Islamic Republic's Fars News Agency has confirmed the reports about the assassination of two Lebanese citizens in Tehran's Pasdaran Street. The eyewitnesses say the father and daughter were shot to death in their car by an assailant on a motorcycle.
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.
Iran Rights Defender Sotoudeh Ends Prison Hunger Strike As Health Deteriorates
Prominent Iranian human rights defender and attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has ended her weeks-long hunger strike in prison because of serious deterioration of health, the husband Reza Khandan tweeted September 26.
In a letter on August 11 Sotoudeh had announced her hunger strike to protest the hard conditions facing political prisoners, but her health gradually declined. She was hospitalized for five days and taken back to prison September 23. Khandan had earlier said that no serious treatment was administered during her hospital stay.
After her return to prison UN human rights experts in a statement September 25 protested that despite her heart condition prison officials decided to take back to jail. They also demanded Sotoudeh be allowed to rest at home before a needed heart operation.
“We urge the authorities to immediately reverse this decision, accept her requests to recuperate at home before undergoing a heart procedure, and allow her to freely choose her own medical treatment,” the UN experts said in their statement.
Sotoudeh has demanded the release of human rights defenders and political prisoners and dual nationals arrested on dubious charges to be released temporarily because of COVID infections in prisons. The UN experts also voiced their support for Sotoudeh’s demands.
Sotoudeh, who defended dissidents and people protesting compulsory hijab was sentenced to a total of more than 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, with a minimum of 12 years to be served before any chance for parole.
Iranian Lawmaker: US Sanctions Don't Affect Our Ability To Purchase Weapons
A member of the national security committee at Iran’s parliament claimed that the sanctions have had no impact on the military and defense, and said Iran will maintain its connections with neighboring countries and also Russia and China in the military sector.
Fada Hossein Maleki stated that despite the banking sanctions, Iran can still purchase weapons from countries like Russia and China, and said: It is true that we are under US sanctions, but due to the competent management of the country, we will continue our relations with the countries of the region, even in the military sector.
Previously, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic Mohammad Javad Zarif had claimed that “it is unlikely that the American sanctions would prevent other countries from selling weapons to Iran, and with the expiration of the arms embargo against Iran, there will be no obstacle for Russia and China to sell weapons to Iran.”
Maleki also pointed out the long history of cooperation between Iran and Russia and said: “Just as we are sanctioned, America has Sanctioned the Russians in a way, but it doesn’t mean we can’t cooperate and share technological and military science.
However, so far, Iran's most powerful allies China and Russia have generally observed the US sanctions and have substantially decreased their economic ties to the Islamic Republic. Banks in the two countries avoid doing business with Iran.
The member of parliament claimed that Iran currently has the most advanced technology in the military field and emphasized that Iran is willing to transfer its knowledge to other countries.
Thirty-two Percent Rise In Tehran Province Deaths Undermines Official Covid Figures
Overall death figures for Tehran province have added to suspicion over figures being given by officials over the growing spread of coronavirus, or Covid19. On Friday September 25, the Head of the Management and Planning Organization of Tehran Province, Masoud Sahfiei, said the total number of deaths from all causes had risen by 32 percent in the province during the first five months of the Iranian year (beginning on March 21).
The jump from 24,000 in the same period last year to 31,000 happened despite a decline in deaths from traffic accidents, which fell 16.2 percent to 6,332, according to the Legal Forensics Organization of the Judiciary, a drop widely attributed to diminished traffic during coronavirus restrictions.
The Health Ministry stopped announcing data for Covid19 cases and deaths for individual provinces shortly after the pandemic began in February and has never disclosed the number of cases or death toll in the capital Tehran and the religious center of Qom. A parliamentary research report in April suggested that deaths from the virus might be double the official figures.
On Friday the Chairman of Tehran City Council Mohsen Hashemi claimed Covid19 deaths had been as high as 100 a day in Tehran at some point, had dropped to around 50, but had now risen to around 70. Hashemi, who gave no details, has along with some councilors and parliamentarians long questioned Health Ministry figures.
On August 3 Nahid Khodakarami, a member of the council’s own health committee said 8,600 had died in Tehran, a city of 12 million, from Covid19. On the same day the Health Ministry announced a total death of 17,190 for the entire country, whose population is around 84 million.
Iran is experiencing a third wave of the pandemic. According to the latest official figures, released on Friday September 25, the total number of cases rose by 3,563 to 439,882 within the previous 24 hours, with 207 deaths bringing the total to 25,222. This daily death rate is close to the highest daily toll of 229 reported on July 21 during the second wave.
Amnesty Calls On States To Make Rights Violations In Iran A Matter Of Priority
Amnesty International has delivered an oral statement at the 45th session of UN’s Human Rights Council meeting on September 25 expressing concern over intensification of human rights violations by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“We have documented the widespread use of torture since last November, including beatings, floggings, electric shocks, stress positions, mock executions, waterboarding, sexual violence, forced administration of chemical substances, and deprivation of medical care,” Amnesty highlighted in its statement.
In mid-November 2019 widespread anti-government protests erupted in Iran, sparked by a sudden rise in fuel prices. Authorities almost immediately resorted to military-grade force in subduing protesters, killing hundreds and detaining around 7,000 people.
Those arrested have been denied proper legal protections, subjected to various methods of torture and many have been tried without the due process of law.
“We are also witnessing abusive criminal proceedings and sentencing. The death penalty is being wielded as a weapon of political repression – against protesters, dissidents, and members of minority groups,” Amnesty told the delegates at the session.
The international rights group has followed the protests and repression closely since last November keeping detailed files of those killed and arrested. It has repeatedly appealed both to Iranian authorities and the international community to end the intense violations of rights since November.
During the meeting 47 countries also read a statement voicing concern and Amnesty welcomed their Joint Statement. It also called attention to Iran’s Judicial system that “executes children and amputates fingers.”
Sources Confirm France Summoned Iran Envoy Over Rights Concerns
France's foreign ministry this week summoned Iran's envoy over the country's worsening disregard of human rights, three sources aware of the matter told Reuters, signaling concern about what Paris calls "serious and constant violations".
France rarely comments publicly on human rights in Iran, but on September 22 Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said more needed to be done over what he said was worsening human rights violations in Iran following anti-government protests in November 2019.
When asked by Reuters whether France, in conjunction with Britain and Germany had acted collectively, to warn Iran over its treatment of political prisoners and dual nationals held in the country, a foreign ministry official sidestepped the question.
"The French authorities regularly express their concerns about the serious and constant violations of human rights in Iran," spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said. "These concerns are shared by many partners, including Germany and the United Kingdom."
But Germany has also become vocal regarding the recent execution of a detained protester and played an active role in presenting the concerns of 47 countries on September 25 at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.
One source said the three European powers had acted jointly and warned Iran its actions were harming relations. Two sources said the envoy had been summoned on Thursday.
Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday that the respective ambassadors from all three countries were being summoned specifically over Tehran's treatment of political prisoners and the detention of dual nationals.
The European Union has not imposed sanctions over rights violations in Iran since 2013.
Without naming the E3, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh responded to the Guardian article in a statement saying some European powers were interfering in the country's internal affairs.
"Iran believes the politically-motivated behavior and selective moves of the U.S. and certain European governments have always dealt the heaviest blow to the principle of human rights," he said.
Reporting by Reuters