The state-owned Iran newspaper reported the death of a 63 years old woman suspected of coronavirus, which would make it the first coronavirus related death in Iran.
Health Ministry officials had previously denied any cases of coronavirus in Iran.
In recent days, the media have reported several suspected cases of coronavirus in several cities including Yazd, Tehran, Qom, Tabriz, Mashhad, and Zanjan, but this is the first death reported.
Attorney Of Abducted Iranian Activist Says Ayatollah Sistani's Office Might Be Infiltrated
The France-based defense attorney of an Iranian dissident abducted by Islamic Republic security forces last year and taken back to Iran has said that it is possible Revolutionary Guards have infiltrated Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s office in Iraq.
Ruhollah Zam who was an anti-regime publicist before his abduction, traveled from France to Iraq a year ago apparently by the encouragement of someone in Sistani’s office and was abducted and taken across the border to Iran. He has been tried behind closed doors and sentenced to death.
His lawyer Hassan Fereshtian told Radio Zamaneh, a Persian-language radio station in Holland that in some form or shape it is possible that IRGC elements have infiltrated Sistani’s office, adding, “There is some evidence confirming” this possibility.
Fereshtian said he does not know the name of the individual who contacted Zam and invited him to Iraq.
The Islamic Republic is known for having a substantial network of operatives in neighboring countries and in Europe, where many opponents have been assassinated since the 1980s.
Zam’s attorney also indicated that his client told him about his impending trip to Iraq and mentioned that he might launch a new Persian-language television station with the assistance of Sistani. Other people close to Zam have said that contacting Zam on behalf of the respected senior cleric in Iraq was an elaborate trap to lure him into the country where it was easy for Iranian agents to abduct him and take him to Iran.
Iranian Parents Say Schools Pressuring Girls To Wear Hijab In Online Classes
Parents in Iran have expressed concern about schools pressuring girls to wear hijab in the photos they use on their social messaging profiles such as WhatsApp, now widely used for educational groups due to coronavirus pandemic.
Girls are also required to wear the headscarf even when participating in online classes from their homes where hijab rules do not apply in the absence of non-family men.
The Ministry of Education has been holding online classes for students where physical presence in classes is deemed dangerous. To establish and maintain contact with students and their families many schools have created groups in social messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. Education Ministry officials say only 10 percent of students actually show up in schools and the rest only participate in online classes.
According to parents who have posted on social media platforms, school authorities and teachers have given warnings to students whose profile pictures did not conform with the Islamic dress code enforced by the state. Some parents in social media posts have said that the children were threatened with losing points in discipline grades if their profile photos did not show them wearing a headscarf. Some mothers have also been contacted about their own profile photos.
Many Iranian women abide by the dress code in public but at other times often flout the rules and do not wear the compulsory hijab in their social media and social messaging profile photos.
Iran General Threatens UAE, Bahrain If Ties With Israel Harm Its Security
Iran will deal with countries that normalize relations with Israel as enemies if its national security is harmed, General Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s military said on Saturday.
Speaking in a television program, Bagheri named the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other countries that might establish ties with Iran’s chief regional adversary.
He emphasized that if Israel establishes a presence in the region and “incidents take place which cause the slightest harm to our national security, we will consider the Emirates, Bahrain and whoever else normalizes ties with Israel as providers of bases to the enemy…and we will deal with them as we deal with the enemy”.
Iran reacted with disdain and anger to the decision of its Gulf Arab neighbors to normalize relations with Israel. Several officials have made similar threats since August when the UAE announced its decision to establish relations with Israel.
Bagheri also said that Iran regarded relations with the UAE “optimistically” in recent years even though the Arab state had gone along with enforcing US sanctions against Iran. “But they revealed their ties with Israel and our attitude toward the UAE and Bahrain has changed,” he added.
Emirati officials in turn have said that Iran's threatening foreign policy was a major reason why they decided to normalize ties with Israel.
Iran has been fully supporting Yemen's Houthis against Suadi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Iran Security Official Tells Baghdad's Top Diplomat The US Should Leave Iraq
Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani has called for the immediate exit of the United States from Iraq during a meeting with visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein.
Shamkhani told his guest that for the “state terror of General Qassem Soleimani” by the United States in Baghdad in January, the minimum punishment should be its immediate exit from the region and particularly from Iraq.
The visit of the Iraq’s chief diplomat to Tehran comes amid tensions between Washington and the Iraqi government over continuing rocket attacks by Iran-backed hardliner Iraqi Shiite militia on US interests. Iraqi officials have told AFP that the “Americans are very, very, very angry”, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned the Iraqi government to act immediately to stop the attacks.
Fouad Hussein has also met Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani, discussing border security issues and bilateral trade. Iran sells electricity and natural gas to Iraq, which has so far failed to upgrade its power generation and manage its own natural gas for domestic use.
The United States has allowed Iraq to engage in energy imports from its neighbor despite blanket US sanctions for other countries to buy oil and gas from Iran. But this month, Washington renewed its exemption just for a two-month period, seen as a warning to Baghdad to find a substitute.
The Iraqi electricity ministry spokesman on Friday told the state news agency that sufficient production capacity will be added soon that can compensate for imports from Iran.
Iraq's foreign minister has been highlighting the need for cooperation with Iraq, publically side stepping the issue of ties with the United States.
Former Lawmaker Says Anti-Viral Medication Went To 'Rulers' In Iran, Not The People
A former member of parliament in Iran says 20,000 anti-viral influenza pills “secretly” imported from China this year were used to treat government officials, instead of giving priority to citizens.
Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reform camp politician who was an outspoken critic of Islamic Republic officials in recent years and was not allowed to run for a seat again this year, says the anti-viral drug Favipiravir was not used to treat ordinary citizens and this shows that despite official slogans, “the rulers” have all the perks.
Sadeghi who was speaking to ILNA news website on September 27 added, “The medication was supposed to be used in clinical trials in hospitals for domestic production, but unfortunately it is not clear what happened to it.” He did not offer any concrete evidence for his accusation.
The consignment of Favipiravir tablets was brought from China sometime in early spring, Sadeghi said, when many officials and lawmakers were infected with the coronavirus and several died.
Earlier, Iran’s food and drug agency had announced that the medicine was listed to be handed over to hospitals.
Rumors about Favipiravir being used by government officials first surfaced in late March and a top health official, Iraj Hariirchi reacted to the accusations saying, “Health Ministry’s track record shows our top priority is the people and the poor. Even if someone wants to cheat, it will be exposed.”
However, Sadeghi told ILNA that as recently as last week it became clear that 1,500 doses of a newly imported influenza vaccine were first sent to parliament.
After a big public reaction to the news it was announced that parliament had returned the vaccine doses to the health ministry.
More Loans For Lawmakers In Iran Lead To Controversy
More loans paid to members of Iran’s parliament (Majles) have led to further controversy after earlier payments led to public outcry amid an economic crisis and dwindling purchasing power of ordinary citizens.
Islamic Republic’s Tasnim News Agency reported that aside from the 2 billion rials (approximately $8,000) that was given to members of parliament to help rent houses in Tehran and loans to buy pricey cars, they have also received a loan of 3 billion rials (around 12,000).
According to Tasnim, some members of parliament had complained about the high price of rent in Tehran, therefore the parliament paid these MPs 3 billion rials as loan.
The news comes days after the announcement that a new car valued at over 3 billion rials will be delivered to members of parliament. The news drew heavy criticism from the public.
With these payments and the vehicle loan that the members of parliament received this month, the parliament has paid each of these members 8.02 billion rials (app. $30,000), which is an astronomical amount in Iran considering that the poverty line is at 25 million rials of income monthly.
The parliament has repeatedly said that its members will pay back these loans with their own salary. But the problem that Tasnim and many others have pointed out is that the payment for these loans add up to over 178 million rials a month, while the salary of the members of parliament is 116 million rials a month.
The news of these loans and the delivery of cars under the market price has received heavy backlash online and even from some of the regime’s supporters in media.
On Thursday, it was reported that 1,500 vaccines were delivered to the parliament, while the Ministry of Health had announced that “ordinary people” will not be the first to receive the coronavirus vaccines.
Iran Reformist Leader Karroubi In Hospital For Broken Vertebra
Speaking to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Saturday [26 February], the son of 83-year-old reformist leader Mehdi Karroubi said his father has been taken to hospital last Sunday for an operation for a broken vertebra.
According to Hossein Karroubi, his father damaged the bone when he fell in the shower. “This is the seventh time my father has an operation in the past ten years and the fourth time in two months that he fell and injured himself,” Hossein Karroubi said.
Karroubi was put under house arrest along with Mir-Hossein Mousavi - like Karroubi a defeated reformist candidate in the disputed 2009 presidential election -on February 14, 2011 after both called for demonstrations in Iran in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
According to Karroubi’s sons, security officers have recently relaxed their restrictions and allowed him to meet with friends and associates. Karroubi began to enjoy looser restrictions in early 2018, his family have said, including access to some satellite television news channels. He was also allowed occasional pollical meetings, though there were periodically cancelled whenever the former parliamentary speaker made sensitive political statements.
After the Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane near Tehran on January 8, Karroubi criticized Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, and said he lacked the constitutional qualifications for his position. This led to the cancellation of Karroubi’s activities for some time, but over the past month Karroubi has resumed meetings with political figures, including last week Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, former mayor of Tehran and ex-leader of the Kargozaran Party established by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Three Members Of Iranian Writers’ Association Begin Jail Terms In Evin Prison
The banned Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA) announced on Saturday that three of its members have begun jail terms in Evin Prison, Tehran. A statement published on the association’s Facebook page reported that a group of IWA members had rallied in front of the prison to see off Reza Khandan-Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bijan.
In April 2019 a Revolutionary Court convicted the three for “propaganda against the regime” and “association and collusion to act against national security”. The statement said the writers had published the association’s newsletter, collaboration in writing a book on its history and taken part in ceremonies including anniversaries of the passing of former members.
After sentencing was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Khandan-Mahabadi and Abtin each received six years in jail and Bijan three and a half years.
IWA, which had leftist tendencies, was banned in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution, but its members have tried to keep it alive despite harassment. Two IWA members – Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad-Jafar Pouyandeh – were murdered by Intelligence Ministry agents in 1998 as part of a systematic elimination of intellectuals, political figures and dissidents in the 1990s that came to be known as the ‘chain murders.’
In June, Baktash Abtin told the Australian branch of Pen International, which sponsors and supports writers around the world: “Freedom has never been gifted to anyone on a gold plate…In a country like Iran, death is very cheap for intellectuals, freedom loving people and those who fight for freedom of expression…we are not worried to face trials, to go to prison and endure sufferings, because we have made up our minds…”
High Inflation Continues In Iran With Warnings Of Worse Yet To Come
The Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) says point to point inflation for the month ending September 21 was percent 34.4 percent and monthly moving inflation was measured at 26 percent.
A provincial official in Tehran said the point to point inflation in the province was 37.4 percent.
Iran has been experiencing serious inflation and devaluation of its currency, which picked up in early 2018 as it became apparent the United States was deciding to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, signaling the reimposition of economic sanctions by Washington.
Those sanctions became a reality from mid-2018 and have deprived Iran of most of its oil exports, which constituted about half of the government income.
The local ISNA news website says these numbers show the poorest 10 percent of Iranians are experiencing 44.6 percent of inflation as their income is mostly spent on food and other necessities, which are more acutely impacted by high inflation.
Some economists have argued that the real inflation rate is much higher than what SCI and other government agencies report. An Iranian economist, Ehsan Soltani has criticized SCI for manipulating numbers and has said the real inflation rate this year will be at least 60 percent. He also said inflation will pick up in the next six months, resulting in a higher annual rate.
Food, drinks and tobacco prices have risen faster than other commodities according to SCI, particularly milk, eggs and cheese. Other reports recently said meat consumption has already declined by close to 40 percent.
Economists have predicted that by the end of the current Iranian year in March 2021, inflation might reach 56 percent. The International Monetary Fund has predicted a 34 percent inflation rate in 2020.
Trump Says A Deal For Iran Will Be 'Much Tougher' After US Elections
President Donald Trump told a gathering of Hispanic Americans in Florida that after he gets reelected in November conditions for a deal with Iran and Venezuela will be “much tougher”.
Speaking at a roundtable meeting with Hispanic voters in Doral, Florida on September 25, Trump referring to Iran and Venezuela said, “Everybody wants to talk, but I want to wait until after the election…And a year ago I said, ‘You have a choice. We can talk now, or we can talk after the election, but after the election, it is going to…be a much tougher deal’”.
Trump had made a similar remark about talks with Iran on September 15, when meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
Trump opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal known as JCPOA, negotiated during his predecessor Barack Obama and withdrew from the agreement in May 2018. His administration has demanded Iran renegotiate over its nuclear program and a range of other issues.
He has said that if he is elected Iran will have no choice but to negotiate quickly, arguing that Tehran is waiting for the victory of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, because he has signaled he would be willing to return to the JCPOA.
Iranian officials say it will make little difference who gets elected in the United States. Their demand is for Washington to return to the JCPOA and stop all sanctions against Iran.