This article titled “Thousands of Iranians join counter-protests after week of unrest” was written by Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Wednesday 3rd January 2018 12.47 UTC
Thousands of pro-government counter-protesters have taken to the streets of Iranian cities after nearly a week of unrest.
Footage broadcast on national television and images published by state news agencies showed a high turnout in pro-establishment rallies, in cities that have seen turbulent scenes since Iran’s biggest demonstrations in nearly a decade began on 28 December.
State television aired a rally from Ahwaz, the capital of Khouzesan province, which showed thousands of people marching on a long bridge connecting two parts of the city, while holding up pro-regime placards and chanting in support of the establishment.
It broadcast similar footage from Ilam, also in the west of the country, as well as from Arak, in the centre of Iran.
The semi-official Fars news agency, affiliated to the elite Revolutionary Guards, forces involved in the crackdown on protesters, described the rallies as “the revolutionary outburst of Iranian people against lawbreakers”.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday it had deployed forces to three provinces – Isfahan, Lorestan and Hamadan, where most of the casualties have occurred – but claimed the anti-government protests were over.
“Today we can announce the end of the sedition,” said Mohammad Ali Jafari. “A large number of the trouble-makers … have been arrested and there will be firm action against them.”
During violent clashes between protesters and the security guards, in a week of demonstrations that has seen both sides becoming increasingly confrontational, at least 21 people have lost their lives – mostly protesters but also some security guards, according to officials.
Iranian authorities have claimed that the protests, which began over economic grievances before taking a political turn, have been hijacked by the country’s foreign enemies. The theory has also been repeated by some figures within the reformist camp, who are critical of Iran’s rulers but wary of regime change.
Anti-government protests continued for a sixth consecutive day in provincial cities on Tuesday evening, whilst Tehran was relatively calmer, with a heavy presence of riot police.
Mohammad, a protester from Karaj, a city just west of the capital Tehran, told the Guardian that the protesters had clashed with the security guards in its Gohardasht neighbourhood on Tuesday evening.
“A lot of basij militia used electric shockers to confront protesters, and arrest them – I saw them filling at least six buses full of those detained,” he said. The protester claimed the security guards also damaged public properties to find a pretext to step up their crackdown. This could not be independently verified – the authorities have made similar accusations against protesters.
“People are fed up with unemployment and being poor. There is no job security,” he added. “The protesters don’t have a leader, it’s a leaderless movement, and I call it the movement of the hungry, the starved people.”
Milad, from Shahinshahr, a city in the province of Isfahan, which has seen violent clashes in recent days, said people were unhappy with the way the city was run. “There’s a deficit in the city’s budget because of mismanagement and the authorities have instead cut down public salaries,” he said.
It is not possible to compare the size of the crowds at the anti-government protests with the counter-demonstrations approved by Tehran. No independent journalists are permitted to film the anti-government protests, while Iranian authorities have on similar occasions bussed in supporters.
Major European countries have resisted pressure from the US president, Donald Trump, to sign a joint statement condemning the Islamic Republic, but have instead issued separate statements warning the Iranian government to allow peaceful protests and not resort to mass arrests.
Iran’s mission to the UN has accused the US ambassador, Nikki Haley, of shedding “crocodile tears” for the Iranian people.
EU states are concerned that Trump is trying to use the demonstrations as a vehicle to place further pressure on the EU to abandon its support for the Iran nuclear deal signed by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama in 2015.
The EU remains convinced Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal, but continued US-imposed sanctions, mainly on banks, are making it hard for Iran to gain the expected economic benefits from the deal. Trump is eager to see the deal abandoned, and sees the protests as a means of resisting what Washington sees as Iranian expansionism in the Middle East.
Trump on Wednesday pledged support for Iranians trying to “take back” their government. “You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” he said, without offering any specifics on what or when that might be.
Nevertheless, faced by reports that more than 400 protesters have been arrested, European leaders have become more vocal in their criticisms. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, on Tuesday and called for restraint, his office said.
Macron also decided to postpone this week’s planned visit to Tehran by the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, which was intended as a precursor to a visit by Macron himself.
Macron’s office said the French leader underscored that “fundamental rights including freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate must be respected”.
Rouhani in turn asked Macron to take action against a Paris-based Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran, PMOI), which he accused of fomenting the recent protests.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Trump Says He’ll Make a ‘Major Announcement’ Saturday Afternoon About Shutdown, Border
Trump Administration Separated Thousands More Migrants Than Previously Known
The Trump Administration separated thousands more migrant kids from their families at the border than it previously acknowledged, and the separations started months before the policy was announced, according to a federal audit released Thursday morning.
“More children over a longer period of time” were separated at the border than commonly known, an investigator with the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general’s office told reporters Thursday morning.
“How many more children were separated is unknown, by us and HHS” because of failures to track families as they were being separated, he said.
HHS officials involved in caring for the separated children and reunifying families estimated “thousands” of additional children are separated at the border, the inspector general said.
The report sheds new light on the Trump administration’s efforts to deter border crossings by separating migrant families. House Democrats who’ve condemned the separations as inhumane have vowed to investigate the administration’s handling of the policy and its health effects on separated children, and the inspector general said additional investigations are in the works.
The inspector general report said some family separations continued, even after President Donald Trump in June 2018 ended the policy amid uproar and a federal court ordered his administration to reunify the families. The June 2018 court order called on the administration to reunify about 2,500 separated children in government custody. Most of those families were reunited within 30 days.
However, HHS received at least 118 separated children between July and early November, according to the report. DHS provided “limited” information about the reason for those separations. In slightly more than half of those cases, border officials cited the parent’s criminal history as a reason to separate the families, although they did not always provide details. The court order requiring reunifications said family separations should only occur if border officials could specify when parents posed possible dangers to children or were otherwise unfit to care for them, the inspector general noted.
Federal investigators said they had no details about how many of the “thousands of separated children” who entered the care of HHS before the June 2018 court order had been reunited.
“We have no information about the status of the children who were released prior to the court order,” Maxwell told reporters. [POLITICO]
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