Iran rocked by new protests as economy heads for collapse

Iranian protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in central Tehran on June 25. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 01 August 2018
0

Iran rocked by new protests as economy heads for collapse

  • Hundreds chant “death to the dictator" at industrial complex
  • Rial plunges ahead of US sanctions

LONDON: Iran faced fresh warnings over human rights abuses on Tuesday as its economic crisis worsened and hundreds of protesters took to the streets.
Demonstrations spread to the historic city of Isfahan, with protesters demanding an end to the Iranian regime's costly interference in the affairs of neighboring countries in the region.
At least 29 people have been arrested on vague charges of “economic disruption,” and some face the death penalty.
Signs of further unrest emerged on Tuesday as shopkeepers and other workers went on strike in protest at the decline of Iran’s currency.
“In recent weeks and months we’ve had many protests,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesman for the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group, told Arab News. “Human rights are suffering … and every day they suffer more. Iran is amongst the biggest violators of human rights in the world today.”
He said the recent arrests were unlikely to have targeted the corrupt officials who occupy the “inner circles” of Iranian public life. The arrests serve two purposes, he said — to suggest the Iranian government is acting to stamp out “huge corruption,” and to instill fear in the public. “There are people who have been executed for economic corruption. But … the trials are not public so nobody knows that what the authorities are claiming is true.
“From the authorities’ view, these death sentences are more important as instruments of intimidation and spreading fear. If they really want to go after the corruption, they will be in deep trouble because the corruption is at the highest levels.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh also said the reasons for Iran’s economic crises go to the top of government. “The Iranian regime’s financial corruption, misuse of public funds, the widespread banking crisis, and the hemorrhaging of billions of dollars … on militia and terror groups are among the major reasons behind the present currency and economic crises,” he said.
Protests in Isfahan In Isfahan, striking shopkeepers, farmers and truck drivers were joined by other citizens in the Amir-Kabir industrial complex in New Shapur, according to Iranian activists.
Video footage showed hundreds of protesters shouting: “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my soul is Iran’s redemption.” The slogan refers to Tehran’s costly military adventures in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, at the expense of the domestic economy.



Amiry-Moghaddam urged the world to do more to address the human rights situation, which he said was a result of a regime looking to cling on to power. “The main reason for people suffering is the regime: There is a lack of accountability and huge corruption … and use of violence to keep power.”
The slogan has been repeated at a series of protests that started at the end of last year. It refers to the regime’s expenditure on the regional military interventions instead of using the funds to tackle the country’s economic woes. 
In December and January widespread protests against economic conditions shook the country. At least 25 protesters were killed and nearly 5,000 arrested in a brutal response by the security forces. 
Last month, protesters clashed with police outside parliament in Tehran in three days of protests sparked by the plunging rial.
On June 25, a strike shut down the stalls of the Grand Bazaar in Tehran and several other markets. 
Meanwhile, a truck drivers’ strike entered its eighth day in cities across the country, according to reports.
And railway workers in Tabriz, north-east Iran, protested on Monday after receiving no salary over the past four months, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
It reported that the workers had cut off the railway route, which connects Tabriz with the rest of the provinces.
Activists on Tuesday continued to publish pictures showing an intense presence of security forces and police in Tehran.


Syria’s key border crossings with 2 neighbors reopen

Updated 16 min 49 sec ago
0

Syria’s key border crossings with 2 neighbors reopen

  • The reopening of the crossings is a major boost to the Syrian, restoring commercial lifeline to the outside world
  • Arab countries have boycotted the Syrian government since the early days of the war

QUNEITRA, Syria: A vital border crossing between Jordan and Syria reopened on Monday for the first time in three years, promising to restore trade and movement between the two countries that had halted because of the war. Another crossing, between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, also reopened for UN observers who had left the area four years ago because of fighting there.
The reopening of the crossings is a major boost to the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, restoring a commercial lifeline to the outside world. It also reinforces the Syrian government’s message that it is slowly emerging victorious from the seven-year conflict.
The Syrian flag was raised at the Quneitra crossing between Syria and the Israeli-held Golan.
UN observers and local notables from the Druze community, the predominant population in the area, gathered near the crossing. The UN observers had left the Quneitra crossing in 2014 for the first time since deploying there in 1974 to monitor a cease-fire and a demilitarized zone. Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967.
“It is a day of victory,” Youssef Jarbou, a Druze leader, told the Syrian Al-Ikhbariya TV from Quneitra.
Syrian forces recaptured the Quneitra area in July. Russian military police deployed in the area, including on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, setting up checkpoints in the area. Moscow said it planned to work closely with the UN force.
Meanwhile, at the Naseeb crossing between Syria and Jordan, dozens of private cars lined up to cross from Jordan. Security personnel and dogs searched the vehicles.
“Today is a feast, a feast for the whole Arab and Islamic nations and for the whole World, this crossing is vital for the whole Arab countries,” said Mohammed Khalil, the first Syrian in line waiting to cross back into his country.
Naseeb’s reopening would bring major financial relief to Assad’s government by restoring a much-needed gateway for Syrian exports to Arab countries. The resumption of commercial trade through the crossing will also be a diplomatic victory for Assad, whose government has been isolated from its Arab neighbors since the war began in 2011.
Arab countries have boycotted the Syrian government since the early days of the war, freezing its membership in the 22-member state Arab League.
“The Naseeb crossing is a vital lifeline for trade between the two brotherly countries Jordan and Syria through them to other Arab countries,” Jordan government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said.
Syrian rebels seized the crossing in 2015, disrupting a major trade route between Syria and Jordan, Lebanon and oil-rich Gulf countries.
Syrian government troops recaptured it in July, after rebels reached an agreement with Russian mediators to end the violence in the southern province of Daraa and surrender the crossing.
The crossing is also vital for Syria’s neighbor Lebanon, providing its agricultural products a route to foreign markets.
The recapture of Naseeb marked a major victory for Assad’s forces, which have been on a winning streak since 2015 when Russia threw its military weight behind Damascus. The victory in southern Syria signaled the return of his forces to Daraa province where the uprising against him began seven years ago.