Detained Iran protesters raped, sexually assaulted: Amnesty

This grab taken from a UGC video made available on the ESN platform on October 19, 2022 shows people reacting as they gather at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran to welcome Elnaz Rekabi, an Iranian climber who caused a sensation by competing at an event abroad without a hijab. (AFP/File)
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Updated 06 December 2023

Detained Iran protesters raped, sexually assaulted: Amnesty

PARIS: Members of the Iranian security forces raped and used other forms of sexual violence against women and men detained in the crackdown on nationwide protests that erupted from September 2022, Amnesty International said Wednesday.
Amnesty said in a report it had documented 45 such cases of rape, gang rape or sexual violence against protesters. With cases in more than half of Iran’s provinces, it expressed fear these documented violations appeared part of a “wider pattern.”
“Our research exposes how intelligence and security agents in Iran used rape and other sexual violence to torture, punish and inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on protesters, including children as young as 12,” Amnesty’s secretary general Agnes Callamard said.
The London-based organization said it had shared its findings with the Iranian authorities on November 24 “but has thus far received no response.”
The protests began in Iran in September 2022 after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22. Her family says she was killed by a blow to the head but this has always been disputed by the Iranian authorities.
After rattling Iran’s clerical leadership, the movement lost momentum by the end of that year in the face of a fierce crackdown that left hundreds dead, according to rights activists, and thousands arrested, according to the United Nations.
Amnesty said 16 of the 45 cases documented in the report were of rape, including six women, seven men, a 14-year-old girl, and two boys aged 16 and 17.
Six of them — four women and two men — were gang raped by up to 10 male agents, it said.
It said the sexual assaults were carried out by members of the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij force, agents of the intelligence ministry, as well as police officers.
The rapes on women and men were carried out with “wooden and metal batons, glass bottles, hosepipes, and/or agents’ sexual organs and fingers,” it said.
As well as the 16 rape victims, Amnesty said it documented the cases of 29 victims of other forms of sexual violence such as the beating of breasts and genitals, enforced nudity, and inserting needles or applying ice to men’s testicles.
It said it collected the testimony through interviews with the victims and other witnesses, conducted remotely via secure communications platforms.
“The harrowing testimonies we collected point to a wider pattern in the use of sexual violence as a key weapon in the Iranian authorities’ armory of repression of the protests and suppression of dissent to cling to power at all costs,” said Callamard.
One woman, named only as Maryam, who was arrested and held for two months after removing her headscarf in a protest, told Amnesty she was raped by two agents during an interrogation.
“He (the interrogator) called two others to come in and told them ‘It’s time’. They started ripping my clothes. I was screaming and begging them to stop.
“They violently raped me in my vagina with their sexual organs and raped me anally with a drink bottle. Even animals don’t do these things,” she was quoted by the group as saying.
A man named as Farzad told Amnesty that plain clothes agents gang raped him and another male protester, Shahed, while they were inside a vehicle.
“They pulled down my trousers and raped me. I couldn’t scream out. I was really being ripped apart... I was throwing up a lot, and was bleeding from my rectum when I went to the toilet,” said Farzad who was released without charge a few days later.
Amnesty said most victims did not file complaints against the assault for fear of further consequences, and those who did tell prosecutors were ignored.
“With no prospects for justice domestically, the international community has a duty to stand with the survivors and pursue justice,” said Callamard.

Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
Updated 03 March 2024

Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

  • Gulf ministers briefed on breakdown in talks over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry on Sunday highlighted the importance of Cairo maintaining its strong links with Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

His comments came as he took part in a joint consultative meeting of Egypt and GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh.

In a speech, Shoukry noted the increased significance of political consultation in tackling key issues of mutual concern and the shared social and economic strategic interests of Egypt and council member nations.

He also pointed out that solid relations between the parties were vital in working toward stability in the region and dealing with the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that during the meeting in the Saudi capital, Shoukry warned of the disastrous humanitarian repercussions of any ground military operation by Israel in the city of Rafah and the threat such action would pose to regional security.

And he called on Israel to stop obstructing the access of humanitarian aid to the Strip.

The Egyptian minister also discussed with his GCC counterparts continued Iran-backed Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea, along with the latest situations in Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Somalia.

Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Shoukry highlighted what he described as Ethiopia’s uncompromising approach to tackling project issues with its neighbors, a stance that had led Cairo to withdraw from negotiations.

GCC Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi said it was crucial that Arab nations cooperated in dealing with regional challenges including bringing about a Gaza ceasefire and ensuring Nile water security for Egypt and Sudan.

Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
Updated 03 March 2024

Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

  • The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant
  • He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation

CAIRO: Alaa Moussa, Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon, participated in a meeting of the ambassadors of the five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, France, the US, and Qatar.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo said Egypt participated in the meeting to support Lebanon and promote its stability.

The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant.

He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation.

Moussa and other ambassadors emphasized the five-nation group’s role: to assist Lebanese parties in reaching a fair and transparent agreement on electing the president through dialogue or consultation.

The five-nation group will not interfere with the appointment of the next Lebanese president, which is the exclusive role of the Lebanese parliament.

Mikati said he appreciated the five countries’ efforts to support Lebanon in facing its current challenges.

He also said electing a new president is crucial in completing Lebanon’s state institutions and implementing necessary political and economic reforms to overcome the current crises.

The Arab and international community launched the coordination framework last year to support Lebanon, which has been without a president since the end of former President Michel Aoun’s term in October 2022.

Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
Updated 03 March 2024

Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

  • The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia vowed on Sunday to target more UK ships in the Red Sea, despite growing worldwide outrage over the sinking of a vessel carrying thousands of tonnes of fertilizer. 

Hussein Al-Ezzi, the group’s deputy foreign minister, said that its forces would continue sinking ships in the Red Sea, even if it meant causing an ecological disaster off Yemen’s coasts. He also blamed the UK for participating in US-led strikes against Houthi areas, as well as supporting Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Ezzi said in a post on X: “Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damage will be added to Britain’s bill, as it is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring the ongoing crime against civilians in Gaza.”

The Houthi threats came a day after the Yemeni government and the US Central Command announced that the Belize-flagged Rubymar, which was hit by the militia’s missiles last month, sank with a cargo of more than 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer, raising concerns about possible environmental disaster for Red Sea coral reefs, along with shipping using the route.

The Houthis said that the ship was owned by the UK and was targeted in retribution for the country’s strikes on Yemen, as well as its backing for Israel’s blockade and bombing of Gaza.

The Houthis have seized the commercial ship Galaxy Leader and launched hundreds of drones and missile strikes against commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab, and the Gulf of Aden, since November.

The group says it has banned any Israel-bound ships from passing across the Red Sea in order to force Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Yemen’s Minister of Transport Abdul Salam Humaid said in a statement on Saturday that he had asked the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea & Gulf of Aden, based in Jeddah, and other marine conservation bodies for assistance in containing any pollution from the ship, as well as help in forming a legal commission to force the ship’s owners to remove the vessel and its cargo.

The US Central Command said on Sunday that the ship’s cargo of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer constituted a hazard to nautical life, and that the sinking ship was also a risk to other vessels passing through the Red Sea.

The US military said in a statement: “As the ship sinks, it also presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway. The Houthis pose a heightened threat to global maritime activities.”

Despite worldwide condemnation and warnings about the consequences of its actions, the Houthis have renewed threats to obstruct a rescue mission for the ship prior to humanitarian aid arriving in Gaza.

Yemen’s Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi blamed the sinking of the Rubymar on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government, saying on Saturday that his group would only let the world rescue the ship if Israel lifted its siege of Gaza.

Al-Houthi said on X: “We say to Sunak, you and your government are responsible for the (sinking of the) ship MV Rubymar, as well as for supporting genocide and the blockade of Gaza.”

The militia has said it would release the crew of the Galaxy Leader if requested to do so by Hamas.

Nasr Al-Din Amer, a Houthi media official, said: “Given that the crew was operating on a ship related to Israel, their governments may make a request to the brothers in the Hamas organization, and if they accept, we have no objections.”

Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

Updated 03 March 2024

Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

  • The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah
  • The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags

RAFAH: Born a few weeks into the Gaza war, infant twins Wesam and Naeem Abu Anza were buried on Sunday, the youngest of 14 members of the same family whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.
Their mother, Rania Abu Anza, held one of the twins, its tiny body wrapped in a white shroud, to her cheek and stroked its head during the funeral on Sunday. A mourner held the second baby close by, pale blue pyjamas visible beneath a shroud.
“My heart is gone,” wept Abu Anza, whose husband was also killed, as mourners comforted her. She resisted when asked to release the body of one of the babies ahead of burial. “Leave her with me,” she said, in a low voice.
The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah, according to the health ministry in Gaza. Abu Anza said she had given birth to them — her first children — after 11 years of marriage.
“We were asleep, we were not shooting and we were not fighting. What is their fault? What is their fault, what is her fault?” Abu Anza said.
“How will I continue to live now?“
Relatives said the twins had been born some four months ago, about a month into the war which began on Oct. 7, when Hamas stormed Israel, in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s offensive has killed more than 30,000 people in the Gaza Strip since then, according to Gaza health authorities, laying waste to the territory and uprooting most of its population.
The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags. A man wept over the body of one of the dead, a child wearing pyjamas. “God have mercy on her, God have mercy on her,” said another man, consoling him.
Abu Anza said she had been wishing for a ceasefire before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which begins around March 10.
US President Joe Biden has expressed hope one will be agreed by then. “We were preparing for Ramadan, how am I supposed to live my life? How?” she said.

Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

Updated 03 March 2024

Arab foreign ministers meet in Riyadh to discuss Gaza war

  • Meeting held on the sidelines of GCC ministerial session
  • Foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco discuss Gaza

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council carried its 159th ministerial session in Riyadh on Sunday, while separate meetings were held involving the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.

Joint ministerial meeting held on the sidelines between the GCC and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that what is happening in Gaza is a systematic plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Adding that "Security solutions to the conflict have brought nothing but destruction to the region, and the escalation in Gaza extended to the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab"

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Jasem Mohammed Al-Budaiwi firmly reiterated the collective stance of the GCC nations, denouncing the severe Israeli infringements of international humanitarian law in Gaza, particularly its consistent and direct targeting of civilians. Al-Budaiwi also underscored the immediate need for a ceasefire.

Al-Budaiwi also pointed out GCC rejection of any measure that would affect Egypt’s right to the Nile waters and stressed the necessity to reach an agreement on the Renaissance Dam.