Blaming ‘foreign enemies’ for domestic problems regime policy since 1979: Iran expert

Demonstrator dressed as the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at a rally near the White House in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2018. (AP)
Updated 10 January 2018
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Blaming ‘foreign enemies’ for domestic problems regime policy since 1979: Iran expert

JEDDAH: Since its establishment in 1979, the Iranian regime’s modus operandi has been to blame “foreign enemies” for Tehran’s domestic problems and the population’s dissatisfaction with the regime, Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, told Arab News on Tuesday.
He was reacting to tweets by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday saying: “Once again, the nation tells the US, Britain, and those who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran from abroad that you’ve failed, and you will fail in the future, too.”
Rafizadeh said it is also a tactic that the Iranian authorities use in order to suppress domestic opposition. “In addition, by blaming foreign powers, the regime avoids taking any responsibility and accountability,” he said.
Iranian security forces arrested some 3,700 people during widespread protests and unrest over the past two weeks, a lawmaker said, offering a far higher number than authorities previously released.
The demonstrations, which began Dec. 28 over economic grievances, quickly spread across the country to become the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election. Some protesters called for the overthrow of the government, and at least 21 people were killed in clashes.
Rafizadeh said many of those who are arrested are from the younger population, women, and university students.
“In an unprecedented move, the regime forces are also engaged in ‘preventative’ arrests. They are continuing to arrest people who were not involved in the protests. The arrests are aimed at imposing fear in society. It also provides the Iranian authorities with the pretext to arrest more people who are considered an opposition to the regime.”
Human rights activists outside of Iran told The Associated Press they were not surprised by the figure. Some 4,000 arrests followed the 2009 protests.
Rafizadeh said human rights organizations, Amnesty International and the UN should closely monitor the situation of those who are arrested in Iran. “Following the 2009 demonstrations, many protesters who were arrested were tortured and raped in Kahrizak Detention Center. The international community should also put pressure on the Iranian authorities to stop its campaign of ‘preventative’ arrests and release innocent detainees,” he said.
Activists also said they had concerns about Iran’s prisons and jails being overcrowded and dangerous, pointing to allegations of torture, abuse and deaths that followed the mass arrests of 2009. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran says at least three detainees arrested in the recent protests have already died in custody.
“Given the systematic rape and torture of detainees in 2009 in very overcrowded and inhumane conditions, we are extremely worried about the fate of these thousands of detainees and the lack of information and access by their families and lawyers,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the center. “It is a very troubling situation.”
Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist lawmaker from Tehran, offered the new figures for those arrested in a report carried Tuesday by Parliament’s official news website. Authorities previously spoke of hundreds of arrests in Tehran, while other provinces offered only piecemeal figures, if any at all.
Sadeghi said 3,700 was the best number he could immediately offer, given that various security forces around the country had been involved in the arrests. Iran put more police on the streets over the arrest, including anti-riot squads, while the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard also deployed its motorcycle-riding Basij volunteer force.


Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy

Updated 23 October 2018
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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.