Iran protests rage on streets as officials renew threats

Iran protests rage on streets as officials renew threats
Demonstrators stage a protest following the death of Mahsa Amini, near the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 November 2022

Iran protests rage on streets as officials renew threats

Iran protests rage on streets as officials renew threats

TEHRAN: Protests in Iran raged on streets into on Thursday with demonstrators remembering a bloody crackdown in the country’s southeast, even as the nation’s intelligence minister and army chief renewed threats against local dissent and the broader world.

The protests in Iran, sparked by the Sept. 16 death of a 22-year-old woman after her detention by the country’s morality police, have grown into one of the largest sustained challenges to the nation’s theocracy since the chaotic months after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

At least 328 people have been killed and 14,825 others arrested in the unrest, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests over their 54 days. 

Iran’s government for weeks has remained silent on casualty figures while state media counterfactually claims security forces have killed no one.

As demonstrators now return to the streets to mark 40th-day remembrances for those slain earlier — commemorations common in Iran and the wider Middle East — the protests may turn into cyclical confrontations between an increasingly disillusioned public and security forces that turn to greater violence to suppress them.

Online videos emerging from Iran, despite government efforts to suppress the internet, appeared to show demonstrations in Tehran, the capital, as well as cities elsewhere in the country. 

Near Isfahan, video showed clouds of tear gas. Shouts of “Death to the Dictator” could be heard — a common chant in the protests targeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

It was not immediately clear if there were injuries or arrests in this round of protests, though Iran’IRNA news agency acknowledged the demonstrations near Isfahan. 

They commemorated the Sept. 30 crackdown in Zahedan, a city in Iran’s restive Sistan and Baluchestan province, in which activists say security forces killed nearly 100 people in the deadliest violence to strike amid the demonstrations.

Iranian officials have kept up their threats against the demonstrators and the wider world. 

Iran blames Iran International, a London-based, Farsi-language satellite news channel for stirring up protesters. The broadcaster in recent days said the Metropolitan Police warned that two of its British-Iranian journalists faced threats from Iran that “represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.”

The commander of the ground forces of Iran’s regular army, Brig. Gen. Kiumars Heydari, separately issued his own threat against the protesters, whom he called “flies.”

“If these flies are not dealt with today as the revolutionary society expects, it is the will of the supreme leader of the revolution,” he reportedly said. 

“But the day he issues an order to deal with them, they will definitely have no place in the country.”

A woman arrested on Thursday by Iran’s security forces has been formally charged with communicating with and transmitting information to a London-based television broadcaster Iran International.

The arrest comes amidst one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution, with nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police for not wearing “appropriate attire.”

Fars, a news agency affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reported that Elham Afkari was arrested as she tried to flee the country and that she was an “agent” of the Iran International broadcaster, whose officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rights activists denied that Afkari had been trying to flee Iran and said she was arrested in the southern city of Shiraz, her hometown.

State media showed pictures of her arrest, in which she was seen with a large black blindfold over her face and seated in the back of a security vehicle with barred windows.

“Recently, the agent carried out numerous activities and actions in slandering the Islamic Republic, inviting youth to riot and creating terror among the people,” Fars said with respect to Afkari.

Saeed Afkari confirmed his sister’s arrest on Twitter, adding that her husband and three-year-old daughter were released after being taken in for interrogation by Shiraz prosecutors, who filed the charges.

1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 330,000 followers focused on the Iran protests, shared a video of Elham’s relatives gathering in front of an intelligence service office in Shiraz to inquire about her condition, and getting no answers.

Elham is the sister of Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler executed in September 2020 after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.

Afkari’s family and activists have said Navid was tortured into making a false confession, accusations that were denied by the Iranian judiciary.

Since the execution of Navid, the Afkaris have faced several court cases over involvement in the 2018 protests. Habib Afkari was freed in March 2022 after months of isolation in prison, while Vahid Afkari remains in solitary confinement.


Iran sentences five to death over killing of Basij paramilitary

Iran sentences five to death over killing of Basij paramilitary
Updated 06 December 2022

Iran sentences five to death over killing of Basij paramilitary

Iran sentences five to death over killing of Basij paramilitary
  • Another 11 people, including 3 children, were handed lengthy jail terms

TEHRAN: Iran has sentenced to death five people over the killing of a member of the Basij paramilitary force during nationwide protests, the judiciary said Tuesday.
Another 11 people, including three children, were handed lengthy jail terms over the death of Ruhollah Ajamian, judiciary spokesman Massoud Setayeshi told a news conference, adding the sentences could be appealed.
A group of 15 people had been charged with “corruption on earth” over the death of Ajamian on November 3 in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported last week.
Prosecutors said Ajamian, 27, was stripped naked and killed by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester, Hadis Najafi, during ceremonies marking 40 days since her death.
Najafi was killed during unrest that has gripped Iran since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, after her arrest for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women.
Initially, on November 12, Mizan Online announced charges for 11 people over Ajamian’s killing, including a woman but as the trial opened, it said 15 defendants in the case had been charged.
An Iranian general said on Monday that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest, including dozens of members of the security forces.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have been arrested, including 40 foreigners and prominent actors, journalists and lawyers.
The latest court rulings bring to 11 the number of people sentenced to death in Iran over the violence sparked by Amini’s death.


Kuwait’s Prime Minister heads to Qatar for World Cup

Kuwait’s Prime Minister heads to Qatar for World Cup
Updated 06 December 2022

Kuwait’s Prime Minister heads to Qatar for World Cup

Kuwait’s Prime Minister heads to Qatar for World Cup
  • Visit came in response to invitation from the Qatari prime minister

DOHA: Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah headed to Qatar on Tuesday to attend a FIFA World Cup match in Doha, state news agency (KUNA) reported.

His visit came in response to the invitation from his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Khaled bin Khalifa Al Thani.

On Monday, the UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan visited Doha where he held talks with Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.


1,200 Iranian students ‘poisoned’ on eve of mass protests

1,200 Iranian students ‘poisoned’ on eve of mass protests
Updated 06 December 2022

1,200 Iranian students ‘poisoned’ on eve of mass protests

1,200 Iranian students ‘poisoned’ on eve of mass protests
  • National student union blames outbreak on authorities
  • Streets surrounding universities littered with contaminated food dumped by students

LONDON: A group of 1,200 university students in Iran have been struck by a food poisoning outbreak on the eve of anti-regime demonstrations set to be held throughout the country, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The students at Kharazmi and Arak universities, as well as four other institutions, threw their provided food onto surrounding streets in protest, with the country’s national student union accusing authorities of deliberately poisoning people.

In a statement, the union said: “Our past experiences of similar incidents at the Isfahan university negates the authorities’ reason for this mass food poisoning.”

Officials have blamed the outbreak on water-borne bacteria.

However, clinics in several affected universities have also closed or run out of supplies to treat dehydration and other associated symptoms of food poisoning, in a sign that the outbreak may have been a deliberate strategy to thwart the national protest movement.

It came as a three-day nationwide strike was due to begin on Wednesday, intensifying public pressure against the regime.

Meanwhile, Iranian authorities denied reports that the regime would disband the country’s morality police.

The religious force was behind the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in custody in September, triggering mass protests.

A state broadcaster said: “No official in the Islamic Republic of Iran has confirmed the closure of the morality police.

“Some foreign media have tried to characterize the attorney general’s statement as the Islamic Republic’s withdrawal from its hijab (laws) and influenced by the recent riots.”

As more Iranian public figures show support for the protest movement, authorities on Monday closed two businesses belonging to former national football team star Ali Daei.

The ex-striker, who scored 109 international goals, said last week that he had faced threats after showing public support for the anti-regime movement.

A jewelry store as well as a restaurant belonging to Daei were closed during the move by authorities.

A state news agency said: “Following the cooperation with anti-revolutionary groups in cyberspace to disrupt peace and business of the market, a judicial order was issued to seal Noor Jewelry Gallery.”


Iran arrests 12 with alleged European links: report

Iran arrests 12 with alleged European links: report
Updated 06 December 2022

Iran arrests 12 with alleged European links: report

Iran arrests 12 with alleged European links: report
  • Iran said the arrested had connections with Germany and Netherlands
  • The 12 individuals were arrested for carrying out “activities against national security”

TEHRAN: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested 12 alleged members of a European-linked group accused of planning acts of sabotage in the country, Tasnim news agency said.
The Islamic republic has been rocked by more than two months of what it calls deadly “riots” that it says have been fomented by the United States, its allies and foreign-based opposition groups.
The street violence erupted in mid-September after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish origin, in the custody of the morality police in Tehran.
In a statement quoted by Tasnim, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Markazi province, southwest of Tehran, said it had arrested “a network with 12 members with links abroad.”
It alleged they had been “under the guidance of counter-revolutionary agents living in Germany and the Netherlands” and carried out “activities against national security.”
They had “attempted to procure weapons and intended to carry out subversive acts” but had been captured before being able to do so, it added.
The Guards statement said the “riots project has failed,” in reference to the nationwide protests triggered by Amini’s death.
It warned that acts of sabotage would continue, however, and appealed for the “vigilance of loyal people... especially shopkeepers, students and workers” to foil them.
It appeared to be referring to calls for a three-day strike culminating Wednesday on “Student Day,” as part of the protests.
An Iranian general said last week that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest, including dozens of security personnel.
Oslo-based non-government organization Iran Human Rights said at least 448 people had been “killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests.”
Thousands have been arrested, including prominent Iranian actors and footballers.


27-year-old Iranian subjected to three mock executions in prison: BBC

27-year-old Iranian subjected to three mock executions in prison: BBC
Updated 06 December 2022

27-year-old Iranian subjected to three mock executions in prison: BBC

27-year-old Iranian subjected to three mock executions in prison: BBC
  • Mock executions are a form of psychological torture in which a victim is made to feel that their execution is taking place but it is not carried out
  • Like others, the man's death sentence can be appealed, but Iranian judiciary chief said executions would take place soon

LONDON: A 27-year-old man who is one of six people sentenced to death in Iran over ongoing anti-regime protests has been subjected to several mock executions in prison, the BBC reported

Last month, a Revolutionary Court found Sahand Noormohammadzadeh guilty of acts of “vandalism and arson of public property with the aim of causing disruption to the country's peace and order and confronting the Islamic government,” according to the Mizan News Agency.

Prosecutors accused him of taking part in riots by blocking a highway and setting fire to bins and tires. They showed the court a video in which a man in a mask, whom they claimed was the defendant, is seen pushing a burning garbage can onto the road and placing a railing between two lanes.

Noormohammadzadeh protested his innocence and his lawyer told the court there was no evidence to suggest that his client was the masked man.

A source told BBC Persian that interrogators falsely informed Noormohammadzadeh that his mother had suffered a heart attack and that he must sign a letter if he wanted to speak to her before she died. The letter, according to a lawyer in Tehran, amounted to an admission of guilt, the BBC reported.

The court sentenced Noormohammadzadeh to death for “enmity against God” and he has been subjected to mock executions three times in prison, a source told BBC Persian.

A mock execution is a form of psychological torture whereby a victim is made to feel that their execution is taking place but is not carried out. The BBC’s source said that even before his trial, Noormohammadzadeh was told “to go on a chair, blindfolded, to be hanged.”

Amnesty International has warned that at least 21 people are at risk of being sentenced to death in “sham trials” over the protests in Iran.

While the sentences of the six defendants handed a death penalty can be appealed, judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on Monday that the executions would take place soon, the BBC reported.

About 18,200 people are estimated to have been arrested since the nationwide protests erupted in September in response to the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency. Many of them reportedly have been tortured or subjected to other forms of ill-treatment while in custody.