COVID-19 deaths soar in Iran as regime pursues nuclear arms

A helicopter lands on Makran logistics vessel during a short-range missile drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army photo via AP)
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An Iranian Navy warship is seen during a short-range missile drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army photo via AP)
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An Iranian Navy warship is seen during a short-range missile drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army photo via AP)
Troops alight from a helicopter on the Makran logistics vessel during a short-range missile drill drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army via AP)
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Troops alight from a helicopter on the Makran logistics vessel during a short-range missile drill drill by the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 13, 2021. (Iranian Army via AP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

COVID-19 deaths soar in Iran as regime pursues nuclear arms

COVID-19 deaths soar in Iran as regime pursues nuclear arms
  • Opposition group says 201,000 people have died; this is almost four times the official total and the highest per-capita death rate in the world
  • US and European nations urged to take a tough stance against Tehran is response to its nuclear ambitions and ‘crimes against humanity’

CHICAGO: Deaths from COVID-19 in Iran have exceeded 201,000, Paris-based opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said on Wednesday. If their estimate is accurate, it means the country has the highest per-capita fatality rate in the world by far.

The figure is almost four times the Iranian government’s official tally. Senior doctors in the country have previously warned that the true total is likely to be much higher than official figures suggest.

Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI, described the soaring death toll as a catastrophe. She said it is a direct result of the Iranian regime’s response to US sanctions and international calls to abandon its nuclear-research program. She added that the situation will get worse as a result of the announcement last week by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that he is banning the import of COVID-19 vaccines produced in the US and UK, on the grounds that they are “untrustworthy.”

“Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have sent the Iranian people to the killing fields of Coronavirus, (and) by banning the import of vaccines they are creating even a bigger disaster,” Rajavi said.

Ali Safavi, a member of the NCRI’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the regime is taking advantage of the presidential transition in the US and fecklessness in Europe to deny the Iranian people access to vaccines as a means of controlling and punishing them.

“This puts the people of Iran at tremendous risk and is a crime against humanity,” he said. “It goes to show that Khamenei wants to use the coronavirus crisis as a barrier against another uprising like the one we saw in 2009.

“Otherwise, why would he prevent the import of vaccines? After all, Khamenei had no problem purchasing weaponry and other goods from the US and Europe in years past, because those purchases served his purposes.”

Safavi added that the regime in Tehran spent more than $25 billion on Airbus and Boeing planes from Europe and the US under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, but now refuses to buy the COVID-19 vaccines offered by biotech companies Moderna and Pfizer.

“The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran has surpassed 201,000, which is a staggering figure in the sense that Iran ranks first in terms of per-capita fatalities,” he said.

“Alongside this the regime has refused to provide any meaningful financial assistance to the millions of Iranians who have lost their jobs and cannot go to work because of the (pandemic). It is a crime against humanity and I think it is high time for the international community to get involved and do something about it.”

Iran’s ruling mullahs are also exploiting the shift in power in Washington to pursue their ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon, Safavi said.

“Anticipating (the arrival of the Biden administration on) January 20 they have upped the ante, saying they are now enriching uranium to a purity of up to 20 percent, which is a clear violation of the terms of the Iran nuclear deal,” he added. “So all of the provocative actions they have been taking is nuclear blackmail, in an attempt to force the Europeans and the US to jump (back) into the JCPOA once the new administration takes office next week.”

The Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reintroduced tough sanctions on Tehran. President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he might return to the deal.

Safavi said that the Iranian regime continues to develop its nuclear research program and its weapons industry.

“The European countries and the US should draw a line in the sand and say that Iran does not have a right to enrich uranium,” he added.

He also called on the US and EU to join forces to demand immediate action from Tehran, including: granting full access to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, to military sites in particular; halting all nuclear-research activities; ending their nuclear missile expansion program; abandoning their efforts to destabilize other nations in the region. He also called for an end to the continued repression and violence by the Mullahs targeting their own people, and the continued executions of opponents.

“The regime uses executions as a means to instill an atmosphere of terror and repression inside the country,” Safavi said. “We also feel the EU and the US should begin addressing one of the most heinous crimes that was perpetrated by this regime: the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners.”

In calling for a tough international stance against Tehran by world powers, he said: “No amount of political and economic concessions to this regime will moderate its behavior.”

He added that the World Health Organization must “internationalize this issue and hold the regime accountable” for denying its people access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

“So long as you remain silent, so long as you do not take any action, that will only embolden the mullahs to continue their policies — and of course the primary victims of this policy are the people of Iran, who are suffering every day. More and more Iranians are dying,” Safavi said.

 

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Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
Updated 25 January 2021

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
  • More than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out
  • The orders came after twin suicide attacks claimed by Daesh killed 32 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Rights defenders fear Iraq may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted militants in a show of strength, days after a deadly suicide attack in Baghdad.
On Sunday, an official from Iraq’s presidency told AFP more than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out.
“We are continuing to sign off on more,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The orders were disclosed to AFP after twin suicide attacks claimed by the Daesh group on Thursday killed at least 32 people in a crowded open-air Baghdad market.
The blasts were a jolting reminder of the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite the government declaring victory over them in late 2017.
The official, along with judicial sources contacted by AFP, could not provide additional details on when the executions may take place or if they included foreigners convicted of belonging to IS.
A 2005 law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of “terrorism,” which can include membership of an extremist group even if they are not convicted of any specific acts.
Rights groups have warned that executions were being used for political reasons.
“Leaders resort to announcements of mass executions simply to signal to the public that they’re taking... (these issues) seriously,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else,” she told AFP on Sunday.
In mid-2018, outgoing Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced 13 executions under the Counter-Terror Law, and for the first time authorities published pictures of the hangings.
That came after Daesh killed eight civilians.


Since the official declaration of victory over Daesh, Iraq’s courts have sentenced hundreds to death for crimes perpetrated during the jihadists’ 2014 seizure of around a third of the country and their brutal three-year hold over cities including Mosul.
But only a small proportion of the sentences have been carried out, as they must be approved by the president.
Barham Saleh, who has held the post since 2018, is known to be personally against capital punishment, and has resisted signing execution orders in the past.
Some Iraqis took to social media to demand tougher action from Saleh after Thursday’s attack, accusing him of “not carrying out the sentences” and risking a prison break.
Despite Saleh’s moderating influence, Iraq in 2019 carried out the fourth highest number of executions among nations worldwide, after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Iraq carried out 100 executions that year — one out of every seven worldwide.
Judicial sources told AFP at least 30 executions took place in 2020.
They include 21 men convicted of “terrorism” and executed at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in November.
The move sparked condemnations from the United Nations, which described the news as “deeply troubling” and called on Iraq to halt any further planned executions.


Rights groups accuse Iraq’s justice system of corruption, carrying out rushed trials on circumstantial evidence and failing to allow the accused a proper defense.
They also condemn cramped conditions in detention centers, saying those arrested for petty crimes are often held with hardened jihadists, facilitating radicalization.
Iraq’s government has declined to provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, including how many are facing terrorism-related charges, although some studies estimate 20,000 are being held for purported Daesh links.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said late last year that given such gaps in Iraq’s legal system, implementing capital punishment “may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life by the State.”
Ali Bayati, a leading member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP the country had “limited options.”
“Capital punishment is part of the Iraqi legal system — and we do not have real rehabilitation centers,” he said.
“We lack clear guarantees and real transparency in the interrogation and ruling sessions, and in allowing human rights organizations to play their role.”