Dozens killed in Ethiopia protests over singer’s death

Smoke rises over Addis Ababa skyline during protests following the fatal shooting of the Ethiopian musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia June 30, 2020, in this screengrab taken from a video. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Dozens killed in Ethiopia protests over singer’s death

  • Protests reflecting anger at the killing of a popular figure and a sense of political marginalization broke out the next morning in the capital

ADDIS ABABA: More than 50 people were killed in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region in protests following the fatal shooting of a popular singer, a regional spokesman said on Wednesday, laying bare splits in the prime minister’s political heartland ahead of next year’s polls.

Musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was shot dead on Monday night in what police said was a targeted killing.

Protests reflecting anger at the killing of a popular figure and a sense of political marginalization broke out the next morning in the capital and other towns and cities in the surrounding Oromiya region.

The dead included protesters and members of the security forces, spokesman Getachew Balcha said. Some businesses had also been set on fire.

“We were not prepared for this,” he said.

Police said late on Tuesday that a policeman was also killed in Addis Ababa, and three explosions there had killed and injured an unspecified number of people.

Prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and media mogul Jawar Mohammed were also arrested when Jawar’s bodyguards refused to disarm during a standoff with police.

Haacaaluu, whose funeral will be held Thursday, provided a soundtrack to a generation of young protesters. Their 3 years of bloody street demonstrations forced the unprecedented resignation of the previous prime minister and the appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018.

Abiy, Haacaaluu and Jawar are all Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, which has long complained of being excluded from power.

Jawar was a prominent supporter of Abiy’s appointment, but became more openly critical last year. Jawar’s popular Oromo Media Network gives him the ability to mobilize support quickly across Oromiya and his power base could pose a significant challenge to Abiy’s party in next year’s elections.

Ethiopia’s federal structure means power was traditionally derived by claiming the support of large ethnic voting blocs. Under the previous administration, voting was rarely free or fair and opposition activists were often jailed, torture or driven into exile.

Abiy has allowed much greater political freedoms and promised the next polls will be free and fair. But his new ruling party, based on a pan-Ethiopian vision, faces stiff competition from newly emboldened regional powerbrokers like Jawar determined to stake claims for their people after decades of repression.


Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

Updated 30 min 40 sec ago

Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

  • Iranian outbreak, already the worst in the Middle East, is far more serious than initially reported.
  • Tehran’s cover up of the true virus toll is consistent with their reaction to previous embarrassing incidents.

LONDON: A data leak from within Iran has revealed that the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is nearly three times higher than the figures reported by the government.

The data, which was passed to the BBC Persian service, shows almost 42,000 people died with COVID-19 symptoms up to July 20, nearly triple the 14,405 reported by its health ministry.

The number of infections is also far higher than that admitted by the government: 451,024 as opposed to the 278,827 disclosed by Tehran.

Undercounting cases is common across the world due to limited testing capacity, but the BBC’s information reveals that Iranian authorities reported significantly lower daily numbers, despite having a record of all deaths — suggesting the figures were deliberately suppressed.

 

 

The data leak also shows that the first recorded case of the virus in Iran was on Jan. 22 — a month before the government acknowledged any cases.

Already the center of the Middle East’s virus outbreak, Tehran’s cover-up of early cases and its failure to swiftly act on the outbreak likely accelerated the spread of the virus across the region.

The BBC received the data from an anonymous source, who told them they shared the data to “shed light on the truth” and to end “political games” over the epidemic.

The data supplied includes details of daily admissions to hospitals across Iran, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.

The overall trend of cases and deaths in the leaked data is similar to official reports, but different in size.

Dr Nouroldin Pirmoazzen, a former Iranian MP who was an official at the health ministry and is now living in the US, told the BBC that the government was “anxious and fearful of the truth” when COVID-19 hit Iran.

He said: “The government was afraid that the poor and the unemployed would take to the streets.”

The Iranian health ministry maintains that the country’s reports to the World Health Organization on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are “transparent” and “far from any deviations.”

The cover-up of the true scale of their COVID-19 crisis is not unusual behaviour from the regime. A number of incidents have brought a similar response in 2020 alone.

In January, Iran shot down a Ukrainian jet near Tehran, killing all passengers on board. The regime hid its actions for three days, only acknowledging wrongdoing as public pressure mounted through protests.

Then Iranian nuclear and military facilities were the target of a series of sabotages, explosions, and cyberattacks, but Tehran has attempted to conceal what happened at virtually every step of the way.