Monthly Archives: December 2019

Amnesty International-Iran; Bakhtiar Rahimi, from Iran’s Kurdish minority needs immediate medical attention

Amnesty International-Iran; Bakhtiar Rahimi, from Iran’s Kurdish minority needs immediate medical attention

Amnesty Urgent Action

Dear friends,

Please find attached and copied below an Urgent Action that Amnesty International issued today on detained labour rights activist Bakhtiar Rahimi, from Iran’s Kurdish minority, who was arrested on 27 November 2019 in Marivan, Kurdistan province. Bakhtiar Rahimi has serious heart and kidney conditions for which he needs daily medication. The Iranian authorities have denied him access to a lawyer and permitted him only one very brief phone call to his family since his arrest.

Attached to this email, please also find a picture of Bakhtiar Rahimi, the copyright of which is Private, and which you can use.

The Urgent Action is available on the Amnesty International website at the following link:https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/1605/2019/en/

Best wishes,
Iran team
Amnesty International

Urgent Action

Detained labor rights activist Bakhtiar Rahimi, from Iran’s Kurdish minority, was arrested on 27 November 2019 in Marivan, Kurdistan province. Bakhtiar Rahimi has serious heart and kidney conditions for which he needs daily medication. The Iranian authorities have denied him access to a lawyer and permitted him only one very brief phone call to his family since his arrest.

1) Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.​

2) Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 176.19. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.

Prosecutor General of Sanandaj Mohammad Jabbari
c/o Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN
Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28
1209 Geneva, Switzerland

H.E. Majid Takht Ravanchi
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran
622 Third Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Phone: 212 687-2020 I Fax: 212 867 7086
Email: iran@un.int
Twitter: @Iran_UN
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Dear Mr. Mohammad Jabbari,

Kurdish labor rights activist Bakhtiar Rahimi, aged 45, was arrested at his place of work in Marivan, Kurdistan province, on 27 November 2019 by security forces, and forcibly disappeared until around 11 December 2019, when he was permitted to make a very brief phone call to his family. During this call, he was able only to say that he was being held in a ministry of intelligence detention facility in Sanandaj, Kurdistan province, before the phone was cut. He has not been able to speak to them again and has been denied contact with a lawyer since his arrest.

Following his arrest, Bakhtiar Rahimi’s family visited the ministry of intelligence office in Marivan multiple times to inquire about his fate and whereabouts, but officials there refused to provide them with any information and threatened them with violence. On one occasion, officials told them they would be shot if they returned. In the weeks following his arrest, a post on a pro-government Telegram channel named Bakhtiar Rahimi among a number of individuals arrested in relation to the nationwide protests that began on 15 November 2019 and alleged that they had ties to Kurdish opposition groups and had “confessed” to harming and killing some of the people in the protests. The Iranian authorities have a track record of attempting to link Kurdish civil society activists to Kurdish opposition groups and of obtaining forced “confessions” under torture or other ill-treatment to convict individuals in unfair trials.

Bakhtiar Rahimi suffers from serious heart and kidney conditions for which he requires daily medication and the regular care and monitoring of a specialist doctor. Earlier this year, Bakhtiar Rahimi suffered a heart attack. He also requires daily medication for high blood pressure.

I call on you to release Bakhtiar Rahimi immediately and unconditionally as he has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Pending this, I ask you to ensure that he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, provided urgently with any medical care and medication he may require, and given access to his family and a lawyer of his choosing.

The US Confirms Report Citing Iran Officials as Saying 1,500 Killed in Protests

US Confirms Report Citing Iran Officials as Saying 1,500 Killed in Protests

People walk past buildings that were burned during recent protests, in Shahriar, Iran, Nov 20, 2019.
People walk past buildings that were burned during recent protests, in Shahriar, Iran, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran, Nov. 20, 2019.

WASHINGTON – The United States has confirmed a news report citing unnamed Iranian officials as saying about 1,500 people were killed in a crackdown by security forces on anti-government protests last month.

In a report published Monday, London-based Reuters said it obtained the death toll from three Iranian interior ministry officials who said the fatalities included “at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as some members of the security forces and police.”

In this picture released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali…
Special Report: Iran’s Leader Ordered Crackdown on Unrest – ‘Do Whatever it Takes to End it’
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

In a Monday tweet, the State Department quoted U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook as saying the Reuters report “underscores the urgency for the international community to punish the perpetrators and isolate the regime for the murder of 1,500 Iranian citizens.”

Department of State

@StateDept

Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook: “The @Reuters report on the massacre ordered by @khamenei_ir underscores the urgency for the international community to punish the perpetrators and isolate the regime for the murder of 1,500 Iranian citizens.” https://twitter.com/Reuters/status/1209042720095735808 

Reuters

@Reuters

About 1,500 people died during the recent unrest in Iran, government officials tell @Reuters, in the country’s deadliest unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution https://reut.rs/35TefNK 

View image on Twitter

Reuters’ death toll was much higher than the latest fatalities reported by British rights group Amnesty International, which said in Dec. 16 statement that it documented the killings of at least 304 demonstrators by Iranian security forces in days of unrest that erupted on Nov. 15.

Hook’s reference to the “murder of 1,500 Iranian citizens” also marked a substantial increase in the Trump administration’s assessment of the number of people killed in Iran’s crackdown.

In a Dec. 5 briefing to reporters, Hook said it appeared that the Iranian government  “could have murdered over a thousand Iranian citizens since the protests began.”

Riot police try to disperse protesters as they rally on a highway against increased fuel prices, in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 16, 2019.
US Official: Iran Protest Deaths May Have Topped 1,000
Deadly protests erupted last month after government boosted fuel prices by as much as 300%

Iranian State-approved news agency Tasnim quoted an official at the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) as saying the Reuters report referencing the deaths of 1,500 people was “fake news.”

“These claims are based on premeditated psychological warfare and lack credibility,” Alireza Zarifian Yeganeh said, echoing previous Iranian dismissals of Western reports about fatalities in the protests.

But Iran has declined to try to prove the Western reports wrong by releasing its own figures for those killed, wounded and arrested in the crackdown on the protests.

Iranian authorities sparked the demonstrations in dozens of cities nationwide by raising the subsidized price of gasoline by 50%, further straining the finances of Iranians facing high unemployment and inflation in a shrinking economy under heavy U.S. sanctions.

In a Dec. 16 interview with VOA Persian, Amnesty’s Middle East researcher Philip Luther said he expected the group to raise its figure of 304 protesters killed due to its ongoing examination of “credible” reports showing Iranian security forces used live ammunition while suppressing the demonstrations.

Amnesty did not respond immediately to a VOA Persian request for comment on the Reuters report citing the figure of 1,500 people killed in the unrest.

Amnesty’s reported death tolls from Iran’s unrest have been widely quoted by Western news outlets, which, besides Reuters, have been unable to verify the full scale of the killings due to Iranian restrictions on their access to the country.

The rights group has said it compiles its death tolls from reports whose credibility it ascertains by interviewing and cross-checking details provided by a “range of sources inside and outside Iran, including victims’ relatives, journalists and human rights activists involved in gathering the information.”

The Reuters report also cited three sources close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a fourth official as saying Khamenei met his top officials on Nov. 17 and ordered them to “do whatever it takes” to end the protests, which had spread rapidly since beginning two days earlier.

FILE - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves during ceremony attended by Iranian clerics in Tehran, July 16, 2019.
FILE – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves during a ceremony attended by Iranian clerics in Tehran, July 16, 2019.

Reuters said its sources also quoted Khamenei as telling the assembled officials that he would “hold them responsible for the consequences of the protests” if they didn’t stop them immediately.

“That is part of the Supreme Leader’s modus operandi,” said Jason Brodsky, policy director for U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, in a VOA Persian interview. “He tends to defer to lower-level officials in order to avoid personal culpability to protect his office and his political brand.”

Brodsky cited as another example Khamenei’s criticism of Iranian Foreign Minister  Mohammad Javad Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani for perceived failings of the 2015 nuclear deal they negotiated with world powers on Khamenei’s behalf.

Regarding Hook’s call for the international community to “punish and isolate” the Iranian government for what he called the “massacre” ordered by Khamenei, Brodsky said the U.N. Security Council should consider referring the crackdown to the International Criminal Court. But he said any resolution calling for a referral could be vetoed by permanent council members Russia and China, longtime military and economic allies of Tehran.

Speaking separately to VOA Persian, Middle East analyst Michael Pregent of the Hudson Institute said the Trump administration also could do more to toughen its campaign of economic and diplomatic pressure against Iran. “Go after Khamenei’s personal assets,” he said.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies has estimated that Khamenei controls at least $200 billion of assets through three tax-exempt foundations, not directly sanctioned by the United States.

“But I’m not certain that the international community has the appetite to go after the supreme leader,” Pregent said. He cited a lack of efforts by other nations to penalize Iran for what the U.S. has said are Iranian violations of human rights and existing U.N. Security Council resolutions.
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service.

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

Iran’s leader ordered a crackdown on unrest – ‘Do whatever it takes to end it’

DECEMBER 23, 2019

(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.

That order, confirmed by three sources close to the supreme leader’s inner circle a

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 the 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 eyewitnesses.

That evening at his official residence in a fortified compound in central Tehran, Khamenei met with senior officials, including security aides, President Hassan Rouhani and members of his cabinet.

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.”

khamenehei

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.

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.”

In Isfahan, an ancient city of two million people in central Iran, the government’s vow to help low-income families with money raised from higher gas prices failed to reassure people like Behzad Ebrahimi. He said his 21-year-old nephew, Arshad Ebrahimi, was fatally shot during the crackdown.

“Initially they refused to give us the body and wanted us to bury him with others killed in the protests,” Ebrahimi said. “Eventually we buried him ourselves, but under the heavy presence of security forces.” Rights activists confirmed the events. Reuters was unable to get a comment from the government or the local governor on the specifics of the account.

Editing by Michael Georgy, Cassell Bryan-Low and Jason Szep

Source: https://reut.rs/396od0v

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