” Canadian diplomatic authorities also vowed that “Canada will continue to support the fundamental rights of Iranians, including the right to freedom of expression.”

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Tuesday expressed his “regret” at the rising death toll in anti-government protests in Iran, and called on the Islamic Republic to respect the rights of peaceful protesters. “We regret the reported loss of life and hope further violence will be avoided. We expect that the rights to peaceful assembly and expression of the Iranian people will be respected,” Guterres spokesman Farhan Aziz Haq said on behalf of the secretary-general.

In response, Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had blamed the country’s “enemies” earlier Tuesday for almost six days of deadly unrest that have shaken the conservative country. “The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime,” Khamenei said. A fifth night of unrest Monday to Tuesday saw six protesters killed during an attack on a police station in Qahderijan in the central province of Isfahan, state TV said, bringing the death toll to 21.

South Africa’s leader cuts short UK visit after protests

Updated 11 sec ago

South Africa’s leader cuts short UK visit after protests

  • South Africa’s foreign minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, confirmed that Botswana had closed its border with the province because of the chaos.
  • The ANC and its leadership also face internal divisions after the tumultuous resignation of former President Jacob Zuma in February

MAHIKENG, South Africa: South Africa’s president has cut short a visit to Britain to return home and deal with violent protests in a provincial capital.
President Cyril Ramaphosa left the Commonwealth summit in London to respond to the turmoil in the North West capital of Mahikeng, where residents brought life to a standstill with protests over alleged corruption and calls for the premier to resign.
Ramaphosa was visiting the city on Friday in the most significant test of his public peacemaking skills since he took office in February.
A statement from the president’s office noted clashes with police and called for calm and engagement “rather than violence and anarchy.” It also urged police to show restraint in the city of about 300,000.
The unrest continued Friday, with state broadcaster SABC showing police firing rubber bullets to disperse looters in the streets. It reported that 23 people had been arrested, citing local police.
South Africa’s foreign minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, confirmed that Botswana had closed its border with the province because of the chaos, SABC reported.
South Africa’s next election is in 2019 and the ruling African National Congress party under Ramaphosa is eager to recover from its worst-ever election showing in 2016, in which the ANC lost control of major municipalities including commercial hub Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.
The party and its leadership also face internal divisions after the tumultuous resignation of former President Jacob Zuma in February after multiple scandals and allegations of graft. Ramaphosa, Zuma’s former deputy, has repeatedly pledged to tackle the widespread corruption that had weakened investor confidence in one of Africa’s largest economies.
The North West premier, Supra Mahumapelo, is an ANC politician and has faced accusations of corruption from residents who say mismanagement has led to a decline in government services.
Similar protests have been common across South Africa, which the World Bank this year called, by any measure, “one of the most unequal countries in the world.”