Iran: Investigate Killings of Protesters, Halt Use of Excessive Force Against Demonstrators

HRW says Iranian authorities should refrain from using excessive force, investigate the deaths during the current protests across the country, and remove arbitrary restrictions on Internet access (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Iran: Investigate Killings of Protesters, Halt Use of Excessive Force Against Demonstrators

BEIRUT: Iranian authorities should refrain from using excessive force, investigate the deaths during the current protests across the country, and remove arbitrary restrictions on Internet access, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
So far, the official news channels of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) have confirmed the deaths of at least 21 people including two security officers during the protests and clashes with security forces over the past five days. The protests began on December 29, 2017, in the city of Mashhad and have spread to more than a dozen cities in Iran.
“The rising death toll bodes ill for Iranians who are daring to take their grievances to the streets,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Rather than issue barely veiled threats against protesters, the authorities should investigate these deaths, ensure the rights of all detainees, and guarantee that people can protest freely and peacefully.”
On January 2, the IRIB news channel confirmed the death of nine people including two security forces in protests and clashes that took place the day before in Isfahan province. Earlier, the IRIB confirmed the death of 10 individuals on December 31. Authorities had also confirmed the death of two people in Dorood, Lorestan province on December 30.
Police have confirmed the arrests of more than 550 people in the Tehran, Razavi Khorasan, and Markazi provinces.
Intelligence authorities have also arrested a number of activists during the past few days.
Social media footage and state media reports indicate that in certain cities, clashes between protesters and police forces occurred and public properties being damaged. A number of videos circulating widely on Persian-language social media channels also purport to show authorities using potentially lethal force against protesters, but Human Rights Watch has been unable to verify this footage.
On January 1, Mashahalh Nemati, governor of Dorood, a city in Lorestan province, confirmed the deaths of four residents during clashes there on December 29 and 30. He also described an incident on December 30 in which he claimed a 12-year-old boy and his father were killed when a fire engine taken over by rioters hit their car. He said the rioters later abandoned the fire engine.
On the same day, Hedayatollah Khademi, a member of parliament from the city of Izeh in Khuzistan province, told ILNA news agency, the Iranian Labor News Agency, that two people had died in “unrest” in the city on December 31, but that he could not confirm their causes of death. Khademi also denied allegation on social media that people had occupied government buildings.
Social media accounts said that the police shot and killed Masoud Kiani Ghale Sardi, a protester in the city of Izeh. Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm those accounts.
Saeed Shahrokhi, the political deputy to the governor of Hamedan province, told IRIB that three protesters were killedin the city of Tuyserkan.
On December 29, Hassan Heidari, deputy prosecutor of the city of Mashhad, announced that 52 people had been arrested for “damaging public property.” Shargh newspaper, close to reformists in Iran, reported that authorities had arrested 200 people in Tehran and 100 people in the city of Arak in Marakzai province on December 30. On January 2, Ali Asghar Naserbakht, the political deputy to the Tehran’s governor’s office, confirmed the arrest of 200 people in Tehran on December 30, adding that 150 were arrested on December 31 and 100 more on January 1
On December 30, Hrana news agency, run by human rights activists, reported that authorities from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intelligence had arrested Faeze Abdipour, Kasra Nouri, Mohammad Sharifi Moghadam, ZafarAli Moghimi, and Mohammadreza Darvish, and transferred them to Evin prison. All are local activists of the Gonabadi Dervish community, a Sufi religious order that has suffered government discrimination.
On January 1, the Guild Association for university students reported that four members of its board who had participated in a meeting with the head of the University of Tehran to negotiate the release of students arrested during a December 31 protest had been briefly detained.
On December 30, Communications Minister Azarei Jahromi told Telegram and Twitter to shut down news channels that he alleged were distributing materials inciting violence. A few hours later, Pavel Durov, the CEO of Telegram, announced that Telegram had suspended the Amadnews channel for allegedly instructing subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police. However, a few hours later, IRIB news agency announced that authorities would temporarily block the popular social media application Instagram and Iran’s most popular messaging application Telegram.
In 2009, Iranian authorities violently repressed protesters who took to the street to protest the outcome of the presidential election, resulting in dozens of deaths in the streets and in detention centers. The Iranian authorities also arrested hundreds of activists and sentenced them to long prison sentences after unfair trails.
Iranian authorities have a responsibility not only to ensure public safety, but also to ensure people’s right to peaceful assembly and to free access to information, Human Rights Watch said.
“Blocking the popular cellphone applications Telegram and Instagram is yet another over-the-top response to people raising grievances against systematic corruption and repression,” Whitson said. “Iranian authorities should change their addiction to repression and allow people to speak and demonstrate.”


Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

Updated 26 min 15 sec ago
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Istanbul summit aimed at avoiding new humanitarian disaster in Idlib

  • The event will focus on ‘harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict’
  • Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend a critical four-way summit on Syria in Istanbul next Saturday. 

They will discuss recent developments in the war-torn country as well as projections for a political settlement.

Experts have underlined the importance of this summit in providing a strong push for key EU countries to work together with regional players to end the years-long conflict in Syria as it will gather the four countries’ leaders at the highest level.

The summit will focus on the recent developments in the opposition-held northwestern province of Idlib, and the parameters of a possible political settlement.

The ways for preventing a new refugee inflow from Idlib into Europe via Turkey, which is home to about 3.5 million Syrian residents, following a possible offensive by the Assad regime will also be raised as a topic that mainly concerns France and Germany and pushes them to work more closely with Turkey and Russia.

The summit will also aim at “harmonizing joint efforts for finding a lasting solution to the conflict,” presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin announced on Friday.

Germany and France welcomed the Turkey-Russia deal on Idlib that had set Oct. 15 as the deadline for removing all radical groups from a demilitarized zone in the province. Although the withdrawal of some opposition groups from the zone has not been accomplished in due time, Ankara and Moscow have agreed to extend the deadline for Idlib, which is still a strategic area where the opposition holds out.

“Turkey and Russia want the status quo for Idlib. Although the jihadists have not withdrawn from the demilitarized zone, Russia is turning a blind eye,” said Fabrice Balanche, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon II.

“Turkey will make some efforts to save face. Turkish proxies have withdrawn because Turkey pays wages, so they must obey, but for the jihadists it is more complicated,” he told Arab News.

According to Balanche, without the complicity of Turkey, the Syrian regime cannot take over the north of the country.

“In exchange, Turkey wants a buffer zone in the north, all along its border. The main objective is, of course, to eliminate the Syrian Kurdish YPG from the border as it has already done in Afrin. A secondary objective is to protect its opposition allies and the Turkmen minorities, many in the province of Idlib but also between Azaz and Jarablus,” he said.

But the summit also shows that these four countries need each other in the Syrian theater as each of them has stakes regarding the settlement of the crisis.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said the main goal of the summit is to provide a major diplomatic boost to the ongoing Astana and Sochi peace processes, which have so far been led mainly by Turkey, Russia and Iran.

“A second and maybe even more important goal is to include France and Germany in the reconstruction efforts in Syria once the civil war is over,” he told Arab News.

Considering the cost of the reconstruction, estimated at about $400 billion, Ankara, Moscow and Tehran are not ready to take this enormous financial burden without the financial support of the West, Ersen said.

“Both Paris and Berlin hope that Ankara’s ongoing efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Idlib can be successful. If the settlement in Idlib does not work, everybody is aware that this may lead to a big refugee crisis for both Turkey and Europe once again,” he added.

Martina Fietz, deputy spokeswoman for the German government, told a news conference in Berlin that her country is also hopeful about the forthcoming summit’s potential contribution to the stabilization of Idlib’s de-escalation zone.

“Progress in the UN-led political process, in particular the commencement of the work of the constitutional commission, will be discussed,” she said.

The chief foreign policy advisers of the quartet have met in Istanbul in recent weeks to discuss the agenda of the summit.