Iran supreme leader blames US, Israel for Mahsa Amini protests

Iran supreme leader blames US, Israel for Mahsa Amini protests
A protestor holds a photo of Mahsa Amini as another waves Iran's former flag during a demonstration against the Iranian regime in Istanbul. (AFP)
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Updated 03 October 2022

Iran supreme leader blames US, Israel for Mahsa Amini protests

Iran supreme leader blames US, Israel for Mahsa Amini protests
  • Iran said that nine foreign nationals from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland were arrested

PARIS: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday accused arch-foes the United States and Israel of fomenting the wave of nationwide unrest sparked by outrage over the death of Mahsa Amini.
“I say clearly that these riots and the insecurity were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime, as well as their paid agents, with the help of some traitorous Iranians abroad,” the supreme leader said.
Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on September 16, days after the notorious morality police detained the Kurdish Iranian for allegedly breaching rules forcing women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.
Anger over Amini’s death has sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock the Islamic republic in almost three years, which saw security forces in Tehran crack down on hundreds of university students overnight.
In his first public comments since Amini’s death, 83-year-old Khamenei stressed that police must “stand up to criminals” and that “whoever attacks the police leaves the people defenseless against criminals, thugs, thieves.”
“The death of the young woman broke our hearts,” said Khamenei. “But what is not normal is that some people, without proof or an investigation, have made the streets dangerous, burned the Qur'an, removed hijabs from veiled women and set fire to mosques and cars.”
Concern grew over a night-time crackdown on students at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology where, local media reported, riot police carrying steel pellet guns used tear gas and paintball guns against hundreds of students.
“Woman, life, liberty” the students shouted, as well as “students prefer death to humiliation,” Mehr news agency reported.
Iran’s science minister, Mohammad Ali Zolfigol, came to speak to the students in a bid to calm the situation, the report said.
Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights posted videos apparently showing police on motorcycles chasing students running through an underground car park and taking away detainees whose heads were covered in black cloth bags.
In one clip, which IHR said was taken at a Tehran metro station, a crowd can be heard chanting: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!“
“Hard to bear what is happening at #SharifUniversity in #Iran,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted. “The courage of the Iranians is incredible. And the regime’s brute force is an expression of sheer fear of the power of education and freedom.”
Protests were also reported at other universities, including in the central city of Isfahan, and unconfirmed reports by a student group on Twitter said dozens had been arrested in the capital.
Mehr news agency said that Sharif University of Technology had “announced that due to recent events and the need to protect students ... all classes will be held virtually from Monday.”
Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of stoking the protests and last week said nine foreign nationals — including from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — had been arrested.
The parents of Italian woman Alessia Piperno, 30, from Rome, said they lost contact with her after speaking to her on Wednesday — her birthday — but then received a phone call on Sunday.
“They arrested me. I am in a prison in Tehran. Please help me,” she told them, according to Il Messaggero, Rome’s daily newspaper.
She added: “I’m fine but there are people here who say they have been inside for months and for no reason. I fear I won’t be let out again. Help me.”
Italy’s foreign ministry has so far made no comment on the identity of the Italian held.
Canada, meanwhile, said it had imposed new sanctions against Iran over its “gross human rights violations,” especially citing “the egregious actions committed by Iran’s so-called ‘Morality Police’.”
“Canada applauds the courage and actions of Iranians and will stand by them as they fight for their rights and dignity,” said Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.
At least 92 protesters have been killed so far in the Mahsa Amini rallies, said IHR, which has been working to assess the death toll despite Internet outages and blocks on WhatsApp, Instagram and other online services.
Amnesty International said earlier it had confirmed 53 deaths, after Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said last week that “around 60” people had died.
The chief of riot police in Marivan, Kurdistan province, died of his wounds Sunday after being shot during “riots,” state television said — the 12th death reported among the security forces since September 16.
An additional 41 people died in clashes Friday in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province, bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, IHR reported earlier, citing local sources.
Those protests were sparked by accusations a police chief in the region had raped a teenage girl of the Baluch Sunni minority, the rights group said.

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Iran faces condemnation, more protests after execution

Iran faces condemnation, more protests after execution
Updated 09 December 2022

Iran faces condemnation, more protests after execution

Iran faces condemnation, more protests after execution
  • Mohsen Shekari was hanged after being convicted for blocking Tehran street and wounding paramilitary
  • The announcement sparked international outcry and warnings

PARIS: Iran faced international condemnation Friday after carrying out its first known execution over protests that have shaken the regime for nearly three months, leading to calls for even more demonstrations.
Protests have swept Iran since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who died in mid-September after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress code for women.
Mohsen Shekari was hanged Thursday after being convicted for blocking a Tehran street and wounding a paramilitary on September 25, after a legal process that rights groups denounced as a show trial.
The judiciary said the 23-year-old was arrested after striking a member of the Basij — a paramilitary force linked to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — with a machete, a wound that required 13 stitches.
He was convicted last month of “moharebeh,” or “enmity against God” — a capital offense in the Islamic republic.
The announcement sparked an international outcry and warnings from human rights groups that more hangings were imminent.
Amnesty International said it was “horrified” by the execution, which followed Shekari’s condemnation in a “grossly unfair sham trial.”
“His execution exposes the inhumanity of Iran’s so-called justice system” where many others face “the same fate,” it added.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), urged a strong international reaction to deter the Islamic republic from carrying out more executions.
“Mohsen Shekari was executed after a hasty and unfair trial without a lawyer,” he said.
Shekari’s body was buried 24 hours after his execution in the presence of a few family members and security forces in Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, the 1500tasvir social media monitor reported.
His execution has triggered fresh protests and calls for more demonstrations.
Overnight, protesters took to the street where Shekari was arrested, shouting, “They took away our Mohsen and brought back his body,” in a video shared by 1500tasvir.
Elsewhere, chants of “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Sepah” were heard at a demonstration in Tehran’s Chitgar district, in reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Hamed Esmaeilion, an Iranian-Canadian activist who has organized mass protests in Berlin, Paris and other cities, said more demonstrations would be held at the weekend.
“Regardless of belief and ideology, let’s join these gatherings in protest against the brutal execution of #MohsenShekari,” he tweeted.
1500tasvir said Shekari’s execution happened with such haste that his family had still been waiting to hear the outcome of his appeal.
It posted harrowing footage of what it said was the moment his family learnt the news outside their home in Tehran, with a woman doubled up in pain and grief, repeatedly screaming the name “Mohsen!“
Western governments also expressed anger.
Washington called Shekari’s execution “a grim escalation” and vowed to hold the Iranian regime to account for violence “against its own people.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed indignation at “this unacceptable repression” which, she said, would not quash the protesters’ demands.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had a similar message.
“The threat of execution will not suffocate the will for freedom,” she tweeted, criticizing a “perfidious summary trial.”
“The Iranian regime’s contempt for human life is boundless,” Baerbock added.
Germany also summoned the Iranian ambassador, a diplomatic source said, without providing further details.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly expressed outrage and urged the world not to ignore “the abhorrent violence committed by the Iranian regime against its own people.”
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said it deplored Shekari’s hanging.
According to rights group Amnesty International, Iran executes more people annually than any nation other than China.
IHR, which says the security forces have killed at least 458 people in the protest crackdown, this week warned Iran had already executed more than 500 people in 2022, a sharp jump on last year’s figure.
At least a dozen other people are currently at risk of execution after being sentenced to hang in connection with the protests, human rights groups warned.


Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics

Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics
Updated 09 December 2022

Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics

Iranian women in anti-regime protests being targeted in breasts and genitalia, say medics
  • Doctors and nurses, working in secret to avoid arrest and potential punishment, said they have noted the practice

LONDON: Women are being targeted at anti-regime protests by Iranian security forces focusing their shotgun fire at faces, breasts and genitals, according to interviews with medics across the country.

Doctors and nurses, working in secret to avoid arrest and potential punishment, said they have noted the practice after noticing women arriving for treatment with different wounds.

The medics said men more commonly had shotgun wounds to their legs, buttocks and backs, while shots to the eyes of women, men and children were also common.

The Guardian reportedly spoke to 10 medical professionals, who warned that the severity of the injuries could leave hundreds of young Iranians with permanent damage.

“I treated a woman in her early 20s, who was shot in her genitals by two pellets. Ten other pellets were lodged in her inner thigh,” one doctor told the newspaper.

“These 10 pellets were easily removed, but those two were a challenge because they were wedged in between her urethra and vaginal opening.”

Photographs seen by The Guardian showed bullet wounds all over bodies from so-called birdshot pellets, with X-rays showing evidence of tiny shot-balls in flesh.

Another doctor from Karaj, a city near Tehran, said medics believed security forces were shooting at the genitals of women because they have “an inferiority complex and they want to get rid of their sexual complexes by hurting these young people.”

Protests have been raging across Iran demanding the overthrow of the clerical rulers of the country following the death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini.

The Iranian woman was arrested for not properly covering her hair, and the doctor who treated her wounds told The Guardian they found the experience of treating Amini “harrowing,” adding: “She could have been my own daughter.”

Meanwhile, the first death penalty on a demonstrator involved in the recent protests was carried out on Thursday by the Tehran regime.


China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official

China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official
Updated 08 December 2022

China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official

China can help bring end to Yemen war, says official
  • Beijing can persuade Tehran to stop supporting Houthis, government analyst tells Arab News

RIYADH: Yemeni experts and officials have called on China to do more to help bring an end to the country’s civil war by helping peace talks and by increasing economic and humanitarian aid.

“Yemen needs China’s assistance,” Najeeb Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen’s Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News.

“Achieving peace in Yemen is in China’s interest because it will revitalize Yemen’s ports, which would aid China’s Belt and Road Initiative and open the nation to Chinese businesses.” 

His comments come as Rashad Al-Alimi, the leader of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, is traveling to Riyadh to attend an Arab-Chinese summit on Friday.

Ghallab said that can press Iran to cease supplying and funding its proxy militias across the Middle East, including Yemen. “China can persuade Iran to stop supporting its organizations, particularly the Houthis in Yemen,” he said.

The UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg’s efforts to end the war have come to a standstill after the Houthis refused to extend a ceasefire that ended in October, and threatened to strike oil infrastructure in regions under government control. 

The Houthis have said they would not extend the ceasefire until the government pays public workers in regions the group controls.

Al-Alimi is expected to update President Xi Jinping on Houthi efforts to thwart peace, and to request Chinese assistance to end the conflict and aid Yemen’s recovery.

China has taken a neutral stance from the warring parties for almost a decade but backed international peace measures to bring an end to the conflict.

Beijing typically expresses support for the UN-led efforts to end the war and urges the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Iran-backed Houthis to achieve peace. 

In 2011, China backed the GCC-brokered peace initiative that led to the removal of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh after major demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring. 

It voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 in 2015, which condemned the Houthi takeover and reduced penalties on Houthi leaders and Ahmed Saleh, the son of the former president’s son.

Samuel Ramani, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told Arab News, however said that Beijing has maintained a pragmatic and impartial approach to the conflict to retain connections with regional powers, including Iran.

“China wants to balance positive relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran, and likely views detachment from the Yemen war as the most effective means of preserving good relations with all regional powers,” he said.

“China is very selective in its engagement in conflict resolution in the Middle East and is unlikely to transfer its somewhat more assertive role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace to the Yemeni theatre.”

He added that for the time being, its role will be limited to areas that do not indicate support for any group, such as humanitarian aid and economic investment.


Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
Updated 08 December 2022

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
  • Ninth session to elect president: Hezbollah opponent Moawad’s votes are equal to ‘blank’ votes
  • Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri reiterates calls for dialogue among MPs to find consensus candidate 

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s divided parliament failed to elect a new president on Thursday for a ninth time, with many MPs spoiling their ballots, including one who cast a vote for “Nelson Mandela.”

Hezbollah opponent Michel Moawad won the support of 39 MPs, but fell well short of the required majority.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the session and announced a new meeting next Thursday, the last session for 2022.

Berri reiterated calls for dialogue among MPs to find a consensus candidate to prevent the process dragging on for months.

Only 105 of 128 MPs showed up for the vote on Thursday and many of them spoilt their ballots.

For the first time, and after eight parliamentary sessions, the number of blank ballots cast by Hezbollah and its allies was equal to the number of votes received by Mouawad.

This tie came against the backdrop of the dispute that arose between Hezbollah and its Christian ally in Lebanon, the Free Patriotic Movement, since the Cabinet session last Monday.

According to a parliamentary observer, the FPM decided to stop casting blank ballots as before and distribute its votes in a calculated manner.

Although the session failed to elect a president, the FPM’s move sent a calculated message to Hezbollah on its open decisions by leaking some of its deputies’ votes in favor of Mouawad, thereby reducing the number of blank votes, the observer said.

The winning candidate requires at least 86 votes in the first round of voting, and an absolute majority of 65 votes in subsequent rounds.

The parliament again failed to hold a second round for loss of quorum after the withdrawal of Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and MPs from other blocs.

Nine MPs voted for “The New Lebanon,” five for Issam Khalifeh and three for the customs chief Badri Daher, who is in detention in relation to the investigation into the Beirut port explosion.

Former deputy Ziad Baroud, legal expert and candidate Salah Honein, and activist and candidate Fawzi Bou Malhab received one vote each.

One vote contained the inscription “For Lebanon,” and another “the agreement.” One vote was cast for “Nelson Mandela,” in addition to canceled votes.

The results of the ballot showed that the FPM deputies amounting to 17 chose their options carefully, as they did not direct all their votes toward Mouawad.

Some votes containing the inscriptions “Mouawad,” “Michel” and “Mouawad Badri Daher” were annulled, among others.

Hezbollah and the FPM deputies did not give any statement after the session, but engaged in a quick side talk.

The Amal Movement MPs avoided discussing the dispute between Hezbollah and the FPM.

MP Ali Hassan Khalil said every party should review its stances, so “we can move forward with this dialogue.”

He said: “We are keen on preserving the relationships between the political forces and we don’t intervene in this matter.

“Everyone should know that the only way to overcome this crisis is through dialogue and communication.”

Mouawad said that “what happened emphasized the solid stances of the blocs voting for me. Some wanted to send a message but they cannot keep doing so till the end. What is happening is disgusting.”

The MP said that he is refusing to get caught up in what he calls “the votes exchange.”

He said: “What is needed is a sovereign president and not a consensual one in the negative sense.”

The dispute between Hezbollah and the FPM has deteriorated to this point for the first time.

A few hours before the parliamentary session, Hezbollah issued a statement in response to Gebran Bassil’s harsh criticism of the party, accusing it of failing to fulfill its promises.

The accusation came against the backdrop of Hezbollah’s participation in the Cabinet’s session seen by the FPM as an illegal way to take over the presidential prerogatives.

Hezbollah affirmed in its statement that the party did not promise anyone that the cabinet won’t convene unless upon the approval of all its components, and therefore, there was no reason for Bassil to consider this move a broken promise.”

The statement added: “Hezbollah didn’t promise the FPM that it won’t attend the Cabinet’s urgent meetings if the ministers of the party (the FPM) boycott it.”

Hezbollah said that “using the language of betrayel and distrust is an unwise and inappropriate behavior.”

Hezbollah said “what Lebanon needs today is communication and dialogue.”

Lebanon has been quick to confirm the safety of Rafik Hariri International Airport and those traveling through it.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said that they will continue to “combat smuggling at all border crossings in cooperation with all security and military bodies.”

He made the remarks after inspecting the airport security service and meeting with officers on Thursday.

The visit followed a report on Al-Arabiya–Al-Hadath channel that security sources warned that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were using Iranian airline Meraj flights to transport weapons and equipment to Hezbollah.

Regarding the landing of Iranian airline flights linked to the Revolutionary Guards at Beirut airport, Mawlawi said: “We are keen on enforcing the laws and protecting Lebanon.”

Fadi Al-Hassan, Lebanon’s Civil Aviation director-general, denied the claims.

Al-Hassan said the timing of the “baseless” report harmed the airport’s reputation.

The Meraj company is not affiliated with any party, he said.

The airline operated its first flight to Beirut’s international airport on Nov. 14, and meets all the security requirements, Al-Hassan said.

David Hill, former US assistant secretary of state, met with Berri in other developments.

Hill said in a statement that the situation in Lebanon was not hopeless and that political will is needed to carry out reforms.


Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy

Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy
Updated 08 December 2022

Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy

Egypt says it is not at risk of bankruptcy
  • Cabinet says external debt structure is positive amid rising inflation
  • The Cabinet added that Egypt aimed to maintain fiscal discipline and reduce the budget deficit to 5.6 percent of GDP

CAIRO: Egypt’s government has rejected claims that the country is exposed to bankruptcy risk due to its debts and the cost of servicing them during rate rises and inflation.
It also cited a report on the performance of the Egyptian economy from June to November.
The Cabinet said Egypt’s ratio of external debt to GDP was 34.1 percent, below the maximum risk limit of 50 percent.
The report said the structure and diversity of Egypt’s external debt instruments including loans, deposits, issued bonds and short-term credit facilities, were positive.
The Cabinet said that most of Egypt’s external debt was medium and long-term. Around two-thirds of foreign debt was also at fixed interest rates — which mitigates the risks of international rate increases.
It added: “In light of the successive economic crises that the world witnessed during the previous periods, governments all over the world tended to adopt expansionary economic policies to mitigate the consequences of the negative effects of these economic crises on families and companies.
“Such policies led to a significant rise in levels of global indebtedness, which rose to a record 350 percent of the global GDP by the end of the second quarter of 2022.”
The Cabinet added that Egypt aimed to maintain fiscal discipline, reduce the budget deficit to 5.6 percent of GDP, and achieve the first surplus from the state’s general budget permanently at 0.2 percent of the GDP.
These measures would contribute to reducing indebtedness and achieving financial and economic stability for the country’s general budget and ensure safety for current and future generations, said the statement.
The Cabinet statement came as Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics announced on Thursday that the general index of consumer prices rose by 2.5 percent to 140.7 points in November.
The annual inflation rate in November rose to 19.2 percent, compared to 16.3 percent in October, said an agency statement.
The annual inflation rate in urban areas rose during November to 18.7 percent, compared to 16.2 percent in October.
The agency’s statement attributed the rise to prices increase for bread and grain by 52.1 percent, meat and poultry by 30.3 percent, fish and seafood by 38 percent, dairy products and eggs by 40 percent, and coffee and tea by 23.1 percent.
It also cited price increases in tobacco products by 0.3 percent, clothing by 2.1 percent, footwear by 1.3 percent, home furnishings by 2.6 percent, and appliances by 3.1 percent.