Canada has announced it will grant permanent residency to families of victims of two air disasters, the Ukrainian plane shot down by Iran and the Ethiopian Flight 302.
The new policy offers Canadian residency to immediate and secondary relatives of the victims who are currently in Canada or have applied for permanent residency. A new website set up for the purpose would accept applications, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has announced.
The Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by two missiles fired by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the early morning of January 8, 2020, hours after Iran fired missiles at two US bases in Iraq. Authorities did not close the civilian airspace and then air defense units fired at the plane as it took off from Tehran. Iran has not yet given a full explanation of what led to the disaster.
Mendicino said that the granting of permanent residency to relatives of the victims will stay valid until May 2022, to demonstrate compassion and solidarity with the families in their efforts to seek justice.
Groups of families have gone to Canadian courts to demand justice, suing the Iranian government and individual officials.
Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people who died in the Ukrainian plane incident. Eighteen Canadians died in the Ethiopian plane that crashed in March 2019 near Addis Ababa killing all 157 people aboard.
UK 'Will Not Rest' Over Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Iran Detainees Minister Says
AP - London - Sept 20 - UK Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said on Monday that Britain would "not rest" until all its dual nationals being held in Iran were returned home.
He said the UK's new Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, was due to meet her Iranian counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later on Monday, and call for the immediate release of UK nationals such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
"I have no doubt that she will apply that energy to these negotiations and we will continue pushing and pushing and pushing until we get our British dual nationals home," he told British broadcaster Sky News.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, has been held Iran since 2016, on spying charges, which she has always denies.
Her husband, Richard, said he had talked with Truss on the phone on Sunday and that it was unclear how negotiations with Iran would go.
He described his wife as feeling "disorientated" with the recent UK government cabinet shuffle and that she had felt former Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, had been making some headway with her case.
He said they were still waiting for a date for an appeal over her second prison sentence.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe's is currently staying with her mother in Iran.
Iran's VP In Women's Affairs Disagrees With Limiting Child Marriage
President Ebrahim Raisi’s vice president in women’s affairs has refused to support an age limit in child marriage arguing that other factors such as mental and social growth should play a role.
Ensiyeh Kazali, known as a religious conservative, in her first press conference on Monday said that she married when she was 16 years old.
Child marriage is a controversial social and political issue in Iran, as Islamic law in essence allows girls who are nine years old to be wed, based on a tradition that prophet Mohammed married a girl who was nine years old.
Vice presidents in charge of women’s affairs have usually been more protective of women’s rights and have advocated a legal age limit for children’s marriage, but Khazali, daughter of an ayatollah, apparently follows the ideology of most Moslem clerics in Iran who do not believe marriage for girls younger that 13 should be forbidden.
She has been one of the opponents the UNESCO 2030 agenda that advocates equality in education and access for females and all social groups.
Child marriage has increased in Iran in recent years, partly linked to growing poverty. The Statistical Center of Iran reported last month that marriage of girls aged between 10-14 increased by 10.5 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, with more than 31,000 cases in one year.
Family Of Detained Rapper In Iran Concerned About His Life
Iranian dissident rapper, Toomaj Salehi, who was detained on September 13 was arrested by the intelligence ministry in Esfahan, family sources have told Iran International. They are extremely worried about the safety of the young singer.
The underground rapper was apparently arrested for his latest song distributed on social media, condemning the Islamic Republic for oppression and those whom he accuses of whitewashing its crimes.
Iran International has also learned that the singer known with his first name Toomaj is being kept in the central prison in Esfahan. His lawyer Amir Raisian was quoted by a website in Iran as saying that he does not have exact information about charges his client faces, but “unofficially his father was told he is accused of propaganda against the regime.”
In his song, “Buy a rat hole”, Toomaj without naming individuals refers to those whom he accuses of perpetrating injustice or justifying it, from regime "agents" and "executioners" to political groups such as reformists in Iran and the US-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
The Washington-based group condemned Toomaj’s arrest on September 16, after many on social media criticized indifference toward the latest crackdown on freedom of speech.
Amnesty International has also condemned the arrest in a statement issued September 17. Iran’s exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi has also slammed the arrest, saying that protest artists are reflecting public opinion in Iran in favor of a regime change.
Syrian Military Chief Makes Rare Visit To Jordan Over Border Security
Syria's defense minister visited Jordan on Sunday to discuss stability on their mutual border, the first such meeting since the Syrian conflict erupted a decade ago, officials said.
The meeting comes after Syria's army reestablished control this month over Deraa, a city south of Damascus and near Jordan’s border, in a Russian brokered deal that averted an all-out military assault.
Jordanian army head Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti met Syrian Defence Minister and Chief of Staff Ali Ayyoub over the Deraa situation and to discuss issues such as the fight against terrorism and drug smuggling in the area, Jordan's army said.
Jordan had for years supported mainstream Western-backed rebels who controlled southern Syria until a campaign by the Syrian army in 2018 aided by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias retook the province. Some insurgents remained in Deraa but left the area with Russian mediation after Iranian-backed forces began an assault in August.
Amman, with close ties to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states, remains concerned over the presence of Iranian-backed forces on its border.
Jordanian officials have accused Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement of being behind drugs smuggling in the area. The group has repeatedly denied allegations made by the West and others that it is involved in any such smuggling network.
Reporting by Reuters
New Defense Minister Says Iran Will Defend Itself Against Israeli Threats
Iran’s new defense minister General Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani has called threats made against Iran “rants by enemies” vowing that Iran will defend itself.
Ashtiani, who was speaking at a gathering of senior managers at the defense ministry on Monday referring to “rants by the leaders of the Zionist regime”, said that Iran has prepared itself against all kinds of threats.
Israeli officials have intensified their warnings over Iran’s nuclear program and its support for militant groups recently. In August, defense minister Benny Gantz issued warnings that Israel must be prepared to act against the Islamic Republic, when a tanker was attacked in July by what appeared to be Iranian drones.
Ashtiani stressed that Iran has made advancements in military technology and would ward off all threats, But the new defense chief also underlined that Iran’s military capabilities was to defend its territory against attack and did not use customary threats against Israel. He said that “the Zionist enemy” has suffered from multiple defeats at the hands of Iran and has resorted to rants.
Since early July 2020, important facilities in Iran have suffered mysterious attacks, generally believed to have been sabotage operations by Israel. Iran’s top nuclear scientist was killed in November 2020 near Tehran in a sophisticated assassination plot involving no human attackers on the ground.
Iran Says It Has Been Accepted As Full Member Of Shanghai Pact
Official government media report that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been accepted as a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Friday’s summit held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.
The government’s IRNA official news website says that President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) in his speech at the summit thanked other members of the SCO, which includes Russia, China, four former Soviet Republics of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.
IRNA also reported that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Iran in his speech.
Iran’s admittance to the SCO is just the first step to its full membership that has a long process, but the Friday’s development is treated as a big victory for Iran’s new hardliner president who fully follows policies set by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Both Raisi and Khamenei have been emphasizing that Iran should “look East” to counter its economic isolation imposed by American and to a lesser extent, European sanctions. However, without a new agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran acceding to international financial regulations set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) its isolation cannot be easily overcome.
Negotiations over the nuclear issue that started in Vienna in April came to a halt in June by Iran’s decision. Western powers have been urging Tehran to return to the talks in the past few weeks, as it continues to advance its uranium enrichment program, getting closer to accumulating enough fissile material for a bomb.
Iran's Raisi Will not Travel To NY For UNGA, Delivering Speech Via Video
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) will not travel to New York to take part in the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Tehran’s ambassador at the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi has announced.
Raisi is under US human rights sanctions and his travel to New York will be potentially a complicated issue amid suspended nuclear talks between Tehran and the West. Instead, Raisi will address the annual gathering via video link next Tuesday, the UN ambassador was quoted by the official government news website IRNA. However, Iranian government-controlled media avoid mentioning Raisi's status as a sanctioned individual.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is scheduled to travel to New York, as his first trip to the West after assuming office in August.
In the previous decade, both former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani attended the UNGA and delivered speeches in person.
Iranian Americans opposed to the Islamic Republic have appealed to the 192 UN members, President Joe Biden and the UN Secretary General to remind then that Raisi has a serious track record of human rights violations.
Farashgard, an opposition group has asked member states to leave the meeting when Raisi starts to deliver his speech.
Iran, Russia, China And Pakistan Discuss Afghanistan In Dushanbe
Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan have held talks on Afghanistan in recent days prior to and during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Iran’s foreign minister has announced.
The official IRNA news website quoted Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Friday as saying that the results of the talks will be announced in a communique later, and that the foreign ministers have confirmed the counties’ commitments to the results of the discussions.
The issue of Afghanistan and policy toward the new Taliban government dominates the 21st summit of SCO that will conclude on Friday. Iran also hopes its membership will be accepted in the organization where Tehran is currently an observer.
Amir-Abdollahian also met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the summit. IRNA says the Iranian foreign minister emphasized cooperation and mutual understanding between Moscow and Tehran specially on Afghanistan. Lavrov invited Amor-Abdollahian to visit Moscow and hold further talks.
Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi is participating in the summit with the official invitation of Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon.
Iran Calls IAEA 'Unprofessional' Before Upcoming Talks
Iran on Thursday dismissed the UN nuclear watchdog's work as "unprofessional" and "unfair" shortly before the two sides are due to hold talks aimed at resolving a standoff over the origin of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in Iran.
The issue is a thorn in the side of both Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the particles suggest Iran once had undeclared nuclear material at three different locations, but the IAEA has yet to obtain satisfactory answers from Iran on how the material got there or where it went.
"The statement of the Agency in its report is completely unprofessional, illusory and unfair," Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement to a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors.
Gharibabadi was referring to a passage in an IAEA report last week that said the lack of progress was seriously affecting the IAEA's ability to determine that Iran's program is entirely peaceful, as Tehran says it is.
Failure to resolve the issue complicates efforts to restart talks aimed at bringing the United States and Iran fully back into the fold of the 2015 nuclear deal, since Washington and its allies continue to pressure Iran to give the IAEA answers.
Having obtained concessions last weekend from Iran on another issue, keeping some monitoring equipment running, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi is due to meet Iranian nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami in Vienna next week for talks on the particles.
Reporting by Reuters
Nine Iranian Kurdish Refugees Face Peril After Deportation To Syria
Reports received by Iran International say nine Iranian Kurdish refugees who were deported from Turkey to a rebel-held area in Syria three weeks ago are facing a religious trial by extremist Sunni groups.
The nine individuals were trying to get to Europe when Turkish police arrested them in Istanbul and deported to a rebel-held region in Syria. The brother of one of the refugees told Iran International that the group is being held by an armed militia opposed to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
The group first demanded $2,000 to free the nine captives but now they say they will put them on trial to determine whether they are Sunni or Shiite Moslems, the family source said. He added that the Islamic Republic’s interior ministry and other organs have no information about the refugees.
Anti-Assad groups are also Iran’s sworn enemies because of Tehran’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war since 2011. It is not clear if they are held by Arab religious extremist groups or pro-Turkish local militias.