Narges Mohammadi Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize | Iran International

Narges Mohammadi Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize

The chairman of Amnesty International human rights organization in Norway announced that two members of the Norwegian parliament have nominated Iranian human rights activist and former political prisoner Narges Mohammadi for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Journalist Asieh Amini in Norway tweeted on Friday that “nominating a person for a Nobel Peace Prize has a complicated process and a member of the parliament must nominate Narges Mohammadi.”

Saudi Arabian human rights activist Loujain Alhathloul has also been nominated by the two Norwegian members of parliament for the award.

A few days ago, Mohammadi announced that a short time after her release from prison, she was summoned to court again in December but after not attending the court date, she has now received another summons.

Based on the second summon, she was to be present at the court on February 24.

In the new case that has been brought against her, Mohammadi has been accused of “holding a sit-down in Evin prison, defamation of the prison warden with the accusation of assault, breaking the windows of a building, insulting the prison staff (warden), disrupting the order in prison by holding dance parties after lights out and during the religious mourning period.

Mohammadi has been arrested several times for her activities and has been released for health reasons.

Her last arrest came after her meeting with Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Policy Council at the time who had visited Tehran. Mohammadi met Ashton alongside Gohar Eshghi, mother of Sattar Beheshti, a blogger murdered in prison.

Officials In Iran Demolish Three Homes Belonging To Persecuted Baha'is

Officials of the Islamic Republic have demolished three homes on Monday belonging to members of the persecuted minority Baha’i sect in the Sari region of northern Iran.

The Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reporting the development said, “The systematic effort to force Baha’is to leave this region was the result of a meeting held one year ago by several government security organs in the area.”

HRANA added, that the land on which the houses were built belonged to the three families since at least 1963, while the Department of Natural Resources has claimed that 14 parcels of land in the Roshankuh village were forests before. The ruling was used as an excuse to demolish the homes.

The human rights monitoring group also said that in recent years there have been many systematic and planned attempts to force the Baha’is out of the region.

This is not the first instance of Baha’i homes and cemeteries being destroyed or confiscated. The ruling Shiite clerical system in Iran does not recognize the Baha’i faith and since the establishment of the Islamic Republic it has persecuted members of the community. Hundreds have been jailed, refused work and university education in what amounts to official discrimination. In many instances, businesses belonging to Baha’is have been forced to shut down.

Iran Health Officials Warn Hospitals Reach Maximum Capacity

As health officials in Iran say that hospitals have reached the end of their capacity to help Covid-19 patients, the government’s official newspaper, Iran daily quoted reports Tuesday that in some provinces victims are being buried in mass graves.

A top doctor in Tehran’s large Masih Daneshvari hospital said the number of cases is unprecedented, all beds in his hospital are full and there is no further capacity to care for patients. The health system’s dam is about to break, he warned.

Many Iranians on social media have begun openly blaming Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for Covid “massacre”, since he banned the purchase of American and British vaccines in January and set back the national vaccination effort by at least six months.

Iran has so far administered around 11 million doses of Russian, Chinese and some Western vaccines acquired through the World Health Organization’s Covax mechanism and donated by Japan. But for a population of 85 million, the country is still far from inoculating a significant percentage of the populace.

Iran daily also wrote that the pandemic has reached a stage where the real number of deaths must be more than official figures announced by the government. Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi had also admitted earlier that the real number of cases and deaths are more than what his ministry reports.

A Tehran city official said that the number of daily deaths in the capital has reached a daily average of 180. Iran on Monday reported over 400 deaths nationwide, while Tehran has around 10 percent of the total population.

Israel Lambasts EU Decision To Send Envoy To Iran Inauguration

Israel on Monday strongly condemned a European Union decision to send a senior diplomat to Iran for the inauguration of Ebrahim Raisi, the controversial new president implicated in the killing of thousands of prisoners in 1988.

The Israeli foreign ministry on Monday called the EU decision to send Enrique Mora, the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service and EU’s representative in the Vienna talks on Iran’s nuclear issue, a “shameful” display of “poor judgement”.

International human rights organizations have accused Raisi, a former judge, of human rights abuses, having served on a Death Commission in 1988 which sent thousands of political prisoners to their deaths. Amnesty International has called for Raisi to be investigated for crimes against humanity.

The Israeli statement also pointed to last week’s fatal attack on a tanker off the coast of Oman that the United States, United Kingdom and Israel have blamed on Iran. “The participation of the EU representative in the ceremony comes just a few days after Iran killed two civilians, one of whom was from an EU member state, in an act of state terrorism against civilian shipping.”

Israel has vowed retaliation, while the US and the UK have also said “a collective” response is on its way.

“Flattery and subservience to violent totalitarian regimes only invites more violence and aggression,” the Israeli statement said.

Blinken Says US 'Confident' Iran Attacked Tanker, Vows 'Collective Response'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated on Monday that Washington is “confident” Iran carried out the fatal attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off the coast of Oman.

In a briefing with reporters, Blinken said, “It follows a pattern of similar attacks by Iran, including past incidents with explosive drones. There is no justification for this attack on a peaceful vessel on a commercial mission in international waters. Iran’s action is a direct threat to freedom of navigation and commerce.”

The drone attack on Thursday killed two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian. The Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the act a big mistake by Iran and vowed not to allow it to go without a response. Both the US and UK in a coordinated manner called Iran responsible and vowed to come up with a response.

Iran on Monday denied any role in the incident and warned that it will respond to any threat to its security.

Blinekn, responding to a question during the briefing, also said that the attack on the tanker, the Mercer Street, follows a pattern of similar actions by Iran that “continues to act with tremendous irresponsibility when it comes to, in this instance, threats to navigation, to commerce, to innocent sailors who are simply engaged in commercial transit in international waters.”

The Secretary of State again pledged a “collective response” to Iran. 

EU To Send Diplomat To Iran To Attend Raisi’s Inauguration

Laurence Norman from The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the European Union (EU) has decided to send the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora to Iran this week as its representative at the inauguration of Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi. Mora has been playing the role of coordinator of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna.

On Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader will first preside over an endorsement ceremony for Raisi at the Imam Khomeini Hussainiyah. Then on Thursday, Raisi will be formally inaugurated in the Iranian parliament. Today, Iranian officials announced that 115 officials from 73 countries will attend the inauguration.

At the last presidential inauguration for Hassan Rouhani’s second term in office, the EU sent Federica Mogherini, who was then the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Mora’s presence there will thus be at a lower level. But it comes at a very sensitive juncture, as the talks in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal have stalled with no date scheduled for a next round. It also comes amid a diplomatic crisis with the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, and Romania all implicating Iran in the attack on the Mercer Street vessel, which killed two Europeans.

The decision to send such a high-ranking EU diplomat has also been very controversial in the Iranian diaspora. This is because of Raisi’s reported role in human rights abuses, having served on a Death Commission in 1988 which sent thousands of political prisoners to their deaths. Amnesty International has called for Raisi to be investigated for crimes against humanity. Norman reported that the United Kingdom, France, and Germany raised objections over the EU decision to dispatch Mora to Tehran.

Israel 'Must Act Without Delay' Against Iran, Defense Chief says

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gants Monday said that his country must act without delay against Iran, after a tanker was attacked by UAVs off the coast of Oman last Thursday.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Israel have accused Tehran of launching the attack that damaged the ship and killed two crewmen, one Briton and a Romanian.

Iran on Monday denied any responsibility and blamed Israel for destabilizing the region. It also warned that will immediately respond to any threat to its security.

“Iran’s aggression in the region generally and on the maritime front, in particular, is intensifying,” Gantz said during a Knesset session. “This is the exact reason that we must act right now against Iran, which not only strives for a nuclear military [program] but also is leading to a dangerous arms race and the crumbling of stability in the Middle East.”

Referring to talks this year between Iran and world powers, Gantz said, “And any agreement with Iran must also address the removal of its threat to the region, and its harm to innocent people and the world economy.”

The US and UK have also said that they are weighing a response to Iran’s action in consultations with allies, but a direct Western military action is less probable than some sort of Israeli reaction.

Rights Lawyer Sentenced To 30 Years In Iran Says It Was Judge's Revenge

Amir Salar Davoudi, a human rights lawyer in Iran whose 30-year jail term was upheld by a revolutionary court recently has said that the main reason for his conviction is his activism and defending dissidents in acourt free of charge.

Davoudi was convicted in June 2019 for setting up a channel on the social media pp Telegram reporting on the Islamic Republic’s human rights violations. But he says the real reason was his persistent defense of those charged for opposing the regime for 12 years and his human rights activities.

In a note written by Davoudi and received by Iran International he added that the notorious revolutionary court judge Abolghasem Salavati had a “grudge against him”. He went to on to say that Salavati not only held a grudge against him but those attorneys who defend human rights cases in Iran.

Davoudi also wrote in his note that “This obliges me to endure and fight to the end, to defend the rights of the people, although I can't invest any hopes in the Islamic Republic.”

The human rights attorney put up an $80,000 bail, an astronomical amount in Iran, to be temporarily out of jail. With the decision to uphold his conviction he can be arrested anytime to serve the sentence.

Former Political Prisoners Say Detainees In Iran's Khuzestan Face Danger

More than 60 former Iranian political prisoners issued a statement on Monday expressing deep concern over conditions faced by detainees of protests in Khuzestan province in July.

The 62 signatories referring to high summer temperatures, lack of appropriate facilities and the high number of prisoners in detention centers said they are concerned that past mistreatment of political prisoners can happen again in Khuzestan.

Many political detainees in the past have been mistreated in Iranian prisons and some have died either as a result of torture or being deprived of health care.

Protests that began on July 15 for lack of water in Khuzestan turned into anti-government unrest in the following days and an undetermined number of people were arrested by security forces. The government has not disclosed the number of detainees, while in the first days of the crackdown one human rights monitoring organization, HRANA said it had determined the identity of 100 people.

More arrests have taken place since then, as security forces went door-to-door after identifying activists and protesters.

In the statement, the former prisoners say that suppression of protests by force and detention of a large group of people will create and intensify anger in the population and will not resolve any issues.

Signatories demanded the immediate release of all detainees. Government officials have promised to release those “who did not commit a crime”, but in the past they have charged people for simply voicing demands or criticizing the government.

Iranians Buy 30% Less Bread As Prices Increased In July

Iranians are buying less bread since the government raised prices in mid-July for subsidized flour and allowed bakeries to charge more for all varieties of bread, Hamshahri newspaper reported on Monday.

Two weeks after prices increased from 12 to as high as 30 percent in some regions, industry insiders say people are buying 20-30 percent less bread, while for wage earners it is an important food item.

There are two kinds of bread producers in Iran, those who receive subsidized flour and have to abide by government prices and those who produce for the high-end market and are free to set their own prices.

Most people from working classes and wage earners buy the cheaper bread from subsidized bakeries, and those are the ones who now have to pay much more for one of the main staples in the Iranian diet.

Hamshahri reports that for a family of five the monthly bill for bread can be $20. This seems very low compared with Western countries, but many wage earners in Iran barely make $100 a month. The family must also pay rent, buy other basic foodstuff, and pay other expenses.

Annual inflation for food items is more than 60 percent in Iran and millions of families cannot afford meat and even chicken that has almost tripled in price.

Two More Female Political Prisoners Contract Covid In Iran Jail

Two more female political prisoners in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison have contracted Covid-19, with one prisoner transferred to hospital and one housed in the prison’s quarantine ward.

Niloofar Bayani, an ecologist serving a 10-year sentence has been put in a ward where Covid patients are transferred without any medical follow-up. If a prisoner’s health worses, the patient is taken to the prison infirmary, where she receives an IV and left alone to improve. In cases when a prisoner’s health condition worsens further, she is transferred to a hospital.

Bayani in the past had written several letters to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei complaining of, “Intense psychological torture, threat of physical and sexual torture” during at least “1,200 hours” of interrogations by intelligence officers of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, IRGC.

The IRGC arrested several ecologists in 2018 and sentenced them to long prison terms on charges of spying, while the intelligence ministry said there was no evidence to justify their punishment.

In mid-July a female political prisoner informed her husband that many women have contracted Covid in Evin prison.

Another female political prisoner Monireh Arabshahi’s attorney tweeted that she has been transferred to hospital after developing severe symptoms of Covid-19. The attorney, Babk Paknia has asked the authorities to allow give her a temporary leave from prison to that her family could take charge of her care.

Arabshahi is an anti-compulsory hijab activist who was sentenced in early 2019 to almost ten years in prison. Her daughter was also arrested at the same time and is in prison.

No Official Explanation For Fire At Iran Oil And Gas Installation

The spokesman of Arvandan Oil and Gas Company (AOGC), a major subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) operating in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, confirmed a fire at one its storage tanks in Karun area Saturday.

Naser Farahani commented on the incident Sunday after a video was posted on social media showing a fuel tank and heavy smoke rising from behind it. Farahani, however, said the tank had been completely empty and the smoke seen in the video footage was rising from tires and a crane burning behind the tank but did not specify the cause of the fire.

The spokesman of AOGC also said the fire has caused no disruption in production. The company which has its headquarters at the strategic port of Khorramshahr, Khuzestan, is the main operator in oil and gas production from Azadegan, Yadavaran, Darquain, Jufeyr, Moshtagh, Khorramshahr, Arvand, Susangerd, and other fields, which are located in west of Karun River.

A similar incident but more extensive blaze at Tehran's Tondgooyan Refinery in June led to the explosion of one of the two LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) tanks affected by the fire. The fire took two days to put out. Authorities said eleven were injured in the incident.

Since last summer, there have been multiple suspicious incidents at Iran’s nuclear, military and industrial sites. While Israel is suspected of launching sabotage attacks on some of these sites, it has not taken responsibility for any incident.

Iran Lawmaker Confirms New Bill Restricts Access To Instagram

One of the lawmakers behind a controversial bill setting new highly restrictive internet regulations in Iran confirmed that access to Instagram will be limited if parliament passes the legislation.

Speaking in a state-run television program Saturday evening, Abbas Moradi said the bill aims to make Iranian users of Instagram, the only major social network not blocked in Iran, to "emigrate" to a domestic platform. Moradi admitted that there is no domestic platform like Instagram at the moment but promised the launch of what he dubbed as "Instagram Plus" which he said would be "safe".

Moradi explained that to encourage developers, they would be offered tax exemptions. Bandwidth currently used by Instagram users will gradually be reduced in proportion to extent of its substitution by the domestic version.

In the same program, Mohammad Keshvari, an internet expert who opposes the planned legislation said reducing the bandwidth for Instagram means the speed of access to the platform will become so slow that people give up using it.

Keshvari pointed out that foreign companies operating social media platforms will not accept the fourteen conditions set for them in the bill to prevent them from being blocked in Iran, including compulsory registration of their subscribers, and providing their information to Iranian authorities on demand. This condition will completely prevent any anonymous posting on social media.

Another lawmaker participating in the program said lawmakers behind the bill were responding to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's concerns about the harms of unregulated internet access.