Pro-government marchers call for executions, as protests continue in Iran

Iran has been rocked by street violence that has claimed the lives of dozens people since the death last week of Mahsa Amini, who had been detained for wearing the hijab headscarf in an “improper” way. (AFP)
Iran has been rocked by street violence that has claimed the lives of dozens people since the death last week of Mahsa Amini, who had been detained for wearing the hijab headscarf in an “improper” way. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 September 2022

Pro-government marchers call for executions, as protests continue in Iran

Pro-government marchers call for executions, as protests continue in Iran
  • Angry protests flared and spread to major cities, including Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz as well as Tehran
  • Security forces fired “semi-heavy weapons” at demonstrators during overnight clashes

TEHRAN: Thousands demonstrated across Iran on Friday at government-backed pro-hijab counter rallies, after a week of bloody protests over the death of a woman arrested for wearing the Islamic headscarf “improperly.”
At least 50 people have been killed by security forces in the anti-government protests, Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based organization, said on Friday.

Meanwhile, state media has reported that at least 35 have been killed in more than a week of protests that erupted in Iran after the death of a young woman in police custody.
“The number of people who died in recent riots in the country has risen to 35 people,” the Borna news agency, which is affiliated to the sports ministry, said late Friday, citing state television.

The street violence, which IHR says has spread to 80 towns and cities, was triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd who had spent three days in a coma after being detained by the morality police in Tehran.
As part of the crackdown, Iran has imposed tough restrictions on the use of the Internet in a bid to hamper protesters gathering and stop the flow of images of the backlash from reaching the outside world.
The US announced Friday it was easing export restrictions on Iran to expand Internet services, days after SpaceX owner Elon Musk said he would seek an exemption from sanctions to offer his company’s Starlink satellite service in the Islamic republic.
The new measure will allow technology companies to “expand the range of Internet services available to Iranians,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.
On Friday, thousands took to the streets in support of the hijab and a conservative dress code at government-backed counter rallies in Tehran and other cities including Ahvaz, Isfahan, Qom and Tabriz.
“The great demonstration of the Iranian people condemning the conspirators and the sacrileges against religion took place today,” Iran’s Mehr news agency said.
State television broadcast footage of pro-hijab demonstrators in central Tehran, many of them men but also women dressed in black chadors.
Amini died on September 16, three days after she was hospitalized following her arrest by the morality police, the unit responsible for enforcing the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
Activists said she suffered a blow to the head in custody but this has not been confirmed by the Iranian authorities, who have opened an investigation.
After she was pronounced dead, angry protests flared and spread to major cities, including Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz as well as the capital.
In the latest violence, security forces fired “semi-heavy weapons” at demonstrators during overnight clashes in the northern city of Oshnaviyeh, the Oslo-based Kurdish rights group Hengaw said on Friday. The report could not be independently verified.
In nearby Babol, demonstrators were seen setting ablaze a large billboard bearing the image of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in videos shared online.
Iran Human Rights said that its updated toll of 50 dead included six people who were killed by fire from security forces in the town of Rezvanshahr in the northern Gilan province on Thursday night, while the other deaths were recorded in Babol and Amol.
A previous toll from the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) put the death toll at 36.
Some women demonstrators have defiantly taken off their hijabs and burned them in bonfires or symbolically cut their hair before cheering crowds, video footage spread virally on social media has shown.
Security forces have arrested activists including Majid Tavakoli, who has been repeatedly imprisoned in recent years, including after disputed 2009 elections.
Demonstrators have hurled stones at them, set fire to police cars and chanted anti-government slogans, IRNA reported.
“The government has responded with live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas, according to videos shared on social media that have also shown protesters bleeding profusely,” the CHRI said.
Internet access has been restricted in what web monitor NetBlocks has called a “curfew-style pattern of disruptions” amid the angry protests sparked by Amini’s death.
“Online platforms remained restricted and connectivity is intermittent for many users and mobile Internet was disrupted for a third day on Friday,” NetBlocks said.
Access to social media services, Instagram and WhatsApp have been blocked since Wednesday night, and connections were still largely disrupted on Friday.
The measure was taken in response to “the actions carried out via these social networks by counter-revolutionaries against national security,” Iran’s Fars news agency said.
President Ebrahim Raisi, at a news conference in New York where he attended the UN General Assembly, said: “We must differentiate between demonstrators and vandalism.”
The unrest comes at a particularly sensitive time for the leadership, as the Iranian economy remains mired in a crisis largely caused by sanctions over its nuclear program.


Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget
Updated 7 min 32 sec ago

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget

Lebanon retirees scuffle with police near Parliament as MPs approve budget
  • Banks reopen to queues and security service patrols

BEIRUT: Lebanese army retirees scuffled with Parliament guards in Beirut during a rally on Monday amid anger over decimated monthly pay.

Hours after the protest, Parliament passed the 2022 budget, with 63 legislators voting in favor, 37 voting against and six abstaining.

The new budget will calculate customs tax revenue at 15,000 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar at a time when the black market rate is more than double that at 37,000 pounds to the dollar.

Since the country’s economic meltdown began three years ago, customs tax revenue has been calculated at the official rate of 1,500 pounds to the dollar.

According to the new budget, government expenditures stand at 40.9 trillion pounds ($1.1 billion) at the parallel market rate, while revenue stands at 30 trillion pounds.

The protesters, who appealed to the army chief to listen to their concerns, demanded that their salaries be tripled to account for the loss of purchasing value due to the economic crisis.

A stampede took place earlier as the army and Parliament guards were summoned to tackle the protesters.

The retirees — including military widows — were later able to break the security cordon in the face of what they described as their “military sons.”

Security personnel in charge of protecting Parliament used a tear gas grenade to prevent the protesters from reaching the stairs of the Parliament building.

MP Jamil Al-Sayed, a retired major general, walked out of the plenary session to address the protesters.

He was preceded by MP Cynthia Zarazir, from the Change Representatives bloc, who went out in solidarity with demonstrators.

“This police state is repressing protesters,” the MP shouted as she faced the stampede.

Some protesters sprawled on the ground to prevent attempts to remove them.

A small delegation of protesters, accompanied by Al-Sayed, entered one of the corridors of Parliament.

“The message from the protest has been received, and we don’t want to clash with our military colleagues,” said George Nader, a retired brigadier general.

Caretaker Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Maurice Selim left the Parliament hall to meet retired soldiers in Najma Square.

He told them that it had been decided that salaries would be tripled.

The detailed calculations will be handled by specialized agencies in the Ministry of Finance, the minister said.

MP Sami Gemayel warned that increasing salaries would lead to more currency printing, higher inflation, and consequently, a decrease in purchasing power.

Gemayel called for more focus on carrying out reforms and bringing more US dollars into the country.

Independent MP Michel Moawad described the budget as a “crime against the Lebanese” since it was being discussed without balancing the accounts, which meant a “new escape from accountability.”

MP Ibrahim Kanaan objected to figures sent by the Ministry of Finance for the customs dollar to be based on the exchange rate of the dollar at a value of 15,000 Lebanese pounds.

Director-General of Parliament Financial Affairs Dr. Ahmad Al-Laqis, an academic specializing in budgets and taxes, told Arab News: “It is the least possible budget. It is required by the International Monetary Fund. All objections are for political purposes.”

Al-Laqis added that the budget is only relevant for the remaining three months of the year.

As of next year, there will be general financial regulation, and the solutions required to resolve the economic crisis can be included in the draft 2023 budget as the state sets its economic plan, the official said.

The increase in retired military personnel salaries will be three times the basic salary, and will not include the benefits they receive, Al-Laqis said.

Meanwhile, Lebanese banks, which reopened their doors to customers after a week-long closure, witnessed crowding in front of their doors by employees and military personnel, who flocked to complete transactions and withdrawals.

The Association of Banks has adopted new procedures for receiving customers, including the need for appointments.

Some operations, including cash withdrawals and deposits related to transfers, can be completed through ATM exchange platforms.

Lebanese security services patrolled around bank branches during the reopening.

The banks, which initially resorted to opening a few branches to customers, took strict security measures to prevent a recurrence of the holdups carried out two weeks ago by angry depositors.

Some depositors had used weapons and incendiary devices to threaten employees in order to obtain their dollar deposits, which have been frozen since a decision by the Banque du Liban in 2019.


Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority

Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority
Updated 20 sec ago

Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority

Why Mahsa Amini’s death will deepen the alienation of Iran’s secular Kurdish minority
  • Ethnic group that champions gender equality was already a misfit in the authoritarian theocracy
  • Kurds have known the heavy hand of the security state since the Islamic Revolution of 1979

LONDON: Since the death of Mahsa Amini after being taken into custody by Iran’s notorious morality police, protests have raged in cities across the Islamic Republic, beginning in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan.

Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurdish woman, died on Sept. 16, three days after she was arrested in Tehran by the Gasht-e Ershad, the regime’s vice squad, which enforces strict rules on women’s dress, including the hijab.

Her death has highlighted the oppression and marginalization of women in Iran. It has also cast a light on the ill-treatment of the country’s non-Persian ethnic minorities, particularly its substantial Kurdish population, concentrated in the west of the country.

In turn, this has highlighted the contrasting treatment of women in other areas of the Middle East in which Kurds make up a majority of the local population — in northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and northern Syria — where women are prominent in both civic and military life.

On Sept. 24, a protest was held in solidarity with the women of Iran outside the UN compound in Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq. Many of those who took part were Iranian Kurds living in self-imposed exile in a city known for its culture of tolerance.

Kurdish opposition groups have consistently fought for an alternative vision for society. (AFP)

Bearing placards with Amini’s face, the protesters chanted “women, life, freedom,” and “death to the dictator,” in reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“They killed (Amini) because of a piece of hair coming out from her hijab. The youth are asking for freedom. They are asking for rights for all the people because everyone has the right to have dignity and freedom,” one protester Namam Ismaili, an Iranian Kurd from Sardasht, a Kurdish town in Iran’s northwest, told Reuters.

“We are not against religion, and we are not against Islam. We are secularists, and we want religion to be separate from politics,” Maysoon Majidi, a Kurdish Iranian actor and director living in Irbil, told the news agency.

Last week, Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan’s governing party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, called Amini’s family to express his condolences, saying he hoped justice would be served.

Kurdish political identity throughout the region and among the community’s large European diaspora embraces secularist, nationalist and even socialist traditions. In the case of Iran’s Kurds, this frequently puts them at odds with the country’s theocratic regime.

On Sept. 23, the Kurdish-majority town of Oshnavieh in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province briefly fell into the hands of protesters, who set fire to government offices, banks, and a base belonging to the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Amini’s death has highlighted the oppression and marginalization of women in Iran. (AFP)

In response, the IRGC shelled the offices of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups based in Sidakan in Iraq, accusing the Kurdish parties of inciting “chaos.”

Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, said the shelling targeted the offices of Komala and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran for allegedly sending “armed teams and a large amount of weapons … to the border cities of the country to cause chaos.”

The KDPI is a Kurdish opposition party that has waged an on-and-off armed campaign against the regime since the Islamic Revolution. Komala, meanwhile, is a leftist Kurdish armed opposition party, which fights for the rights of Kurds in Iran.

Although Iran’s constitution grants ethnic minorities equal rights, allowing them to use their own language and practice their own traditions, the Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Baloch, and other groups say they are treated as second class citizens — their resources extracted, their towns starved of investment, and their communities aggressively policed.

Kurdish opposition groups in Iran have fought for decades to obtain greater political and cultural rights for their communities, which are spread across a part of the country known to Kurds as Rojhelat — or Eastern Kurdistan.

Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Baloch, and other groups say they are treated as second class citizens in Iran. (AFP)

This nationalist spirit has often meant women’s emancipation has been viewed as a secondary concern against the overarching fight for Kurdish nationhood, especially in the case of Iraqi Kurdish leaders, who have long drawn their support from traditional tribal structures.

However, elsewhere in the region, Kurdish opposition groups have consistently fought for an alternative vision for society — one that is based on democratic values and on the equal status of women.

Nowhere is this perhaps more obvious than in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, where the political arm of the US-allied Syria Democratic Forces has established a self-governing polity known to Kurds as Rojava — or Western Kurdistan.

On Friday, Mazloum Abdi, commander in chief of the SDF, condemned the killing of Amini, describing it as a “moral failure” of the ruling authorities in Iran.

He also expressed solidarity with the protests in Iran via Twitter, saying: “The Kurdish and women’s issues must be resolved in appropriate ways.”

In Rojava, Kurdish women fighting in guerrilla brigades against Daesh have achieved iconic status — especially the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, the all-women brigades of the People’s Protection Units.

These YPJ fighters won global acclaim in 2014 for their role in the liberation of the Kurdish-majority city of Kobane in northern Syria from an extremist group whose warped interpretation of Islam would have seen them enslaved.

Soon after their victory, images of young, unveiled, mostly Kurdish YPJ fighters appeared on magazine covers and in newspapers around the world, demolishing many prevailing stereotypes in the West about Middle Eastern women as passive victims.

Within the AANES, there are now several women-only organizations, while in the areas of Syria under YPJ control, child marriage has been abolished, the practice of men taking multiple wives outlawed, and domestic abuse treated with the utmost severity.

On Friday, Mazloum Abdi, commander in chief of the SDF, condemned the killing of Amini, describing it as a “moral failure” of the ruling authorities in Iran. (AFP)

The focus on women has also led to a policy called the “co-chair” system, whereby all positions of authority are held by both a man and a woman with equal collaborative power. As a result, women in Kurdish areas of Syria hold 50 percent of official positions.

A similar model is employed by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party in Turkey and among the ranks of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, inspired by the values of its jailed founder Abdullah Ocalan.

Although honor killings and female genital mutilation have remained all too common in parts of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, women’s political participation and leadership has improved greatly in recent years, with the role of speaker in the Kurdistan parliament twice being held by a woman.

In 2018, the Kurdistan Regional Government raised its gender quota in Parliament from 25 percent to 30 percent, so that 34 out of 111 sitting MPs are now women.

The Daesh attack on Yazidi women in Sinjar in Aug. 2014 also encouraged more Kurdish women to join the frontline war effort, challenging their victim role in warfare and broadening their identity from being mere caregivers to protectors.

This brought forward changes in Kurdish society concerning women’s roles and identities, making it easier for women to join the Peshmerga — the armed forces of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Despite the region’s recent achievements, Iraqi Kurdish women’s campaigner Sherri Talabany reported during the MERI Forum 2019 that women still face high rates of domestic violence and a low share in the labor market of just 14 percent.

Kurdish opposition groups in Iran have fought for decades to obtain greater political and cultural rights for their communities. (AFP)

Meanwhile, only three representatives in the 23-member Iraqi Cabinet are women, and only one in the KRG cabinet of 21 ministers.

But the picture is far bleaker in Iran, where female labor force participation reached just 17.54 percent in 2019, compared with the global average of 47.70 percent, giving Iran one of the lowest levels of labor force female participation in the world.

Women in Iran also face restrictions in reaching managerial and decision-making positions in the public and private sectors. In addition, owing to Western sanctions, erratic economic policies and the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran’s economy has shrunk in recent years, affecting women’s employment opportunities.

What the protests sweeping Iran in response to Amini’s death appear to show is a general rejection of the maltreatment of women and ethnic minorities, frustration over the economic situation, and outrage at the heavy-handed ways of the morality police.

Some Iranians who cross into Iraqi Kurdistan for work or to see relatives have told AFP that while Amini’s death was a trigger, the long-running economic crisis and the climate of repression fed into the explosion of anger.

“The difficult economic situation in Iran … the repression of freedoms, particularly those of women, and the rights of the Iranian people led to an implosion of the situation,” Azad Husseini, an Iranian Kurd who now works as a carpenter in Iraq, told the news agency.

“I don’t think the protests in Iranian cities are going to end anytime soon.”


Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare
Updated 27 min 19 sec ago

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare

Canada sanctions Iran morality police as protests flare
  • “We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said
  • Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group said at least 76 people have been killed in the crackdown in Iran

OTTAWA: Canada on Monday announced sanctions against Iranian officials over the Islamic republic’s lethal crackdown on protests driven by the death of a young woman after her arrest by the morality police.
“We will implement sanctions on dozens of individuals and entities, including Iran’s so-called morality police,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference.
“We join our voices, the voices of all Canadians, to the millions of people around the world demanding that the Iranian government listen to their people, end their repression of freedoms and rights and let women and all Iranians live their lives and express themselves peacefully.”

More than 75 people have been killed in the Iranian authorities’ crackdown against unrest sparked by the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody, a rights group said Monday.
The authorities last put the death toll at 41, including several members of the security forces.
Officials said Monday they arrested more than 1,200 people as the dragnet widens against the nationwide demonstrations over Amini’s death, following her arrest for allegedly breaching the country’s strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.

Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group said at least 76 people have been killed in the crackdown in Iran, up from a previous count of 57.

“We call on the international community to decisively and unitedly take practical steps to stop the killing and torture of protesters,” said IHR’s director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.

 


World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
Updated 26 September 2022

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly

World at ‘critical, dangerous point,’ Syrian FM warns UN General Assembly
  • Faisal Mekdad issues strongly worded attack on Western countries over ‘wars of occupation’
  • Attempts to ‘break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world’ have failed

LONDON: The Syrian regime has criticized Western-led interventions in the Middle East, telling the UN General Assembly on Monday that the world is at a “critical, dangerous point.”

Following a strongly worded attack on Western countries, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad issued an appeal to “meet the challenges of food insecurity, terrorism and climate change together.”

He described Syria’s decade-long conflict as having originated from “attempts by some countries to impose hegemony on others,” condemning decisions to “put a stranglehold on economies”, “flout international law” and wage “wars of occupation.”

The conflict is “ultimately an attempt by the West to maintain control over the world,” he added, warning that the attempt to “break the will of Syria and isolate it from the world” had failed.

Mekdad said Western countries have intervened in the Middle East under the “excuse of spreading democracy and human rights,” adding that terrorist groups labeled “moderates” were “used as tools.”

He claimed that by a deliberate undermining of Syria’s access to medication, food, fuel and basic goods, the country’s people have been punished by the West.

He called for the creation of a multipolar world order, overseen by the UN, to fulfil the organization’s charter and support its purpose.

Mekdad said Israel’s practices had raised tensions and caused instability in the Middle East. He alleged that during the conflict in Syria, Israel had covertly supported terror groups fighting in the country, including Daesh and Al-Nusra Front, in what he described as an “act of military aggression.”

Israel’s activities in the Golan Heights — which it captured from Syria in 1967 and illegally annexed in 1981 — are also cause for concern, he added, warning that Damascus will seek to “hold it accountable for these crimes.”

Syria continues to support Palestine becoming a full-fledged UN member, Mekdad said.

He highlighted some of the steps that the regime is making toward ending the conflict in Syria, arguing that it had consistently called for “national and local reconciliation in order to promote national unity.”

In that regard, Mekdad said the regime had signed 21 amnesty orders, “enabling Syrians to return to normal lives” and ending fighting around the country.

But he warned that as a result of Western “economic terrorism,” Syria has lost an estimated $107 billion in oil and gas revenues since 2011, leading to further economic issues.

Syria will continue to seek compensation for the lost revenues, Mekdad said, adding that the regime is “doing everything possible” to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Turning to international issues, he said Syria supports the “right of Russia to secure its national territory,” adding: “Russia is defending not only itself, but justice and the right of humanity to reject unipolar hegemony.”

He also spoke of Syria’s support for China, arguing that Beijing has the right to protect its national sovereignty against “Western attempts” to influence events in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.


Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown

Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown
Updated 26 September 2022

Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown

Amnesty petition calls for UN investigation into Iran regime’s ‘serious crimes’ in protest crackdown
  • Also accused Iranian security forces of using unlawful force against protesters
  • Organization slammed regime for shutting down access to the internet

LONDON: Amnesty International launched a petition Monday calling for an independent UN investigation into the “serious crimes” being committed by the Iranian regime during its crackdown on widespread protests in the country.

Amnesty called on member states in the UN Human Rights Council to help combat the deadly suppression of protests raging across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died on Sept. 13 after being arrested by the country’s morality police.The organization said a “crisis of impunity” had “emboldened” the regime in Iran to kill and torture protesting Iranians without fear of reprisals in recent years.

Authorities in Tehran have been getting away with “grave crimes” over the past few years without any consequences, a statement from the organization added.

Amnesty accused the Iranian regime of routinely subjecting women and girls to “arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment” for not complying with Iran’s “abusive, degrading and discriminatory compulsory veiling laws.”

They also accused the Iranian security forces of using unlawful force against protesters, including the firing of live ammunition and metal pellets at close range, misuse of tear gas and water cannons as well as excessive and severe beatings with batons.

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in the crackdown on protesters, with hundreds more seriously injured, according to Amnesty, who also highlighted the case of two men who were blinded in one or both eyes.

The organization slammed the Iranian regime for shutting down access to the internet in an attempt to “hide their crimes,” while its statement also said many of those injured do not seek hospital treatment for fear of arrest or further reprisals.