IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match

IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match
Diplomatic foes the US and Iran face off on the pitch at the World Cup on Tuesday in a match that some Iranians fear may see clashes with pro-government fans. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 November 2022

IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match

IRGC threatens Iranian footballers’ families ahead of US match
  • Players warned their relatives face arrest, torture if they do not back regime in final group game
  • Source tells CNN IRGC has flooded Qatar with operatives, officials to monitor players

LONDON: Iran’s footballers at the World Cup in Qatar have been warned that their families could be imprisoned and tortured if they show any signs of protest or dissent during the team’s final group game on Tuesday.

In their opening game against England, the Iranian players refused to sing the national anthem in a show of solidarity with protests across the country, but did participate during the second game against Wales.

A source told CNN, ahead of the match against the US, that the players had been informed in a meeting with members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that “violence and torture” awaited their relatives if they did not “behave” this time.

It marked a severe change in tone, the source added, as prior to the World Cup the team had been promised lavish gifts if they performed well at the tournament.

Coach Carlos Queiroz also had a separate meeting with IRGC officials, but it is not known what was discussed.

Queiroz had previously said his players could protest as long as it met with criteria established by FIFA.

The source said “dozens” of IRGC members are in Qatar to monitor the players, who are not allowed to meet with or talk to foreigners for the duration of the competition.

“There are a large number of Iranian security officers in Qatar collecting information and monitoring the players,” the source told CNN.

“In the last game against Wales, the regime sent over hundreds of these actor supporters in order to create a false sense of support and favor amongst the fans.

“For the next game against the US, the regime is planning to significantly increase the number of actors into the thousands.”

Protests have engulfed Iran since September following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of the country’s morality police, for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly. Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands arrested, with many facing execution.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk called the situation a “full-fledged human rights crisis.”

Thousands of Iranian fans have taken their protests to World Cup venues, holding anti-regime banners, calling for women’s rights to be protected, and booing the national anthem.


Challenge for Tunisian democracy: Getting voters to show up

Tunisian prominent activist, Ayachi Hammami, speaks outside a court in Tunis, Tunisia January 10, 2023. (REUTERS)
Tunisian prominent activist, Ayachi Hammami, speaks outside a court in Tunis, Tunisia January 10, 2023. (REUTERS)
Updated 8 sec ago

Challenge for Tunisian democracy: Getting voters to show up

Tunisian prominent activist, Ayachi Hammami, speaks outside a court in Tunis, Tunisia January 10, 2023. (REUTERS)
  • Analysts note a growing crisis of confidence between citizens and the political class since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution unleashed uprisings across the region, and led Tunisians to create a new democratic political system celebrated with a Nobel Peace Prize

TUNIS: Tunisia was once the Arab world’s hope for a new era of democracy. Now it’s in the midst of an election that’s more of an embarrassment than a model.
Barely 11 percent of voters turned out in the first round of parliamentary elections last month, boycotted by opposition groups and ignored by many Tunisians disillusioned with their leaders.
Ten candidates secured seats in the legislature even though not a single voter cast a ballot for them, simply because they ran unopposed.
In seven constituencies, not even one candidate bothered to run.
President Kais Saied is pinning his hopes on Sunday’s second round of voting, which will wrap up his sweeping redesign of Tunisian politics that began when he suspended the previous parliament in 2021.
The new body will have fewer powers than its predecessor and risks being little more than a rubber stamp for Saied.
The president and many Tunisians blamed the previous parliament, led by the Ennahdha party, for political deadlock seen as worsening the country’s protracted economic and social crises.
Some Ennahdha officials have been jailed and the party is refusing to take part in the parliamentary elections, and has held repeated protests.
In last month’s first-round voting, 23 candidates secured seats outright in the 161-seat parliament: 10 of them because they ran unopposed and 13 because they won more than 50 percent of the vote, according to election officials.
In Sunday’s second round, voters are choosing among 262 candidates seeking to fill the 131 remaining seats.
In the seven constituencies with no candidate, special elections will be held later to fill the seats, likely in March. Since Saied was elected president in 2019 with 72 percent of the vote, his support among Tunisians has dulled.
Analysts note a growing crisis of confidence between citizens and the political class since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution unleashed uprisings across the region, and led Tunisians to create a new democratic political system celebrated with a Nobel Peace Prize in 2015.
Daily life for Tunisians seems to keep getting worse.
At a Tunis food market, vendors struggled to sell strings of dates, fish heaped on ice, piles of eggplants and herbs as shoppers lamented rising prices.
Few seemed to think Sunday’s vote would solve their problems.
Successive elections “have brought me nothing,” sighed Mohammed Ben Moussa, an employee of a private company.
The economy is meanwhile teetering.
According to the latest figures from the National Institute of Statistics, unemployment has reached more than 18 percent and exceeds 25 percent in the poor regions of the interior of the country, while inflation rate is 10.1 percent.
Tunisia has been suffering for several years from record budget deficits that affect its ability to pay its suppliers of medicines, food and fuel, causing shortages of milk, sugar, vegetable oil and other staples.
The Tunisian government is currently negotiating a $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, which was frozen in December.

 


Strong quake kills at least two people in northwest Iran

Strong quake kills at least two people in northwest Iran
Updated 18 min 44 sec ago

Strong quake kills at least two people in northwest Iran

Strong quake kills at least two people in northwest Iran

DUBAI: An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 struck northwest Iran near the border with Turkiye on Saturday, killing at least two people and injuring dozens, Iranian media reported.
“There are 122 injured so far in the city of Khoy... and unfortunately two dead,” emergency services spokesperson Mojtaba Khaledi told state television.
Iranian emergency officials said rescue teams were despatched to the area in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province and hospitals were put on alert, according to state media.
An emergency official told state TV that it was snowing in some of the affected areas, with freezing temperatures and some power cuts reported.
Major geological faultlines crisscross Iran, which has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years.

 


UN agency warns of record rates of hunger in Syria

Trucks from the World Food Programme drive through the Syrian city of Idlib. (AFP)
Trucks from the World Food Programme drive through the Syrian city of Idlib. (AFP)
Updated 29 January 2023

UN agency warns of record rates of hunger in Syria

Trucks from the World Food Programme drive through the Syrian city of Idlib. (AFP)
  • Child and maternal malnutrition ‘increasing at a speed never seen before,’ World Food Programme says

BEIRUT: The World Food Programme has warned that hunger rates in Syria have soared to record highs after more than a decade of devastating conflict.

A brutal war that triggered years of economic crisis and damaged vital infrastructure has put 2.9 million at risk of sliding into hunger, while another 12 million do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN agency said.
“Hunger soars to 12-year high in Syria,” as 70 percent of the population might soon be “unable to put food on the table for their families,” the statement said.
“Syria now has the sixth highest number of food insecure people in the world,” the WFP added, with food prices increasing nearly 12-fold in three years.
Child and maternal malnutrition are also “increasing at a speed never seen before,” in more than a decade of war.
If the international community does not step up to help Syrians, it risks facing “another wave of mass migration,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley during a visit to Syria this week.
“Is that what the international community wants?” he asked, urging donor countries to redouble efforts to “avert this looming catastrophe.”
The UN estimates 90 percent of the 18 million people in Syria are living in poverty, with the economy hit by conflict, drought, cholera and the Covid pandemic as well as the fallout from the financial crash in neighbouring Lebanon.
The conflict in Syria started with the brutal repression of peaceful protests.
About half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that a report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that found the regime was responsible for a chemical weapon attack on the city of Douma in 2018 lacked any evidence, and denied the allegations.
The global chemical weapons watchdog said on Friday a nearly two-year investigation had found that at least one Syrian military helicopter had dropped gas cylinders onto residential buildings in Douma, killing 43 people.
Investigators said there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that at least one Syrian air force helicopter had dropped two cylinders of the toxic gas on the rebel-held town of Douma during Syria’s civil war.
“The world now knows the facts,” said Fernando Arias, chief of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons or OPCW.
“It is up to the international community to take action,” Arias said in a statement.
Damascus and its ally Moscow claimed the April 7, 2018 attack was staged by rescue workers at the behest of the US which afterwards launched airstrikes on Syria along with Britain and France.
The Douma case also caused controversy after leaks from two former employees accused the Hague-based watchdog of altering its original findings to make them sound more convincing.
But the OPCW said its investigators had “considered a range of possible scenarios” and concluded that “the Syrian Arab Air Forces are the perpetrators of this attack.”
Western powers together called on Syria to be held accountable over the “horrific” attack.
“We call on the Russian Federation to stop shielding Syria from accountability for its use of chemical weapons,” said a joint statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany.
“No amount of disinformation from the Kremlin can hide its hand in abetting the Assad regime.”

 


Loud blast heard at military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, official says no casualties

Loud blast heard at military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, official says no casualties
Updated 2 min 31 sec ago

Loud blast heard at military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, official says no casualties

Loud blast heard at military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, official says no casualties
  • There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities in the past few years

TEHRAN: A loud blast was heard at a military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan, but a security official said there were no casualties, Iranian state broadcaster IRIB said on its website early on Sunday.

“The explosion took place in one of the munitions manufacturing centers of the Defense Ministry and, according to an announcement by the ...deputy Isfahan governor for security, there were no casualties,” IRIB reported.

The official, Mohammad Reza Jannesar, later told state television: “The damages are being investigated as well as the causes and elements that caused this explosion and .. will be announced later.”

There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities in the past few years.

The blasts have at times caused concern amid tensions over Iran’s nuclear program with Israel and the United States.

Israel has long threatened military action against Iran if indirect talks between Washington and Tehran fail to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact.


Iran ‘has executed more than 50 so far this year’

Iranian police officers stand guard in Tehran. (AFP file photo)
Iranian police officers stand guard in Tehran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 min 3 sec ago

Iran ‘has executed more than 50 so far this year’

Iranian police officers stand guard in Tehran. (AFP file photo)
  • Activists have accused Iran of using the death penalty as an instrument of intimidation to quell the protests which erupted in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the country’s dress code

PARIS: Iranian authorities have executed 55 people in 2023, Norway-based Iran Human Rights said on Friday, adding that the surging use of the death penalty aims to create fear as protests shake the country.
Meanwhile, rights group Amnesty International said three young people sentenced to death over protests — the youngest aged just 18 — had been subjected to “gruesome torture” in detention.
IHR said it has confirmed at least 55 executions in the first 26 days of this year.
Four people have been executed on charges related to the protests, while the majority of those hanged — 37 convicts — were executed for drug-related offenses, IHR said.
At least 107 people are still at risk of execution over the demonstrations after being sentenced to death or charged with capital crimes, the group added.
With Iran’s use of the death penalty surging in recent years, IHR argued that “every execution by the Islamic Republic is political” as the main purpose “is to create societal fear and terror.”
“To stop the state execution machine, no execution should be tolerated, whether they be political or non-political,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam.
He added that a lack of reaction from the international community risked lowering “the political cost of executing protesters.”
Activists have accused Iran of using the death penalty as an instrument of intimidation to quell the protests which erupted in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the country’s dress code for women.
UN rights chief Volker Turk has said Iran’s “weaponization of criminal procedures” to punish demonstrators “amounts to state-sanctioned killing.”
On Friday, Amnesty said three men sentenced to death in December had been subjected to torture “including floggings, electric shocks, being hung upside down and death threats at gunpoint.”
IHR and other rights groups have yet to publish figures on executions in Iran for 2022. But IHR said in early December that more than 500 people had been hanged by then — the highest figure in five years — while according to its data, at least 333 people were executed in 2021, a 25 percent increase compared to 267 in 2020.