Frankly Speaking: Iranian opposition group NCRI urges Biden, EU to ‘stand with Iranian people, support their demands for change’

Short Url
Updated 17 October 2022
Follow

Frankly Speaking: Iranian opposition group NCRI urges Biden, EU to ‘stand with Iranian people, support their demands for change’

  • Dowlat Nowrouzi, NCRI’s UK representative, accuses the Tehran regime of stealing national revenue. spending it on exporting terror and destruction
  • She says European nations can side with the people by taking such steps as recalling their ambassadors and shutting down Iran’s embassies

DUBAI: As an unprecedented wave of civil unrest sweeps Iran, it is crucial that the world community, particularly Europe and the US, lends its support to the Iranian people and imposes greater sanctions on the regime in Tehran, according to the UK representative of an Iranian political opposition group.

“No matter what the mistakes, strategic mistakes, made by the United States, it is now time for the administration (of American President Joe Biden) to correct them and change its policy.

“It should stand with the Iranian people and support the demands of Iranian people for change,” Dowlat Nowrouzi, UK representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, told Katie Jensen, host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News talk show which engages with leading policymakers and business leaders.




Dowlat Nowrouzi, shown on screen, being interviewed by Katie Jensen on Frankly Speaking. (AN photo)

The NCRI, founded in 1981, is a political coalition made up of various groups that aim to overthrow the Iranian regime. Most of its members have been forced into exile due to political persecution and operate out of Europe and other Western countries.

Nowrouzi’s plea for support for the Iranian people comes as the Islamic Republic continues to be rattled by protests triggered by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the morality police’s custody on Sept. 16.

Amini was detained for allegedly improperly wearing her headscarf, which is mandatory in Iran, and was pronounced dead at Tehran’s Kasra hospital two days later. While the authorities claimed she died of pre-existing medical conditions, her family, fellow detainees, and leaked medical records indicated that she was severely beaten.

What started as isolated protests during her funeral in her native Kurdistan province spread rapidly across Iran, snowballing into a nationwide uprising which has the potential to topple the Iranian regime.

 

 

According to Nowrouzi, more than 400 protesters have been killed by Iranian security forces, and the 20,000 people, including children, who have been arrested by the regime face horrific conditions amounting to torture and extrajudicial execution in prisons and detention centers.

Amid the state-orchestrated campaign of intimidation, Nowrouzi claimed that protesters remained resolute and committed to their goals.

She said: “Just a few days ago, we received information that 2,000 of them, especially youngsters and university students, were taken to a very notorious detention center called B Gate No. 6. In that detention center, they do all sorts of deadly torture against political prisoners as well as protesters.

“So, despite all that, they know what they are (engaged in) and they know that they’re going to have to sacrifice all that it takes in order to win back their country.

 

“I can assure you what is happening now is not going to stop. Iranians are on their way for a new democratic revolution in their country soon.”

Nowrouzi pointed out that although there had been other instances of nationwide civil unrest, most notably the protests of November 2019 and January 2020, which saw Iranian security forces kill thousands of protesters and arrest tens of thousands, “this one is absolutely different.”

She added: “It is a nationwide uprising movement. It has been able, it is mobilized. Some 178 major cities are engulfed in the protests and uprising. And I have to say, it covers almost all the 31 provinces throughout Iran. And this time you are seeing different sectors of Iranian society involved (in the uprising).”

 

 

Nowrouzi noted that the policy of appeasement that the US and other Western nations had adopted toward Iran had to change in order to ensure the success of the ongoing peaceful resistance.

“Unfortunately, this policy of appeasement has affected the ruling government. They have to realize it is now time for a very sharp change. As far as the US Congress is concerned, I can tell you it’s a different case because, particularly in the recent resolution 118, 260 members of Congress strongly supported Iranian people’s protests,” she said.

 

 

Resolution 118, which was introduced in Congress in February 2021, condemns what it calls Iran’s state-sponsored assassinations and terror attacks against US officials and Iranian dissidents, and expresses support for popular protests against the regime in Tehran.

Though such measures are certainly a step in the right direction, Nowrouzi added: “As far as the government is concerned, they have to do much more, (including meeting) some of the demands of the Iranian community and the opposition.”

She noted that depriving the Iranian regime of financial sources was crucial.

“They’re exporters of terrorism (and) they’re acquiring nuclear weapons, all of it by stealing the money and the national revenue of the Iranian people’s oil and gas, which are being spent by the mullahs on destruction rather than construction,” she said.

 

 

Protests and worker-led strikes have shut down major petrochemical facilities in Iran’s oil- and gas-rich southern provinces, which Nowrouzi sees as a significant development.

“It plays a very important role because it can (shut down) the mullahs’ economic (lifeline), particularly as far as money and trade is concerned,” she added.




This image grab from a UGC video made available on Oct.15, 2022, shows Iranian students protesting at Tehran University over the death of Mahsa Amini. (AFP)

Such actions, she said, took away the regime’s ability to finance their brutal acts against protesters. She noted that the mullahs acknowledged that 80 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, even though the country was enormously wealthy in terms of reserves of oil and gas.

Western countries, particularly the EU, could also play a critical role in shutting down the regime’s ability to crush any form of resistance, Nowrouzi said.

 

 

“I think they can play a very important role in order to actually side with the Iranian people and their major demands for freedom and democracy.

“In order to do that, in our view, Europeans have to do a lot more than just issue verbal condemnations of the atrocities of the mullahs, both in terms of the executions as well as the arbitrary arrests that they have been involved (in) during the past several weeks in this recent protest. We think they can, and they should, (recall) their ambassadors,” she added, referring to EU members.

 

 

“They have to close down the Iranian embassy in their countries, because as far as we know, in reality, they are used by the mullahs for all sorts of espionage, as well as for exporting terrorism and providing logistics, money, financial aid, and even military weapons, to their terrorist networks in Europe.”

Nowrouzi highlighted a terror plot in which Asadollah Asadi, the third diplomat of the Iranian embassy in Austria, brought a highly sophisticated bomb in his own personal suitcase through several European countries in order to target a rally held by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, in Paris.




Demonstrators rally in Paris on Oct. 9, 2022, in support of Iranian protests against he death of Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in Iran. (AFP)

“Thousands of government officials from over 70 countries were in attendance, and luckily, the plot was foiled, and Asadi and his co-conspirators arrested.”

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the country has carried out more than 50 attacks, assassinations, and bombings on four different continents, killing hundreds of foreign officials, Iranian diplomats, and ordinary civilians. Intervention and concrete measures on the part of the US and EU, Nowrouzi said, could help to put an end to the state-sponsored terrorism. 

 

 

“We are asking them to impose all sorts of comprehensive sanctions against the mullahs, especially the officials and the (Islamic) Revolutionary Guard Corps that are very much responsible for the executions and torture of our youngsters and women.

“We are also asking them to recognize the legitimate right of Iranian people to defend themselves and actually to continue their support, and to stay on the side of millions of Iranians demanding change and hope,” she added.

Nowrouzi pointed out the determination and resolve of the Iranian people to bring about change in their country.

“What I can assure you is that the Iranian people will continue to (protest) because they know what happened to Mahsa. It was not only Mahsa; the same thing could have happened to anybody else’s sister, wife, mother, or any other close brother.

 

 

“They know that the regime has been involved in all sorts of crimes against Iranian people. So, I can tell you that the vast majority of Iranian people are determined, and this determination will persist until we see the downfall of the regime,” she said.

She added that the protests had shown the world community that “the Iranian people, particularly women, who are the prime victim of this misogynist, brutal regime, are very much determined to bring about the change.

“They are fed up. They want democracy, a democratic republic with separation of religion from the state. And so, there is no way that any longer they would tolerate the inhumanity, barbarism, depression, and aggression of the mullahs.”

 


Kuwaiti ruler names Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister

Updated 45 min 32 sec ago
Follow

Kuwaiti ruler names Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister

  • Kuwaiti Emir also tasks the new prime minister to form a government

DUBAI: Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has appointed Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister, state news agency KUNA reported on Monday.

The Kuwaiti ruler also tasked the new prime minister to form a government.

The Kuwaiti ruler last week accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, after elections were held to choose new members of the National Assembly.

He also instructed the cabinet to act as caretakers until the formation of a new government.


Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

  • Opposition leader: ‘Jewish terrorist violence’ against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank ‘out of control’
  • ‘If we don’t move this government, it will bring destruction upon us’

JERUSALEM: Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of leading to a “total loss of Israeli deterrence” in the wake of an unprecedented Iranian attack.
In a scathing criticism posted on X, former premier Lapid also said that under Netanyahu, “Jewish terrorist violence” against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was “out of control.”
Netanyahu, who returned to power in late 2022 at the helm of a coalition with far-right parties, has brought “heaps of destruction from Beeri to Kiryat Shmona,” Lapid said, calling for early elections.
Beeri, a kibbutz community near the Gaza border, came under attack when Hamas militants stormed the area on October 7, triggering the ongoing war, while the northern town of Kiryat Shmona has suffered during months of cross-border fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Lapid’s remarks came two days after Iran — which backs both Hamas and Hezbollah — launched more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel in retaliation for a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.
Israel, the United States and other allies intercepted nearly all launches in the late Saturday aerial attack — the first direct Iranian military action against arch foe Israel.
Netanyahu’s cabinet has weighed Israel’s response to the Iranian attack, but the prime minister has not made any public comments.
In the West Bank, where violence has soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Israeli settlers torched Palestinian homes and cars over the weekend, killing at least two people, after an Israeli teen was “murdered in a suspected terrorist attack,” according to the Israeli military.
Pointing to surging “terrorist” settler attacks, Lapid said: “If we don’t move this government, it will bring destruction upon us.”
The government, which includes hard-line settlers, has prioritized Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.
Netanyahu has faced in recent months mass protests over the fate of hostages held in Gaza and pressure from a resurgent anti-government movement.
The prime minister’s Likud party responded to Lapid in a statement stressing Netanyahu’s part in “the global campaign” to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons — which Tehran denies it is seeking.


UK government reveals talks with Sudanese paramilitary group

Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

UK government reveals talks with Sudanese paramilitary group

  • Meetings held between Foreign Office, Rapid Support Forces in bid to end fighting, increase aid supply
  • News criticized by some experts as RSF accused of crimes against humanity

London: The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has revealed that it has held talks with Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which has been accused of committing ethnic cleansing and other atrocities.

The Guardian reported on Monday that a freedom of information request to the FCDO revealed that the UK government had opened diplomatic channels with the RSF, including a meeting on March 6.

The FCDO told the newspaper that the talks were aimed at increasing humanitarian aid flow and access in Sudan, as well as ending the fighting between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces.

The RSF has been engaged in a civil war in Sudan for the past year, and has been accused of crimes against humanity by the US, including massacres, mass rape, looting and ethnic cleansing. The UN said the RSF’s activities in Geneina in West Darfur have left 15,000 people dead.

The war has claimed the lives of many thousands of Sudanese civilians, with around 8 million displaced by the fighting.

The UK’s willingness to meet with the RSF has drawn condemnation for what some say is a policy that could normalize a paramilitary group accused of crimes against humanity.

Dr. Sharath Srinivasan, co-director of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at Cambridge University, told The Guardian that although talking to potentially unsavory groups is perceived as necessary in some diplomatic circles, “talking to the guys with the guns has been part of the perpetuation of violence and authoritarianism in Sudan for the last two, three decades.”

He added: “When (the RSF are) committing untold levels of targeted violence against ethnic groups, and women and children, at a scale that is absolutely horrific and was, even 20 years ago, (the UK is) putting a lot of moral credibility and decency on the line.”

Ahmed Soliman, a senior research fellow at international affairs think tank Chatham House, said the talks are justifiable as part of efforts to end the war and alleviate civilian suffering.

“How is aid going to get into western Sudan unless you engage with the Rapid Support Forces? They control 95 percent of Darfur,” he added.

“This is the dirty reality of the war. It shouldn’t negate engaging with civilians, but it has to be part of trying to ensure that there is a solution, both to ending the war in the near term, and then providing assistance for civilians.”

However, Maddy Crowther, co-director of the Waging Peace human rights group, described the talks as “a terrible move,” saying negotiating with the RSF could prove futile.

“These talks also assume that the RSF are good-faith actors,” she said. “Chatting to the RSF has never resulted in the outcomes that the UK says it wants to achieve in Sudan. I have no sense of why that would change at the moment.”

She added that “for the Sudanese, it will be experienced as a real slap in the face,” and that the diaspora will interpret the news as a “complete abuse of trust that people have placed in the UK and other powers to negotiate or advocate on their behalf.”

An FCDO spokesperson told The Guardian: “The UK continues to pursue all diplomatic avenues to end the violence — to prevent further atrocities from occurring, to press both parties into a permanent ceasefire, to allow unrestricted humanitarian access, to protect civilians, and to commit to a sustained and meaningful peace process.

“The SAF and RSF have dragged Sudan into an unjustified war, with an utter disregard for the Sudanese people. We will do all we can to ensure that they are both held accountable.”


Israel presses on in Gaza as death toll reaches 33,797

Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Israel presses on in Gaza as death toll reaches 33,797

  • Fears persisted over Israeli plans to send ground troops into Rafah, a far-southern city where the majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have taken refuge
  • On Monday death toll in Gaza reached 33,797 during more than six months of war

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Israel struck war-battered Gaza overnight, Hamas and witnesses said Monday, as world leaders urged de-escalation awaiting Israel’s reaction to Iran’s unprecedented attack that heightened fears of wider conflict.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Monday that at least 33,797 people have been killed in the territory during more than six months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
The toll includes at least 68 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 76,465 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.
World powers have urged restraint after Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel late Saturday, though the Israeli military has said nearly all were intercepted.
The Israeli military said it would not be distracted from its war against Tehran-backed Hamas in Gaza, triggered by the Palestinian armed group’s October 7 attack.
“Even while under attack from Iran, we have not lost sight... of our critical mission in Gaza to rescue our hostages from the hands of Iran’s proxy Hamas,” military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said late Sunday.
As mediators eye a deal to halt the fighting, fears persisted over Israeli plans to send ground troops into Rafah, a far-southern city where the majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have taken refuge.
“Hamas is still holding our hostages in Gaza,” Hagari said of the roughly 130 people, including 34 presumed dead, who Israel says remain in the hands of Palestinian militants since the Hamas attack.
“We also have hostages in Rafah, and we will do everything we can to bring them back home,” the military spokesman told a briefing.
The army said it was calling up “two reserve brigades for operational activities,” about a week after withdrawing most ground troops from Gaza.
The Hamas government media office said Israeli aircraft and tanks launched “dozens” of strikes overnight on central Gaza, reporting several casualties.
Witnesses told AFP that strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp, with clashes also reported in other areas of central and northern Gaza.
Hamas’s attack that sparked the fighting resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,729 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday following the Iranian attack, where Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the region was “on the brink” of war.
“Neither the region nor the world can afford more war,” the UN chief said.
“Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate.”
More than six months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Rumours of a reopened Israeli checkpoint on the coastal road from the territory’s south to Gaza City sent thousands of Palestinians heading north on Sunday, despite Israel denying it was open.
Attempting the journey back to northern Gaza, displaced resident Basma Salman said, “even if it (my house) was destroyed, I want to go there. I couldn’t stay in the south.”
“It’s overcrowded. We couldn’t even take a fresh breath of air there. It was completely terrible.”
In Khan Yunis, southern Gaza’s main city, civil defense teams said they had retrieved at least 18 bodies from under the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Responding late Saturday to the latest truce plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators, Hamas said it insists on “a permanent ceasefire” and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.
Israel’s Mossad spy agency called this a “rejection” of the proposal, accusing Hamas of “continuing to exploit the tension with Iran.”
But the United States said mediation efforts continue.
“We’re not considering diplomacy dead there,” said the National Security Council’s Kirby.
“There’s a new deal on the table... It is a good deal” that would see some hostages released, fighting halted and more humanitarian relief into Gaza, he said.


Top Syrian officer faces war crimes charges in Swedish court

Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Top Syrian officer faces war crimes charges in Swedish court

  • Former brigadier general Mohammed Hamo, 65 who lives in Sweden, is accused of “aiding and abetting” war crimes and could get a life jail sentence

Stockholm: The highest-ranking Syrian military official to be tried in Europe on Monday appeared before a Stockholm court accused of war crimes during Syria’s civil war.
Former brigadier general Mohammed Hamo, 65 who lives in Sweden, is accused of “aiding and abetting” war crimes and could get a life jail sentence.
The war between President Bashar Assad’s regime and armed opposition groups, including Islamic State, erupted after the government repressed peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011.
It has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions, and ravaged Syria’s economy and infrastructure.
Wearing a dark blue shirt, jeans and sneakers, Hamo listened carefully and took notes as prosecutor Karolina Wieslander read out the charges.
Wieslander said Hamo had contributed — through “advice and action” — to the Syrian army’s warfare, which “systematically included attacks carried out in violation of the principles of distinction, caution and proportionality.”
“The warfare was thus indiscriminate,” Wieslander told the court.
The charges concern the period of January 1 to July 20, 2012. The trial is expected to last until late May.
The prosecutor said the Syrian army’s “widespread air and ground attacks” caused damage “at a scale that was disproportionate in view of the concrete and immediate general military advantages that could be expected to be achieved.”
In his role as brigadier general and head of an armament division, Hamo allegedly helped coordinate and supply of arms to units.
Hamo’s lawyer, Mari Kilman, told the court her client denied criminal responsibility.
“In any case he has not had the intent toward the main charge, that indiscriminate warfare would be carried out by others,” Kilman said.
Kilman said the officer could not be held liable for the actions “as he had acted in a military context and had to follow orders.”
Hamo also denied all individual charges and argued that Syrian law should be applied.
Several plaintiffs are to testify at the trial, including Syrians from cities that were attacked and a British photographer who was injured during one strike.
“The attacks in and around Homs and Hama in 2012 resulted in widespread civilian harm and an immense destruction of civilian properties,” Aida Samani, senior legal adviser at rights group Civil Rights Defenders, told AFP.
“The same conduct has been repeated systematically by the Syrian army in other cities across Syria with complete impunity.”
This trial will be the first in Europe “to address these types of indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian army,” according to Samani, who added that it “will be the first opportunity for victims of the attacks to have their voices heard in an independent court.”
Hamo is the highest-ranking military official to go on trial in Europe, though other countries have tried to bring charges against more senior members.
In March, Swiss prosecutors charged Rifaat Assad, an uncle of President Bashar Assad, with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
However, it remains unlikely Rifaat Assad — who recently returned to Syria after 37 years in exile — will show up for the trial, for which a date has yet to be set.
Swiss law allows for trials in absentia under certain conditions.
In November, France issued an international arrest warrant for Bashar Assad, accusing him of complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes over chemical attacks in 2013.
Three other international warrants were also issued for the arrests of Bashar Assad’s brother Maher, the de-facto chief of the army’s elite Fourth Division and two generals.
In January 2022, a German court sentenced former colonel Anwar Raslan to life jail for crimes against humanity. This was the first international trial over state-sponsored torture in Syria and was hailed by victims as a victory for justice.