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

Updated 03 January 2018
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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.”


Libyan authorities blamed for migrants’ deaths

Members of a Spanish NGO rescue a woman in the Mediterranean about 85 miles off the Libyan coast on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 min 58 sec ago
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Libyan authorities blamed for migrants’ deaths

  • Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war in Africa and the Middle East
  • Reducing the departures and disembarkations means reducing deaths and reducing the earnings of those who speculate on clandestine migration

MADRID: A migrant aid group has accused Libya’s coast guard of abandoning three people in the Mediterranean Sea, including a woman and a toddler who died, after intercepting 160 Europe-bound migrants near the shores of the North African nation.
Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish rescue group, said it found one woman alive on Tuesday and another dead, along with the body of a toddler, amid the drifting remains of a destroyed migrant boat some 80 nautical miles from the Libyan coast.
The organization posted images and videos of the wreckage and the dead bodies on social media, accusing both a merchant ship sailing in international waters and Libya’s coast guard for failing to help the three migrants.
A spokesman for Libya’s coast guard responded to the Spanish aid group’s criticism late on Tuesday, saying guard members carry out rescues of Europe-bound migrants “in accordance with international standards in saving lives at sea.”
“All disasters happening in the sea are caused by human traffickers who are only interested in profit and the presence of such irresponsible, non-governmental groups in the region,” coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said in a statement.
The head of Proactiva Open Arms, Oscar Camps, on Tuesday blamed the Italian government’s cooperation with Libyan authorities for the death of the woman and the toddler.
Camps said the two women and the toddler had refused to board the Libyan vessels with the rest of the intercepted migrants and were abandoned in the sea after the Libyan coast guard destroyed the migrants’ boat.
In a later statement about Tuesday’s deaths, Camps said, “The blame for this crime falls on Matteo Salvini’s policies,” a reference to Italy’s hard-line interior minister.
Some 1,443 people are dead or missing in the dangerous Mediterranean Sea route up to July 15 this year, according to the UN migration agency.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe for those fleeing poverty and civil war in Africa and the Middle East, as traffickers exploit the lawlessness and chaos that has engulfed the country since an uprising in 2011.
Gassim, the coast guard spokesman, said earlier Tuesday that a boat carrying 158 passengers including 34 women and nine children had been stopped Monday off the coast of the western town of Khoms. He said the migrants were given humanitarian and medical aid and were taken to a refugee camp in Khoms. He said the coast guard has rescued more than 80,000 migrants who departed Libya for Europe in recent years.
Both Italy and Malta have blocked aid groups from operating rescue boats in the Mediterranean, either by refusing them entry to their ports or by impounding their vessels and putting their crews under investigation.
But Salvini on Tuesday rejected any criticism of his country’s stance on migration.
“Lies and insults from some foreign NGO confirm that we are right: Reducing the departures and disembarkations means reducing deaths and reducing the earnings of those who speculate on clandestine migration,” Salvini said in a Facebook post.
The International Organization for Migration reported on Tuesday that the number of migrants and refugees reaching Spain by sea this year has overtaken those who have arrived in Italy. It said Spain saw 18,016 migrants come in up to July 15, while 17,827 people landed in Italy during the same period.
Aid groups have reported a rise in the number of sea crossings to Spain and Greece compared to the previous year, while migrant arrivals in Italy are down almost 80 percent from 2017.
The overall number of migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea this year totals 50,872, less than half the 109,746 who came in by mid-July last year, the agency said. In the same period in 2016, 241,859 migrants came to Europe.