6,000 stranded Indians desperate to return from Iran

Indian protesters demand evacuation from Iran during a protest in front of the Indian embassy in Tehran on March 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kayvann Shah)
Short Url
Updated 14 March 2020

6,000 stranded Indians desperate to return from Iran

  • Indian nationals protesting in front of their embassy in Tehran demand evacuation
  • Protesters worry prolonged stay increases their risk of infection

PATNA: Kayvann Shah has been camping outside the Indian embassy in Tehran for more than two weeks, waiting for his government to evacuate him and thousands of others from coronavirus-hit Iran.
Over 6,000 Indians have been stranded in Iran. Some of them joined Shah in protest, demanding that they be airlifted from the country where the coronavirus death toll has surged past 500.
“I have been in Iran for the last 20 days and since March 2 I have been visiting the Indian embassy in Tehran, requesting them to help me and my parents reach India, but no action has been taken so far. They just tell us to wait and be in touch through email,” Shah told Arab News from Tehran on Friday.

An Indian national protests in front of India's embassy in Tehran on March 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kayvann Shah)

The dry fruit merchant from Mumbai said he was on a business trip when New Delhi decided to suspend all international flights and restrict entry of people from the coronavirus-affected countries.
“My parents are senior citizens and they need to be away from the country where coronavirus has struck badly, but the Indian government seems to be not caring for us,” Shah said, adding that even China has evacuated its citizens from Iran.
Vishnu and Dhiraj, who are protesting with Shah in front of the embassy, are also in despair.
“Indian government is behaving as if we are not Indians!” Vishnu told Arab News from Tehran.

Indian protesters demand evacuation from Iran during a protest in front of the Indian embassy in Tehran on March 12, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Kayvann Shah)

On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told the parliament that the government was testing samples taken from the citizens in Iran and would soon operate a limited number of commercial flights to evacuate them.
He said the coronavirus crisis is a serious issue, over which New Delhi is in touch with Iranian authorities.
“As per available information, there are over 6,000 Indian nationals in various provinces of Iran,” he said, adding a team of six health officials was sent to Tehran from India last week to collect the blood samples of the Iran-stranded nationals for testing.
“The first batch of 108 samples was received in India on March 7, and 58 Indian pilgrims who tested negative were repatriated,” the minister said.
However, according to the protesters, the testing process is slow and it would take months for them to be repatriated. “We are getting frustrated,” Shah said.
“Why can’t New Delhi evacuate us first and quarantine us in India as the Chinese are doing. The longer we are in Iran, the higher becomes the chance of us getting infected by the virus.”
According to government data, 81 cases of coronavirus infection have been recorded in India.
Many state governments have shut down schools, theaters and colleges, and banned mass gatherings. New Delhi has also postponed the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the world’s most lucrative international cricket competitions. 

French militant gets 30 years for Syria crimes

Updated 15 min 41 sec ago

French militant gets 30 years for Syria crimes

  • Investigators believed Tyler Vilus was part of the ‘Al-MuHajjireen’ (the immigrants) brigade

PARIS: A French court on Friday handed a 30-year prison sentence to a militant for crimes committed in Syria between 2013-15 including overseeing the execution of two prisoners while a senior figure in the Daesh extremist group.
Tyler Vilus, 30, who was found guilty on all charges, was also accused of belonging to a terrorist group, heading a group of Daesh fighters and “aggravated murder.”
Public prosecutor Guillaume Michelin earlier asked the court for a life sentence, with no possibility of parole for 22 years.
Michelin said Vilus “hasn’t changed one bit” since his time with the Daesh.
“All the steps in the accused’s journey are interlocked with the construction of the caliphate,” said the prosecutor, referring to the Islamist-ruled area that Daesh had at the time carved out in Syria and Iraq.
“It is your responsibility to put a definite end to the bloodshed,” he told the court.
But the presiding judge said he wanted to give him “a glimmer of hope” so that he could “evolve,” even though he could have been sentenced to life on being convicted of all charges.
Investigators believed Vilus was part of the “Al-MuHajjireen” (the immigrants) brigade, a squad that tortured and carried out summary executions, which he had denied.
However, the court found that Vilus supervised the executions as a member of the religious police in the north-eastern Syrian town Ash Shaddadi, close to the Iraqi border.
In a 2015 video published by the Daesh’s media department, a man alleged to be Vilus is two meters away as two kneeling and blindfolded prisoners — one belonging to the Free Syrian Army rebel fighters and the other a member of Bashar Assad’s army — are executed with a bullet to the head.
His arrest and trial were seen as a major coup for the French security services, as Vilus is believed to have known many French militants in Syria.
Vilus had admitted to being in contact with the man French secret services believe is the mastermind of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.