Iranian dissidents deserve UN seat, coalition head argues

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Updated 22 September 2022

Iranian dissidents deserve UN seat, coalition head argues

Iranian dissidents deserve UN seat, coalition head argues
  • The NCRI is a parliament in exile, says activist Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad
  • ‘Democratic, non-nuclear, sectarian republic needed’

CHICAGO: The coalition of Iranian dissidents who are challenging the regime of President Ebrahim Raisi should have a seat at the UN to counter the government’s lies and support of terrorism, a leading pro-democracy activist argued Wednesday.

Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad said the coalition led by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or NCRI, have the most credibility and a vision on how to make the nation a democratic “non-nuclear sectarian republic,” replacing the extremist ayatollah-led movement.

Sepehrrad, chairperson of the advisory board of the Organization of Iranian American Communities, OIAC, said the UN should give the Iranian coalitions including the NCRI “formal recognition.” This would allow them to counter the “lies” from Raisi who addressed the UN General Assembly 77 on Wednesday.

“The National Council of Resistance of Iran, as far as we are concerned, it is a parliament in exile. They should be recognized by the UN. And they should be in fact be given the alternative voice to the people of Iran instead of the brutal regime and the terrorist regime whose only agenda is to acquire a nuclear weapon, and cause mayhem and establish its hegemonic role in the Middle East,” said Sepehrrad.

“So, I think this is absolutely the minimum that the UN can do in recognizing the parliament in exile and I think more importantly recognizing the right of the Iranian people to overthrow this regime. We the people of Iran ... deserve the right to overthrow this regime and we will. It is not like the people of Iran are waiting for this type of recognition to continue their campaign. But it is a test of time. It is a question for world leaders to stand on the right side of history with the people of Iran and its rightful resistance the National Council of Resistance versus the ceremonial standing by the brutal regime and people like Raisi who is going to be using the UN podium for its sinister agenda.”

The OIAC has 40 chapters that have helped make this past week’s protests at the UN against Raisi, during his first ever speech to the world body, “the biggest ever,” Sepehrrad said.

“They (anti-regime dissidents) have a very, very strong network inside Iran. In fact, the resistance unit inside Iran continues to grow year over year. I think with comparing 2022 to the previous year, it grew fivefold across all of the main cities and towns in Iran. And they continue to network with the broader segment of Iranian society and representing students, women especially, teachers’ union, labor movement, retired pensioners, a very strong representation from all sectors of society that are networked with the resistance units. It is only natural for them to have the largest turnout,” Sepehrrad said.

“This has been the group that has paid the heaviest price. Ebrahim Raisi is responsible for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. In the summer of 1988, 30,000 political prisoners were executed under (Ayatollah) Khomeini’s fatwa. And Raisi was a part of the ‘Death Commission.’ Raisi is directly responsible and was engaged in crimes against humanity and genocide. So, this year in particular in our rally we are looking to not only holding the Iranian regime accountable but more importantly hold Raisi accountable.”

She said Raisi had ordered the execution of many political prisoners who had served their sentences and were scheduled for release, and he should not have been given the podium to speak at the UN.

Raisi was named as president of Iran last year by the ayatollahs and his presence has fueled and energized the largest gathering of protestors, both at the UN meeting that began last week, and also inside of Iran itself.

The protests were energized after a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died in custody of the regime’s “Morality Police” after she was charged with violating a law that mandates the wearing of hijab by all women in public places.

Raisi’s government responded to the protestors in Iran with a violent crackdown that resulted in the killing of at least seven more civilians, Sepehrrad said.

Dissidents including 16 plaintiffs who are survivors or relatives of the victims have brought a lawsuit against Raisi in the Southern District of New York. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16, Sepehrrad said.

She added the lawsuit should be brought to the UN and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, citing several lawsuits that have been filed against Raisi and Iran in the US, Sweden and England.

“I do foresee this to become like a culminating campaign in order to go into the ICC. This (the killings) is a war crime. To make matters worse. Some of the political prisoners had already finished their sentences and they should have been released,” Sepehrrad said.

“But the regime held them based on the fatwa that Khomeini issued. And Raisi was among the ‘Death Committee’ that essentially asked them would they denounce the MEK. And 90 percent of the victims were members of Iran’s main opposition group, the MEK. And they are still in the country and they have significant support outside of Iran. It was a simple question would they denounce the MEK and if the answer to that question was no, then they faced execution.”

The MEK is the underground opposition group that operates inside Iran and is known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization.

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Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region
Updated 17 sec ago

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region

Russian army maps show lost ground in key Kherson region
MOSCOW: Russia’s forces occupying Ukraine’s southern Black Sea region of Kherson have suffered serious territorial losses to Kyiv’s troops over recent days, maps published by Moscow’s defense ministry showed Tuesday.
The maps included in Tuesday’s daily military briefing showed that Russian forces were no longer in control of the village of Dudchany on the west bank of the river Dnieper, where Ukraine’s forces have been pushing to reclaim territory captured at the start of Moscow’s offensive.
In the northeastern Kharkiv region, defense ministry maps showed that Russian forces have left positions on the west bank of the Oskil river, in the aftermath this month of a counter-offensive by Kyiv’s army.
The Ukrainian military claimed in a statement Tuesday that Russian forces in Kherson are “demoralized” and were falling back on their positions, destroying ammunition depots and bridges in their wake.
“All this in order to slow down the offensive of our troops,” the defense ministry said in their statement.
Ukraine’s deputy interior minister Yevhen Enin said Tuesday that Ukraine’s forces had recaptured 50 towns and villages in Kherson, without specifying when.
Kyiv’s forces have been slowly clawing back territory in Kherson for several weeks but the advance has accelerated in recent days.
With a population of one million before the war, Kherson is a key agricultural area and forms the gateway to the Crimean peninsula.
Its main city, also named Kherson, was one of the first to fall to Russian forces after they launched what the Kremlin calls its “special military operations” in February.
The Kremlin last week formally annexed the region along with three others even though Russian troops do not fully control it.

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure
Updated 04 October 2022

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure

Blackouts hit 130 million in Bangladesh after grid failure
  • Bangladesh has suffered a major power crisis in recent month as a result of higher global energy prices
  • It remained unclear what caused Tuesday's unscheduled blackout, which hit more than 80 percent of the country shortly after 2 pm local time

DHAKA: At least 130 million people in Bangladesh were without power on Tuesday afternoon after a grid failure caused widespread blackouts, the government’s power utility company said.
Bangladesh has suffered a major power crisis in recent month as a result of higher global energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has imposed regular service cuts to conserve electricity.
But it remained unclear what caused Tuesday’s unscheduled blackout, which hit more than 80 percent of the country shortly after 2 p.m. local time (0800 GMT), according to the Power Development Board.
Apart from some locations in Bangladesh’s northwest, “the rest of the country is without power,” Power Development Board spokesman Shamim Ahsan told AFP.
Ahsan said 130 million people or more were without electricity and it remained unclear what had caused the fault.
“It is still under investigation,” he said, adding that a technical malfunction was the probable cause.
Junior technology minister Zunaid Palak said on Facebook that power would be restored by 8 p.m. in the capital Dhaka, itself home to more than 22 million people.
Soaring energy prices have wrought havoc on the South Asian nation’s electricity grid in recent months, with utilities struggling to source enough diesel and gas to meet demand.
A depreciating currency and dwindling foreign exchange reserves left Bangladesh unable to import sufficient fossil fuels, forcing it to close diesel plants and leave some gas-fired power stations idle.
The government imposed lengthy power cuts to conserve existing stocks in July, with outages lasting up to 13 hours each day at their peak.
Tens of thousands of mosques around the country have been asked to curtail the use of air conditioners to ease pressure on the electricity grid.
The blackouts sparked widespread public anger and helped mobilize large demonstrations on the streets of the capital Dhaka.
At least three protesters were killed by security forces during the rallies, partly motivated by rising cost-of-living pressures.
Around 100 others were injured during a police crackdown on one demonstration, according to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Consumer inflation has hit household budgets hard and the government recently pledged to cap the price of several staple foods, including rice, to quell public discontent.
Bangladesh last witnessed a major unscheduled blackout in November 2014, when around 70 percent of the country went without power for nearly 10 hours.


WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise
Updated 04 October 2022

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise

WHO warns Haiti cholera toll likely to rise
  • Fresh fears of a resurgent epidemic nearly three years after Haiti’s last confirmed case
  • WHO: The world was now witnessing a ‘worrying upsurge’ in cholera outbreaks

GENEVA: Haiti’s cholera outbreak death toll is likely “much higher” than reported and cases are expected to rise, the WHO said Tuesday, warning the country’s multiple crises would complicate response efforts.
The crisis-wracked Caribbean nation said Sunday that at least seven people had died from cholera, raising fresh fears of a resurgent epidemic nearly three years after Haiti’s last confirmed case.
Multiple suspected cases have been detected in Carrefour-Feuilles on the edge of the capital Port-au-Prince, and in the coastal neighborhood of Cite Soleil.
The areas are entirely controlled by gangs and access to them has been very difficult since the end of July.
Conditions in Haiti have worsened in recent weeks with blockades, fuel shortages, protest marches, looting and general strikes.
“This situation greatly complicates the humanitarian response,” World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“The situation is evolving rapidly, and it is possible earlier cases have been undetected.”
He said the death toll figures could be “much higher.”
“With the humanitarian situation as it is, the sanitary situation, and the gang-controlled areas where there’s hardly any access to control, to test or even to bring in assistance, we should expect, unfortunately, cases to be higher, and to rise,” he said.
Lindmeier said a request was being prepared to be submitted to the international coordination group for the procurement of oral cholera vaccines.
However, global vaccine availability is limited with demand outstripping supply.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal infection in the small intestine causing sometimes fatal dehydration. It is generally contracted from food or water contaminated with vibrio cholerae bacteria.
In February this year, Haiti celebrated three years without a single confirmed cholera case and was preparing to submit its case for cholera-free status certification at the end of 2022.
Cholera killed nearly 10,000 people in the wake of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, when United Nations workers helping with the response introduced it to the country.
The outbreak affected at least 820,000 people, the WHO said.
The first infections were detected around the Artibonite River, where UN peacekeepers had dumped fecal matter.
It was not until August 2016 that the UN officially acknowledged its role in the epidemic.
Lindmeier said there was no information yet on where the current outbreak originated, but said roughly 80 percent of people carrying vibrio cholerae could be asymptomatic, making it difficult to detect.
The United Nations said it stood ready to deploy emergency response teams as soon as safe access is assured and fuel supplies are unblocked.
On Friday the WHO warned that after years of decline, the world was now witnessing a “worrying upsurge” in cholera outbreaks.
In the first nine months of this year alone, 26 countries have reported cholera outbreaks, the WHO said.


Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations
Updated 04 October 2022

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations

Belarus’s Lukashenko accuses Ukraine of border provocations
  • Lukashenko allowed his close ally Russia in February to use Belarus as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine
  • Belarus is not a party to the conflict and that its own forces are not involved

LONDON: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused neighboring Ukraine on Tuesday of sending 15,000 troops to the border area to build defenses and conduct reconnaissance, actions that he called “provocations.”
Lukashenko allowed his close ally Russia in February to use Belarus as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine. However, he has said Belarus is not a party to the conflict and that its own forces are not involved.
In comments carried by the state news agency BelTA, Lukashenko said the Ukrainian unit brought up to the border had blocked roads and was setting up checkpoints and firing positions.
“In a word, has not only barricaded itself, but built a wall. Constantly conducting optical, radio-electronic and radio-technical reconnaissance of our territory, troops and objects,” Lukashenko said.
“Often with their drones violating the line of the state border. And at the same time, they worry and worry: ‘Oh, don’t let Belarus enter the war’. And there are constant provocations at the border.”
Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lukashenko said his country was involved in the conflict only to prevent it spreading into Belarus and to “prevent an attack on Belarus under the guise of a special military operation from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.”
“As I have said, nobody will shoot the Russians in the back from the territory of Belarus,” he said.
Belarus’s three western neighbors are all part of the NATO transatlantic alliance, which is helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russia with weapons and intelligence but says it will not take a direct part in the conflict.


Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians
Updated 04 October 2022

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians

Merkel wins UN refugee agency award over welcome of Syrians
  • Under Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed over 1.2 million refugees in 2015 and 2016

GENEVA: The UN refugee agency said Tuesday it’s giving its highest award to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her efforts to welcome more than 1 million refugees — mostly from Syria — into Germany, despite some criticism both at home and abroad.
Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said Merkel had been selected as the latest recipient for the Nansen award, which is handed out annually by the Geneva-based UN agency.
“Under the then-Federal Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum-seekers in 2015 and 2016, which, as you will remember, was the height of the conflict in Syria, and there was deadly violence in other parts of the world,” Saltmarsh told reporters. “Dr. Merkel helped to highlight the plight of refugees globally.”
Merkel’s decision to let in so many migrants boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany party and resulted in protests by a vocal minority. She was also blasted by some governments for being too friendly to refugees, when some European Union partner states were closing borders to refugees and asylum-seekers.
The award includes a $150,000 prize. Merkel is expected to travel to Geneva next Monday to receive the award, Saltmarsh said. Four regional winners were also announced.
The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honors individuals, groups or organizations that go “above and beyond the call of duty” to protect refugees, other displaced and stateless people, the agency says.
More than 60 laureates have received the award since it was founded in 1954 to celebrate Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian scientist, explorer and diplomat who was the first commissioner for refugees in the League of Nations — the predecessor of the the United Nations
The recipient in 2021 was the Jeel Albena Association for Humanitarian Development in Yemen, for its support for displaced Yemenis.