Iranians feel protesters’ pain

Protesters hold a banner with the crossed-out portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah during a demonstration in support of the Iranian people in Brussels on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Iranians feel protesters’ pain

TEHRAN: Iran: As Iranians take to the streets in the biggest demonstrations in nearly a decade, residents of the increasingly tense capital say they sympathize with the protesters’ economic grievances and anger at official corruption.
The Associated Press spoke to Iranians in Tehran on the sixth day of protests that have seen at least 21 people killed and hundreds arrested across the country. The protests, which have erupted in several cities, are the largest since those that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election.
Residents cast nervous looks at the growing street presence of police and Basij, a volunteer force that played a key role in the government crackdown that ended the demonstrations nine years ago. But many residents said the country’s soaring unemployment and rising prices had driven people to the point of desperation.
“If authorities do not fight protesters, then they will have peaceful protests,” said Rahim Guravand, a 34-year-old construction worker.
“I’ve been out of work for months. Who is accountable for this? The government should stop spending money on unnecessary things in Syria, Iraq and other places and allocate it for creating jobs here,” he said, referring to Iran’s support for the Syrian regime and regional militant groups.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who was re-elected last year, has expressed sympathy for peaceful protesters worried about how to make ends meet amid high unemployment and 10-percent inflation.
But his support appears to be slipping as many Iranians fail to see any gains from his 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some international sanctions. Iran has made billion-dollar airplane orders and resumed selling its crude oil on the international market, but the benefits have yet to trickle down.
“I voted for Rouhani, but I see his hands are tied and he cannot fulfill his promises,” said Parisa Masoudi, a 23-year-old student at Tehran’s Azad University. “The government should open the political sphere if it intends to keep the people’s support.”
Nasrollah Mohammadi, a mechanic near Tehran’s Enghelab Square, the site of many past protests, said he supports the demonstrators’ demands.
“They are right. Corruption is high and opportunities are given to their own friends,” Mohammadi said, referring to government officials. “I have two sons, 27 and 30, at home without jobs years after graduation.”
In 2009 the protests were largely centered in Tehran, led by middle and upper class supporters of reformist candidates who lost to the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an election best by allegations of fraud.
The latest protests began in Mashhad, the country’s second largest city, and have flared across the provinces, with no clear leadership or political platform beyond anger at the government. Tehran has also seen protests, but the most violent clashes have been elsewhere.
Not everyone in Tehran supports the latest demonstrations. Farnaz Asadi, a 31-year-old who sells goods via the popular messaging app Telegram, expressed anger at the government’s decision to shut down the service after protesters used it to organize rallies and share photos and video. The app is used by an estimated 40 million people a day in Iran — half the country’s population.
“It is not fair. Some protesters went into the streets, but why I should pay the price?” she asked. “The government shut down Telegram and my store was shut down too.”
Another university student, 21-year-old Reza Nezami, described the Telegram shutdown as another promise broken by the government. “Rouhani had said his administration would not restrict social networks,” he said.
For others, the protests represent just another hardship.
“I am not happy. Some protesters broke windows and damaged public property,” said Abbas Ostadi, a 45-year-old electrician. “They burned my friend’s taxi. Who is going to compensate him? How will he take home some bread for his family?"


Trump: Turkey making ‘terrible mistake’

Turkish government officials did not comment on Trump’s remarks when they spoke after prayers to mark the start of the festival. (AFP)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Trump: Turkey making ‘terrible mistake’

  • Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt
  • A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump

ISTANBUL: The lira weakened against the dollar on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump said he would give Turkey no concessions in return for the release of a detained American pastor, the latest salvo in a worsening rift between the NATO allies.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump criticized Ankara over the detention of the evangelical Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, and said he was not concerned that his tough stance against Turkey could end up hurting European and emerging market economies.
Brunson, who is originally from North Carolina and has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies. The pastor has become an unwitting flashpoint for the diplomatic tension, which has accelerated the crisis in the lira.
Trump said that, after he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen, he thought Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would then release Brunson.
“I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” Trump said.
The lira weakened to 6.0925 against the US currency by 1111 GMT, from a close of 6.0865 on Monday, when Turkish markets began a holiday to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Adha festival that continues for the rest of this week.
Trade was thinner than usual and probably mainly offshore, with local markets closed for the holiday. The currency has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year. However, selling on Tuesday was limited due to a broadly weaker dollar.
Turkish government officials did not comment on Trump’s remarks when they spoke after prayers to mark the start of the festival.
Devlet Bahceli, leader of a nationalist party allied with Erdogan’s AK Party, told reporters: “We have no business with those who love Brunson more than us.”

Prayers and gifts
Erdogan, who had been expected to speak to reporters after morning prayers, made no public statement.
He has repeatedly cast the currency crisis as an attack on Turkey but has stopped short of singling out any one country.
He prayed on Tuesday morning at a mosque near the tourist resort of Marmaris on the south coast and then handed out gifts to local children, the Milliyet newspaper reported.
He also spoke by phone to soldiers stationed near the border with Iraq, sending them greetings for Eid Al-Adha.
“I believe that as long as you stand tall our flag will not fall, our call to prayer will not fall silent and this homeland of ours will not be divided,” the Hurriyet newspaper reported him as saying.
On Monday, he appealed to Turks’ religious and patriotic feelings ahead of the holiday, promising they would not be brought “to their knees” by the economic crisis.
Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt, but Washington has balked at this.
A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump. The US president — who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters — has said he would double previously announced tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.
On Monday Turkey initiated a dispute complaint with the World Trade Organization over the tariffs.
Separately, ratings agency Fitch said on Tuesday that tight liquidity amplified risks for Turkish companies.
Another ratings agency, DBRS, said European banks with Turkey exposure face a manageable capital impact.
Underlining the increased diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the US, the US Embassy in Ankara came under gunfire on Monday. Nobody was injured and Turkish authorities later detained two men over the incident.