Iran opposition figures slam UK’s ‘shameful’ silence on protests

Updated 03 January 2018
0

Iran opposition figures slam UK’s ‘shameful’ silence on protests

LONDON: Iranian opposition leaders in the UK are “disgusted” at the failure of British politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn regime brutality as the death toll continues to climb seven days after protests began in Iran.
“Both the prime minister and the opposition party here have stayed completely silent when Iranian youth are being slaughtered in the streets of Iran,” said Laila Jazayeri, director of the Association of Anglo-Iranian Women in the UK.
“It is outrageous and not acceptable.”
Anglo-Iranian communities will gather outside the prime minister’s residence at Downing Street on Thursday to call on May to break her silence.
“We want them to raise their voice of protest against the brutality of the regime against innocent, defenceless protestors and to support the demands of Iranian people for democratic regime change in Iran,” Jazayeri said.
Over the past seven days, government forces have been accused of excessive violence against protestors, with up to 30 people, including teenagers and children killed and more than 1,000 arrested during clashes across the country.
The protests began over economic grievances before turning into calls for the downfall of the regime, with chants of “death to the dictator” in a rallying cry against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Corbyn, who has previously praised Iran’s “tolerance and acceptance of other faiths, traditions and ethnic groupings in Iran,” and received payments of up to $20,000 for hosting phone-ins on Iranian state-owned broadcaster Press TV, has been criticized for failing to comment on the protests.
“Mr Corbyn, who himself has always said that he supports democracy and freedom…should start putting pressure on the British government to take a very very strong position. Unfortunately this is not happening,” Hossein Abedini of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Jazayeri said there are “thousands of Anglo-Iranians living in the UK who are disgusted by Corbyn’s complete silence … how can you stay silent when you can see women and children are being beaten to death?”
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called for freedom of expression in Iran in a post on Facebook. 
“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 wrote. 
“We regret the loss of life that has occurred in the protests in Iran and call on all concerned to refrain from violence and for international obligations on human rights to be observed.”
Groups opposed to the Iranian regime in the UK expressed disappointment at Johnson’s “weak” response and the failure of other leading politicians to speak out.
“I think this is really shameful that some politicians are still quiet and haven’t made any statement in support of the Iranian people … saying that the people have the right to protest is not sufficient,” said Abedini.
“It’s clear that this regime is very strongly despised by the massive majority of the Iranian people.”
“The demonstrations have not stopped; it is gathering more momentum and the people have shown that they want nothing less than the downfall of the Iranian regime and the establishment of a democratic and free Iran.”


Kurds split on next Iraqi president and throw government formation into further turmoil

Updated 26 September 2018
0

Kurds split on next Iraqi president and throw government formation into further turmoil

  • The failure of the Kurds to agree on a single candidate will threaten the stability of the Kurdish region
  • A close ally of KDP leader Massoud Barzani has been backed as a presidential nomination

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s main Kurdish political forces have failed to agree on a candidate for the post of president, highlighting the depth of the rift  between them and redrawing their map of influence in Baghdad, negotiators told Arab News.

Electing the president is the second step in the process of forming a government. According to the political power sharing agreement adopted by Iraqi political parties since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the post is allocated to the Kurds.

By the end of Monday, the last day for nominations, more than 30 candidates, including a woman, had declared their nominations for the post but the absence of consensus between the Kurdish parties on a single candidate, meant the vote was delayed until Thursday.

The president in the Iraqi constitution does not have wide executive powers, but could play a pivotal role in resolving disputes between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region, and between the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish powers in Baghdad. 

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the largest Kurdish parties in Iraq control more than 50 seats in parliament. The two parties have shared the federal posts allocated to the Kurds for the last 15 years. Voting for the PUK’s presidential candidate had become a tradition, but the insistence of the KDP to compete for the post this time has confused Iraq’s parties and forced them to renegotiate.

“It is time to get this position back to the larger Kurdish bloc,” Irdlan Noor Al-Deen, a KDP leader and MP said. “We are insisting to compete for the post ... and we will not discuss the option of stepping down.”

The failure of the Kurds to agree on a single candidate will threaten the stability of the Kurdish region and deepen the disagreement between the two Kurdish parties that arose in October last year when Kurdish forces associated with the PUK refused to fight Iraqi security forces after they launched a campaign to regain central government control over the disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil. The offensive was in response to the independence  referendum held a month earlier.

The two parties are squaring up in elections scheduled for next week for the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Azad Warti, a PUK leader, said that if the political “fire” from the KDP continued after the elections “we will review our relationship with them.”

“There are a lot of joints areas between us ... and continuing with this approach means that we may not continue with them in the same front,” he said.

Last week, the PUK’s leadership nominated the Kurdish veteran politician Barham Salih, while the KDP nominated Fuad Hussein, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Presidency Office and personal secretary of Massoud Barzani, the most prominent Kurdish leader and former president of the Kurdish region.

It is not clear why Barzani, who headed the KDP, suddenly insisted on the presidential candidacy. Some observers see this step as an attempt to seek revenge against the Kurdish and Shiite forces that rejected the independence referendum and supported Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi when he imposed a series of financial and administrative sanctions on Kurdistan.

“Barzani is looking to get revenge from the leaders of the PUK because he believes that they let him down in his battle with Baghdad when he held the referendum,” Abdulwahid Tuama, a political analyst told Arab News.

“Also, getting the post for the KDP candidate will reinforce the divisions between the PUK and its Kurdish allies in Baghdad, and this will provide the KDP with a great opportunity to be the touchstone in the ongoing negotiations to form a government in Baghdad.”

The major Shiite blocs, which initially declared their support for Barham Salih, have now said they do not mind if the KDP takes over the president, but stipulated the replacement of the party's official candidate.

“Fouad Hussein was rejected by all Shiite political forces. We told Barzani that we have no objection to voting for his candidate, but he has to nominate someone else,” A key Shiite negotiator told Arab News.

“Hussein is the private secretary of Barzani and if he is elected as president of Iraq, it means that the president will be Barzani’s secretary.

“This is an insult to the country and to all, and we will never accept it.”

Iran and the United States have been the most prominent international players in Iraq since 2003. Both are deeply involved in the ongoing negotiations between Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni parties. 

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to Iraq and Syria, has played a key role in naming Barham Salih as a candidate for the PUK, while Gen. Qassim Sulaimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, flew to Erbil on Sunday evening to meet Barzani and “persuade him to abandon his stubbornness and accept a compromise that excludes both candidates (Salih and Hussein),” two Shiite negotiators told Arab News. 

“Sulaimani went last night to Erbil to smooth the tension and try to find a solution that would be accepted by all the related parties,” a key Shiite negotiator told Arab News.

“He will suggest to provide a new candidate who should be accepted by all Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni parties. 

The negotiator said parliament may vote to reelect Fuad Massum, the outgoing Iraqi president, as he is accepted by all.