How long will escalating Israel-Iran hostilities remain a covert conflict?

Special How long will escalating Israel-Iran hostilities remain a covert conflict?
People inspect the damage in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike, allegedly targeting a logistics center run by the IRGC, which killed five people and damaged several buildings in Syria’s capital Damascus on Sunday, Feb. 19. (AFP)
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Updated 23 February 2023

How long will escalating Israel-Iran hostilities remain a covert conflict?

How long will escalating Israel-Iran hostilities remain a covert conflict?
  • Israel is widely thought to be behind ongoing attacks and acts of sabotage against IRGC and Tehran’s nuclear program
  • With the nuclear deal all but dead and Netanyahu back in office, the regional power calculations appear to have changed

IRBIL, IRAQI KURDISTAN: Barely two months in and 2023 has already proven an eventful year in the ongoing covert conflict between Israel and Iran.

Early on Sunday, an Israeli airstrike killed five people and damaged several buildings in Syria’s capital Damascus. Two Western intelligence agents cited by Reuters news agency said the attack’s target was a logistics center run by Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The strike in the heart of Syria’s capital followed two noteworthy incidents in January. On Jan. 28, a night-time drone strike targeted a military facility in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. This was swiftly followed by another air attack the following night against a convoy of Iranian trucks that had entered Syria from Iraq.

Experts believe that Israel was most likely behind all of these covert operations.

Over the past decade, Israel has been conducting an air campaign to prevent the IRGC from transferring advanced weaponry to its regional militia proxies, particularly Hezbollah in Lebanon.

It has also sought to deny the IRGC a military foothold in Syria. In fact, the Al-Qaim border crossing between Iraq and Syria, the site of the Jan. 29 attack, is an area frequently targeted in such strikes.

Israel is also thought to have been behind a series of covert strikes and acts of sabotage against drone- and missile-production facilities inside Iran and the country’s nuclear program.

Furthermore, it is the prime suspect in the assassination of senior Iranian nuclear scientists, most notably Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, killed in November 2020 in a road ambush near Tehran, allegedly involving an autonomous satellite-operated gun.

The flurry of strikes in 2023 may signal that Israel is accelerating and intensifying these concurrent campaigns at a time of changing geopolitical priorities.

Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a meeting with the Iranian supreme leader (unseen) in Tehran, on January 23, 2019. (AFP)

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which sought to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment in return for sanctions relief, is all but dead, despite the best efforts of the Biden administration and its European allies.

Far from reining in its nuclear program, Tehran has stepped up uranium enrichment to the point that it can build “several” nuclear weapons if it chooses, according to Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“One thing is true: They have amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons, not one, at this point,” Grossi told European lawmakers on Jan. 24. “They have 70 kilograms (155 pounds) of uranium enriched at 60 percent ... The amount is there. That doesn’t mean they have a nuclear weapon. So, they haven’t proliferated yet.”

He also noted that the level of enrichment “is long past” the point that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned about back in 2012.

At the UN that year, Netanyahu famously held up a card featuring a cartoon bomb to illustrate how much highly enriched uranium Iran needed before it could build a bomb.

Given this context, and Netanyahu’s return to office at the helm of a shaky new coalition with a hard-right constituency, further attacks across Iran and the wider region are a strong possibility in the coming weeks and months.

Given the recent return to power of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu — pictured in 2019 talking about Iran’s nuclear research — as head of a far-right coalition government, some analysts think it likely Israel will step up its attacks on Iran. (AFP)

“To me, both attacks are the continuation of Israel’s long-range interdiction campaign to prevent Iran from (fully) weaponizing Syria and Hezbollah and achieving a nuclear weapons capability,” Farzin Nadimi, a defense and security analyst and associate fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News.

“The timing might be by accident, but I would not be surprised to learn that the production hall that was attacked in Isfahan was somehow involved in Hezbollah’s precision munitions program or fabrication of components for Iran’s nuclear program.

“This was the policy of previous Israeli administrations and will continue to be the priority of current and future Israeli governments.”

Nadimi predicts that these attacks will likely increase “in size and numbers” since “the Iranian regime is expected to accelerate all its offensive deterrent programs in the future.”

Despite an “ever-existing risk of escalation at any moment,” he is unsure whether there could be an all-out war between Israel and Iran in 2023. Nevertheless, he believes “a serious exchange before 2025 is a possibility.”

Nicholas Heras, senior director of strategy and innovation at the New Lines Institute, believes a military confrontation is inevitable if Iran moves to produce a nuclear weapon.

“We are approaching midnight before a region-wide war between Iran and Israel and the US breaks out,” he told Arab News.

“Israel, with US support, is sending a clear signal to Iran that there is a military option on the table to bring a war to Iranian soil if Iran decides to build nuclear weapons.”

In hindsight, Heras said: “It is clear that the calculations in Washington have changed and that there is a growing sense that Netanyahu might be right that only the credible threat of war will stop Iran from going for the bomb.”

Israel’s actions are part of a broader effort to pre-empt Iran’s attempt to weaponize its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip.

An image from a video that reportedly shows a drone attack on an Iranian military site in Isfahan province on Jan. 28. Experts believe Israel was probably behind this and the other recent attack on an Iranian target, in Syria. (AFP)

“With ongoing uncertainty in the West Bank, and Netanyahu’s coalition partners pushing for the annexation of Palestinian land, Netanyahu is trying to refocus his political allies in Israel on Iran,” Heras said.

“Netanyahu sees Iran, and the Iranian weapons programs, especially AI and advanced missiles, as the strategic threat to Israel.”

Kyle Orton, an independent Middle East analyst, views the latest strikes as part of the “new normal” of low-level warfare between Israel and Iran and an extension of the Syria air campaign.

“The Israeli operation in Isfahan looks to have been mostly symbolic, a statement from Israel’s new government, primarily to its domestic audience,” he told Arab News. “The evidence available suggests there was not much damage, so whatever was destroyed will cause minimal disruption.”

Orton also questions whether the Israeli campaign has inflicted any serious or lasting damage on Iran and its proxies, pointing out that Israel has struck many of the same targets in Syria multiple times to negligible effect.

“The focus on physical infrastructure with the Israeli strikes, and only occasionally on IRGC officials and scientific staff in the nuclear program, means Iran’s regime can easily regenerate what is lost,” he said.

While Israel has extensively infiltrated the Iranian intelligence apparatus, to the extent that it has neutralized the foreign operations of the IRGC and established a broad reach inside Iran, Orton says that it nevertheless continues to lose ground “at a strategic level.”

People shovel debris at the scene of a reported Israeli missile strike in Damascus, on February 19, 2023. (AFP)

In his view, Iran has already entrenched itself in Syria to the point that it cannot be removed. He also is unimpressed by “the continued Israeli belief that Russia is ‘allowing’ them to strike at Iran in Syria, rather than being incapable of stopping them.”

He described this as a “dangerous delusion” with a ripple effect that has damaged Israel’s political relations with the US and Europe since it is “holding up this ‘understanding’ with Russia as an explanation for doing so little over Ukraine.”

Iran’s entrenchment in Syria is not the only area in which it is challenging Israel. On Feb. 10, a suspected Iranian drone targeted an Israeli-linked commercial shipping tanker in the Arabian Sea.

The attack on the Liberian-flagged oil tanker linked to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, which caused minor damage, was viewed by observers of the “shadow war” as a salvo from the Iranian side.

“Iran also continues to be dominant in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, with threatening and growing outposts of the (Islamic) revolution in Bahrain, Afghanistan and West Africa,” Orton said.

In effect, this has left Israel “sharing three borders with Iran,” he added.

In Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, the IRGC has also been building up the quantity and quality of the weapons systems it has supplied its proxies.

For example, as part of its precision-munitions program, the IRGC has been upgrading Hezbollah’s large arsenal of missiles in Lebanon so the group can accurately strike specific targets.

As a result, according to Orton, these groups could potentially “inflict catastrophic damage” on Israel in retaliation for airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear program.

“At some point, this might well be a sufficient deterrent to prevent Israel even contemplating such an attack,” he said.

“It has to be admitted that the moment where Israel could militarily stop Iran from acquiring the bomb has probably already passed. The Iranians have not formally crossed the nuclear threshold, i.e., carried out a test explosion, more for political reasons than technical ones.”

In the meantime, Heras says, Iran will continue embarking on “a clandestine campaign to ramp up pressure on the US in Iraq and to strike at Israeli assets in the region and globally.”

No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict

No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict
Updated 01 October 2023

No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict

No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict
  • South Sudan is no stranger to humanitarian crisis, having had its own share since achieving statehood in 2011
  • Experts say the country is in no position to handle the large and sudden influx of displaced people from Sudan

NAIROBI: Civilians displaced by the conflict in Sudan have sought sanctuary in the world’s youngest country next door, the Republic of South Sudan, only to face a daunting new set of challenges.

An estimated 250,000 people — including a large number of South Sudanese who had been living in Sudan — have crossed the border since fighting erupted in Sudan in April, with many now housed in overcrowded camps lacking food, sanitation and basic healthcare services.

High malnutrition rates and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and measles among the new arrivals testify to the dire health conditions, which aid agencies operating in the area say is one of the many serious causes for concern.

Luggage is transported on a donkey-drawn cart at Sudan's Qalabat border crossing with Ethiopia on July 31, 2023 amid fighting between the Sudan armed forces and paramilitary RSF. (AFP/File photo)

The UN has given warning that the number of people fleeing Sudan could double by the end of the year unless a settlement between the warring parties is reached soon.

Aside from being unprepared to absorb this tide of humanity in search of shelter and sustenance, South Sudan’s own political and economic shortcomings render it an ineffective broker in ending the conflict in Sudan.

This is despite the mediation efforts of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, who recently hosted Sudan’s de-facto leader and head of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in the capital Juba.


250,000 Sudanese refugees and South Sudanese returnees who have crossed the border since the conflict began.

5 million Total number of people uprooted by the conflict, including 1 million who have fled to neighboring countries.

7,500 People killed since the onset of violence, according to conservative estimates of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

South Sudan is no stranger to hardship and adversity, having had its own bloody conflicts since gaining independence in 2011. Like its northern neighbor, from which it seceded, South Sudan is also grappling with political instability and ethnic conflicts.

Add to the mix South Sudan’s limited resources and primitive infrastructure, and the country is in no position to handle such a large and sudden influx of impoverished people.

“The majority of these refugees are women, children, and young adults, with a notable concentration of youth between the ages of 12 and 22,” John Dabi, South Sudan’s deputy commissioner for refugee affairs, told Arab News.

Particularly, Juba and the border town of Renk have come under pressure from a sudden explosion in population, which has led to an acute shortage of basic necessities, including food, medicine and shelter.

Then there is the impact of a fickle climate, as South Sudan’s rainy season leads to the flooding of entire districts and turns roads into impassable mud tracks, hindering aid deliveries and access to remote refugee camps.

Predictably, South Sudan’s economy is a shambles, despite the recent launch of the National Economic Conference, which is meant to accelerate development.

Firas Raad, the World Bank representative in South Sudan, recently urged the government to strive for more stable macroeconomic conditions, robust public financial management, and effective governance reforms to improve conditions for its people.

The parlous state of the country’s economy calls into question Juba’s credibility as a mediator in Sudan’s conflict, Suzanne Jambo, a South Sudanese policy analyst and former government adviser, told Arab News.

“South Sudan still struggles to achieve a stable transition to a permanent status, including a unified army, agreed-upon constitutional arrangements, and fairly elected representatives, not to mention conducting the elections,” she said.

Instability in South Sudan is not just influenced by governance and economics. The ethnic and tribal contours of the Sudanese conflict are all too evident, with millions fleeing to neighboring countries and exposing the political divisions within Sudan and along its porous borders.

For instance, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group has been recruiting fighters from among Darfur’s Arab tribes.

Given the possibility of further escalation of ethnic tensions, experts believe coordinated efforts are essential for the proper distribution of humanitarian aid as well as conflict prevention and resolution strategies.

Sudanese civilians arriving in South Sudan represent a mosaic of backgrounds mirroring the country’s ethnic, racial and religious diversity. To minimize the chances of inter-communal violence, separate settlements, rather than traditional refugee camps, have been established.

“A critical aspect of managing the refugee crisis is preventing inter-community conflicts,” said Dabi, the deputy commissioner for refugee affairs. However, the most pressing issue facing displaced Sudanese in South Sudan is the scarcity of essential resources, he added.

The situation of people who crossed over from Sudan into other neighboring countries appears to be equally dire.

In Chad, where more than 400,000 people have fled the violence in Darfur, aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres says the situation has become so desperate that “people are feeding their children on insects, grass, and leaves.”

Amid severe shortages, “some have gone five weeks without receiving food,” Susana Borges, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Adre, said in a statement. Camps also lack water, sanitation, shelter, and medical care.

“The most urgent health needs we are dealing with are malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition,” Borges added. According to the UN, dozens of children under the age of five have already died of malnutrition in Chadian camps.

The conflict in Sudan, now in its fifth month, was triggered by a plan to incorporate the RSF into the SAF.

On April 15 a long-running power struggle between the Al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, suddenly escalated, prompting the evacuation of foreign nationals and embassy staff.

At least 7,500 people have been killed since the conflict began, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, and the troubled western Darfur region, where the worst of the violence has been taking place, have seen “intensified shelling” as the SAF and the RSF target each other’s bases with “artillery and rocket fire.”

In central Khartoum, the SAF controls the skies and has carried out regular air strikes, while RSF fighters dominate the streets.

In South Darfur’s regional capital, Nyala, residents say fighter jets have been targeting “RSF leadership.” However, reports from the ground suggest civilians are routinely caught in the crossfire.

UN figures show the fighting has uprooted more than five million people from their homes, including one million who have crossed international borders into neighboring countries.

Over the weekend, a cholera outbreak was reported in eastern Sudan and investigations launched to check whether it had spread to Khartoum and South Kordofan state.

The conflict has also seen a surge in gender-based violence, as confirmed by numerous credible reports of rape, human trafficking, and increase in early marriage.

Despite multiple diplomatic efforts to broker a truce, the conflict has continued and intensified, leaving those displaced with little prospect of returning to their homes any time soon.

As South Sudan struggles to accommodate its own citizens previously living in Sudan, a recent visit to the country by Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, suggests the international community is taking notice.

However, Peter Van der Auweraert, the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, has cautioned there could be a significant decline in humanitarian assistance for the country next year.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says humanitarian aid organizations are struggling to meet the needs of the displaced, with only 19 percent of the $1 billion requested from donors so far received.


Algeria expands English-language learning as France’s influence ebbs

Algeria expands English-language learning as France’s influence ebbs
Updated 30 September 2023

Algeria expands English-language learning as France’s influence ebbs

Algeria expands English-language learning as France’s influence ebbs
  • Mali this year changed its constitution to remove French from its list of official languages, and Morocco made English classes compulsory in high schools

ALGIERS: More than a year after Algeria launched a pilot program to teach English in elementary schools, the country is hailing it as a success and expanding it in a move that reflects a widening linguistic shift underway in former French colonies throughout Africa.

Students returning to third and fourth-grade classrooms this fall will participate in two 45-minute English classes each week as the country creates new teacher training programs at universities and eyes more transformational changes in the years ahead. Additionally, the government is strengthening enforcement of a preexisting law against private schools that operate primarily in French.

“Teaching English is a strategic choice in the country’s new education policy,” Education Minister Abdelkrim Belabed said last week, lauding the move as an immense success.

English is the world’s most widely spoken language, accounts for the majority of content on the internet, and remains a lingua franca in business and science. As France’s economic and political influence wanes throughout Africa, Algeria is among a longer list of countries gradually transitioning toward English as their primary foreign language.

This year, neighboring Mali changed its constitution to remove French from its list of official languages, and Morocco made English classes compulsory in high schools.

Algeria has more French speakers than all but two nations — France itself and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the International Organization of the French Language, nearly 15 million out of the country’s 44 million speak it. Its officials frame English classes as a practical rather than political shift, noting the language’s importance in scientific and technical fields.

But questions about France’s position in Algerian society have long been polarizing, as teachers and former education policy officials acknowledge.

Retired high school principal Mohammed Arezki Ferdi believes Algeria should have begun the shift to English decades ago. 

The current initiative was launched by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who came to power in 2019. 

Previous leaders also tried to expand English but failed to overcome the French-educated elites who had long wielded power in the country.

“We lost a lot of time,” Ferdi said. 

“We should have introduced English in primary schools when President (Abdelaziz) Bouteflika laid out his reform after coming to power in 1991. But at that time, French-speaking factions in Algeria had a lot of decision-making power in institutions.”

The expansion of English language learning comes as tensions increasingly flare between France and Algeria. 

The two share security interests over the political upheavals shaping contemporary West Africa. 

However, in recent years, they have sparred repeatedly over immigration, extradition, and how each country memorializes colonialism and the brutal war that resulted in Algeria’s independence in 1962. Algeria plans to expand its current program to fifth grade next year. 

It will continue instructing students in French for three hours each week in elementary schools.

When English-language learning was introduced last year, Algerian officials reaffirmed their commitment to French and said it would continue to be taught widely. 

But in remarks this week at the beginning of the school year, Kamal Bedari, Algeria’s minister of Higher Education, said expanding the program was to enable elementary school students to take technical courses later on in English — not French.

Though few dispute that English is essential, some worry about how Algeria is implementing such a shift and caution against declaring victory too soon. Ahmed Tessa, a former adviser to Algeria’s Ministry of Education, believes getting students to master English can only happen gradually and will likely require more than simply adding classes.

“We need to get back to basics,” he said. “This is no small task.”

Regardless of how quickly schools transition to English, signs of pushback against French are clear elsewhere.

Authorities have slowly replaced French with English in the official titles of various government ministries. And on his trip last year to Algiers, the country had French President Emmanuel Macron provide remarks from a podium noting his title and the date in English and Arabic, one of Algeria’s two official languages, along with indigenous Tamazight.

Lion cubs, rare eagle in illegal shipment seized in Lebanon

Lion cubs, rare eagle in illegal shipment seized in Lebanon
Updated 30 September 2023

Lion cubs, rare eagle in illegal shipment seized in Lebanon

Lion cubs, rare eagle in illegal shipment seized in Lebanon
  • Smuggled animals in ‘terrible’ condition after being found hidden in cages, boxes
  • Minister pledges crackdown under global agreements to curb wildlife trafficking

BEIRUT: Lebanon has pledged to crack down on trafficking in wild animals following the seizure of an illegal shipment that included two lion cubs and a rare eagle near the border with Syria.

Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan said on Saturday that Lebanon will adhere to international agreements to prevent smuggling of wildlife, and convicted smugglers will be punished. 

Lebanese troops on Friday found two lion cubs, an eastern imperial eagle, 350 goldfinches and more than 1,350 ornamental birds of various types hidden in wooden cages and cardboard boxes on a truck after a routine search at a checkpoint in Batroun on the Tripoli-Beirut highway, 50 km north of Beirut.

The truck driver was arrested, and the smuggled animals were confiscated.

Internal Security Forces are now investigating the shipment, one of the largest in years and believed to have been destined for a well-known Beirut businessman.

Environment Minister Nasser Yassin said the confiscated animals were in “terrible” condition.

“We do not know how many days they had been kept in cages without food or water to be smuggled across the border, or the circumstances surrounding the smuggling operation,” he said.

The two lion cubs were treated and some of the birds released. However, the eagle was in poor condition and might not survive, the minister added.

Yassin said the businessman is likely to face prosecution.

“Out of concern with the issue of wild animals, we will sue everyone behind this operation,” he said.

“We are committed to the global CITES — Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora — the agreement that regulates this trade.”

Smuggling is a growing problem on the Lebanese-Syrian border amid widespread chaos in the region.

Most operations involve human trafficking, mainly Syrians who want to work in Lebanon or travel through the country illegally en route to Europe.

Smugglers also move medicine, fuel and illegal drugs. However, seizures of wildlife are rarely reported.

Hajj Hassan, the agriculture minister, also said: “It is not the first time that animals have been smuggled and it will not be the last. However, this is the largest shipment that has been confiscated.”

Animal rights activist Ghina Nahfawi told Arab News that the animals were destined for a businessman “known for this type of trade.”

The merchant sells animals in the Al-Awza’i neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut, according to Nahfawi.

Rare and exotic creatures are sold to wealthy people, who boast about having them in their gardens, she said.

The confiscated animals were inspected by the Department of Livestock in North Lebanon and either released or given further treatment.

The eastern imperial eagle is being cared for by the Lebanese Association for Migratory Birds, while the two lion cubs were deposited with the welfare group Animals Lebanon.

Houthis told to release citizens detained for celebrating revolution

Houthis told to release citizens detained for celebrating revolution
Updated 30 September 2023

Houthis told to release citizens detained for celebrating revolution

Houthis told to release citizens detained for celebrating revolution
  • Yemenis marched through the streets of Sanaa with flags and chanted slogans in praise of the republic
  • The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties condemned Houthi attacks on peaceful gatherings in the cities it controls

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni officials and international human rights organizations have demanded the Iran-backed Houthis release hundreds of detained citizens who took to the streets of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities last week to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the Sept. 26 revolution.
Yemenis marched through the streets of Sanaa with flags and chanted slogans in praise of the republic.
Social media videos show armed Houthi militia in military uniform and civilian clothing violently suppressing gatherings in the capital and the city of Ibb, dragging dozens of people from the streets and forcing them into military vehicles.
The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties condemned Houthi attacks on peaceful gatherings in the cities it controls. The body demanded that the militia cease harassing those who lawfully express their opinions.
The organization said: “We call on the Houthi group to halt its brutal attacks, release all detainees, and instruct its members to respect the rights of individuals to express their opinions, and peaceful assembly.
“In addition, the Houthi group is required to prosecute all individuals involved in the attacks and arrests for their grave violations.”
Sanaa residents said the Houthis had deployed security forces throughout the capital, primarily around Al-Sabeen Square, in response to calls for demonstrations against the mass arrests following Friday prayer.
Amnesty International has demanded that the Houthis “immediately and unconditionally” release the detained individuals, adding that the Yemenis were arrested and assaulted for commemorating a national day.
It said: “In a draconian show of force, Houthi de facto authorities have carried out a wave of sweeping arrests, demonstrating their flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Grazia Careccia, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement: “The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained solely for exercising their rights.”
The Houthis have not officially commented on the arrests, but activists in Sanaa, including legal activist Abdul Wahab Qatran — who has contacted Houthi security agencies — say those seized are being questioned about “possible affiliations” with external groups.
Analysts say the gatherings in Sanaa have been occurring at a time when public pressure has been mounting on the Houthis to compensate thousands of state employees who have not been paid for years.
They add that the Houthis do not acknowledge the 1962 uprising against the imams.
Faisal Al-Shabibi, a Yemeni journalist, told Arab News: “They (the Houthis) view the events of Sept. 26 as a rebellion, not a revolution as the Yemenis do. They intend to transform the republic into a monarchy gradually.”
The Houthis, who took military control of Yemen in late 2014, have detained thousands of Yemeni politicians, activists, journalists, and members of the general public, as well as forcing tens of thousands to abandon their homes.

Calls for justice one year after Iran’s ‘Bloody Friday’

Calls for justice one year after Iran’s ‘Bloody Friday’
Updated 30 September 2023

Calls for justice one year after Iran’s ‘Bloody Friday’

Calls for justice one year after Iran’s ‘Bloody Friday’
  • Iranian security forces used live fire to suppress a protest on September 30, 2022 in Zahedan
  • "No official has been held accountable for the unlawful killings of scores of men, women and children from Iran's oppressed Baluchi minority on Sept 30, 2022," Amnesty International said

PARIS: Campaign groups on Saturday demanded the perpetrators of the killing of dozens of protesters in southeast Iran one year ago be brought to justice, accusing authorities of using force to quell the latest demonstration in the region.
According to activists, Iranian security forces used live fire to suppress a protest on September 30, 2022 in Zahedan, the main city of southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province.
At least 104 people were killed, according to the Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO, in what is known as Zahedan’s “Bloody Friday.”
The violence marked the single deadliest day of months-long protests that erupted in Iran last year.
The Zahedan protests were triggered by reports a teenage girl was raped in custody by a police commander in the region and took place in parallel to nationwide demonstrations sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women.
Activists have long complained that the minority Baluch population in Sistan-Baluchistan, who adhere to Sunni Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in Iran, suffer from economic and political discrimination and are also disproportionately targeted by capital punishment.
“No official has been held accountable for the unlawful killings of scores of men, women and children from Iran’s oppressed Baluchi minority on Sept 30, 2022,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
“On the solemn anniversary of ‘Bloody Friday’, we remember the victims and stand together in the pursuit of justice.”
Even as the protest movement dwindled elsewhere in Iran, residents of Zahedan have held regular Friday protests throughout the last 12 months, and despite heavy security held a new protest this Friday, campaigners said.
Security forces used live fire and tear gas against protesters, wounding at least 25 people, including children, according to the Baloch Activists Campaign group.
Iran’s top Sunni cleric Molavi Abdolhamid, the Zahedan Friday prayer leader who has been outspoken in his support of the protesters during the past year, had in his sermon issued a new call for justice over “Bloody Friday,” telling the faithful to “know your rights.”
Footage posted on social media showed chaotic scenes as hospitals filled with patients including children, while people on the streets sought to flee to safety amid a sound of heavy gunfire on the streets.
“This is a horrifying display of indiscriminate violence by the Islamic republic as the state attempts to suppress peaceful demonstrations,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.
“It is imperative for the international community to shine a spotlight on this violence and to hold Iranian officials accountable in international courts, invoking the principle of international jurisdiction,” he said.