Iran curbs Internet access as protests claim 11 lives

Update Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
1 / 4
Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
Update Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
2 / 4
Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
Update Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
3 / 4
Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
Update Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
4 / 4
Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 22 September 2022

Iran curbs Internet access as protests claim 11 lives

Iran curbs Internet access as protests claim 11 lives
  • Public anger has flared since Iranian authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini
  • Women demonstrators take off their hijabs and burn them or symbolically cut their hair

PARIS: Iran restricted Internet access Thursday after days of protests and unrest that have claimed at least 11 lives, following the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police.

Public anger has flared in the Islamic republic over the death last week of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained for allegedly wearing a hijab headscarf in an “improper” way.

Activists said the woman, whose Kurdish first name is Jhina, had suffered a fatal blow to the head, a claim denied by officials, who have announced an investigation.

During six straight nights of protests, women demonstrators have defiantly taken off their headscarves and burned them in bonfires or symbolically cut their hair before cheering crowds, video footage spread on social media has shown.

Protesters in Tehran and several other Iranian cities torched police stations and vehicles as unrest triggered by the death of a woman detained by the Islamic Republic’s morality police intensified for a sixth day.

Another police station was set ablaze in the capital Tehran as the unrest spread from Kurdistan, the home province of Amini, according to a Reuters report.

“No to the headscarf ... yes to freedom and equality!” protesters in Tehran were heard chanting in a rally that has been echoed by solidarity protests abroad.

Iranian women interviewed by AFP on the streets of Tehran said they were now more careful about their dress to avoid run-ins with the morality police.

“I’m frightened,” said Nazanin, a 23-year-old nurse, who asked to be identified by her first name only for safety reasons. “They shouldn’t confront people at all” or interfere with how women dress, she added.

There has been growing international alarm at the Iranian crackdown on the protests, including from US President Joe Biden in an address to the United Nations.

“Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights,” Biden told the General Assembly on Wednesday.

Iranian state media reported that by Wednesday street rallies had spread to 15 cities, with police using tear gas and making arrests to disperse crowds of up to 1,000 people.

In southern Iran, video footage purportedly from Wednesday showed demonstrators setting fire to a gigantic picture on the side of a building of general Qassem Soleimani, the revered Revolutionary Guards commander killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Iraq.

Demonstrators hurled stones at security forces, set fire to police vehicles and garbage bins, and chanted anti-government slogans, the official IRNA news agency said.

“Death to the dictator” and “Woman, life, freedom,” protesters could be heard shouting in video footage that spread beyond Iran, despite online restrictions first reported by Internet access monitor Netblocks.

Iran moved to further block access to Instagram and WhatsApp on Thursday.

“In accordance with a decision by officials, it has no longer been possible to access Instagram in Iran since yesterday (Wednesday) evening and access to WhatsApp is also disrupted,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The two apps were the most widely used in Iran after the blocking of other platforms in recent years, including Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, YouTube and Tiktok.

UN human rights experts condemned both the “use of physical violence against women” and the “state-mandated Internet disruptions.”

“Disruptions to the Internet are usually part of a larger effort to stifle... free expression... and to curtail ongoing protests,” they said in a statement.

On Thursday, Iranian media said three militiamen “mobilized to deal with rioters” were stabbed or shot dead in northwestern Tabriz, central Qazvin and northeastern Mashhad.

A fourth member of the security forces died in the southern city of Shiraz, the reports said, adding that a protester was stabbed to death in Qazvin, adding to six protester deaths already announced by officials.

But there were fears the death toll could rise, as Norway-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw on Wednesday also reported the deaths of two protesters, aged 16 and 23, in West Azerbaijan province.

The Iranian authorities have denied any involvement in the deaths of protesters.

Amnesty International said it has recorded the deaths of eight people — six men, one woman and a child — with four of them shot by security forces at close range with metal pellets.

The protests are among the most serious in Iran since November 2019 unrest over fuel price rises.

The wave of unrest over Amini’s death “is a very significant shock, it is a societal crisis,” said Iran expert David Rigoulet-Roze of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.


Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales

Updated 12 sec ago

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales

Iran frees hundreds after World Cup win over Wales
TEHRAN: Iran has released more than 700 prisoners after the national team’s World Cup football victory over Wales, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said Monday.
It announced that “709 detainees were freed from different prisons in the country” following the 2-0 victory on Friday.
Among those are “some arrested during the recent events,” Mizan Online said, making indirect reference to demonstrations which have shaken Iran for more than two months.
It gave no further detail.
The ongoing protests were triggered by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest by morality police for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress rules for women.
Other Iranian media separately reported that prominent Iranian actor Hengameh Ghaziani had been released on bail after her arrest for having supported the protests.
Two of the most prominent figures detained over the demonstrations — former international footballer Voria Ghafouri and dissident Hossein Ronaghi — were also let out on bail, reports said.
State news agency IRNA reported on Monday that former state television host Mahmoud Shahriari, 63, had been released after two months in prison for “encouraging riots.”
Iran on Friday scored twice deep into stoppage time to stun Wales and breathe new life into its World Cup campaign ahead of a politically charged showdown Tuesday against the United States.
Iran lost its first World Cup match to England, 6-2.
Iran’s judiciary says more than 2,000 people have been charged since the start of the protests.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk last week said around 14,000 people have been arrested.

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”
Updated 29 min 20 sec ago

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

Turkiye, Egypt to re-appoint ambassadors “in coming months”

ANKARA: Turkiye and Egypt may restore full diplomatic ties and re-appoint ambassadors mutually “in coming months,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.
Ankara and Cairo may re-start diplomatic consultations led by deputy foreign ministers as part of a normalization process “soon,” Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara.
After years of tension, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan shook hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Qatar this month in what was described by the Egyptian presidency as a new start in bilateral relations.


Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
Updated 28 November 2022

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
  • Eescalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia

ONCUPINAR, Turkiye: Turkiye’s army needs just a few days to be ready for a ground incursion into northern Syria and such a decision may come at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Turkish officials said, as Turkish forces bombarded a Kurdish militia across the border.
Howitzers fired daily from Turkiye have struck Kurdish YPG targets for a week, while warplanes have carried out airstrikes.
The escalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia. The YPG has denied involvement in the bombing and has responded at times to the cross-border attacks with mortar shelling.
“The Turkish Armed Forces needs just a few days to become almost fully ready,” one senior official said, adding that Turkiye-allied Syrian rebel fighters were ready for such an operation just a few days after the Nov. 13 Istanbul bomb.
“It won’t take long for the operation to begin,” he said. “It depends only on the president giving the word.”
Turkiye has previously launched military incursions in Syria against the YPG, regarding it as a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkiye, the United States and European Union designate a terrorist group.
The PKK has also denied carrying out the Istanbul attack, in which six people were killed on a busy pedestrian avenue.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkiye would launch a land operation when convenient to secure its southern border. He will chair a cabinet meeting at 3:30 p.m. (1230 GMT).
“All the preparations are complete. It’s now a political decision,” another Turkish official told Reuters, also requesting anonymity ahead of the meeting.
Erdogan said back in May that Turkiye would soon launch a military operation against the YPG in Syria, but such an operation did not materialize at that time.
The first Turkish official said a ground operation, targeting the areas of Manbij, Kobani and Tel Rifat, was inevitable to link up the areas brought under the control of Turkiye and its Syrian allies with incursions since 2016.
Ankara had been in contact with Moscow and Washington about its military activities, the person added.
The United States has told NATO member Turkiye it has serious concerns that an escalation would affect the goal of fighting Daesh militants in Syria.
Russia asked Turkiye to refrain from a full-scale ground offensive. It has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s 11-year war, while Ankara has backed rebels fighting to topple him.
On Monday, the defense ministry said Turkiye’s army had “neutralized” 14 YPG militants preparing to carry out attacks in Syrian areas under Turkiye’s control. It typically uses the term to describe casualties.
The defense ministry said on Saturday three Turkish soldiers had been killed in northern Iraq, where the military has been conducting an operation against the PKK since April.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, having traveled to the Iraqi border area, was quoted as telling military commanders on Sunday that Turkiye will “complete the tasks” of the mission.


Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime
Updated 28 November 2022

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime

Iranian artists call for global boycott of arts organizations tied to Tehran regime
  • 6,000 creatives sign statement urging support for art students persecuted for protests
  • Signatories slam ‘increasingly brutal, violent and deadly state crackdown’

LONDON: A group of Iranian creatives has issued a statement to the international community asking it to stop working with cultural groups and institutions with links to the regime in Tehran.

The statement — signed by over 6,000 artists, academics, writers and film directors, based in Iran and abroad — was issued following the mass arrest and incarceration of students across the country for their roles in anti-regime protests following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in September at the hands of the morality police.

The statement calls for the international community to “boycott governmental institutions of the Islamic state of Iran and their covert affiliates, and prevent them from having any presence in international arenas of arts, culture and education” over the regime’s “increasingly brutal, violent and deadly state crackdown” that has left at least 300 people dead and around 14,000 in detention.

One of the signatories, London-based curator Vali Mahlouji has also called for direct action by protesters against arts organizations that receive money from Iran.

Mahlouji told The Guardian: “We know that some private Iranian galleries are connected to the money systems of the Iranian state, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Council. They need to be boycotted.”

Since the beginning of the protests, art has been used by demonstrators to signal anger at the regime, including red dye being poured into fountains and red nooses hung from trees.

“This is a society saying: We are terrorized,” Mahlouji said. “There is a big performative response: People tying themselves up; red ink being poured on pictures of the founder of the Islamic Republic; red paint being thrown at buildings; even urinating outside art galleries which have kept themselves open when artists demanded that they close down.”

Canada-based artist Jinoos Taghizadeh told The Guardian that some art galleries “have been the money-laundering arm of the government” and have “tried to depoliticize (Iranian) artists.”

She added that art students in Iran who defy the regime “were constantly threatened by the police and university security,” but “have been very brave and creative despite all the repressions, arrests, kidnappings,” and that “the performance of their music and protest songs and their publication on social media both encouraged the protesters and brought the voice of protest to other cities and outside Iran.”

Art has also been used as a form of protest against the regime overseas: In October, a group called the Anonymous Artist Collective for Iran set up a display of 12 red banners with images of Amini and the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In London’s Piccadilly Circus, exiled Iranian artist Shirin Neshat displayed a digital protest piece of the same slogan, also showing it at Pendry West Hollywood in Los Angeles.

Neshat said: “We are not just a bunch of oppressed artists trying to get the Western culture to feel sorry for us. We’re teaching them that it is time to wake up and understand that culture plays a big part in the political fabric of our world.

“We see these young people who are completely fearless facing tyranny. You really question your own state of mind as an Iranian who has never been able to live without fear for so many years. It’s extremely hopeful to have these young people who are saying no more fear.”


Iran rejects UN investigation into protests — spokesperson

Iran rejects UN investigation into protests — spokesperson
Updated 28 November 2022

Iran rejects UN investigation into protests — spokesperson

Iran rejects UN investigation into protests — spokesperson
  • Tehran summoned the German ambassador to protest last week’s UN Human Rights Council decision
  • Foreign ministry spokesman: Western nations were involved in protests that have swept the country

DUBAI: Iran will reject a newly-appointed independent UN investigation into the country’s repression of anti-government protests, the foreign ministry said on Monday, as demonstrations showed no sign of abating.

“Iran will have no cooperation with the political committee formed by the UN Rights Council,” ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

The UN Rights Council voted on Thursday to appoint a probe into Iran’s deadly crackdown on protests.

Tehran on Monday summoned the German ambassador to protest last week’s UN Human Rights Council decision, based on a resolution co-sponsored by Berlin, to probe Iran’s response to nationwide protests.
It is the third time since the demonstrations started more than two months ago that Tehran has called in Berlin’s representative to the Islamic republic.

Volker Turk, the UN rights commissioner, had earlier demanded that Iran end its “disproportionate” use of force in quashing protests that erupted after the death in custody of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16.

Activist news agency HRANA said 450 protesters had been killed in more than two months of nationwide unrest as of Nov. 26, including 63 minors. It said 60 members of the security forces had been killed, and 18,173 protesters detained.

Challenging the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy, protesters from all walks of life have burned pictures of Khamenei and called for the downfall of Iran’s Shiite Muslim theocracy.

The protests have particularly focused on women’s rights — Amini was detained by morality police for attire deemed inappropriate under Iran’s Islamic dress code — but have also called for the fall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The unrest has posed one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical ruling elite since it came to power in the 1979 Islamic revolution, though authorities have crushed previous rounds of major protests.

Iran has blamed foreign foes and their agents for the unrest.

Iran has proof that Western nations were involved in protests that have swept the country, Kanaani said on Monday.

“We have specific information proving that the US, Western countries and some of the American allies have had a role in the protests,” he said, without giving details.

Iran has given no death toll for protesters, but a deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, has said that about 50 police had died and hundreds been injured in the unrest — the first official figure for deaths among security forces.

He did not say whether that figure also included deaths among other security forces such as the Revolutionary Guards.