US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, Italy, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 January 2018
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US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

JEDDAH/WASHINGTON: Anti-regime protests continued in Iran on Tuesday for the sixth consecutive day, as the US piled pressure on Tehran by calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said: “The UN must speak out in the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom.”
The Donald Trump administration is also considering slapping sanctions on individuals who are behind the crackdown on Iranian protesters.
In an interview with the state-backed broadcaster VOA, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Andrew Peek, said Washington was mulling targeted sanctions among a package of measures, which includes working with global partners to censure Tehran.
“From our part, we will hold accountable those people or entities who are committing violence, from the top to the bottom, against the protesters,” Peek said. “That involves examining actions we can take against those individuals, like sanctions and other means.”
Trump tweeted again on Tuesday in support of the demonstrators.
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” he said. “The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”
France expressed concern over the “number of victims and arrests” during the protests. “The right to protest freely is a fundamental right,” said the French Foreign Ministry.
More than 20 people have been killed since the protests began last week, the Associated Press reported. Footage on social media showed riot police out in force in several cities as security forces struggled to contain the unrest.
Tehran’s deputy provincial governor was quoted by Reuters as saying more than 450 protesters had been arrested in the capital over the last three days. Hundreds of others have been detained around the country.
Nine people were killed in Isfahan province during protests on Monday night, including two members of the security forces, state television reported.
As the demonstrations showed no signs of abating, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Musa Ghazanfarabadi, said protesters would face harsh punishments.
Detainees would be put on trial soon, and ringleaders could be charged with “moharebeh” — an Islamic term meaning warring against God — which carries the death penalty, Ghazanfarabadi said.
Shahriar Kia, a human rights activist and member of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, told Arab News that the “inhumane regime,” which has ruled the country since the 1979 revolution, is on the verge of being ousted.
The protests are a result of “over three decades of crackdowns and the plundering by the clerics of the Iranian people’s property and wealth,” he said.
The regime has spent “billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s money to spread its fundamentalism and terrorism across the Middle East, and to support Syrian dictator Bashar Assad,” Kia added.
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said: “The ongoing protests in different cities against the regime reveal the explosive state of Iranian society and the people’s desire for regime change.”
Kia said: “I believe strongly that peace and stability in the Middle East and the world will be possible only through regime change in Iran.”


Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy

Updated 40 min 32 sec ago
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Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy

  • The author and the publisher are accused of spreading “fake news”
  • Authorities seized 185 copies of an initial 200-copy run, which had not yet been distributed

CAIRO: Egypt has arrested an economist and his publisher over a book that challenged President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s economic policies, a lawyer said Tuesday, the latest in a wave of detentions in recent years targeting all forms of dissent.
Prize-winning economist Abdel-Khaleq Farouq and his publisher, Ibrahim el-Khateib, were detained Sunday. Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, a lawyer for the author, said the two are accused of spreading “fake news,” which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
The book — entitled “Is Egypt Really a Poor Country?” — was posted online by activists. Authorities seized 185 copies of an initial 200-copy run, which had not yet been distributed.
The book contains scathing criticism of El-Sisi’s economic policies, accusing the general-turned-president of lacking the vision needed to remedy Egypt’s economic woes.
Farouq blames the country’s poor economy on what he calls the military’s monopoly of power since 1952, when officers toppled the monarchy.
The book’s thesis is primarily a repudiation of an assertion made by El-Sisi that Egypt was a poor country that could no longer afford costly state subsidies on key commodities and services, for decades a cornerstone of state policy to help the poor make ends meet.
In the book’s introduction, the author claims that El-Sisi’s assertion on Egypt’s poverty “exposed blatant ignorance of the realistic and untapped capabilities in Egypt’s economy and society and the lack of vision capable of exploiting these abilities and potential.”
Egypt has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent since El-Sisi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013. Thousands of people have been jailed, mainly Islamists but also several prominent secular activists.
The government has banned all unauthorized street protests and has blocked hundreds of websites, including some run by independent media and human rights groups.
First elected to office in 2014 and now serving a second, four-year term, El-Sisi has made the economy the focus of his rule, with a hands-on drive for fiscal reform, improving infrastructure and the construction of new cities. In exchange for a $12 billion IMF loan secured in 2016, he ordered steep hikes in the price of fuel, government services and utilities. The measures fed popular discontent but did not spark significant unrest.
Egypt’s parliament is packed with El-Sisi’s supporters, and his Cabinet is entirely made up of loyalists, which means that the president’s policies are never effectively challenged. He has on occasion bristled at criticism of his policies, once angrily yelling at a lawmaker who suggested postponing the lifting of state subsidies and on another occasion telling Egyptians to only listen to him.
In a televised address earlier this month, the 63-year-old El-Sisi boasted that he has for 55 years been closely monitoring “every detail, every part and every circumstance” in Egypt. His accumulated knowledge of the country, he said, has given him the will to take difficult decisions.
In the same address, he said Egypt would never realize its aspirations if the state continues to subsidize goods and services. If the rapid growth of the population — which has doubled to 100 million over the last 30 years — is not checked, then there will be no “realistic hope” for economic improvement, El-Sisi warned. “Can a nation prosper while facing such a challenge? How?“
Farouq’s book, according to the text published online, offers suggestions for improving the economy based in large part on fighting graft and waste as well as tax and administrative reforms.