Families gather at Tehran cemetery in memory of 1988 massacre

In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran/File Photo)
In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran/File Photo)
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Updated 14 May 2021

Families gather at Tehran cemetery in memory of 1988 massacre

In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran/File Photo)
  • UN has branded Iranian regime’s mass killings of dissidents as crime against humanity
  • International commission of inquiry should be set up, opposition figure tells Arab News

LONDON: Families of Iranian political prisoners executed by the regime in 1988 have gathered outside a Tehran cemetery to commemorate their lost loved ones and call for accountability over the killings.

The cemetery in the neighborhood of Khavaran holds the unmarked mass graves of an unknown number of supporters of Iranian opposition groups.

On Thursday, families of slain members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) carried pictures of their murdered loved ones, laid flowers at the unmarked graves and chanted slogans against Ebrahim Raisi, head of the country’s judiciary.

In 1988, thousands of PMOI supporters were summarily executed by Tehran, in a mass killing that the UN and rights groups have said constituted crimes against humanity. Then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious edict ordering their execution.

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The families of thousands of Iranians executed and buried in mass graves have written to the UN and world leaders urging them to prevent Tehran’s ongoing destruction of their last resting place. Click here for more.

Tehran has been accused of trying to hide evidence of the killings, for example by repurposing mass graves used for execution victims and instead forcing ethnic minorities to bury their dead in them.

However, momentum for accountability over the killings has been steadily growing. On May 4, more than 1,100 family members of those murdered penned an open letter urging the UN, US and EU to take urgent action to prevent the destruction of the graves and evidence of the killings, and to hold the regime accountable.

Furthermore, over 150 former UN officials, human rights and legal experts called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to open an independent inquiry into the killings.

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More than 150 former UN officials and human rights experts have demanded that the UN conduct an inquiry into the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran. More here.

Ali Safavi, a member of umbrella opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran — of which the PMOI is a part — told Arab News that it is “imperative” that Bachelet “establishes an international commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre.” 

This “would enable investigators to go to Iran and visit Khavaran cemetery and mass graves in other Iranian cities as part of their investigation,” Safavi added.

“Those directly involved in the massacre, including current officials such as Raisi and Justice Minister Alireza Avaei, must be held accountable.”

Safavi said the protesters’ focus on Raisi is unsurprising given his outspoken and ongoing support for the killings, as well as his ascension through the regime’s upper echelons.

Rumors continue to circulate that Raisi will soon throw his hat in the ring for June’s presidential election.

Safavi said since becoming head of the judiciary in 2019, Raisi has directed the execution of at least 500 people — including, allegedly, Navid Afkari, the champion wrestler hung for participating in anti-regime protests.

Amnesty International said under Raisi, the judiciary has used the death penalty “as a weapon of political repression against dissident protesters and members of ethnic minority groups.”


Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'
Updated 15 min 18 sec ago

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'

Nato summit statement: 'We call on Iran to stop all ballistic missile activities'


New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem
Updated 14 June 2021

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem

New Israeli government faces tension with Palestinians over Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem march by Jewish nationalists poses immediate challenge to the new coalition

JERUSALEM: Veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu handed over power in Israel on Monday to new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett but remained defiant as the patchwork government faced tensions with Palestinians over a planned Jewish nationalist march.
Minutes after meeting Bennett, Netanyahu repeated a pledge to topple the new government approved on Sunday by a 60-59 vote in parliament.
“It will happen sooner than you think,” Netanyahu, 71, who spent a record 12 straight years in office, said in public remarks to legislators of his right-wing Likud party.
Formation of the alliance of right-wing, centrist, left-wing and Arab parties, with little in common other than a desire to unseat Netanyahu, capped coalition-building efforts after a March 23 election, Israel’s fourth poll in two years.
Instead of the traditional toasts marking Bennett’s entry into the prime minister’s office, Netanyahu held a low-key meeting there with the former defense chief, who heads the nationalist Yamina party, to brief him on government business.
“Sour, grumpy, not stately – Trump-like until the final moment,” Yossi Verter, a political affairs commentator, wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.
The government was already facing a sensitive decision over whether to approve a flag-waving procession planned for Tuesday by Jewish nationalists through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Palestinian factions have called for a “day of rage” against the event, with memories of clashes with Israeli police still fresh from last month in contested Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and in a neighborhood of the city where Palestinians face eviction in a court dispute with Jewish settlers.
“This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
The Hamas Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip warned of the possibility of renewed hostilities if the march goes ahead, less than a month after a cease-fire ended 11 days of cross-border hostilities with Israeli forces.
A route change or canceling the procession could expose the Israeli government to accusations from its right-wing opponents of giving Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem.
Israeli police were due to present their route recommendations to government officials on Monday.
Deputy internal security minister Yoav Segalovitz said past governments had stopped nationalists visiting Muslim sites in times of tension.
“The main thing is to consider what’s the right thing to do at this time,” he told Israel’s Kan radio.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, to be the capital of a state they seek to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition after capturing the area in a 1967 war, regards the entire city as its capital.
With any discord among its members a potential threat to its stability, Israel’s new government had hoped to avoid hot-button issues such as policy toward the Palestinians and to focus on domestic reforms and the economy.
“I think the milestone to look out for is the budget,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute. “If within 3-4 months this government will pass the 2021-22 budget then we can expect this government to serve for at least two or three years. Otherwise, the instability will continue.”
Palestinians held out scant hope of a breakthrough in a peace process leading to a state of their own. Talks with Israel collapsed in 2014.
“We don’t see the new government as less bad than the previous ones,” Shtayyeh told the Palestinian cabinet.
Under the coalition deal, Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew and tech millionaire who advocates annexing parts of the West Bank, will be replaced as prime minister in 2023 by centrist Yair Lapid, 57, a former television host.
Lapid, widely regarded as the architect of the coalition that brought down Netanyahu, is now foreign minister.


Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam
Updated 14 June 2021

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam

Sudan says it is open to conditional interim deal on Ethiopia dam
  • Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • Sudan and Egypt agreed last week to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate "seriously"

KHARTOUM: Sudan is open to a partial interim agreement on Ethiopia’s multi-billion-dollar dam on the Blue Nile, with specific conditions, Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas said on Monday.
While Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egypt fears it will imperil its water supply and Sudan is concerned about the impact on its own water flows.
Sudan and Egypt agreed last week to coordinate efforts to push Ethiopia to negotiate “seriously” on an agreement on filling and operating the GERD.
Cairo and Khartoum had been aligned on the need for any agreement to be comprehensive, but Abbas’s comments mark a potential shift in Sudan’s position.
” conditions include the signing-off of everything that has already been agreed on in negotiations, ... provisions to ensure that the talks continue even after the filling scheduled for July, and the negotiations adhering to a definite timetable,” Abbas told a news conference, citing a time crunch.
Ethiopia has said it will begin a second filling of the reservoir behind the dam during the rainy season this summer.
Talks overseen by the African Union, aimed at reaching a binding agreement, have repeatedly stalled.


Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized
Updated 14 June 2021

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized

Bodies of 25 migrants recovered off Yemen after boat capsized
  • Fishermen said the bodies were floating in the waters of Ras Al-Ara, an area so rife with human trafficking that local people call it the ‘Gate of Hell’
  • In recent months, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, a major route for international trade but also for human trafficking

HODEIDAH, Yemen: The bodies of 25 migrants were recovered off Yemen on Monday after the boat that was carrying them capsized with up to 200 people on board, a provincial official told AFP.

Fishermen who found the bodies told AFP that they were floating in the waters of Ras Al-Ara in the southern province of Lahij, an area so rife with human trafficking that local people call it the “Gate of Hell.”

“The boat overturned two days ago and was carrying between 160 and 200 people,” said Jalil Ahmed Ali from the Lahij provincial authority, citing information given by Yemeni smugglers. The fate of the other people on board was unclear.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration confirmed to AFP that a boat sank in the area but said it was still trying to establish the details of the incident.

The fishermen said the victims, found in the Bab Al-Mandab strait that separates Djibouti from Yemen, appeared to be of African origin.

“We found 25 bodies of Africans who drowned when a boat carrying dozens of them sank off the Yemeni shores,” said one of the fishermen.

“We saw the bodies floating in the water 10 miles from the shores of Ras Al-Ara,” added another.

Migrants often find themselves stranded in Yemen with the beaches of Ras Al-Ara being among the areas most targeted by smugglers.

In recent months, dozens of migrants have died in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, a major route for international trade but also for human trafficking.

In April, at least 42 migrants died off Djibouti after the capsize of their boat which had left from Yemen, according to an IOM report. They were likely among those who try to return home after finding themselves stranded or detained.

The IOM reported this month that 5,100 immigrants arrived in Yemen so far this year, while 35,000 traveled in 2020 and 127,000 in 2019 before the outbreak of the coronavirus which suppressed demand for labor in the Gulf.

The UN agency often sends migrants back to their home countries from Yemen. But it said in April that more than 32,000 migrants, mostly from Ethiopia, were still stranded in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.


Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members
Updated 14 June 2021

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

Egypt upholds death penalty for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Monday upheld death sentences for 12 Muslim Brotherhood members, including two senior leaders of the outlawed Islamist movement, judicial sources said.
The court of cassation also reduced sentences for 31 others to life in prison, the sources told AFP, adding that the rulings were final and cannot be appealed.
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood held power briefly for a year before their military ouster in 2013.