Iranian protests are ‘beginning of the end for regime in Tehran’, says Nobel laureate Ebadi

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi being interviewed at the Thomson Reuters office in London on February 2, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 04 February 2023

Iranian protests are ‘beginning of the end for regime in Tehran’, says Nobel laureate Ebadi

  • Exiled Nobel-winning former judge speaks out
  • Revolution is a ‘train that will not stop,’ she says

JEDDAH: Protests in Iran over the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman are the start of an irreversible “revolutionary process” that will eventually lead to the collapse of the regime, one of Tehran’s most eloquent critics said on Friday.

Shirin Ebadi, the distinguished Iranian lawyer and former judge who lives in exile in London, said the protests were the boldest challenge yet to the legitimacy of Iran’s clerical establishment.

“This revolutionary process is like a train that will not stop until it reaches its final destination,” said Ebadi, 75, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work defending human rights.

“The protests have taken a different shape, but they have not ended,” she told Reuters in a phone interview from London.

Iran’s clerical rulers have faced widespread unrest since Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police on Sept. 16 last year after she was arrested for wearing “inappropriate attire.”




This image grab from a UGC video posted on Feb. 3, 2023, reportedly shows protesters demanding the release of political prisoners during a march in Iran's southeastern city of Zahedan. (AFP)

Iran has blamed Amini's death on existing medical problems and has accused its enemies of fomenting the unrest to destabilise the regime.

For months, Iranians from all walks of life have called for the fall of the clerical establishment, chanting slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Amini’s death has unbottled years of anger among many Iranians over issues ranging from economic misery and discrimination against ethnic minorities to tightening social and political restrictions.

As they have done in the past in the face of protests in the past four decades, Iran’s hard-line rulers have cracked down hard. Authorities have handed down dozens of death sentences to people involved in protests and have carried out at least four hangings, in what rights activists say is a crackdown aimed at intimidating people and keep them off the streets.

BACKGROUND

The crackdown has stoked diplomatic tensions at a time when talks to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers are at a standstill.

The rights group HRANA said 527 protesters had been killed during unrest, of whom 71 were children, and nearly 20,000 protesters had been arrested.

However, protests have slowed considerably since the hangings began. Videos posted on social mediashowed people chanting “Death to Khamenei” from rooftops in some cities, but nothing on the scale of past months.

Ebadi said the state’s use of deadly violence would deepen anger felt by ordinary Iranians about the clerical establishment because the their grievances remain unaddressed. “The protests have taken a different shape, but they have not ended,” she said.

The crackdown has stoked diplomatic tensions at a time when talks to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers are at a standstill.

To force the regime from power, Ebadi said the West should take “practical steps” such as recalling their ambassadors from Tehran, and should avoid reaching any agreement with Iran, including the nuclear deal. 

With deepening economic misery, chiefly because of US sanctions over Tehran’s disputed nuclear work, many Iranians are feeling the pain of galloping inflation and rising joblessness.

Inflation has soared to over 50 percent, the highest level in decades. Youth unemployment remains high with over 50 percent of Iranians being pushed below the poverty line, according to reports by Iran’s Statistics Center.

(With Reuters)

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Gritty school drama sparks controversy in Tunisia

Updated 57 min 34 sec ago

Gritty school drama sparks controversy in Tunisia

  • The controversy came after private channel El Hiwar Ettounsi on Thursday evening broadcast the first episode of the soap opera "Fallujah"
  • Education Minister Mohamed Ali Boughdiri told local radio he had alerted Prime Minister Nalja Bouden

TUNIS: Tunisia’s education minister has lashed out at a Ramadan TV series accused of tarnishing the reputation of schools, while two lawyers launched a bid to take it off the air.
The controversy came after private channel El Hiwar Ettounsi on Thursday evening broadcast the first episode of the soap opera “Fallujah.”
Named after a city that became a symbol of Arab resistance for battling American occupation forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the series is a drama about a group of high school students, their behavior toward their teachers and their often difficult home lives.
In one scene, a new teacher is hit on by students in the classroom then finds her car tagged with “Welcome to Fallujah.”
In another, a drug dealer in the schoolyard hands out ecstasy tablets to students who then sell them on to classmates.
Education Minister Mohamed Ali Boughdiri told local radio he had alerted Prime Minister Nalja Bouden.
“We will take all necessary measures to take this farce off the air. It has offended families, undermines the entire education system and considerably harms the image of Tunisian schools,” he said.
Two lawyers also filed a request to a Tunis court to stop the broadcasts immediately.
“This series deliberately undermines (public) morals and the educational system by disseminating obscenities,” lawyers Saber Ben Ammar and Hssan Ezzedine Diab wrote.
Teacher’s union the Federation of Secondary Education said the series “seriously harms teachers” and urged the ministry of education to investigate how a private TV channel was able to film in it a public school.
Union chief Lassaad Yaacoubi said the ministry had approved the filming in exchange for giving the school some of the furniture used during the production.


Daesh group kills 15 truffle hunters in Syria: monitor

Updated 24 March 2023

Daesh group kills 15 truffle hunters in Syria: monitor

  • Syria’s desert truffles fetch high prices in a country battered by 12 years of war

BEIRUT: The Daesh group killed 15 people foraging for desert truffles in conflict-ravaged central Syria by cutting their throats, while 40 others are missing, a war monitor said Friday.
Syria’s desert truffles fetch high prices in a country battered by 12 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.
Since February, at least 150 people — most of them civilians — have been killed by IS attacks targeting truffle hunters or by land mines left by the extremists, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“At least 15 people, including seven civilians and eight local pro-regime fighters, were killed by Daesh fighters who slit their throats while they were collecting truffles on Thursday,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
Forty others are missing following the attack in Hama province, he added.
Syrian state media did not immediately report the incident.
Between February and April each year, hundreds of impoverished Syrians search for truffles in the vast Syrian Desert, or Badia — a known hideout for jihadists that is also littered with land mines.
Foragers risk their lives to collect the delicacies, despite repeated warnings about land mines and Daesh fighters.
Earlier this month, Daesh fighters killed three truffle hunters and kidnapped at least 26 others in northern Syria, according to the monitor, which relies on a vast network of sources inside Syria.
That attack happened near positions held by pro-Iran forces, said the Britain-based Observatory.

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Israel’s attorney general: Netanyahu involvement in judicial overhaul is illegal

Updated 2 min 38 sec ago

Israel’s attorney general: Netanyahu involvement in judicial overhaul is illegal

  • ‘The legal situation is clear: you must refrain from any involvement in initiatives to change the judiciary’

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s violated the law by saying he would get personally involved in a judicial overhaul plan, the attorney-general said on Friday.
In the face of intensifying protests against the proposed changes, Netanyahu said on Thursday that he was putting aside all other considerations and would do “anything it takes” to reach a solution.
Netanyahu added that his hands had been tied, but a new law limiting the circumstances in which a prime minister can be removed gave him more space for maneuver.
However, Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara, in a letter addressed to Netanyahu, disagreed.
“The legal situation is clear: you must refrain from any involvement in initiatives to change the judiciary, including the makeup of the committee for the appointment of judges, as such activity is a conflict of interest.”
“Your statement last night and any action you take in violation of this matter is illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest,” Baharav-Miara added.

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11 dead in US strikes on Syria after drone kills American contractor

Updated 3 min 6 sec ago

11 dead in US strikes on Syria after drone kills American contractor

  • US troops are in Syria as part of a coalition fighting against remnants of the Daesh group

BEIRUT: Eleven pro-Iran fighters were killed in US air strikes on Syria carried out in retaliation for a drone attack that left an American dead and wounded six others, a war monitor said Friday.
A US contractor was killed, and another contractor and five US service personnel were wounded, when a kamikaze drone “of Iranian origin” struck a maintenance facility on a base of the US-led coalition near Hasakah in northeastern Syria, the Pentagon said.
In response, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that, at President Joe Biden’s direction, he had ordered “precision air strikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
“The air strikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” Austin said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with a wide network of sources on the ground in the war-torn country, said 11 people had been killed by US strikes, including two Syrians.
“US strikes targeted a weapons depots inside Deir Ezzor city, killing six pro-Iran fighters, and two other fighters were killed by strikes targeting the desert of Al-Mayadin, and three others near Albu Kamal,” said the Observatory’s head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The United States deploys about 900 troops in bases and posts across northeastern Syria as part of the international coalition fighting remnants of the Daesh group.
Iran-backed militias have a heavy presence across Syria, especially around the border with Iraq and south and west of the Euphrates in Deir Ezzor province, where the latest US strikes took place.

American troops also support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurds’ de facto army in the area, which led the battle that dislodged IS from the last scraps of their Syrian territory in 2019.
The US personnel are frequently been targeted in attacks by militia groups.
Two of the US service members wounded on Thursday were treated on site, while the three other troops and one US contractor were medically evacuated to Iraq, the Pentagon said.
“We will always take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” said General Michael Kurilla, commander of US Central Command.
When the strikes were announced, Biden had already traveled to Canada, where he is set to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In January, the US military said “three one-way attack drones” were launched against the coalition garrison at Al-Tanf in Syria, with one breaching its air defenses and wounding two allied Syrian fighters.
The Observatory said it was likely Iran-backed militants had carried out that attack.
Last August, Biden ordered similar retaliatory strikes in the oil-rich Syrian province of Deir Ezzor after several drones targeted a coalition outpost, without causing any casualties.
That attack came the same day that Iranian state media announced a Revolutionary Guard general had been killed days earlier while “on a mission in Syria as a military adviser.”
Iran, a key ally of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, says it has deployed its forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus and only as advisers.

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Male guardianship rules in north Yemen restrict women’s aid work

Updated 24 March 2023

Male guardianship rules in north Yemen restrict women’s aid work

  • Conflict divided country between Houthis in north and UN-recognized government in south

DUBAI: Female aid workers in north Yemen cannot do their jobs tackling one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises as tightening male guardianship rules by Houthi authorities restrict their movement, nine female humanitarians have revealed.

When women refuse to take a guardian, they cannot travel to oversee aid projects, collect data and deliver health and other services. When women do take one, gender-sensitive work is difficult and aid budgets must bear extra costs.

One health project manager normally conducts 15-20 visits a year to projects around the country but said she has not made any since the rules requiring Yemeni female aid workers be accompanied by a close male relative — a “mahram” in Arabic — came out a year ago.

“I don’t have a lot of men in my family,” she said, adding that some women struggle to find willing guardians because relatives are against her working. “Sometimes a woman works without informing someone in her family.” She improvises with video calls, but knows other women have lost jobs because they cannot work effectively.

Yemen’s conflict has divided the country between the Houthis in north Yemen and an internationally recognized government in the south.

The conflict has wrecked the economy and destroyed the health system, leaving two-thirds of Yemen’s 30 million population in need of humanitarian assistance. Aid groups say female-headed households are more vulnerable to food insecurity and difficulties accessing aid.

Without female staff in the field, aid groups say they have trouble doing things as simple as identification checks on women, who may need to lift their face veils, to distribute food aid.

“Mahram requirements are making it even more challenging for humanitarian interventions to reach the most marginalized female program participants,” said one representative of an NGO that works on nutrition and sanitation.

For the past year female Yemeni aid workers have had to take a mahram when crossing provincial borders controlled by the Houthi group, a religious, political and military movement that controls north Yemen. In four provinces, they even need a guardian to move within the province.

“Female (Yemeni) staff have not been able to work outside our offices for almost two years which is catastrophic for their development, morale, motivation and also most obviously for us reaching women and girls in the field in a culturally sensitive way,” said an employee of another NGO, describing the situation in some areas.

Project quality in the NGO’s work on food and health provision has been “very damaged,” she said.

The women all requested anonymity due to safety fears.

A spokesman for the Houthis’ aid coordination body SCMCHA said they supported aid delivery, but organizations should respect traditions.

“Mahram is a religious Islamic obligation and a belief culture ... Why do organizations put up obstacles to Islamic teachings and Yemeni culture?” he said.

The Houthis have increasingly promoted conservative social values since ousting the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

Movement restrictions increased ad hoc before becoming more systematic and targeting aid workers with mahram requirements.

The UN and governments including the US say the restrictions impact women’s ability to participate in public and political life and must stop.

In protest, most international NGOs have refused to include guardians when applying for aid work travel permits — resulting in those permits being declined. NGOs have also suspended travel on UN flights from Sanaa in protest.

“This smothering rule gives men power over women’s lives and is an unacceptable form of gender-based discrimination,” Amnesty International said.

Yemeni law does not impose male guardianship rules, and authorities in the south do not impose them.

“We want to achieve more, to be stronger, more independent. But they restrict that,” said one city-based aid worker who cannot monitor distant projects due to a lack of male relatives.

While humanitarians are the main target of mahram rules, directives requesting car hire and transport companies ensure mahram compliance extended it to all women – although these are less strictly applied.

“If women have to travel without a mahram, they are detained at checkpoints and kept until a male guardian arrives,” another aid worker said.

The women described taking boy relatives out of school, driving sick relatives around to ensure a man in the car, and last minute meeting cancellations.

“You have the burden to pay for your relative. To pay for accommodation, transportation, food ... It is not cost effective for us or for donors,” said a health worker.