LONDON: Hundreds of international lawyers and human rights scholars have penned an open letter to the UN’s Human Rights Council urging it to open an investigation into Iran’s 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
Dozens of rights groups also joined more than 450 individuals, many of them former world leaders and prosecutors in the International Criminal Court, in signing the letter, which was released to the public on Thursday.
“We urge the UN Human Rights Council to urgently challenge the impunity enjoyed by Iranian officials by mandating an international investigation into the 1988 mass executions and enforced disappearances of thousands of political prisoners which constitute ongoing crimes against humanity,” the letter said.
“We believe it’s long overdue for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to investigate the 1988 massacre.”
The letter was organized by a London-based association of victims’ families called Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran.
In the immediate aftermath of the war with Iraq and on orders of then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, Iranian authorities executed thousands of political prisoners accused of betraying the state during the conflict.
By some estimates 30,000 were killed, many of them members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a revolutionary group that later fell out of favor with the regime.
Many of those prisoners were sent to their death by Iran’s current President Ebrahim Raisi, who served as a deputy prosecutor in Tehran at the time.
The US placed him on a sanctions list in 2019, citing the executions and other alleged rights abuses. He has denied involvement in the executions.
Among the letter’s signatories is Sang-Hyun Song, president of the ICC from 2009 to 2015; Jacques Santer, former prime minister of Luxembourg; Guy Verhofstadt, former prime minister of Belgium; and hundreds of former UN officials and human rights professionals.
Other signatories include former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and 18 Nobel Laureates.
The letter is the latest in a series of calls by rights groups and others urging the UN to take action on the 1988 massacre, which remains controversial internationally as well as in Iran.
Israel says Iran working on advanced centrifuges at new underground sites
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HERZLIYA, Israel: Iran is working on advanced uranium centrifuges at new underground sites being built near its Natanz nuclear plant, Israel’s defense minister said on Tuesday, giving figures that appeared to go beyond those published by a UN watchdog. Centrifuges are used to purify uranium for civilian projects or, at higher levels, to make bomb fuel. Iranian progress in the field is being watched by world powers trying to resurrect a nuclear deal with Tehran, which denies having military designs. “Iran is making an effort to complete the manufacturing and installation of 1,000 additional advanced IR6 centrifuges in its nuclear facilities, including new facilities being built at underground sites abutting Natanz,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a speech at Reichman University near Tel Aviv. A March 3 report by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines. IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said last month that Iran had set up a new underground Natanz workshop for making centrifuge parts, an apparent precaution against attacks. In his remarks, Gantz alluded to Israel’s long-standing threat to take military action if it deems diplomacy is at a dead end to deny its arch-enemy the means to make nuclear weapons. “The cost of such a future war, which we hope will not happen, can be prevented or reduced” with tougher negotiations by world powers, he said. Ram Ben-Barak, head of parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, confirmed Israeli media reports on Tuesday that Israel’s air force, as part of a scheduled one-month military exercise, would be simulating an attack on Iran. “This exercise was planned long ago,” Ben-Barak told Reshet Bet Radio. “We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
Algeria says arrested activist died of ‘natural causes’
Updated 25 min 39 sec ago
ALGIERS: Algeria on Tuesday blamed “natural causes” for the death of a pro-democracy activist in detention last month, which sparked a wave of anger and prompted a lawsuit for manslaughter.
Hakim Debbazi, 55, was arrested in February after publishing Facebook posts in support of Hirak, a pro-democracy movement. He died on April 24, according to the Algerian rights group LADDH.
Earlier this month, his family said they were suing the state for manslaughter and “failing to help a person in danger,” and were seeking a billion euros in compensation.
On Tuesday, Justice Minister Abderrachid Tabi told parliament that Debbazi had been transferred to hospital on April 17 “after falling ill” at the Kolea prison near the capital Algiers.
“He died at the hospital three days later,” Tabi said, local media reported. “The autopsy found that he had died of natural causes.”
Amnesty International has called on authorities to allow an independent investigation into his death.
His death comes after activists Mohamed Tamalt and Kamel Eddine Fekhar both died in detention in 2016 and 2019 respectively.
The CNLD prisoners’ support group says more than 260 people are behind bars in Algeria in relation to the Hirak protest movement or rights campaigning.
"A number of drivers were detained yesterday during a gathering in front of the central office of the Tehran Bus Company," Mohsen Bagheri, a company official
The workers do not want anything beyond the law; their demand is a legal increase in wages
Updated 17 May 2022
TEHRAN: Iran arrested a number of bus drivers who have staged protests in Tehran for the second consecutive day over their living conditions, media in the country reported on Tuesday.
“A number of drivers were detained yesterday during a gathering in front of the central office of the Tehran Bus Company,” Mohsen Bagheri, a company official, was quoted as saying by ILNA news agency.
“A number of drivers were also arrested during today’s protest,” he added.
Bagheri did not say why the drivers were arrested, only expressing hope that they would be released soon.
“The workers do not want anything beyond the law; their demand is a legal increase in wages,” Bagheri said.
Striking bus drivers chanted slogans describing Tehran’s mayor as “incompetent” and called on him to resign at a protest on Monday, the reformist Shargh newspaper said on Twitter.
Buses were seen operating in different areas of the capital on Tuesday, AFP journalists said, but it was unclear if the strike was continuing.
The mayor of Tehran, Alireza Zakani, met with a group of drivers on Monday and said a committee was looking into the possibility of salary increases, according to state news agency IRNA.
Last week, Iran’s government announced a series of measures to tackle mounting economic challenges, such as changing a subsidy system and raising the price of staples including cooking oil and dairy products.
Hundreds have taken to the streets in a number of Iranian cities in the past week to protest against the moves, including in Tehran province, IRNA reported.
MP Ahmed Avai said on Saturday that one person had been killed during demonstrations in the southwestern city of Dezful, according to ILNA.
Iran’s economy has been hit hard by sanctions imposed by the United States since 2018 as well as rising prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year.
The Islamic republic has witnessed several waves of protests over living conditions in recent years, most notably in 2019 after a fuel price hike.
In recent months, teachers have held successive demonstrations demanding the speeding up of reforms that would see their salaries better reflect their experience and performance.
How digitalization is boosting Arab female labor force participation
Pandemic restrictions accelerated the move towards remote and hybrid forms of working
Women trying to balancing their careers and homelife benefited most from the transition
Updated 17 May 2022
DUBAI: At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were forced to take a more flexible approach to work, allowing their staff to carry out tasks remotely, splitting their time between home and the office and to define their own working hours.
The phenomenon has not only accelerated an existing trend toward the digitalization of work processes, but it has also made workplaces far more flexible and, as a byproduct, much more inclusive for women.
This has taken place at a time when many more women in the Arab world are entering the workforce thanks to new legislation designed to protect them from discrimination and harassment, and also due to burgeoning growth in new sectors of the economy.
Regional experts have welcomed this new environment of hybrid working and greater inclusivity. “We see quite a few companies adopting the flexible working model,” Marketa Simkova, partner of People and Change at KPMG, told Arab News.
“It could be more flexible working hours and also the off-site/on-site model. Women require the flexibility to juggle their private life, their family and work environment.”
Simkova, who is taking part in a panel discussion, “A new beginning: Work 2.0,” at the Arab Women Forum in Dubai on May 17, said several of her female clients appreciate such flexibility and view it as one of the deciding factors when they look for new opportunities.
“They prefer companies that could offer that,” she said.
In fact, advancing the role of women in society and the economy is considered a key driver of change in the Middle East.
According to the management consulting company McKinsey, increased female participation in professional and technical jobs could turbo-charge economic growth in a region that will be significantly impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
McKinsey researchers estimate that the share of women in professional and technical jobs is set to more than double by 2030 as a result of the move toward digitalization, online platforms and entrepreneurship.
“Capturing this opportunity would put women in the Middle East at parity with global peers,” the firm said. “Women in the Middle East can go further and aim to achieve parity with the region’s men in professional and technical jobs.”
However, according to Simkova, regional firms are still divided on the issue, with many demanding their employees come back to the office after the lifting of pandemic restrictions as they feel productivity would otherwise drop.
Others simply do not have the flexibility because of the nature of their work.
“Most offer a hybrid model, which is a mix of working from home two or three days a week and the office,” Simkova said. “Very few select companies are completely flexible.”
Today, technology allows for this flexibility, with the expansion of tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom offering virtual meetings and the secure transfer of large files, while allowing home-based workers a better work-life balance.
“I see on the ground that this is an advantage,” Simkova said. “The benefits are that the flexibility suits more women than men, and the fact that they get this flexibility thanks to digitalization can then combine their family life and career, hence this whole situation is promoting diversity.”
According to McKinsey, digital inclusion is critical to boosting female participation in professional and technical jobs in the region, offering more advanced job opportunities with greater flexibility.
For Samia El-Kadiri, adviser and head of research in governance and compliance at Hawkamah, who is also taking part in the Arab Women Forum panel, diversity is a fundamental element to innovation and creativity.
“It is generally understood that companies with a diverse workforce are more likely to have a better understanding of their consumers,” she told Arab News. “So this (pandemic) crisis should be an encouragement for a new future that is more flexible, more diverse and more well-being oriented.”
Boards of directors are nowadays under the microscope as never before, measured on their racial, cultural and gender diversity criteria under the umbrella of environmental, social and corporate governance.
As a result, practices are changing, and El-Kadiri foresees that they will remain in place well into the future.
“Company leaders are also realizing that as well. So leaders can now focus on blending a culture that can provide for employees to work from anywhere they want. Some companies are already practicing those policies.”
As a result, digitalization has helped women during the pandemic to balance their work life with their responsibilities as mothers and caregivers.
“Especially in our region, women are under the pressure of stereotypes to give more time to home responsibilities or to their husbands,” El-Kadiri said.
“Today, they can do both. They can be successful and (fulfill) their responsibilities, not only in our region, but also globally.”
Despite many of the clear benefits, Simkova has a word of caution for companies and employees embracing remote and hybrid work.
“This digitalization trend will continue,” Simkova said. “But it remains to be seen how it will impact things such as employee engagement, productivity and employee learning in the long term.”
Indeed, there can be downsides to working from home. For instance, those employees who come into the office regularly tend to have greater visibility with management.
“We need to be a bit careful because we are starting to notice that it’s a disadvantage for a new starter,” Simkova said. “People don’t typically come to the office, so it’s more difficult for them to be integrated and make connections.”
Equally, newer employees working remotely tend to miss out on the chance to learn from others through observation and networking. “People are also social creatures,” Simkova said.
“If they don’t have the opportunity to meet frequently, create relationships and spend time together then, in the long term, it might impact their bond with the company, its culture and their engagement.”
Iran state TV says 2 French nationals arrested over protests
The report identified the two as Cecile Kohler, 37, and Chuck Paris, 69, and said they were not on a tourist visit to Iran
France condemned the “groundless arrest” of the two and called for their immediate release
Updated 17 May 2022
TEHRAN: Iran’s state TV on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of two French citizens, saying they met with protesting teachers and took part in an anti-government rally.
The report identified the two as Cecile Kohler, 37, and Chuck Paris, 69, and said they were not on a tourist visit to Iran. France had earlier identified the two as a teachers’ union official and her partner on vacation in Iran.
The Intelligence Ministry in Tehran last week only said that it had detained two Europeans.
The TV broadcast footage of the arrival of the two, saying they landed from Turkey at Tehran airport on April 28. It also broadcast footage of their meetings with Iranian teachers and other activists, as well as their presence at a protest gathering, and also aired a video purported to show the two being arrested while on their way to the Tehran airport to leave the country on May 7.
The report said the two French citizens were “organizing a protest” with the purpose of creating “unrest” in Iran.
Last Thursday, France condemned the “groundless arrest” of the two and called for their immediate release. France’s Foreign Ministry said its ambassador in Tehran has already attempted to obtain consular access to the couple and that the charge d’affaires at Iran’s Embassy in Paris has been summoned for explanations.
Another French citizen, Benjamin Briere, was sentenced in January by Iran to over eight years in prison for espionage, for photographing “prohibited areas” with a drone in 2020 during what he said was a tourist visit in the north of the country.
Briere’s lawyer had claimed his client was being used as a “bargaining chip” in diplomatic negotiations at the time between Iran and Western countries over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Also in January, Iranian justice ordered the re-imprisonment of Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, arrested in 2019, who had for a time been allowed to serve a five-year prison sentence under house arrest. She had been accused of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic’s political system” and “collusion to undermine national security.”
There have been teachers’ strikes over the past weeks in cities across Iran. Teachers have walked out of their classes to press for better pay and working conditions.