Many voters, including Ahmadinejad, boycott ‘sham’ Iran election

Many voters, including Ahmadinejad, boycott ‘sham’ Iran election
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A voter fills out her ballot papers at a polling station during the presidential elections in Tehran. (AP)
Many voters, including Ahmadinejad, boycott ‘sham’ Iran election
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Voters queue at a polling station during the presidential elections in Tehran. (AP)
Many voters, including Ahmadinejad, boycott ‘sham’ Iran election
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Ebrahim Raisi, a candidate in Iran's presidential elections waves to the media after casting his vote at a polling station in Tehran. (AP)
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Updated 19 June 2021

Many voters, including Ahmadinejad, boycott ‘sham’ Iran election

Many voters, including Ahmadinejad, boycott ‘sham’ Iran election
  • Despite polling stations across 220 cities in 31 provinces, presidential election met with widespread boycott
  • Some polls virtually deserted as apathy grows over a presidential vote tipped in favor of hard-line candidate Ebrahim Raisi

JEDDAH: As Iranian state TV showed people streaming to cast their ballots on Friday and news anchors praising the voters, very different scenes played out on the streets of Tehran, where many polling places appeared relatively empty.

Amid rising anger and apathy over a presidential vote tipped in favor of Ebrahim Raisi, the hard-line judiciary chief cultivated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the election atmosphere was distinctly subdued, the Associated Press reported.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about the exercise of voting.

“Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve the problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again are disappointed.”

At 16 different polling stations across Tehran, witnesses described lines of voters as “short” as no more than eight voters at a time could be seen casting ballots.

Some polls remained virtually deserted throughout the day. Listless poll workers listened to state radio, looked at their phones, or chatted calmly.

Farid Mahoutchi, the spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a Europe-based opposition group, said that according to reports, pictures, and video clips from polling stations across 220 cities in 31 provinces, the “sham” election was met with a widespread boycott.

Reports from polling station staff in many areas of Tehran, such as the Qamar Bani Hashem Mosque, Armaghan Alam, and polling stations in Tehran’s second district, which includes 64 polling stations, show participation was very meager.

“None of the candidates are trustworthy,” said Nasrin, a 31-year-old accountant in central Tehran.

Another passerby in a middle-class Tehran district, Rojin Ahmadi, 23, said: “None of them dared to offer a plan to show they would bring the country into normalcy.”

Ahmadi said she did not cast a vote.

Former hard-line populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seized on popular anger by repeating his decision to stay home and not vote. He warned that the heavily restricted process will produce a government without domestic or international legitimacy.

“I am not going to vote. And the main reason is that I am witnessing a major part of the people is put aside,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“A weak government is coming to power. And a weak government will weaken the situation in Iran. It will weaken the domestic situation and it will weaken our relations with the world. It will turn our relations with the rest of the world against Iran.”

In Lebanon, the Iranian Embassy set up three polling stations — one inside the embassy and the others in the city of Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon and in the city of Baalbek.

When asked about the number of Iranians in Lebanon, a media official from the embassy told Arab News: “Disclosing this number is not in the embassy’s interest.”

The turnout was low in Nabatiyeh despite many families of Iranian origin residing in the area.


Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world
Updated 4 min 32 sec ago

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world
  • Italian undersecretary for culture praised Saudi approach to culture as ‘innovative and proactive’

ROME: Culture will be the driving force for a more sustainable world and a more prosperous future for all nations, Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome.

He took part as vice president of the G20 Ministerial Meeting of Culture organized by the Italian government, which chairs the G20 this year.

It represents the culmination of the Sherpa Cultural Track within the framework of the G20 agenda, a track that was created during the Kingdom’s assumption of the summit’s presidency in 2020.

The current presidency has identified five priorities for the Sherpa Cultural Track meetings for the year 2021: cultural and creative industries as key drivers of sustainability and growth, protection of cultural heritage, addressing climate change through culture, capacity-building through training and education, and digital transformation from a cultural perspective.

During the meeting, Prince Badr expressed appreciation to Italian Minister for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini.

The prince also praised the efforts of the Italian presidency in building on the commitments of the first joint meeting of culture ministers, which resulted in laying the foundations for “fruitful cooperation” among the members of the G20 in order to promote culture as a development engine and a key factor in prosperity.

He then reviewed the Kingdom’s “continuous efforts” to preserve cultural heritage, noting that Saudi Arabia has made great strides to this end with the registration of six sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

He also stressed the Kingdom’s commitment to promoting international dialogue on the role of culture in mitigating the effects of climate change, contributing to a re-imagining of the relationship between cultural policymaking and environmental sustainability, launching research initiatives and exploring the vast potential of digitization in cultural sectors to increase their contribution to economic growth.

Prince Badr’s remarks were well received by Franceschini, who also expressed his gratitude to his Saudi counterpart for the “outstanding work in the G20 presidency” and repeated the G20 pledge to “continue to support culture and workers in the sector.” He cited culture as a “great factor of growth” and one that leads to the “creation of opportunities for the new generations and the most vulnerable categories.”

“The Rome Declaration of the Ministers of Culture, unanimously approved, is made up of 32 qualifying points. In the document, very strong expressions appear on the fight against discrimination, on the defense of human rights and on the enhancement of diversity,” Franceschini added during the session.

“The Saudi approach on culture is definitely interesting as it is an innovative and proactive one.  And proactivity and innovation are definitely what is needed most in this difficult period,” Italian Undersecretary for Culture Lucia Borgonzoni told Arab News at the end of the meeting, whose plenary session was held in the spectacular scenario of the Coliseum.

“Like Italy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sees cultural and artistic heritage as drivers for economic development but also as a way of preserving identities and opening up to other cultures,” she added.


Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare

Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare
Updated 16 min 26 sec ago

Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare

Tennis ace Novak Djokovic ‘not sure’ about US Open fitness after Tokyo Olympics nightmare
  • Serb could become the first man to complete a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969

TOKYO: World number one Novak Djokovic said he was “not sure” about his fitness for the US Open after pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics mixed doubles bronze medal match with a shoulder injury on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Serb could become the first man to complete a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 when the US Open gets under way on August 30.
The withdrawal in Tokyo came after the 20-time major champion lost his cool on his way to a surprise 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 defeat against Pablo Carreno Busta in the Olympics singles bronze-medal match.
He admitted that his exertions in Japan have taken their toll but he still hopes to be fit enough to challenge at Flushing Meadows.
“The consequences physically hopefully will not create a problem for me for the US Open, but that’s something that I’m not sure about right now,” said Djokovic.
“But I’m not regretting for giving it all because at the end of the day, when you play for your country, that’s necessary.”
The International Tennis Federation said Djokovic had withdrawn with a “left shoulder injury.”
“Ashleigh Barty and John Peers receive a walkover against Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic and win the bronze medal for Australia,” the ITF added.
Djokovic had been eyeing two gold medals when he played the singles and mixed doubles semifinals on Friday — but less than 24 hours after his hopes for gold were ended — he was preparing to leave the Ariake Tennis Park without a medal of any color.
He lost a gruelling match to Carreno Busta which lasted two hours and 47 minutes in suffocating heat, despite saving five match points.
The Serbian sporting icon’s best result at the Olympics remains his bronze medal in Beijing in 2008.
“I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today,” said Djokovic, whose singles loss to Alexander Zverev ended his Golden Grand Slam bid.
“The level of tennis dropped, also due to exhaustion, mentally and physically.”
His next opportunity to win an Olympic title will come in Paris in three years’ time, when he will be 37.
“I know that I will bounce back. I will try to keep going for Paris Olympic Games and fight for my country to win medals,” insisted Djokovic.
“I’m sorry that I disappointed a lot of sports fans in my country. But that’s sport, I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much. I left it out on the court.”
On Saturday, Djokovic brought back memories of his infamous default against Carreno Busta last year at the US Open, when he inadvertently struck a ball at a line judge.
This time he threw his racquet high into the empty stands as he saw a break point come and go in the opening game of the third set, and continued to cut an angry figure, destroying another racquet by smashing it against the net post.
He was given a warning by the umpire after that second incident, but not following the first.
“It was an emotional outburst and it happens,” said Djokovic. “You’re tense on the court, in the heat of the battle.
“It’s not the first time and it’s not the last time probably. It’s not nice, of course, but it’s part of, I guess, who I am.
“I don’t like doing these things, I’m sorry for sending this kind of message, but we’re all human beings and sometimes it’s hard to control.”


Israel pushes for UN action against Iran over deadly ship attack

Israel pushes for UN action against Iran over deadly ship attack
Updated 21 min 17 sec ago

Israel pushes for UN action against Iran over deadly ship attack

Israel pushes for UN action against Iran over deadly ship attack
  • Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he has ordered the nation’s diplomats to push for UN action against “Iranian terrorism”

JERUSALEM: Israel is pressing for international action against Iran over a deadly attack on a ship managed by an Israeli billionaire, branding Tehran an “exporter of terrorism” after the likely drone strike.
The MT Mercer Street tanker was struck Thursday in the northern Indian Ocean, killing two crew members, in what the United States said was a drone-style attack.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the strike, but maritime industry analysts Dryad Global said “this latest attack has the hallmarks of the ongoing Israel/Iran ‘shadow war’.”
On Friday Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he has ordered the nation’s diplomats to push for UN action against “Iranian terrorism.”
“I’ve instructed the embassies in Washington, London and the UN to work with their interlocutors in government and the relevant delegations in the UN headquarters in New York,” Lapid said on Twitter.
“Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that are hurting us all,” he said.
“We must never remain silent in the face of Iranian terrorism, which also harms freedom of navigation,” Lapid added.
Lapid said he had also spoken to his British counterpart Dominic Raab, stressing “the need to respond severely to the attack on the ship in which a British citizen was killed.”
Zodiac Maritime, the tanker’s London-based operator owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, said a Romanian national also died in the attack.
The Mercer Street, an oil products tanker, was traveling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates with no cargo aboard when it was struck, Zodiac Maritime said.


The US military said that early indications “clearly point” to a drone strike on the Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned tanker flying a Liberian flag.
Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV channel, citing “informed regional sources,” said the attack was a “response to a recent Israeli attack” targeting an airport in central Syria where Iran is backing the regime.
Israeli retired Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom said the attack appeared to copy elements of a reported Israeli exploding drone strike on a centrifuge manufacturing site in Iran in June.
Israel, Brom told AFP, “started developing drones and is among the first (countries) to develop the concept of a kamikaze.
“The Iranians are imitating us and adopting the same techniques,” said Brom, now a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.
Iran’s strike marked “a certain escalation” but aimed at avoiding a full-scale war,” he said.
“They are not interested in a wider escalation, just as we are not interested in a wider escalation,” Brom added.
In June, Iran said it had foiled a sabotage attack on an atomic energy agency building near the city of Karaj west of Tehran.
But aerial photographs obtained by private Israeli intelligence firm The Intel Lab revealed damage to the site.


Several unmanned Iranian drones appear to have carried out the attack on the Mercer Street, crashing into living quarters under the ship’s command center, the New York Times reported citing anonymous Israeli officials.
A US official told the newspaper Americans boarded the ship to investigate the attack.
By Friday afternoon, Zodiac Maritime said the ship was “sailing under the control of her crew” to a safe location under the protection of a US naval escort.
The strike on the tanker comes as European powers meet with Iran in an effort to shore up a 2015 agreement to curtail the Islamic republic’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.
The accord was strained when in 2018 former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US unilaterally and reimposed sanctions.
Negotiations in Vienna, where the US is indirectly taking part, have stalled ahead of next week’s inauguration of newly elected ultra-conservative Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi.
Dryad Global said the attack was the fifth against a ship connected to Israel since February. Two ships tied to Iran were attacked in that period, the firm said.


Tunisian security forces place prominent judge under house arrest

Tunisian security forces place prominent judge under house arrest
Updated 49 min 36 sec ago

Tunisian security forces place prominent judge under house arrest

Tunisian security forces place prominent judge under house arrest

TUNIS: Tunisian security forces placed a judge, accused by human rights groups of being close to Islamists and hiding terrorism-related files, under house arrest for 40 days, local Radio Mosaique FM said on Saturday.
The decision against Judge Bechir Akremi came after President Kais Saied pledged to lead a campaign against rampant corruption in all sectors to save the country, following his dismissal of the prime minister and freezing of parliament.
Tunisia has been thrust into a political crisis by Saied's move, leading major parties to accuse him of a coup, which he denies. Two lawmakers were also arrested after he decided to lift their immunity.


Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year

Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year
Updated 31 July 2021

Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year

Extreme E announces new plans to race in Sardinia this year
  • Decision comes after postponement of planned events in Brazil, Argentina due to COVID-19 situation in South America

LONDON: Extreme E, the electric off-road motor racing series, has revealed it has reached an agreement in principle with Sardinian officials to host the fourth event of its opening season, the Island X Prix, on Oct. 23-24.

The move to the Italian island follows the series’ decision to postpone its originally planned events in Brazil and Argentina due to ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developments in South America.

“I am pleased to confirm that Extreme E is finalizing plans to hold an Island X Prix in Sardinia, Italy, and that we are delighted to have the support of Sardinian President Christian Solinas and the Automobile Club d’Italia as we plan our first European event,” Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E, said.

“Extreme E was built around the ethos of racing electric vehicles in remote environments in an effort to raise awareness for climate change issues and showcase the performance and benefits of low-carbon vehicles,” he said. “However, this crisis is not a problem which only affects remote locations. It is becoming increasingly noticeable closer to home, across North America, and here across Europe, with rising temperatures, heatwaves and wildfires, which currently rage in Sardinia itself, being some of the latest devastating examples.

“Together with our supportive hosts and our Scientific Committee and partners, we will use the power of sport to educate on the causes of these climate issues which are taking place right here in front of us, as we aim to open eyes even wider to the need for all of us to take collective action, now, before it’s too late.” 

Solinas has confirmed that the Sardinian region will work alongside the organizers for the success of the event.

Scientists are warning of worsening extreme weather patterns if global temperatures continue to rise without solutions put in place to cut carbon emissions and that greenhouse gas levels are already too high “for a manageable future for humanity.”

Richard Washington, professor of climate science at the University of Oxford and founding member of Extreme E’s Scientific Committee, said: “Rising temperatures and wildfires are now a threat across every continent. In just the last couple of years, we have seen devastation in the Amazon, Australia, Siberia, Canada and the Mediterranean region. With thresholds already crossed by climate change, wildfires are more extensive, more intense, more damaging and last longer. New ways of forecasting wildfires and new ways of adapting to them are urgently needed.

“Ultimately, the driver of all this is climate change,” he added. “To reduce the devastation, we need to stem the driver of that change, and that means cutting carbon emissions. Continue to live as we do, and the carbon emissions by the end of the century will make the wildfires of recent years look modest. Extreme E is at the forefront of the drive towards a better future, a new way of doing things and a world which does not rely on deadly carbon emissions.” 

So far, the series has journeyed to the deserts of AlUla, Saudi Arabia, and the beaches of Senegal, West Africa, where it has educated on the issues of desertification, coastal erosion and plastic pollution, and is about to race in Greenland to shine a spotlight on the melting ice cap. The sport-for-purpose series highlights the impact of climate change and promotes the benefits of electric vehicles and low-carbon solutions in the fight to help reduce global emission levels.

Extreme E has attracted drivers from some of the biggest disciplines in motorsport. Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg’s Rosberg X Racing currently leads the championship standings, closely followed by seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team. Former Formula One competitor Jenson Button also leads his own JBXE entry. The world-class drivers in Extreme E include rally legends Carlos Sainz Snr. and Sébastien Loeb and FIA World Rallycross Champions Johan Kristoffersson, Timmy Hansen and Mattias Ekström competing alongside leading female drivers, including Molly Taylor, Jamie Chadwick, Catie Munnings, Cristina Gutiérrez and more.

All teams include a male and female driver who complete a lap apiece of the Extreme E racecourse, with a driver switch taking place midway and with both drivers competing together for success.

Extreme E races — known as an X Prix — take place over two days, within an area no larger than 10 km squared.

As well as using sport to shine a global spotlight on climate issues in its five locations, Extreme E will work alongside local experts in each region to implement positive legacy initiatives dependent on local needs. Further details on the Island X Prix’s overall purpose and legacy plans will be confirmed in the coming weeks.