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Iranians chant ‘death to dictator’ in biggest unrest since crushing of protests in 2009

Trump warns Tehran regime to respect freedom of speech as at least two protesters die in demonstrations

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Iranians chant ‘death to dictator’ in biggest unrest since crushing of protests in 2009” was written by Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Emma Graham-Harrison, for The Observer on Sunday 31st December 2017 09.41 UTC

Iranians took to the streets for a third day of anti-government protests in what appeared to be the biggest domestic political challenge to Tehran’s leaders since the 2009 Green movement was crushed by security forces.

At least two protesters were killed in the city of Doroud, in Iran’s western Lorestan province, as riot police opened fire to contain a group of people said to have been trying to occupy the local governor’s office. Clashes between demonstrators and anti-riot police became violent in some cities as the demonstrations spread.

The two men killed in Doroud have been identified as Hamzeh Lashni and Hossein Reshno, according to an Iranian journalist with the Voice of America’s Persian service who spoke to their families. Videos posted online showed their bodies on the ground, covered in blood. Another video showed protesters carrying their bodies to safety. At least two others were also reported to have been killed in Doroud, but this could not be independently verified.

Early on Sunday, Iran’s interior minister warned protestors that their actions will have consequences. “Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price,” Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on state television.

Elsewhere, it appeared that the security forces held people back with sporadic use of teargas. The number of people joining the protests increased as night fell, making it difficult for the authorities to target those taking part.

“Death to Khamenei” chants, calling for the demise of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, featured in many demonstrations. Videos posted on social media from Tehran and at least one other city – Abhar in Zanjan province – showed protesters taking down banners depicting him. Such chants and acts of resistance are unprecedented in a country where the supreme leader holds ultimate authority and criticising him is taboo.

There were also chants in support of the late shah. The scale of protests in the provinces appeared bigger than those witnessed in 2009, but in Tehran there have so far been fewer people on the streets than there were then.

Donald Trump had earlier used Twitter to warn the Iranian government against a crackdown as thousands of pro-government Iranians also marched in long-scheduled protests in support of the leadership. But, for the third day running, ordinary Iranians, frustrated by the feeble economy, rising inflation and lack of opportunity, defied warnings against “illegal gatherings”.

“Everyone is fed up with the situation, from the young to the old,” said Ali, who lives near the city of Rasht, where there were large protests on Friday. He asked not to be identified. “Every year thousands of students graduate, but there are no jobs for them. Fathers are also exhausted because they don’t earn enough to provide for their family.”

Students near Tehran University chanted “death to the dictator”, and clashes with security forces followed. It was not clear how many were detained in the capital on Saturday, but scores of protesters are believed to have been arrested in western Kermanshah and eastern Mashhad, the conservative second city of Iran, where the latest unrest began.

Although small-scale economic protests about failed banks or shrinking pensions are not unusual in Iran, it is uncommon for demonstrations to escalate across the country or to mix political slogans with other complaints.

“It spread very quickly in a way that nobody had really anticipated,” said Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at the University of St Andrews. “It’s the biggest demonstration since 2009. The widespread nature of it and provincial nature of it has been quite a surprise.”

He thinks the protests were originally sanctioned by hardliners seeking to undermine the country’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, but says their apparently spontaneous organisation makes it hard to predict how they will evolve.

“I think they started something and then they lost control of it; it has taken a life of its own. We have to see if it gains traction. The trouble is that there is no organisation. I don’t know what the outcome will be.”

The state broadcaster Irib covered the protests briefly and they featured on the front pages of many newspapers, unlike in 2009, when most news of protests was kept out of official media.

The Revolutionary Guard, whose Basij militia coordinated the 2009 crackdown, warned that it would “not allow the country to be hurt”. But leaders in Tehran, already facing a government in Washington hostile to them and friendly to the country’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, know they are under close scrutiny.

On Twitter, Trump wrote: “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests.”

That intervention is unlikely to go down well in Iran, where the US is widely believed to be seeking regime change. In June, the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, told the US Congress that America was working towards “support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government”.

There are already deep frustrations that unilateral US financial sanctions have made most banks wary of processing money for Iran or extending credit to its firms. The 2015 nuclear deal led to the lifting of international sanctions so that Iran could sell oil again on international markets but, without access to capital, it is struggling to unleash the growth that Rouhani and his supporters hoped would follow.

The economic problems this creates are serious. Youth unemployment stands at about 40%, more than 3 million Iranians are jobless and the prices of some basic food items, such as poultry and eggs, have recently soared by almost half.

“This has started from the bottom of the society, from the less fortunate,” Reza, a Mashhad resident, said. “This is not middle-class protesting, this is lower-class demonstrating, people of the suburbs. Many are fed up with situation.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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House Democrats Subpoena Full Mueller Report, and the Underlying Evidence

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WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee formally issued a subpoena on Friday demanding that the Justice Department hand over to Congress an unredacted version of Robert S. Mueller III’s report and all of the evidence underlying it by May 1.


The subpoena, one of the few issued thus far by House Democrats, escalates a fight with Attorney General William P. Barr over what material Congress is entitled to see from the special counsel’s nearly two-year investigation. The chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, asked for all evidence, including summaries of witness interviews and classified intelligence.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement. “Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and some of his closest associates. It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward.”

Mr. Nadler’s deadline falls a day before Mr. Barr is scheduled to testify publicly before the Judiciary Committee in what is expected to be an explosive session where Democrats plan to excoriate Mr. Barr’s handling of the report and Republicans will urge their colleagues to accept that there was no criminality and move on.

Mr. Barr released to Congress and the public a redacted copy of the more than 400-page report on Thursday. Though the redactions were less extensive than some Democrats feared, the Justice Department had blacked out sections of the report that it said contained classified material, secretive grand jury testimony or information that would affect investigations still underway.

Democrats have been threatening to issue a subpoena for weeks, and the Justice Department on Thursday sought to head off the subpoena with a pledge to share more information with Congress.

Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter that the department would allow the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the heads of their judiciary and intelligence committees, to view a fuller version of the report beginning next week. But he said even that copy would still have secretive grand jury information blacked out because of legal requirements.

Given the sensitive nature of the information, Mr. Boyd wrote, “all individuals reviewing the less-redacted version” must agree to keep the newly unredacted information confidential.

Mr. Nadler rejected the proposed accommodation as insufficient on Friday. He has repeatedly asked the Justice Department to join him in requesting that a court unseal the grand jury information, in particular, for Congress to review privately. Mr. Barr has so far rejected that request.

“I am open to working with the department to reach a reasonable accommodation for access to these materials,” he said, “however I cannot accept any proposal which leaves most of Congress in the dark, as they grapple with their duties of legislation, oversight and constitutional accountability.”

(Reporting by Washington Post)

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Health

Judge Rejects Anti-Vaxxer Lawsuit Against New York City’s Vaccine Mandate

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A state judge on Thursday rejected a lawsuit filed by anti-vaccination parents who sought to lift New York City’s new measles vaccination mandate, as parts of the metropolis continue to face an outbreak.


“A fireman need not obtain the informed consent of the owner before extinguishing a house fire,” Judge Lawrence Knipel wrote in his ruling. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion.”

Five anonymous parents in Brooklyn filed the lawsuit earlier this week against the city health department for ordering the mandatory vaccinations in parts of the borough amid a growing outbreak of the measles virus concentrated in the Williamsburg area. The lawsuit said the city’s response is “irrational,” and that the spread of the virus does not pose a clear danger to public health.

Knipel ruled that the city’s decision to require measles vaccinations during the outbreak is supported by “largely uncontroverted” evidence.

New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot issued the emergency order on April 9, requiring everyone who lives and works within four Brooklyn ZIP codes to receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine if they hadn’t already gotten it. Failure to comply with the mandate could result in misdemeanor punishments, including criminal fines or imprisonment.

The city has already issued summons to three people who refused the mandate and face $1,000 in fines.

As of Wednesday, the measles outbreak has infected at least 329 people since October, mostly children from Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, according to Barbot. Many Orthodox Jewish people believe vaccinations go against Jewish or Talmudic law, resulting in low vaccination rates for some communities.

Barbot praised the decision to dismiss the lawsuit, saying in a statement to HuffPost that it “will protect New Yorkers from a very dangerous infection with potentially fatal consequences.”

She added that officials “do not want to issue violations but will continue and hope that New Yorkers make the best choice for their families, their neighbors and their own health ― to get vaccinated.”

(Reporting by HuffPost)

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Court Rulings

Federal Appeals Court Backs California Laws To Protect Immigrants

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday kept in place three California laws intended to protect immigrants, continuing the state’s efforts to be a national leader in opposing Trump administration policies.


The court upheld lower court rulings denying the Trump administration’s request to block law enforcement from providing release dates and personal information of people in jail, as well as to throw out a law barring employers from allowing immigration officials on their premises unless the officials have a warrant.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected U.S. District Judge John Mendez’s reasoning last year for denying a portion of the third law, which requires the state to review detention facilities where immigrants are held. It ruled that the section requiring the state to review circumstances surrounding the apprehension and transfer of detainees puts an impermissible burden on the federal government.

But the appellate panel said Mendez can consider rejecting a preliminary injunction for that section on other legal grounds.

The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has repeatedly sued the Trump administration mostly over immigration and environmental decisions, said the ruling shows that states’ rights “continue to thrive.”

“We continue to prove in California that the rule of law not only stands for something but that people cannot act outside of it,” Becerra said in a statement.

California officials have said the immigration laws promote trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, while the administration argued the state is allowing dangerous criminals on the streets.

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