Iran police call woman’s death in custody an ‘unfortunate incident’ amid growing fury

Update Iran police call woman’s death in custody an ‘unfortunate incident’ amid growing fury
the death of Mahsa amini in the custody of iran’s morality police enforcing strict hijab rules has received wide coverage in newspapers and social media. (AFP)
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Updated 19 September 2022

Iran police call woman’s death in custody an ‘unfortunate incident’ amid growing fury

Iran police call woman’s death in custody an ‘unfortunate incident’ amid growing fury
  • Tragic end of Mahsa Amini galvanizes anti-regime campaign 

TEHRAN: Iranian police called on Monday the death of Mahsa Amini an “unfortunate incident” that they do not want to see repeated, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Amini was a 22 year-old woman who fell into a coma and died following her arrest in Tehran by the morality police last week, sparking protests across the country by Iranians angered by the treatment of women by the country's security forces.
“Cowardly accusations have been levelled against the Iranian police. We will wait until the day of judgment but we cannot stop doing security work,” Greater Tehran Police Commander Hossein Rahimi added.

Protests persisted on Sunday and #MahsaAmini became one of the top hashtags ever on Persian-language Twitter as Iranians fumed over her death.

Amini, 22, died on Friday after falling into a coma following her arrest in Tehran earlier in the week in the custody of morality police enforcing strict hijab rules.

The death of Amini has reignited calls to rein in its actions against women suspected of violating the dress code.

The day after her funeral in Kurdistan, nearly all Iranian press dedicated their front pages to her story on Sunday.

HIGHLIGHTS

The people in Iran are shocked and outraged by what happened to Mahsa Amini, reformist publication Etemad said.

In Saqez, residents hurled stones at the governor’s office and chanted slogans against the authorities.

The Sunday front page of financial newspaper Asia declared: ‘Dear Mahsa, your name will become a symbol.’

“The nation has expressed its sorrow over Mahsa’s sad death,” stated the front page of ultra-conservative newspaper Javan.

Originally from the northwestern Kurdistan province, Amini was on a visit with her family to Tehran when she was detained on Tuesday.

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Sunday around the University of Tehran on Sunday, shouting “Woman, Life, Freedom,” according to online videos.

The #MahsaAmini hashtag has now reached 1.63 million mentions on Twitter.

There were also protests in Kurdistan on Saturday, including at the funeral in her hometown Saqez.

Police repressed the Saqez demonstrations, with videos posted online showing at least one man with a head injury.

In Saqez, some residents hurled stones at the governor’s office and chanted slogans against the authorities.

Behzad Rahimi, an MP for Saqez, said that a few people were wounded at the funeral.

“One of them was hospitalized in the Saqez Hospital after being hit in the intestines by ballbearings,” he said.

Kurdish rights group Hengaw said that 33 people were injured in Saqez.

As Iran reels from the woman’s death, the Sunday front page of financial newspaper Asia declared: “Dear Mahsa, your name will become a symbol.”

The police unit — responsible for enforcing Iran’s dress code for women — had already faced growing criticism in recent months over its excessive use of force.

“The people are shocked and outraged by what happened to Mahsa Amini,” reformist publication Etemad noted, stating that the country has suffered “multiple instances of violence by the morality police.”

The Jomhouri-e Eslami daily warned against “social fragmentation” triggered by the “violent behavior” of the unit’s officers President Ebrahim Raisi promised the family in a phone call that he would follow up the case, telling them “your daughter is like my own daughter and I feel like this incident happened to one of my own relatives.”

However, some of the more conservative media outlets sought to push back against the barrage of criticism.

The government daily Iran newspaper accused reformists of “exploiting public sentiments by using an unfortunate incident to incite the nation against the government and the president.”

One ultra-conservative newspaper, Kayhan, claimed that “the amount of rumors and lies spread in the wake of Mahsa’s death has risen considerably.”

“Nevertheless, the publication of images of this incident by the police has stopped opportunists from exploiting it,” the publication argued.


Iran cleric ‘opposes use of violence to impose hijab’

Iran cleric ‘opposes use of violence to impose hijab’
Updated 28 January 2023

Iran cleric ‘opposes use of violence to impose hijab’

Iran cleric ‘opposes use of violence to impose hijab’
  • Iran has accused its foreign foes, including the US and Israel, of fomenting the protests that erupted over Amini’s death in the custody of the country’s morality police

TEHRAN: One of Iran’s top clerics, Nasser Makarem, has spoken out against the use of violence to force women into wearing the veil.
Iran has witnessed a wave of nationwide protests since the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, after her arrest for an alleged breach of the regime’s dress code for women.
Hundreds of people have been killed, including dozens of security personnel, and thousands have been arrested in the protests, which authorities generally refer to a “riots.”
Makarem, a prominent cleric, said that he “does not consider violence and pressure to be effective in the hijab issue.”
“The president and ministers should know that they are in a difficult situation; it is true the enemy is very active, but not all avenues are closed,” he said, quoted by the IRNA news agency.

FASTFACT

Iran’s Tourism and Heritage Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami earlier called for greater tolerance toward women not wearing mandatory headscarves.

“The hijab issue is currently linked to political issues, and some people say that if they can remove the veil, the regime’s system will be weakened,” the cleric added.
Iran’s Tourism and Heritage Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami earlier called for greater tolerance toward women not wearing mandatory headscarves.
Earlier this month, however, Iran’s prosecutor general had called for police to “firmly punish any hijab violators.”
Iran has accused its foreign foes, including the US and Israel, of fomenting the protests that erupted over Amini’s death in the custody of the country’s morality police.
The cleric’s remarks came as Israeli President Isaac Herzog urged the NATO military alliance to toughen its approach to Iran, as Tehran supplies drones to Russia for its war on Ukraine.
“The crisis there goes beyond the boundaries of Ukraine, with the Iranian threat now at Europe’s doorstep,” Herzog said on a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“The illusion of distance can no longer hold. NATO must take the strongest possible stance against the Iranian regime including through economic, legal and political sanctions and credible military deterrence.”
The figurehead leader became on Thursday the first Israeli president to brief NATO’s main decision-making body.
“A terrible war continues to cause needless human suffering and compromise the well-being and welfare of millions,” Herzog said.
“Our hearts continue to go out to the people of Ukraine as they defend their homes and their country,” he said.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said he had discussed “our support for Ukraine” with Herzog.
“The Ukrainian people are bravely defending their homeland and NATO allies and partners are helping to support their right to self defence,” he said.
The NATO secretary general said Herzog’s visit was a sign of the US-led alliance’s “deepening partnership” with Israel.
Herzog pointed to bolstering cooperation on cyber-security, threats from space, drones, and energy resilience.
He said the two sides were slated to sign a new cooperation agreement “in just a couple of months, which lengthens the period of cooperation and expands it reach.”

 


All eyes on turnout as Tunisia votes again after boycott

All eyes on turnout as Tunisia votes again after boycott
Updated 28 January 2023

All eyes on turnout as Tunisia votes again after boycott

All eyes on turnout as Tunisia votes again after boycott
  • Lawyer and political expert Hamadi Redissi said the new assembly would 'not have to approve the government, nor can it censor it without a two-thirds majority' of both parliament & a council of regional representatives, whose make-up has yet to be defined

TUNIS: Tunisians are to vote again on Sunday in elections for a parliament stripped of its powers, the final pillar of President Kais Saied’s remake of politics in the country.
The second-round vote comes as Tunisia grapples with a grave economic crisis and deep political divisions over Saied’s actions in July 2021.
Some 262 candidates, including just 34 women, are running for 131 seats in an election whose first round last month saw just 11.2 percent of registered voters take part.
That was the lowest turnout of any national vote since the 2011 revolt that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The final round comes 18 months after Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, later moving to dominate the judiciary and bringing in a constitution last July that gave his office almost unlimited executive power.
Youssef Cherif, the director of Columbia Global Centers in Tunis, said Tunisians had a “lack of interest” in politics.
“This parliament will have very little legitimacy, and the president, who is all-powerful thanks to the 2022 constitution, will be able to control it as he sees fit,” he said.
Lawyer and political expert Hamadi Redissi said the new assembly would “not have to approve the government, nor can it censor it without a two-thirds majority” of both parliament and a council of regional representatives, whose make-up has yet to be defined.
The legislature will have almost zero power to hold the president to account.
As during the first round, most political parties — which have been sidelined by a system that bans candidates from declaring allegiance to a political grouping — called for a boycott.
On the streets of Tunis, campaigning has been muted, with few posters on the walls and few well-known candidates.
And despite Saied’s break with the traditional political class, many Tunisians are sceptical of all politicians.
“I don’t feel I can trust anyone, so I’m not going to vote,” said carpenter Ridha.
The electoral board has organised televised debates to try to spark interest among those voters who supported Saied’s bid for the presidency in 2019.
But Tunisians, struggling with inflation of over 10 percent and repeated shortages of basic goods from milk to petrol as well as transport workers’ and teachers’ strikes, have more urgent priorities than politics.
Last week’s delivery of 170 trucks of food, a gift from the Tripoli-based government of war-torn Libya, was seen by many as a humiliation.
Redissi said the country was on “the edge of collapse.”
“Along with soaring prices, we’re seeing shortages and the president is pathetically blaming ‘speculators, traitors and saboteurs’,” he said.
But Cherif said that, despite widespread discontent, it was “possible that the status quo will continue as long as the average Tunisian doesn’t see a credible alternative to President Saied.”
Saied faced calls to quit after the first round of the election, but the opposition remains divided into three blocs: the National Salvation Front including the Ennahda party, a grouping of leftist parties, and the Free Destourian Party, seen as nostalgic for Ben Ali’s tough rule.
The election takes place in the shadow of Tunisia’s drawn-out negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout worth some $2 billion.
Cherif said the talks were stumbling over the United States’ concerns for the future of Tunisian democracy and Saied’s apparent reluctance to “accept the IMF’s diktats” on politically sensitive issues including subsidy reform.
Redissi said there was a “blatant discrepancy” between Saied’s rhetoric against the IMF and the program his government proposed to the lender “on the sly.”
“We have a president who opposes his own government,” he said.
He said the country’s only hope lay in a “rescue plan” proposed by the powerful UGTT trade union federation, the League for Human Rights, Tunisia’s Bar Association and the socio-economic rights group FTDES.

 


Syrian regime guilty of chemical attack on Douma, weapons watchdog concludes

Syrian regime guilty of chemical attack on Douma, weapons watchdog concludes
Updated 28 January 2023

Syrian regime guilty of chemical attack on Douma, weapons watchdog concludes

Syrian regime guilty of chemical attack on Douma, weapons watchdog concludes
  • Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it is up to the international community to take action over the 2018 attack in which 50 people died
  • Stephane Dujarric once again called on the Syrian government to fully comply with Security Council Resolution 2118 and destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles

NEW YORK: There are “reasonable grounds” to believe the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Douma almost five years ago, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Friday.
Its Investigation and Identification Team, which is responsible for identifying the perpetrators of such attacks in Syria, concluded that on the evening of April 7, 2018, at least one helicopter belonging to the elite Syrian “Tiger Forces” unit dropped two yellow cylinders filled with toxic chlorine gas onto two residential buildings in the city.
Fernando Arias, the OPCW’s director-general, said: “The world now knows the facts — it is up to the international community to take action, at the OPCW and beyond.”
The Douma attack resulted in the confirmed deaths of 43 identified civilians. Some estimates put the true death toll at 50. At least 100 people were injured.
The IIT said that it reached its conclusion on the basis of “reasonable grounds,” which is the standard of proof consistently adopted by international fact-finding bodies and commissions of inquiry.
The IIT report, the team’s third, said that investigators, analysts and several external independent experts scrutinized the physical evidence of the attack, which included environmental and biomedical samples, witness statements and other verified data, such as forensic analyzes and satellite images.
The OPCW said: “The IIT considered a range of possible scenarios and tested their validity against the evidence they gathered and analyzed to reach their conclusion: That the Syrian Arab Air Forces are the perpetrators of this attack.”
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told Arab News: “It’s sad that in the 21st century we need to repeat this, but the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances is intolerable.
“Impunity for the use of chemical weapons is also unacceptable and it’s imperative that those who have used chemical weapons are identified and held accountable.”
He reiterated calls for the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2118, which was unanimously adopted in September 2013 after a UN investigation confirmed the use of chemical weapons against civilians in a Damascus suburb the previous month. Images of the victims, including children, suffocating after breathing in a nerve agent caused outrage worldwide.
The resolution called on the Syrian regime to destroy its stockpiles of chemical weapons by mid-2014 and set out punitive measures in the event of non-compliance. It also banned Syrian authorities from using, developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling or retaining any chemical weapons, or transferring them to other states or non-state actors.
In October 2013, the Syria regime submitted to the OPCW a formal initial declaration of its chemical weapons program, including a plan for the destruction of stockpiles.
Almost 10 years later, the UN’s disarmament chief, Izumi Nakamitsu, continues to assert that the regime’s declaration cannot be considered accurate or complete. She said “gaps, inconsistencies
and discrepancies” were identified that continue to cast doubt on the true extent of the destruction of chemical weapons by the regime.
Dujarric called on the Syrian government to cooperate fully with the OPCW. The organization has for months complained that its attempts to schedule talks in Damascus about the issue have been blocked by the “continued refusal” of Syrian authorities to issue an entry visa for one member of its Declaration Assessment Team. The Syrian government accuses the team of being biased and unprofessional.
Dujarric reiterated the full support of the UN for “the integrity, the professionalism, the impartiality, the objectivity and the independence of the work of the OPCW.”
The IIT is a fact-finding entity, not a prosecutorial or judicial body, and does not make recommendations for future action, which is an issue for the policy-making bodies of the OPCW.


Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns

Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns
Updated 27 January 2023

Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns

Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns
  • Elizabeth Soffe suffered terrible injuries aged two in fire blamed on rental company’s poor maintenance
  • Parents say they can’t afford her treatment after appeal ruling cuts original compensation from $4m to less than $2m

DUBAI: An Irish couple whose daughter suffered severe injuries in a Qatari villa fire face another grueling chapter in a six-year court battle after their compensation was cut in half after an appeal by the firm blamed for the blaze.
Elizabeth Soffe was two years old when her family’s villa in Al-Waab caught fire. She suffered third-degree burns to 60 percent of her body, lost fingers, her hair, part of her nose and an ear and needs lifelong expensive treatment.
However, her parents Liam and Sinead, who now live in the UK, have been told that an initial $4.11 million compensation ruling by a Qatari court has been cut to about $1.98 million in a second ruling, which they say leaves them without enough to pay for Elizabeth’s care.
“They rejected [costs for] all future treatment – operations and prosthetics,” her father told The Guardian. “She has had 70-80 operations on the NHS, and she will probably need at least another two every year until she’s an adult.
“We’ve spent about £25,000 on court fees so far. UK solicitors (say) that if the case was heard here, the compensation would be between £8 million and £10 million. (In Qatar) there’s almost no consideration of what we would consider … mental health and trauma.”
Elizabeth’s parents lodged a lawsuit in 2017 against Al-Asmakh Real Estate Development, which managed their villa, after two years of attempts to reach an informal settlement failed.
Al-Asmakh was last year ordered to pay QR15 million ($4.11 million) in compensation after a court-appointed fire expert said that the blaze was caused by either a faulty electrical supply or poor maintenance of an air conditioning unit.
However, the company appealed and had the case moved to the rental disputes settlement committee, a lower court, which overturned the original ruling and lowered compensation to around $1.98 million.
Both the Soffes and the Al-Asmakh have appealed against the latest ruling. The case is due to be heard in February.
“All we want is for Elizabeth to be taken care of, so that she has a life and opportunities,” said Soffe.


Seven killed in synagogue attack as West Bank violence spirals

Seven killed in synagogue attack as West Bank violence spirals
Updated 27 January 2023

Seven killed in synagogue attack as West Bank violence spirals

Seven killed in synagogue attack as West Bank violence spirals
  • There was no initial claim of responsibility for the synagogue attack, which took place as worshippers attended Sabbath services
  • “This operation is a response to the crime conducted by the occupation in Jenin and a natural response to the occupation criminal actions,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said

JERUSALEM/GAZA: A gunman killed at least seven people and wounded 10 others in a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Friday in an attack that heightened fears of a spiral in violence.
This comes a day after the deadliest Israeli raid in the West Bank in years.
Police said the gunman arrived at around 8.15 p.m. and opened fire, hitting a number of people before he was killed by police. TV footage showed several victims lying in the road outside the synagogue being tended to by emergency workers.
The attack, which police described as a “terrorist incident,” underlined fears of an escalation in violence after months of clashes in the West Bank culminating in a raid on Thursday that killed at least nine Palestinians.
There was no initial claim of responsibility for the synagogue attack, which took place as worshippers attended Sabbath services on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, but a spokesman for the Islamist movement Hamas said the incidents were connected.
“This operation is a response to the crime conducted by the occupation in Jenin and a natural response to the occupation criminal actions,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said. The smaller militant group Islamic Jihad also praised the attack without claiming responsibility.
Israeli media said the gunman was a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem but there was no official confirmation.
Israel’s foreign office said seven people had been killed but the ambulance service put the number of dead at five.
In Gaza, news of the attack brought spontaneous rallies to the streets accompanied by an outbreak of celebratory gunfire.
Friday’s shooting came days before a planned visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel and the West Bank. The State Department issued a statement condemning the attack and said there were no changes to Blinken’s travel plans.
Earlier on Friday, Israeli jets struck Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks which set off alarms in Israeli communities near the border with the blockaded southern coastal strip that is controlled by Hamas.
In August, Israeli jets bombed targets in Gaza associated with the group during a weekend confrontation that saw hundreds of Islamic Jihad rockets launched against Israel, most of which were intercepted by air defense systems.
’DEEPLY CONCERNED’
The months of violence in the West Bank, which surged after a spate of lethal attacks in Israel last year, have drawn fears the already unpredictable conflict may spiral out of control, triggering a broader confrontation between Palestinians and Israel.
The latest season of violence began under the previous coalition government and has continued following the election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing administration which includes ultra-nationalist parties that want to expand settlements in the West Bank.
Following Thursday’s raid the Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, said it was suspending a security cooperation arrangement with Israel.
In Jenin refugee camp, a densely packed mass of buildings and alleyways that has been a center of militant activity and the target of repeated Israeli raids, residents said Thursday’s operation had penetrated unusually deeply into the camp.
A two-story building at the center of the fighting was heavily damaged and nearby houses were tainted black from smoke. In another area around the camp’s community center, cars had been crushed by Israeli bulldozers used in the operation.
The US State Department issued a statement on Thursday saying it was deeply concerned with the violence in the West Bank and urged both sides to de-escalate the conflict.
The United Nations, Egypt and Qatar have also urged calm, Palestinian officials said.
Palestinian officials said CIA director William Burns, who was visiting Israel and the West Bank on a trip arranged before the latest violence, would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. No comment was immediately available from US officials in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu, who returned to power this year at the head of one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history, said Israel was not looking to escalate the situation, although he ordered security forces to be on alert.