Iran Lawmakers Reportedly Receive Influenza Vaccines Before 'Vulnerable' Groups | Iran International

Iran Lawmakers Reportedly Receive Influenza Vaccines Before 'Vulnerable' Groups

Reports circulating in some media outlets in Iran saying 1,500 doses of the influenza vaccine has been sent to parliament for members and staff of the legislature have led to controversy.

The Food and Drug Agency had said earlier that vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women will have priority in receiving the vaccines, considering the high rate of coronavirus infections in the country and the danger of influenza leading to more serious cases of COVID.

But IscaNews and Entakhab newspaper, as well as social media accounts have revealed that members of parliament have apparently also received priority. Some have published the copy of an official form showing delivery of the vaccines to parliament’s infirmary.

Iran has ordered 16 million doses of the influenza vaccine and has allocated 1.5 million free doses for vulnerable individuals, also including health workers. Members of parliament have not been named in this group.

One report says parliament received the 1,500 doses for a price of less than two dollars per dose.

Members of parliament in recent weeks has been the target of criticism for receiving considerable housing and other allowances, in addition to reports of getting expensive sedans at favorable prices and payable in three years. Monthly loan payments for the cars would be around 70 percent of a lawmaker’s salary, leading many to ask how they can afford these payments.

A member of parliament receives a monthly salary of around 110,000 million rials, currently equal to around $400, which is more than four times the income of a worker in Iran.

Deputy Minister Says Tests Suggest 35 Million Iranians Have Had Covid

Iran’s deputy health minister has reiterated that studies in several cities indicate that as many as 35 million Iranians had caught Covid19 by September. But Dr Reza Malekzadeh, deputy minister with responsibility for research and technology, stressed that government policy was to control the epidemic, not to reach ‘herd immunity,’ which he said would be unethical.

Malekzadeh was quoted in the Hamshahri newspaper on Tuesday [October 27].  “A study that we conducted in April indicated that more than 25 million had already caught the virus,” he said.  “We estimate that a month ago the number…had increased to 35 million.” Malekzadeh said a larger study was underway with results expected in a month or two.

On September 14 Malekzadeh told Hamshahri that a study carried out on 10,000 asymptomatic subjects – including in Qom, an early epicenter of the pandemic, and Rasht in the north, a ‘hot zone’ soon after the Qom outbreak in February – had found more than 30 percent had caught the virus. Malekzadeh said the study had used blood samples, regarded as a more accurate means than regular Covid test kits.

The studies have been based on serological tests that can identify antibodies – immunoglobins (IgG) in the case of coronavirus – in the blood. These antibodies are employed by the body against viruses and bacteria, and they far outlast the source of infection so that their presence reveals the earlier occurrence of the infection.

Sanctioned Iranian Oil Minister Zanganeh Says US Is Desperate

Iran’s oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has dismissed the United States decision to sanction him for supporting the country’s Revolutionary Guards. In a tweet on Monday, soon after a statement by the US Department of Treasury, the veteran minister called the move “a desperate reaction to the failure of Washington’s policy to bring [Iran’s] oil exports down to zero.”

The US imposed secondary sanctions on Iran’s oil exports in November 2018, after it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement, which US President Donald Trump had called “the worst deal in history.” Iran’s 2.5 million barrel-a-day crude exports have fallen to less than 400,000, depriving the country of most of its foreign currency earnings and sending it into a deep recession.

On Monday October 26, the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), along with Zanganeh, and several affiliates for their “financial support” of IRGC’s Qods (Quds) Force.

Some analysts doubt that further US sanctions change much. “Iran’s oil industry will not be crushed,” Zanganeh wrote in his tweet. “I have no assets outside Iran to be subjected to sanctions. My life and honor at the altar of Iran.”

Iran Tells French Diplomat Allowing Publication Of Muhammad Cartoons Is An 'Insult'

 

Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the French charge d’affaires in Tehran on Tuesday [October 27] to register dissatisfaction over the French government’s stance over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The French charge d’affaires was told that Iran denounces any insult or disrespect for the “holy prophet of Islam and other Islamic sanctities by any individuals or officials.”

Following the beheading of a French history teacher by a Muslim student over the cartoons on October 16, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated France’s position to defend freedom of speech including a right to publish such caricatures. “We will not give up cartoons,” Macron told a memorial ceremony at the Sorbonne on October 22.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan are among the Muslim countries that have condemned France’s approach. There have been popular protests against Macron across the Islamic world, as well as boycotts of French goods, while Iran has remained relatively quiet.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a tweet Monday, October 26, called the publication of the cartoons “an opportunistic abuse of freedom of speech,” and an insult to “1.9 billion Muslims.” On the same day, 240 members of the Iranian parliament condemned the cartoons, calling them an “insult and [sign of] disrespect.”

While Iran might feel it cannot afford to remain silent on the issue, it has received France’s diplomatic support at the United Nations in resisting United States pressures for extended sanctions. Paris did not support Washington’s failed demand to extend an arms embargo on Iran that recently lapsed.

 

Letter Of 24 Iranian Authors To PEN Pleading For Release of Four Iranian Authors

In a letter to PEN international association of writers and human rights organizations, 24 Iranian authors, translators, and university professors pleaded with them to make efforts to release three Iranian authors and a journalist in Iran.

The signatories of the letter asked for the immediate release of Bektash Abtin, Kayvan Bazhan, Reza Khandan Mahabadi, three members of the Iranian authors association, and also Khosrow Sadeghi Boroujeni, journalist and social researcher.

“Let the world hear the voice of our incarcerated colleagues and use all your resources to demand their immediate release from prison,” the letter pleads.

Yervand Abrahamian, Dariush Ashouri, Sohail Asefi, Babak Ahmadi, Sohrab Behdad, Azadeh Parsapour, Akram Pedram Nia, Saeed Hariri, Nasim Khaksar, Mehrdad Darvishpour, Moirou Ravanipour, Faraj Sarkouhi, Reza Allamehzadeh, Morad Farhadpour, Farshin Kazemi Nia, Arash Kia, Amir Kianpour, Iman Ganji, Mehran Mostafavi, Akbar Masoum Beigi, Farhad Naamani, Azar Nafisi, Payman Vahabzadeh, and Mohsen Yalfani are the signatories of the letter.

The signatories state that the charges against these four prisoners are “baseless and pure lies” and say the main purpose of these arrests and convictions are to put more pressure on the authors and the people.

The authors also express concerns in the letter about the crisis of the rising number of coronavirus patients in Iranian prisons.

Previously, PEN International had expressed “deep concerns” about the three Iranian writers' trial. PEN had also demanded the release of Iranian human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh earlier.

 

Police Intervention Leads To Injuries In Iran Workers Protest

In a protest of Iranian National Oil Company retirees and a group of current workers in Tehran, police intervention lead to altercations and some of the protesters were wounded.

Retirees and veterans of the Iran-Iraq war employed by the company gathered outside its headquarters to demand unpaid pensions, salaries and veteran benefits.

Police and security guards of the oil company intervened to disperse the crowds leading to physical confrontations injuring several protesters.

In videos published on social media some people are seen with bloody faces and wounded.

A woman and a few men try to climb the iron fence of the building to enter the offices and complain, shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is great).

Similar protests had taken place in July and August at the same location, when protesters were carrying signs demanding the government and politicians not to “illegally” touch their pension fund and leaving the funds to be managed by its beneficiaries.

There were lao reports of teachers protesting in the oil-rich Khuzestan Province and share holders of Tehran’s stock market. After a phenomenal rise since earlier this year, the stock market has gone down more than 30 percent, leaving small investors, who were trying to protect their savings from runaway inflation, with huge losses.

Ghalibaf Follows Khamenei In Muting Rouhani Criticism

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf), the speaker of Iran’s Parliament (Majles), says he and parliamentarians will keep their complaints about the Rouhani administration to themselves and will not air them in public.

Ghalibaf was responding to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who on Saturday criticized differences among Iranian officials and insisted that “certain recent measures to denigrate the administration and President Hassan Rouhani were wrongful.”

Khamenei was referring to a motion tabled by over 40 Iranian lawmakers to impeach Rouhani over his economic management and foreign policy. The motion was led by the head of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Mojtaba Zolnouri.

Zolnouri also led a public demonstration against Rouhani in Qom, and in a tweet called on Khamenei to have Rouhani executed. Following the statement by Khamenei, Zolnouri immediately announced that he regarded the Leader’s words as a religious mandate.

Although the impeachment motion has been removed from the agenda of the Majles, several lawmakers have continued criticism of the Rouhani administration despite Khamenei’s comments.

Khamenei has said at least twice since June that he wants Rouhani to stay in office until the end of his presidency. Khamenei called impeachment “a costly and time-consuming process” and said little time remained before Rouhani’s term of office expires in the summer with him ineligible to stand for a third consecutive time.

Lawmaker Says Government Has Lost Control Of Iran's Economy

A member of Iran’s parliament has said that the government “has lost control of the economy and the markets,” and President Hassan Rouhani has isolated himself in his office and does not appear in public.

Eghbal Shakeri representing Tehran in the Iranian Majles blamed the impasse on “lack of planning” on Sunday [October 25] and said “the purchasing power of the people is now one-third of last year” and the government has no plans that could help the people to come out of the current economic hardship.

Iranian hardliners and even many reformists are harshly criticizing Rouhani for the worsening of Iran’s economic situation amid harsh US sanctions. But few are able or willing to say that all key foreign policy and economic decisions are made by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has vehemently opposed negotiating with the United States.

Washington demands a more solid nuclear agreement with Tehran that would restrict the country permanently from acquiring nuclear weapons and demands a fundamental change in Iran’s foreign policy. Khamenei is not ready to make such far-reaching concessions.

The current Iranian parliament was elected in February, with the overwhelming victory of hardliners in a low-turnout election. The solid majority promised to “rescue Iran’s economy” but nothing much has been done.

Shakeri said that managers of many state-controlled enterprises are waiting for guidance from the parliament, while it is the government that should come up with plans and the Majles only has a role to oversee the executive branch. He complained that “middlemen” have taken over the markets.

Australia Asks Iran About Report Academic Moved From Prison

AP Canberra – 26 October 2020 - Australia is seeking information from Iran on reports that a British Australian academic who was convicted of espionage has been moved to a mystery location, the foreign minister said on Monday.  

Kylie Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was arrested in Iran and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018.

She was moved in August to Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran, but the Iranian Association of Human Rights Activists reported she was moved to an unknown location on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australian Ambassador to Iran Lyndall Sachs had a consular visit with Moore-Gilbert at Qarchak "a short time ago" and Australian officials "are seeking further information" on the reports she had been moved.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade describes securing Moore-Gilbert's release as an "absolute priority."

Iranian state media and officials have not acknowledged Moore-Gilbert was moved.

She is among a number of Westerners and dual nationals held by Iran that activists and UN investigators believe is a systematic effort to gain leverage in negotiations with the West.

Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her.

Those pleas include writing to the prime minister that she had been subjected to "grievous violations" of her rights, including psychological torture and solitary confinement.

 

Saudi Arabia Says Intercepts Houthi Drones Aimed At Southern Region

DUBAI, Oct 25 (Reuters) -

The Saudi-led military coalition engaged in Yemen said on Sunday night it intercepted and destroyed a second, explosives-laden drone launched by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement towards southern Saudi Arabia, Saudi state media reported.

No casualties or damage were reported.

The coalition said earlier it had intercepted the first drone launched by the Houthi movement towards the southern region after the group said it had struck the kingdom's Abha International Airport.

The coalition, in statements carried by Saudi state media, said the attacks were aimed at civilian targets but did not specify the sites or mention any damage.

In recent days the coalition said it had intercepted and destroyed several explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis towards southern border areas.

The Western-backed coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

The United Nations is trying to secure a nationwide ceasefire to pave the way for reviving political negotiations to end the conflict, which is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system.

Iran Central Bank Not To Increase Interest Rates To Fight Inflation, Governor Says

Iran' Central Bank (CBI) Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati on Sunday said to lower inflation the CBI is looking for other methods rather than pushing up interest rates.

"At the moment increasing interest rates [to absorb superfluous liquidity in the market] is not a policy that can have definite success. For this reason, [the CBI] is seeking other methods to reduce the pressure of inflation in the markets," Hemmati said in an Instagram statement on Sunday.

In his statement Hemmati stressed that in the past two years the CBI has come under increasing pressure and enumerated the increasing impact of US sanctions, budget deficits, the pandemic and a drop in investment as factors contributing to the increase in liquidity and inflation.

The government's budget deficit in the first six months of the Iranian calendar year which started 21 March is estimated to be between 150 and 250 trillion rials. In the first four months of the year liquidity increased by 225 trillion rials, a report by Eghtesad News said on August 3.  This would be between 1.1-1.5 billion dollars.

In recent weeks many had been speculating that the CBI may push up interest rates in order to create a safer outlet for superfluous liquidity other than the failing investment market and highly volatile foreign exchange and gold markets.

Some experts blame the CBI decision in April to reduce interest rates from 20 percent to 15 for the drop in bank investments and speculation in parallel markets where many small and inexperienced investors are likely to incur losses.