Iranian social media users have launched an online campaign to alert the public of attempts by the government to destroy a cemetery south of Tehran where political prisoner killed in 1988 are believed to be buried.
Around 3,500 political detainees, mostly young people, were killed in prisons by a high-level decision and their bodies were buried in unknown graves, some in Khavaran cemetery.
The authorities have dug new graves and pressure the persecuted members of the Baha’i sect to bury their dead in Khavaran, in an apparent attempt to make other remains disappear. The Baha’i have their own cemetery nearby.
The Islamic Republic in recent years has tried to destroy the graves of the political prisoners in the cemetery. Families of executed prisoners have told Iran International of attempts to dig new graves to destroy the remains of their loved ones.
Amnesty International and Justice for Iran collected evidence in 2018, including satellite images of cemeteries where prisoners killed in 1988 were buried and attempts by the authorities to destroy the graves.
Representatives of the Baha’i community say also protest official attempts to force them to bury their dead in Khavaran, while their own cemetery has plenty of space left.
Bennett Warns Israel Able To 'Act Alone' Against Iran Over Ship Attack
JERUSALEM, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Israel is rallying global action against Iran over an attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off Oman last week but is capable of responding on its own if necessary, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday.
The United States, Britain and Israel blamed Iran for the suspected drone strike on Thursday in which two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed. Tehran denies any involvement.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken predicted a "collective response" to the incident, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as an "outrageous attack on commercial shipping".
Standing alongside military generals during a tour of Israel's northern border with Syria and Lebanon, Bennett said Israel had shared intelligence with the United States, Britain and others tying Iran to the attack.
"We are working to rally the world, but at the same time we also know to act alone," Bennett said.
"Iran already knows the price we exact when someone threatens our security. The Iranians need to understand that it is impossible to sit placidly in Tehran and ignite the entire Middle East from there. That's over."
Iran said on Monday it would respond promptly to any threat against its security.
Iran and Israel have exchanged accusations of carrying out attacks on each other's vessels in recent months.
Tensions have increased between Iran and Israel since 2018, when then U.S. President Donald Trump ditched Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.
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.
US Indicts For Canadian-Iranian For Illegal Business With Iran
A federal grand jury in the US capital on Friday indicted a Canadian-Iranian dual national with the unlawful export of laboratory equipment from the United States to Iran, through Canada and the United Arab Emirates, a Department of Justice statement said.
Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani, aka Reza Sarhang, , 46, a resident of Montreal was indicted in the District of Columbia on multiple counts, including violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which grants the president powers to determine an international threat and take up measures to deal with it.
Beginning in 2015, Kafrani began attempts to purchase mass spectrometry equipment from US companies to ship to the UAE. But Chromatography and spectrometry analytical instruments, such as some of the laboratory equipment purchased by Kafrani, are controlled for nuclear nonproliferation reasons and require a license to be exported from the United States to either Iran or the UAE.
But Kafrani and a co-conspirator were able to ship one mass spectrometer, ship it to Canada and then send it to UAE for transfer to Iran. They then tried to buy more, hiding the real destination of the equipment.
The indictment mean Kafrani has to stand trial and does not mean he is guilty as charged. Indictments are merely allegations until proven in court.
German Foreign Minister Expresses 'Growing Unease' Over Iran Talks
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has expressed concern over Iran’s delay in resuming talks in Vienna to restore its 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) with world powers.
In comments quoted by Der Spiegel on Friday, Maas has said, "I see with growing unease that Iran is delaying the resumption of the Vienna nuclear talks and at the same time is moving further and further away from the core elements of the agreement."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also warned on Thursday during a visit to Kuwait that the talks cannot drag on indefinitely. "We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it's undertaken with regard to its nuclear program," he said.
Maas also reiterated the US position that now it is Iran’s decision to allow the talks to succeed. "We want a return to the JCPOA and are firmly convinced that this is in everyone's interest," Maas said. "It is clear, however, that this option will not be open to us forever."
Iran has said it will resume talks some time after its new president, hardliner former judge Ebrahim Raisi takes office next week. Meanwhile, Iran’s internal situation is becoming more precarious with daily protests, a declining economy and the uncontrolled Covid pandemic.
Two Crew Killed In Attack On Israeli-Managed Tanker Off Oman
Two crew members, a Briton and a Romanian, were killed when a petroleum products tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime came under attack on Thursday off Oman's coast, the company said on Friday.
London-based Zodiac said on its website that the attack in the Arabian Sea on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged Japanese-owned ship, was still being investigated.
Earlier on Friday it had described the incident as suspected piracy but the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which provides maritime security information, says it was not piracy.
"Details of the incident are still being established and an investigation into the incident is currently underway. We continue to work closely with the UKMTO and other relevant authorities," said Zodiac, which is owned by the wealthy Israeli Ofer family.
Zodiac said the ship was now sailing under the control of its crew and own power to a safe location with a U.S. naval escort.
In an advisory note, UKMTO said it had been informed that regional search and rescue authorities and coalition forces have been tasked to assist the vessel.
Tensions have risen in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.
Washington has blamed Iran for a number of attacks on shipping in strategic Gulf waters, including on four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, in May 2019. Iran distanced itself from those attacks.
In recent months Iran and Israel have traded accusations of attacking each other's vessels.
Reporting by Reuters
Protesting Mothers Of Those Killed During Iran Protests Arrested In Tehran
Security forced Friday arrested several women who gathered in Tehran’s Azadi square to demand justice for their sons killed in the November 2019 protests in Iran.
Activists published news and photos of the gathering, saying five mothers were detained but there is still no additional information whether they were released or where they were taken.
Mothers of victims killed by security forces in the bloodiest protests in Iran have formed a group to demand justice for their children. Friday’s gathering was also to show solidarity with recent protests in Khuzestan province, during which around ten protesters have been killed and dozens arrested.
They chanted, “From Tehran to Khuzestan, unity”, while holding pictures of their children. In a video on social media one of the mothers says, “Enough with slavery. We are not asking anyone to support us. We are asking you to defend yourselves and your young children.”
In their slogans during the gathering the women did not hide that they want the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.
Their demands for the Judiciary to answer how and why their children were killed, families have received no answer, except to accept compensation and “close the cae”.
Doctors Warn Of COVID Disaster In Iran, As Japan Donates More Vaccines
A group of medical professors at Mashhad medical university in a letter have warned officials in northeastern Khorasan-Razavi province that the city of Mashhad needs a total lockdown to prevent a Covid catastrophe.
“We have been warning for some time that if the city is not fully closed down, a disaster is on the way,” they wrote on Thursday and added, “How can we explain that all hospital beds are nearly full, and soon we will not be able to accept the huge flood of patients?”
The senior medical doctors say that health workers are tired and ask why the authorities put the pressure on hospital care as “the last link” in “the broken chain of managing” the crisis.
Iran was the second country after China when in February 2020 the Covid epidemic began. Its response has been haphazard, with ineffective and poorly enforced lockdowns and a failed vaccination effort.
So far, more than 90 thousand people have died, according to official figures that are disputed by many health officials and the media who say the number is at least twice as much.
Amid the fifth wave of the pandemic, Iran received almost two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines donated by Japan on Friday. This was the second shipment of vaccines. In January, Iran’s Supreme Leader banned American and British vaccines, which contributed to the deepening health emergency.