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Iran: Coronavirus Death Toll Increases to 13,000 in 231 Cities

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  • Iran: Coronavirus Death Toll Increases to 13,000 in 231 Cities

    3/29/2020

    Death toll for Coronavirus in 231 cities across Iran has risen to 13,000The number of victims in Alborz is 520, in Gilan 1,300, in Mazandaran 1,030, in Hamadan 290, in Semnan 90, in Khorasan Razavi 1070, in South Khorasan 33, and in Hormozgan 33.

    Today a spokesman for the regime’s Health Ministry announced that in the past 24 hours, 3,076 people had been infected to the virus, which is 220 percent more than a week ago today.

    Eyewitnesses in the northern city of Babol say the situation in the city and surrounding villages is catastrophic. Several people are dead in every alley and every village. No one is spared from infection. The situation in the mortuaries and cemeteries is terrible. Local authorities are not in their offices and there is no one to respond.

    The head of Khomeini hospital in Ardebil was quoted by local television station as saying, “The figures given by the Health Ministry only refer to those who’ve tested positive to the virus. But are we testing all patients? No. The hospital is full, and the medical staff are exhausted now. Nurses and doctors are exhausting themselves so much that I sometimes cry… During the past 24 hours, we have had 290 new Coronavirus patients”.

    Nevertheless, Hassan Rouhani, terrified of the prospects of popular uprisings, expressed anger about the disclosure of the scale of the disaster, saying, “Those who are spreading rumors … are close associates of Coronavirus.” Adding to his daily lies, Rouhani claimed, “Our health infrastructure is so robust that we have not only endured the pressure so far but also if the virus spread extends several weeks and reaches its peak, our hospitals, doctors, and nurses are prepared and capable of treating the patients …We are not like those countries where patients have collapsed on hospital floors”!

    However, at a conference held at the Ministry of Health, Ali Akbar Haghdoust, head of the Coronavirus’s National Epidemiology Committee, said, “The virus has been creeping and quietly circulating in several cities since early February. Given the current circumstances, it seems that we may be able to relatively control the virus in May… (Though) we have not yet reached a peak in Tehran, … I hope that there will be (hospital) beds available then so that we can manage the crisis.”

    Meanwhile, repression and censorship continue nonstop. Today, IRGC Col. Hossein Amirli, the notorious Cyber Police (FATA) deputy commander, said that 998 cases had been summoned, with 974 identified and 316 registered. He also said that 299 people had received telephone warnings and “criminal contents” had been deleted from their accounts.

    The situation of prisoners are worsening. Many prisoners have died of Coronavirus, including in Urmia, Great Tehran Penitentiary (Fashafouyeh), Ghezel Hesar, … In recent days, defenseless prisoners in Khorramabad, Aligudarz, Tabriz, and Saqqez had no choice but to rebel. A number of them managed to escape while several were shot and killed by the Revolutionary Guards. The mullahs’ judiciary has intensified its repressive measures in prisons, especially in Fashafouyeh in Tehran, and has denied prisoners fresh air.

  • Iran’s Regime Expels Doctors Without Borders That Sought to Help Coronavirus Patients

    On 22 March the official website of the MSF wrote that: “The international medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sent a 50-bed inflatable hospital and an emergency team of nine people to Isfahan, the second-worst affected province in Iran, to increase hospital capacity for treating patients critically ill from coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19.”

    However, the Iranian government demanded that Doctors Without Borders, who arrived in Isfahan with doctors, medicine and equipment, leave Iran.

    While Doctors Without Borders had announced its readiness to build a field hospital in Isfahan, Iranian Ministry of Health officials, despite the initial agreement, eventually rejected their presence in the country.

    A spokesman for Isfahan University of Medical Sciences had earlier said: “The Doctors Without Borders is building and launching a field hospital to confronting the coronavirus with a capacity of 47 beds at Amin Hospital in Isfahan metropolitan area.

    Julie Reverse MSF’s representative in Iran said: “Iran is by far the hardest-hit country in the region, and Isfahan is the second-worst affected province. We hope our assistance will relieve at least some of the pressure on the local health system.”

    Isfahan has the second-highest number of patients infected with the coronavirus after Tehran, the second-highest among provinces in the country, and is in an emergency situation.

    In this regard, Alireza Wahabzadeh, an adviser to the Minister of Health in a tweet, wrote: “While thanking Doctors Without Borders, with the implementation of the National Mobilization Plan to confronting the coronavirus and the full utilization of the Armed Forces’ therapeutic capacity, there is no need for hospital beds by external forces. And this presence is rejected.”

    The representative of Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in the Kayhan newspaper, Hossein Shariatmadari, after Khamenei’s speech against the US, protested the presence of MSF in Iran.

    The Iranian regime is preventing the presence of any foreign aid. The reality is that the numbers and the coronavirus outbreak are much worse than the regime is telling, and the regime is trying to hide it. Because from the first days this regime takes absolutely no responsibility for the outbreak and was even responsible for the outbreak. And to divert the minds of the public opinion from the regime crimes, made a fake enemy like about any other issue in the past 41 years.

  • Detailed Information on the Spread of Coronavirus in Iran

    Written 24th March 2020

    The world is dealing with Coronavirus crisis. The situation in Iran is different in many aspects. It warn that the situation is alarming, catastrophic and is getting worse by the day.

    I would like to raise four points and a few steps that should be taken.

    First: Casualty Figures

    As of yesterday afternoon, according to the information inside Iran more than 9600 Iranians have died as a result of Coronavirus. There is information on fatalities province-by-province and city-by-city, obtained from hospitals, medical centers, and physicians, and from internal reports of the Iranian authorities and entities as well as information in the public domain. Contradictory remarks by some Iranian regime officials have given away the true dimensions of the catastrophe.  The trend in Iran is accelerating and is alarming.

    Reports from Qom show that, 60 to 70 people are dying of Coronavirus every day, and mortuaries cannot accommodate them. By now more than 1300 people have been died in this province.

    In Tehran, at least 1,250 victims were buried in Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery by March 18. A large number of Coronavirus victims have been buried ostensibly under other causes. Several workers at the mortuary, including five women, who worked in sections not designated for Coronavirus victims, were infected with the virus. According to our information on 16 to 18 of March each day 310 bodies were buried in Behesht-e-Zahra. A contract to dig 10,000 new graves in the cemetery has recently been signed.

    According to our information, more than 100 officials of the regime, including senior clerics, Khamenei’s representatives, Parliament deputies, IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) commanders and senior local officials have died due to COVID-19. In many cases the regime has tried to announce a different cause for the death.

    One area of particular concern is the fate of Iranian medical staff, including doctors, and nurses, who lack the most basic needs for their own personal safety. They are taking great risks working in hospitals trying to help the victims of Coronavirus. So far, more than 100 doctors, nurses and other medical staff have lost their lives in their endeavors.

    Iran is the only country where the regime has gone out of its way to cover up the real scope of the crisis and has deployed all security forces and specifically the IRGC to punish anyone who talks about the real scope of the crisis. To prevent actual death toll from leaking, the regime’s Prosecutor General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri warned in a statement: “Any comments (regarding Coronavirus) outside the approved channels are a breach of national security and the nation’s interests.” Montazeri added that releasing Coronavirus-related statistics is “a criminal act punishable by law” with “severe consequences”. The regime has even announced that scores of people have been arrested for providing information on social media on real scope of victims.

    The IRGC’s has ordered all provincial IRGC divisions and headquarters to be present at hospitals and medical and health centers to control reporting on the number of patients infected or died due to the virus.

    Second: Reasons for spread of crisis

    The main reason for the rapid spread of Coronavirus on such a wide scale is due to the Iranian regime’s political considerations and lack of timely attempt to alert the public, coupled with their incompetence in handling the crisis. We have clear evidence that the regime was aware of the spread of the virus to Iran and that several people had died after being infected a month before, but kept it a secret. Because of the staged managed February 11 anniversary of the revolution and for the sham parliamentary elections on February 21, Khamenei explicitly prohibited them from making the announcement. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told a press conference on February 23th that while some people had recommended that the regime postpone Parliamentary elections, “but as the official in charge, I did not accept any of these (recommendations).”

    Despite repeated warnings, Mahan Air, owned by the IRGC, continued passenger flights to China until into March. Tehran’s lack of proper response and a failure to quarantine the city of Qom, the epicenter of the Coronavirus infection, has caused the spread of Covid19 to at least 16 other countries.

    Third: Regime reactions

    While other countries around the world are compensating workers and employees so that they can stay at home, Hassan Rouhani shamelessly said on March 21, “It’s the counter-revolutionaries’ conspiracy to shut down businesses and economic activity in Iran. We must not let this happen; we must all work within the framework of health protocols.” He had previously said that Iran has no plans to quarantine any cities.

    Sadly, the regime is trying to exploit the catastrophe politically and blame the crisis on other issues including the US sanctions. Yesterday, Khamenei said there is a possibility that the US may have produced the virus for Iran, this reflects the regime mortal deadlock and its fear of popular uprising. Khamenei is trying to cover up the regime’s incompetence in dealing with the virus and divert the Iranian people’s anger and hatred towards the U.S.

    In reality no one but the regime is responsible for the crisis.

    • For years, the priority of the Iranian regime has been suppressing the Iranian people, sponsoring terrorism and belligerence in the region, instead of their welfare and basic needs, such as medical facilities and hospitals.
    • Due to hoarding and mismanagement, hospitals lack basic supplies and required equipment and facilities to counter this catastrophe. Priorities in all cases are given to political considerations rather than professional medical advice. Medical facilities are exclusively controlled by the IRGC. Ordinary patients are deprived of basic needs, such as masks and disinfectant liquids; the IRGC sells them on the black market at 10 times the actual price.
    • The institutions under the control of the IRGC or Khamenei’s office possess massive assets and facilities. Even a small portion of them could pay for the costs of confronting Coronavirus, including paying salaries of workers and employees.

     Fourth: Crisis in Prisons:

    One area of concern is the situation of prisoners, in particular political prisoners. Based on scores of eyewitness reports from all major prisons in Iran, prisoners are in great danger. Their plight must be addressed immediately. Prisoners are deprived of sanitary masks and even disinfectants.

    The Prison of Great Tehran with at least 15,000 inmates is in a very dangerous situation. A number of prisoners in Ghezel-Hesar Prison, 50 Kilometers West of Tehran, which has at least 10,000 prisoners have contracted virus and some of them have died.

    In the notorious Evin prison in north Tehran, inmates infected with Coronavirus have been seen. A prisoner died due to Coronavirus. The situation in prisons is so grave that in two prisons in Khorramabad and Aligoodarz in western Iran rebelled to escape from the prisons. Scores of them were killed by the IRGC.

    Conclusion:

    • All over the world, governments are going out of their way to alleviate the suffering of the people in combating the Coronavirus and its dire consequences. Iran is the only country where the regime and the people are on two different sides. The regime’s efforts are aimed at covering up the actual figures and dealing with political consequences, namely thwarting any expression of outrage by the public against the manner in which the regime has been handling the virus. This has contributed significantly to people’s dire predicament and hardships at these difficult times.
    • The catastrophe in Iran is an immediate, pressing issue that has not been limited to the Iranian borders and has also spread the countries in the region. The international community in general and the UN Security Council in particular should compel the regime:
    • to make public all facts and figures regarding the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran and provide them to relevant international organizations in order to save the lives of the people of Iran and other countries in the region.
    • There should be immediate action to release all prisoners, particular political prisoners to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
    • All assistance to Iran should be sent and distributed directly by the international agencies. Otherwise, they will be stolen by the regime.

     

  • Iran: At least 23 children killed by security forces in November protests – new evidence

    An investigation by Amnesty International has uncovered evidence that at least 23 children were killed by Iranian security forces in the nationwide protests in November last year.

    At least 22 of the children were shot dead by Iranian security forces unlawfully firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters and bystanders, according to the findings.

    The children killed include 22 boys, aged between 12 and 17, and a girl reportedly aged between eight and 12. Details of their deaths are included in a new Amnesty International briefing, ‘They shot our children’ – Killings of minors in Iran’s November 2019 protests.

    “In recent months an increasingly gruesome picture has emerged of the extent to which Iranian security forces unlawfully used lethal force to crush last year’s nationwide protests. However, it is still devastating to learn that the number of children who fell victim to this brutality is so shockingly high,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    There must be independent and impartial investigations into these killings, and those suspected of ordering and carrying them out must be prosecuted in fair trials
    Philip Luther

    “There must be independent and impartial investigations into these killings, and those suspected of ordering and carrying them out must be prosecuted in fair trials.”

    Amnesty International has gathered evidence from videos and photographs, as well as death and burial certificates, accounts from eyewitnesses and victims’ relatives, friends and acquaintances on the ground, and information gathered from human rights activists and journalists.

    In 10 cases, Amnesty International learned from the description of injuries on the death or burial certificates it reviewed, or information from credible sources, that the deaths occurred as a result of gunshots to the head or torso – indicating that the security forces were shooting to kill.

    In two of the cases, burial certificates set out in detail the devastating impact on the children’s bodies. One cited injuries including bleeding, a crushed brain and a shattered skull. The other indicated that the cause of the death was extensive internal bleeding, and a pierced heart and lung.

    In one child’s case, there are conflicting reports on the cause of death, with one referring to fatal head injuries sustained by beatings by security forces and another referring to the firing of metal pellets at the victim’s face from a close distance.

    Twelve of the 23 deaths recorded by Amnesty International took place on 16 November, a further eight on 17 November, and three on 18 November. The protests started on 15 November.

    The 23 children are recorded as having been killed in 13 cities in six provinces across the country (Esfahan, Fars, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Tehran), reflecting the widespread nature of the bloody crackdown.

    “The fact that the vast majority of the children’s deaths took place over just two days is further evidence that Iranian security forces went on a killing spree to quash dissent at any cost,” said Philip Luther.

    “As the Iranian authorities have refused to open independent, impartial and effective investigations, it is imperative that member states of the UN Human Rights Council mandate an inquiry into the killings of protesters and bystanders, including these children, in the November protests.”

    On 25 February, Amnesty International wrote to Iran’s Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to provide him with the list of the names of the 23 children recorded as killed, along with their ages and places of death, and to seek the authorities’ comments on the circumstances of their death. As of 3 March, the organization had received no response.

    State cover-up and harassment

    Amnesty International spoke to relatives of some the children killed who described being subjected to harassment and intimidation, including surveillance and interrogations by intelligence and security officials. At least one family received veiled death threats against their surviving children, and were warned that “something horrible” would also happen to them if they spoke out.

    This corresponds with a broader issue where families of those killed in protests are being intimidated by the state from talking openly about their deaths. Most have reported being forced to sign undertakings that they would not speak to the media, and observe restrictions on how they commemorate their loved ones in order to be able to receive their bodies. In many cases, security and intelligence officials have placed the families under surveillance, and attended their funeral and memorial ceremonies in order to ensure that the restrictions are observed.

    Families of children killed also reported being forced to bury them quickly in the presence of security and intelligence officials, thereby preventing them from seeking an independent autopsy. Such conduct appears aimed at suppressing incriminating evidence.

    In general, Amnesty International’s research has found that the families of those killed in protests have been consistently excluded from autopsies undertaken by the state forensic institute and denied access to information on the circumstances of their deaths, including details of the ammunition that killed them and the weapon that fired it.

    In some cases, officials washed and prepared the bodies of victims for burial without notifying their families and then handed them the bodies, wrapped in shrouds, just minutes before the scheduled burial. Amnesty International understands that in these cases, security and intelligence officials generally sought to prevent families from pulling back the shrouds to see the bodies of their loved ones. As a result, some families say they were not able to see the impact of injuries.

    In other cases, authorities have also refused to hand over the belongings of the victims to their relatives, including their phones, raising suspicions that they worried these contained evidence of unlawful actions by the state.

    As if the loss of their loved ones was not cruel enough an experience to bear, families of children killed during the protests are facing a ruthless campaign of harassment to intimidate them from speaking out
    Philip Luther

    “As if the loss of their loved ones was not cruel enough an experience to bear, families of children killed during the protests are facing a ruthless campaign of harassment to intimidate them from speaking out,” said Philip Luther.

    “The authorities also seem to be desperate to prevent bereaved relatives finding out the full truth about the killings, and getting hold of evidence that would incriminate those responsible. This bears all the hallmarks of a state cover-up.”

    Background

    Protests erupted in Iran on 15 November 2019 following a sudden government announcement about a fuel price hike. According to credible reports compiled by Amnesty International, at least 304 people were killed and thousands injured between 15 and 18 November as authorities crushed the protests using lethal force. During and following the protests, the Iranian authorities arbitrarily detained thousands of detainees and subjected some to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment.

  • There Is No Face Mask and Disinfectant in Iran’s Capital Tehran

    By Jubin Katiraie

    • Despite the huge outbreak of coronavirus in Iran, many of disinfectant items are scarce or sold at several times the cost
    • Officials claim they are doing their best, however, signals reject
    • Face masks, disinfectant fluid, gloves, and other recommended items are scarce in Tehran
    • However, the government provided special kits for officials like the government-linked ayatollahs and MPs

    The outbreak of coronavirus in Tehran has greatly affected pharmacies and ordinary people are recommended to use several devices for prevention. However, many of the recommended items like filtering face masks, disinfectants, medical gloves, and alcohol have been scarce in the Iranian capital. In this respect, a government-linked journalist had a visit from eight Pharmacies across the city and reported what he saw in the state-run website namehnews.com.

    Publication of this report by a state-run media shows the depth of the government’s incompetence in confronting the virus. Notably, the report has been published while highest officials such as President Hassan Rouhani, the minister of health and medical education Saeed Namaki acknowledged that they are doing their best for “defeating coronavirus!”

    However, it is unclear how they make their best effort while most people are deprived of the necessary items for restricting the deadly virus? Furthermore, popular reports and photos provided on social media display that the government provided special kits for the ayatollahs, members of the parliament [Majles], while many ordinary citizens struggle to be alive. Authorities also transferred many mullahs to safe and disinfectant places, which put the health of local residents of those areas such as Zahedan, southeastern Iran, at risk.

    It is worth reminding you that namehnews.com notified that these reports will continue!

  • Iran Disqualifies Its Own Female Record Hold in Athletics

    By Jubin Katiraie

    Iran’s Athletics Federation has invalidated its record for the fastest female runner in track and field and asked Istanbul, where the tournament was being held, to declare the victory null and void.

    Farzaneh Fasihi also smashed her personal best at the 60 meters indoor Track and Field Championships, completing it in just 7.25 seconds. She previously won the World Indoor Athletics Championships entry record in Serbia Belgrade Competition with 7.29. 

    This is just the latest in a long line of misogynist actions by the government against Iranian women in sport. 

    Football 

    In Iranian women’s football, inexperienced referees who have not once worked in the Premier League are now referring the matches, according to Maryam Irandoost, the head coach of women’s national football team. 

    She said this is because experienced referees were barred from working on those matches because of their protests in November over not receiving their wages. 

    Futsal 

    While in Iranian futsal, which is similar to football, the same thing is happening, according to Saedeh Iranmanesh, the head coach of the Kerman team. She said that all the head coaches are disappointed with the inexperienced referees this season, but that because the matches aren’t televised and the officials not listening to women, the referees’ mistakes are ignored. 

    Iranmanesh, who was suspended by the disciplinary committee and given a fine of 10 million tomans for allegedly insulting and publishing false statements against a referee, argued that this would not happen to the men’s team because it is televised and men are believed. 

    This is happening even though the Iranian women’s futsal team won the Asian Championship in 2018, so one can’t claim a lack of skill or entertainment for refusing to air the matches on TV. 

    The refusal to air the team’s championship game is a political challenge for the Iranian regime and something that frustrates the women’s futsal team. 

    Watching sports 

    Meanwhile, regarding the ban on women entering stadiums to watch sport, the world’s governing body for football, FIFA, has told the Football Federation of Iran to provide relevant facilities for women to watch three upcoming soccer events in the country. 

    FIFA said Iran must: 

    • Allocate more seats to women in World Cup qualification games 
    • Allow women to enter stadiums in matches played by Iranian teams in the AFC Champions League 
    • Allow women to watch their favorite team in the national league at stadiums from June 

     

    Read More:

    Misogyny in Iran and the Role of the Women in the November Iran Protests

    Female Iranian Athletes Leave Country; Not to Return

    Iranian Women Have the Highest Suicide Rate in the Middle East

  • Women’s Rights Activists’ Sentence Upheld at Trial

     

    By Pooya Stone

    Three women’s rights activists in Iran have had their sentences for protesting the compulsory hijab upheld by an Appeals Court, which is unsurprising considering the defendants’ lawyers were not allowed in the courtroom during either trial and the court refused to receive a defence bill from the activists.

    The sentence for the women was reduced from a total of 55 years and six months to 31 years and seven months, although that is still 31 years and seven months too long.

    The verdict said that Monireh Arabshahi and her daughter Yasamin Ariany were both sentenced to nine years and seven months, while Mojgan Keshvarz was sentenced to 12 years and seven months imprisonment.

    Amir Raeesian, the defence lawyer for Arabshahi and Ariany tweeted Wednesday that his clients would challenge the verdict and demand a retrial.

    Their initial trial was held on July 31. At this time they were each sentenced to

    • Five years in prison for “assembly and collusion to act against national security”
    • One year for “disseminating propaganda against the state”
    • Ten years for “encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution”

    Keshavarz was further charged with “insulting the sanctities” and sentenced to an additional 7.5 years in prison.

    They were informed of their charges on June 26, and reported that the judge had told them that he would “make [them] suffer”.

    Their ‘crime’

    The three women were arrested in April 2019, sparking international condemnation of the Iranian government, for appearing in a video that went viral online, which showed them distributing flowers to female passengers on a metro train on International Women’s Day (March 8) without wearing the compulsory hijab.

    The trio discussed their hopes for a future Iran where all women would have the freedom to choose their own clothing, as well as other freedoms already granted to men.

    For this, they were sent to Qarchak prison and charged with the various offences above. Aryani was arrested at home on April 10, while Arabshahi was arrested the next day when she went to the Vozara detention centre in Tehran to ask about her daughter.

    Aryani was held in solitary confinement in Vozara for nine days under interrogation, to pressure her into making forced confessions about her civil activities.

    Keshavarz was arrested and beaten on April 25 by the state security forces in front of her nine-year-old daughter. Amnesty International sent a letter to Iran’s top judicial official demanding the release of the women’s rights defenders.

  • Special Report: Iran’s leader ordered crackdown on unrest – ‘Do whatever it takes to end it’

    (Reuters) – After days of protests across Iran last month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared impatient. Gathering his top security and government officials together, he issued an order: Do whatever it takes to stop them.

    That order, confirmed by three sources close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and a fourth official, set in motion the bloodiest crackdown on protesters since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

    About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15. The toll, provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials, included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as some members of the security forces and police.

    The toll of 1,500 is significantly higher than figures from international human rights groups and the United States. A Dec. 16 report by Amnesty International said the death toll was at least 304. The U.S. State Department, in a statement to Reuters, said it estimates that many hundreds of Iranians were killed, and has seen reports that number could be over 1,000.

    The figures provided to Reuters, said two of the Iranian officials who provided them, are based on information gathered from security forces, morgues, hospitals and coroner’s offices.

    The government spokesman’s office declined to comment on whether the orders came from Khamenei and on the Nov. 17 meeting. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

    In a statement Monday following publication of this article, a spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council described the death toll figure as “fake news,” according to semi-official Tasnim news agency.

    What began as scattered protests over a surprise increase in gasoline prices quickly spread into one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

    By Nov. 17, the second day, the unrest had reached the capital Tehran, with people calling for an end to the Islamic Republic and the downfall of its leaders. Protesters burned pictures of Khamenei and called for the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the toppled Shah of Iran, according to videos posted on social media and eye witnesses.

    At the meeting, described to Reuters by the three sources close to his inner circle, the 80-year-old leader, who has final say over all state matters in the country, raised his voice and expressed criticism of the handling of the unrest. He was also angered by the burning of his image and the destruction of a statue of the republic’s late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

    “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order,” the supreme leader told the group, one of the sources said.

    Khamenei said he would hold the assembled officials responsible for the consequences of the protests if they didn’t immediately stop them. Those who attended the meeting agreed the protesters aimed to bring down the regime.

    “The enemies wanted to topple the Islamic Republic and immediate reaction was needed,” one of the sources said.

    The fourth official, who was briefed on the Nov. 17 meeting, added that Khamenei made clear the demonstrations required a forceful response.

    “Our Imam,” said the official, referring to Khamenei, “only answers to God. He cares about people and the Revolution. He was very firm and said those rioters should be crushed.”

    Tehran’s clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to the regime’s opponents in exile and the country’s main foreign foes, namely the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, for stirring up unrest. Khamenei has described the unrest as the work of a “very dangerous conspiracy.”

    A Dec. 3 report on Iran’s state television confirmed that security forces had fatally shot citizens, saying “some rioters were killed in clashes.” Iran has given no official death toll and has rejected figures as “speculative.”

    FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS

    “The aim of our enemies was to endanger the existence of the Islamic Republic by igniting riots in Iran,” said the commander-in-chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps, Hossein Salami, last month, according to Iranian media.

    The Revolutionary Guards declined to comment for this report.

    Iran’s interior minister said on Nov. 27 more than 140 government sites had been set on fire along with hundreds of banks and dozens of petrol stations, while 50 bases used by security forces were also attacked, according to remarks reported by Iran’s state news agency IRNA. The minister said up to 200,000 people took part in the unrest nationwide.

    “SMELL OF GUNFIRE AND SMOKE”

    For decades, Islamic Iran has tried to expand its influence across the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq and Lebanon, by investing Tehran’s political and economic capital and backing militias. But now it faces pressure at home and abroad.

    In recent months, from the streets of Baghdad to Beirut, protesters have been voicing anger at Tehran, burning its flag and chanting anti-Iranian regime slogans. At home, the daily struggle to make ends meet has worsened since the United States reimposed sanctions after withdrawing last year from the nuclear deal that Iran negotiated with world powers in 2015.

    The protests erupted after a Nov. 15 announcement on state media that gas prices would rise by as much as 200% and the revenue would be used to help needy families.

    Within hours, hundreds of people poured into the streets in places including the northeastern city of Mashhad, the southeastern province of Kerman and the southwestern province of Khuzestan bordering Iraq, according to state media. That night, a resident of the city Ahvaz in Khuzestan described the scene by telephone to Reuters.

    “Riot police are out in force and blocking main streets,” the source said. “I heard shooting.” Videos later emerged on social media and state television showing footage of clashes in Ahvaz and elsewhere between citizens and security forces.

    The protests reached more than 100 cities and towns and turned political. Young and working-class demonstrators demanded clerical leaders step down. In many cities, a similar chant rang out: “They live like kings, people get poorer,” according to videos on social media and witnesses.

    By Nov. 18 in Tehran, riot police appeared to be randomly shooting at protesters in the street “with the smell of gunfire and smoke everywhere,” said a female Tehran resident reached by telephone. People were falling down and shouting, she added, while others sought refuge in houses and shops.

    The mother of a 16-year-old boy described holding his body, drenched in blood, after he was shot during protests in a western Iranian town on Nov. 19. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she described the scene in a telephone interview.

    “I heard people saying: ‘He is shot, he is shot,’” said the mother. “I ran toward the crowd and saw my son, but half of his head was shot off.” She said she urged her son, whose first name was Amirhossein, not to join the protests, but he didn’t listen.

    Iranian authorities deployed lethal force at a far quicker pace from the start than in other protests in recent years, according to activists and details revealed by authorities. In 2009, when millions protested against the disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an estimated 72 people were killed. And when Iran faced waves of protests over economic hardships in 2017 and 2018, the death toll was about 20 people, officials said.

    Khamenei, who has ruled Iran for three decades, turned to his elite forces to put down the recent unrest — the Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij religious militia.

    A senior member of the Revolutionary Guards in western Kermanshah province said the provincial governor handed down instructions at a late-night emergency meeting at his office on Nov. 18.

    “We had orders from top officials in Tehran to end the protests, the Guards member said, recounting the governor’s talk. “No more mercy. They are aiming to topple the Islamic Republic. But we will eradicate them.” The governor’s office declined to comment.

    As security forces fanned out across the country, security advisors briefed Khamenei on the scale of the unrest, according to the three sources familiar with the talks at his compound.

    The interior minister presented the number of casualties and arrests. The intelligence minister and head of the Revolutionary Guards focused on the role of opposition groups. When asked about the interior and intelligence minister’s role in the meeting, the government spokesman’s office declined to comment.

    Khamenei, the three sources said, was especially concerned with anger in small working-class towns, whose lower-income voters have been a pillar of support for the Islamic Republic. Their votes will count in February parliamentary elections, a litmus test of the clerical rulers’ popularity since U.S. President Donald Trump exited Iran’s nuclear deal — a step that has led to an 80% collapse in Iran’s oil exports since last year.

    Slideshow (8 Images)

    Squeezed by sanctions, Khamenei has few resources to tackle high inflation and unemployment. According to official figures, the unemployment rate is around 12.5% overall. But it is about double that for Iran’s millions of young people, who accuse the establishment of economic mismanagement and corruption. Khamenei and other officials have called on the judiciary to step up its fight against corruption.

    “BLOOD ON THE STREETS”

    Officials in four provinces said the message was clear — failure to stamp out the unrest would encourage people to protest in the future.

    A local official in Karaj, a working-class city near the capital, said there were orders to use whatever force was necessary to end the protests immediately. “Orders came from Tehran,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Push them back to their homes, even by shooting them.” Local government officials declined to comment.

    Residents of Karaj said they came under fire from rooftops as Revolutionary Guards and police on motorcycles brandished machine guns. “There was blood everywhere. Blood on the streets,” said one resident by telephone. Reuters could not independently verify that account.

    In Mahshahr county, in the strategically important Khuzestan province in southwest Iran, Revolutionary Guards in armored vehicles and tanks sought to contain the demonstrations. State TV said security forces opened fire on “rioters” hiding in the marshes. Rights groups said they believe Mahshahr had one of the highest protest death tolls in Iran, based on what they heard from locals.

    “The next day when we went there, the area was full of bodies of protesters, mainly young people. The Guards did not let us take the bodies,” the local official said, estimating that “dozens” were killed.

    The U.S. State Department has said it has received videos of the Revolutionary Guards opening fire without warning on protesters in Mahshahr. And that when protesters fled to nearby marshlands, the Guards pursued them and surrounded them with machine guns mounted on trucks, spraying the protesters with bullets and killing at least 100 Iranians.

    Iran’s authorities dispute the U.S. account. Iranian officials have said security forces in Mahshahr confronted “rioters” who they described as a security threat to petrochemical complexes and to a key energy route that, if blocked, would have created a crisis in the country.

    A security official told Reuters that the reports about Mahshahr are “exaggerated and not true” and that security forces were defending “people and the country’s energy facilities in the city from sabotage by enemies and rioters.”

  • US House of Reps Passes Resolution Condemning Iranian Government

    By Pooya Stone

    On Monday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution to condemn the Iranian government for its crackdown on peaceful protests and support the rights of the Iranian people to freedom of expression.

    The resolution, sponsored by Theodore Deutch (D-Fl), noted that the recent Iran uprising began over a sudden hike in the price of fuel and quickly became a call for regime change. This was “the most significant anti government protests in Iran since June 2009” and the authorities cracked down violently on the protesters arresting 12,000 and killing 1,000, even shutting down the internet to prevent news of the protests and the crackdown from spreading.

    The resolution said: “Reports indicate that Iranian Government authorities have, in many instances, refused to return victims’ bodies to their families and that security forces have removed bodies from morgues and transferred them to unknown locations.”

    It quoted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had said on November 18: “The United States is monitoring the ongoing protests in Iran closely. We condemn strongly any acts of violence committed by this regime against the Iranian people and are deeply concerned about reports of several fatalities… The Islamic Republic must cease violence against its own people and should immediately restore the ability of all Iranians to access the free and open internet.”

    It was resolved that the House of Representatives stands with the Iranian people, who are engaged in legitimate and peaceful protests against an oppressive and corrupt government. It further said that the House condemns the Iranian government’s human rights abuses against the Iranian people, as well as significant corruption, and destabilizing activities abroad.

    The resolution commended the executive branch and key allies for their statements in support of the protesters and called on all democratic governments and institutions to support the Iranian people. It also urged the Administration to:

    • convene emergency sessions of the United Nations Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian authorities
    • establish a mechanism by which the Security Council can monitor such violations
    • expedite the license of communications technology to Iran to improve the ability of the Iranian people to speak freely
    • work with the international community to ensure that violations of human rights are part of all formal and informal multilateral or bilateral discussions with and regarding Iran

    The resolution said the House “respects the proud history and rich culture of the Iranian nation and fully supports efforts by the people of Iran to promote the establishment of basic freedoms that build the foundation for the emergence of a freely elected, open, and democratic political system”.

  • With Brutal Crackdown, Iran Convulsed by Worst Unrest in 40 Years

    The New York Times – By Carlos Christian

    December 3, 2019

    Iran is experiencing its deadliest political unrest for the reason that Islamic Revolution 40 years in the past, with no less than 180 individuals killed — and presumably a whole lot extra — as indignant protests have been smothered in a authorities crackdown of unbridled pressure.

    It started two weeks in the past with an abrupt enhance of no less than 50% in gasoline costs. Inside 72 hours, outraged demonstrators in cities giant and small have been calling for an finish to the Islamic Republic’s authorities and the downfall of its leaders.

    In lots of locations, safety forces responded by opening fireplace on unarmed protesters, largely unemployed or low-income younger males between the ages of 19 and 26, in response to witness accounts and movies. Within the southwest metropolis of Mahshahr alone, witnesses and medical personnel mentioned, Revolutionary Guard members surrounded, shot and killed 40 to 100 demonstrators — principally unarmed younger males — in a marsh the place they’d sought refuge.

    “The current use of deadly pressure in opposition to individuals all through the nation is unprecedented, even for the Islamic Republic and its document of violence,” mentioned Omid Memarian, deputy director on the Middle for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based group.

    Altogether, between 180 to 450 individuals — presumably extra — have been killed in 4 days of intense violence after the gasoline value enhance was introduced Nov. 15, with no less than 2,000 wounded and seven,000 detained, in response to worldwide rights organizations, opposition teams and native journalists.

    The final huge wave of protests in Iran — in 2009, after a contested election, which was additionally met with a lethal crackdown — left 72 individuals lifeless over a for much longer interval of about 10 months.

    Solely now, almost two weeks after the protests have been crushed — and largely obscured by an web blackout within the nation that was lifted lately — have particulars corroborating the scope of killings and destruction began to dribble out.

    The newest outbursts not solely revealed staggering ranges of frustration with Iran’s leaders but additionally underscored the intense financial and political challenges dealing with them, from the Trump administration’s onerous sanctions on the nation to the rising resentment towards Iran by neighbors in an more and more unstable Center East.

    The gasoline value enhance, which was introduced as most Iranians had gone to mattress, got here as Iran struggles to fill a yawning finances hole. The Trump administration sanctions, most notably their tight restrictions on exports of Iran’s oil, are an enormous cause for the shortfall. The sanctions are supposed to stress Iran into renegotiating the 2015 nuclear settlement between Iran and main world powers, which President Donald Trump deserted, calling it too weak.

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    A lot of the nationwide unrest appeared concentrated in neighborhoods and cities populated by low-income and working-class households, suggesting this was an rebellion born within the traditionally loyal energy base of Iran’s post-revolutionary hierarchy.

    Many Iranians, stupefied and embittered, have directed their hostility immediately on the supreme chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who known as the crackdown a justified response to a plot by Iran’s enemies at house and overseas.

    The killings prompted a provocative warning from Mir Hossein Mousavi, an opposition chief and former presidential candidate whose 2009 election loss set off peaceable demonstrations that Khamenei additionally suppressed by pressure.

    In a press release posted Saturday on an opposition web site, Mousavi, who has been below home arrest since 2011 and rarely speaks publicly, blamed the supreme chief for the killings. He in contrast them to an notorious 1978 bloodbath by authorities forces that led to the downfall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi a yr later by the hands of Islamic revolutionaries who now rule the nation.

    “The killers of the yr 1978 have been the representatives of a nonreligious regime, and the brokers and shooters of November 2019 are the representatives of a spiritual authorities,” he mentioned. “Then the commander in chief was the shah and at the moment, right here, the supreme chief with absolute authority.”

    Authorities have declined to specify casualties and arrests and have denounced unofficial figures on the nationwide dying toll as speculative. However the nation’s inside minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, has cited widespread unrest across the nation.

    On state media, he mentioned that protests had erupted in 29 out of 31 provinces and 50 navy bases had been attacked — which, if true, suggests a stage of coordination absent within the earlier protests. The property injury additionally included 731 banks, 140 public areas, 9 spiritual facilities, 70 gasoline stations, 307 automobiles, 183 police vehicles, 1,076 bikes and 34 ambulances, the inside minister mentioned. Iran’s official media have reported that a number of members of the safety forces have been killed and injured throughout the clashes.

    The worst violence documented to date occurred within the metropolis of Mahshahr and its suburbs, with a inhabitants of 120,000 individuals in Iran’s southwest Khuzestan province — a area with an ethnic Arab majority that has a protracted historical past of unrest and opposition to the central authorities. Mahshahr is adjoining to the nation’s largest industrial petrochemical complicated and serves as a gateway to Bandar Imam, a significant port.

    The New York Occasions interviewed six residents of the town, together with a protest chief who had witnessed the violence; a reporter based mostly within the metropolis who works for Iranian media and had investigated the violence however was banned from reporting it; and a nurse on the hospital the place casualties have been handled.

    They every offered comparable accounts of how the Revolutionary Guard deployed a big pressure to Mahshahr on Monday, Nov. 18, to crush the protests. All spoke on situation of anonymity for worry of retribution by the Guard.

    For 3 days, in response to these residents, protesters had efficiently gained management of most of Mahshahr and its suburbs, blocking the principle street to the town and the adjoining industrial petrochemical complicated. Iran’s inside minister confirmed that protesters had gained management over Mahshahr and its roads in a televised interview final week, however the Iranian authorities didn’t reply to particular questions in current days concerning the mass killings within the metropolis.

    Native safety forces and riot cops had tried to disperse the group and open the roads however failed, residents mentioned. A number of clashes between protesters and safety forces erupted between Saturday night and Monday morning earlier than Guard members have been dispatched there.

    When the Guard arrived close to the doorway to a suburb, Shahrak Chamran, populated by low-income members of Iran’s ethnic Arab minority, they instantly shot with out warning at dozens of males blocking the intersection, killing a number of on the spot, in response to the residents interviewed by cellphone.

    The residents mentioned the opposite protesters scrambled to a close-by marsh and that certainly one of them, apparently armed with an AK-47, fired again. The Guard instantly encircled the lads and responded with machine-gun fireplace, killing as many as 100 individuals, the residents mentioned.

    The Guard piled the lifeless onto the again of a truck and departed, the residents mentioned, and kinfolk of the wounded then transported them to Memko Hospital.

    One of many residents, a 24-year-old unemployed school graduate in chemistry who had helped arrange the protests blocking the roads, mentioned he had been lower than 1 mile away from the mass capturing and that his greatest buddy, additionally 24, and a 32-year-old cousin have been among the many lifeless.

    He mentioned they each had been shot within the chest and their our bodies have been returned to the households 5 days later, solely after they’d signed paperwork promising to not maintain funerals or memorial companies and to not give interviews to media.

    The younger protest organizer mentioned he, too, was shot within the ribs Nov. 19, the day after the mass capturing, when the Guard stormed with tanks into his neighborhood, Shahrak Taleghani, among the many poorest suburbs of Mahshahr.

    He mentioned a gunbattle erupted for hours between the Guard and ethnic Arab residents, who historically hold weapons for searching at house. Iranian state media and witnesses reported {that a} senior Guard commander had been killed in a Mahshahr conflict. Video on Twitter suggests tanks had been deployed there.

    A 32-year-old nurse in Mahshahr reached by cellphone mentioned she had tended to the wounded on the hospital and that the majority had sustained gunshot wounds to the pinnacle and chest.

    She described chaotic scenes on the hospital, with households speeding to usher in the casualties, together with a 21-year-old who was to be married however couldn’t be saved. “‘Give me again my son!’” the nurse quoted his sobbing mom as saying. “‘It’s his marriage ceremony in two weeks!’”

    The nurse mentioned safety forces stationed on the hospital arrested among the wounded protesters after their situations had stabilized. She mentioned some kinfolk, fearing arrest themselves, dropped wounded family members on the hospital and fled, overlaying their faces.

    On Nov. 25, per week after it occurred, the town’s consultant in parliament, Mohamad Golmordai, vented outrage in a blunt second of searing anti-government criticism that was broadcast on Iranian state tv and captured in images and movies uploaded to the web.

    “What have you ever performed that the undignified Shah didn’t do?” Golmordai screamed from the parliament ground as a scuffle broke out between him and different lawmakers, together with one who grabbed him by the throat.

    The native reporter in Mahshahr mentioned the full variety of individuals killed in three days of unrest within the space had reached 130, together with these killed within the marsh.

    In different cities corresponding to Shiraz and Shahriar, dozens have been reported killed within the unrest by safety forces who fired on unarmed protesters, in response to rights teams and movies posted by witnesses.

    “This regime has pushed individuals towards violence,” mentioned Yousef Alsarkhi, 29, a political activist from Khuzestan who migrated to the Netherlands 4 years in the past. “The extra they repress, the extra aggressive and indignant individuals get.”

    Political analysts mentioned the protests appeared to have delivered a extreme blow to President Hassan Rouhani, a relative average in Iran’s political spectrum, all however guaranteeing that hard-liners would win upcoming parliamentary elections and the presidency in two years.

    The robust response to the protests additionally appeared to sign a hardening rift between Iran’s leaders and sizable segments of the inhabitants of 83 million.

    “The federal government’s response was uncompromising, brutal and speedy,” mentioned Henry Rome, an Iran analyst on the Eurasia Group, a political danger consultancy in Washington. Nonetheless, he mentioned, the protests additionally had “demonstrated that many Iranians usually are not afraid to take to the streets.”