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Pollution and Corruption Destroying Basra, as Iran Exploits Iraq’s Wealth

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  • Pollution and Corruption Destroying Basra, as Iran Exploits Iraq’s Wealth


    15 Sep – The city of Basra endures high unemployment, failed healthcare and education systems, drug processing and smuggling, as well as thousands of landmines from past wars surrounding the city. Brackish water flows through its pipes. Militias – the armed wings of Shia political parties, who fight against ISIS – tyrannize its people. The river is filled with sewage and sickness.

    The shared Shiite faith has been used by Iran to exploit Iraq’s wealth rather than build up its people. Many Iraqis are tired of Iran treating Iraq like its own backyard, which culminated in an explosion of fury in Basra this past week. Thousands of citizens took to the streets to demand their rights.

    The majority of the demonstrators are young people who were children when the United States, the United Kingdom, and others invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled the ruling sysgtem — an act that led to Iran’s expanded influence through the Shia parties that took power in Baghdad.

    While the demonstrations began peacefully, soon pro-Iranian parties and Iran itself seized on the issue. The protesters were met with violence from government authorities. Live bullets fired by the military and police, killing and wounding many.

    The true meaning of this mass mobilization has been ignored. The people are angry because bribery has flourished, with a “percentage” demanded by local officials, ministers, or party chiefs, which has adversely affected industry in Basra. Investors abandon projects in the face of arbitrary demands. Instead, Iranian construction companies, banks, and even hair salons replace Iraqi firms.

    The amount of imported goods and services has increased, especially from Iran. In fact, most products in Basra are imported from Iran. The Islamic Republic is attempting to boost its exports to Iraq from $10bn to $15bn. Even the natural gas to run its power plants is imported from Iran, despite huge reserves of gas in Basra’s oil fields. The ministry of oil burns any gas produced in the extraction of oil, further polluting the environment. Although major oil companies have invested in Basra’s oil fields, the level of bribery they encounter is excessive.

    In their original contracts, local development projects promised to combat the fumes and smoke from the oil wells. Despite the claims by chief negotiator and former oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani, these efforts remain unseen. Basra is immersed in pollution that comes from an industry that was supposed to be its savior.

    Religious pilgrims lovingly described Basra’s swamps and rivers in their travelogues. Now, they are garbage dumps, and each September and October they are infected with cholera. Also concerning is the agricultural runoff and pollution that drains into the Shatt al-Arab waterway from Iranian fields. Saltwater is driven up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, creating an environmental catastrophe for livestock and fisheries.

    With its sons lost in battle and its natural wealth used to finance the campaign, Basra played a large part in the victory over ISIS. Now Basra’s standard of living declines, as that same wealth goes to rebuild liberated areas. The government must demonstrate that they put the health and security of Iraq first and eliminate the destructive role of the Iranian regime.

  • Iran’s Missile Attack on Iraq Was an Act of Terror


    14 Sep – The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Thursday that the missile strike they launched at the meeting of a Kurdish independence group in Iraq last week was as a warning to “arrogant foreign powers”.

    The IRGC fired seven medium-range ballistic missiles at the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran’s (KDPI) headquarters in Koysinjaq, Iraqi Kurdistan, killing at least 11 people and wounding 50 more, in what the Iranian security force called a precision strike.

    Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari told Iran’s state-run ISNA news agency: “With a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles), our missiles endow the Iranian nation with a unique ability to fight against arrogant foreign powers.

    All those that have forces, bases and equipment within a 2,000-kilometre radius of Iran’s sacred borders should know that (our) missiles are highly accurate.”

    The “arrogant foreign powers” that the IRGC refer to is likely the US, given American support for Kurdish independence and further rocket strikes by Iran against the US embassy in Baghdad and US Consulate in Basra. The IRGC has often bragged that their arsenal of medium-range missiles put US bases in the Gulf and beyond within reach.

    Jafari said: “(Our) recent vengeance upon terrorists had a very clear message for enemies, especially superpowers who think they can bully us.”

    Relations between the US and Iran have significantly decreased since Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, which led to the reimposition of crippling sanctions that have put further pressure on an already failing economy. It’s important to note that one of Trump’s issues with the 2015 deal was Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its attempts to destabilise the Middle East, both of which are on full display here.

    The KDPI is Iran’s oldest Kurdish movement, advocating for independence from the Iranian Regime, and many of their leaders have been assassinated by Tehran in the past. Many of the group live in the mountainous border region between Iran and Iraq, armed to avoid further attacks from the Regime.

    What is lost in many reports of this story is that this is not a case of the US and Iran coming to blows. Iran violated Iraqi sovereignty and murdered 11 people in a terrorist attack on a political opposition group. Yet still, there is little serious international reaction, only some mild verbal condemnations from politicians. This is one of the many attacks that Iran should be held to account for at the UN General Assembly next week.

  • Two Iranians Accused of Spying on U.S. for Iranian Government


    21 August – It has been reported that two Iranians have been accused of spying for Iran in the United States. The two men were indicted earlier this week.

    Reports say that the men were carrying out surveillance on a Jewish establishment. They were also accused of gathering information on backers of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), the main opposition group to the Iranian dictatorship.

    The U.S. Justice Department named the two men as Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar and Majid Ghorbani, aged 38 and 59 respectively. Mohammadi-Doostdar had dual U.S. Iranian citizenship and Ghorbani is an Iranian citizen living in California.

    The men were arrested on Thursday 9th August on the charge of carrying out surveillance on behalf of Iran.

    According to the U.S. Justice Department, Ghorbani came to the United States from Iran in July last year. He had been instructed to gather information about entities and groups that are considered enemies of Iran, in particular the Iranian opposition and its supporters and Jewish and Israeli entities.

    Ghorbani had attended a number of events linked to the Iranian opposition. Earlier this year he went to Washington to attend the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights. He was seen taking photos of people in attendance as well as of the speakers at the MEK-affiliated event.

    Iran has spent years denying the significance of the MEK and the Resistance movement as a whole. However, it is very clear that the opposition has been a big threat for decades. Back in 1988, Iran ordered the execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners. It became known as the 1988 massacre and such an extreme act was the Mullahs’ way of trying to wipe out the opposition.

    Of course its attempt to eliminate the opposition was unsuccessful and it has shown over the years that it will not be intimidated or discouraged by such monstrous acts. The people of Iran are still calling for justice for the victims of the massacre and are outraged that those involved have risen through the ranks of the establishment instead of being punished for such a major crime against humanity.

    The U.S Justice Department also said that Ghorbani went to New York last September to attend an MEK rally. It was found out that he was paid several thousand dollars for attending. He photographed participants at the event and handed them over to Mohammadi-Doostdar.

    A number of the photographs had handwritten notes and they were found by U.S. airport authorities when he was going back to Iran at the end of 2017.

    In July last year, Mohammadi-Doostdar had carried out surveillance on the Rohr Chabad House in Chicago – an ultraorthodox Jewish facility. He had taken photos of the security layout and detail of the building.

    The news comes only weeks after an Iranian diplomat was arrested in Germany for his role in an attempted terrorist attack on the “Free Iran” rally just outside Paris. European authorities foiled the attack.

  • Young Women in Iran Have Huge and Effective Impact on Protests Sweeping the Country


    9 August – In the wave of protests sweeping Iran, especially over the past week, Iranian women are having an effective impact. In fact, their influence has been so great that the Revolutionary Guard Corps has been compelled to speak out.

    The state-run Fars news agency, allegedly affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — which has been designated as a terrorist entity by the United States Department of Treasury — wired two stories on August 5th, 2018, that highlighted the role of Iranian women as the driving force behind the recent protests.

    International Youth day falls on August 12th, and since so many young women have taken a role in the Iranian people’s fight for freedom, article by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Women’s Committee takes a look at their source of energy.

    A report entitled, “Sexual protests” (in an effort to tarnish the purpose and goal of the protests) Fars wrote, “Two women had undertaken the role of leaders of the protests at Vali-e Asr intersection [in downtown Tehran]. The team of two were standing on the sidewalk of Vali-e Asr Avenue and shouting at people, ‘People, why are you silent?’ Gradually 10 to 15 people gathered around them and they started chanting, ‘death to the dictator’.”

    The NCRI Women’s Committee asks us to imagine the young women standing in street, in the capital ruled by a misogynous leadership, calling for people to join them in protest. “Knowing what the mullahs’ security forces do to the women they arrest and detain for speaking out against the regime, the mere thought of what these brave women were doing gives you goose bumps,” the Committee writes.

    Scores of people, youths and women, are shown walking down a street in one of the video clips from Karaj. The clip begins with the crowd chanting, “Free all political prisoners.” Following this, women are seen walking right in the center of the street chanting, “Do not fear, do not fear, we are all together.” In this way, these women encouraged everyone to join their ranks.

    In another report by Fars, entitled, “Contrary to the claims of opposition media, the streets of Tehran are calm,” they write, “It is noteworthy that today, too, similar to the previous days, the leader of these people [the protesters] was a woman.”

    Ironically, Fars does a good job of pointing to the leading role of women in the protests. It also inadvertently admits “the more dominant presence of women in the scene and the importance of this presence” and implies that this is “noticeable and evident in the protests in other cities, as well.”

     “Although Fars had intended in its article to smear the anti-state protests by labeling them as ‘sexual protests’ but in every line of its report, it painted an image of Iran’s brave women undertaking their historic role as a ‘force for change’ in the struggle for change and overthrowing the clerical dictatorship,” according to the NCRI Women’s Committee. The news agency sought to humiliate and objectify Iranian women.

    Under a separate subtitle called, “the beginning of the story” Fars wrote, “The (Farsi) hashtag zanan_e_barandaz [meaning women who seek the overthrow of the clerical rule] is still hot (i.e. favorite). This hashtag was created simultaneous with the PMOI’s meeting in Paris named, ‘Women Force for Change,’ which Maryam Rajavi attended.”

    A group of youths sent an urgent video from inside state security forces car upon their arrest. They spoke their names one by one. These fearless girls and boys who posted a clip on the internet on Sunday night, August 5th, just as they were being transferred to jail, are examples of this resilient generation.

  • Imprisoned Human Rights Attorney Soltani Pledges to “Serve the People” While Mourning Daughter


    8 August – Abdolfattah Soltani is one of Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyers. He spent most of his legal career defending political prisoners before becoming one himself.

    After representing many detainees held on politically motivated charges, this fearless defense attorney has been imprisoned since 2011, serving a 13-year prison sentence for “being awarded the [2009] Nuremberg International Human Rights Award,” “interviewing with media about his clients’ cases,” and “co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center.”

    Soltani was recently granted furlough from Evin Prison to mourn his daughter’s death on August 4th, 2018. His 30-year-old daughter, Homa, passed away on August 3rd from a heart attack.

    Video clips were posted on social media, showing Soltani being reunited with his family at a morning ceremony for his daughter. One clip shows Soltani breaking down into tears as he embraces his wife, Masoumeh Dehghan.

    In a video clip showing Soltani standing over his daughter’s grave, he says, “I pledge in the presence of all the martyrs to always serve the people and work for the greatness of the country.” He continues, “I hope to God that we will always do the things that make the people happy. I pledge to never forget the people. I pledge in the presence of your good soul to never forget your mission to bring happiness and help the people. We will strive to bring a smile onto the faces of the people. I salute you all.”

    How much time Soltani will be granted for this furlough is unclear. His lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, called on President Hassan Rouhani on August 5th, to seek Soltani’s release.

    Article 58 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code allows prisoners to be conditionally released after serving a third of their sentence. While Soltani, 64, has been eligible for release since 2014, the Intelligence Ministry — operating under Rouhani — has blocked his freedom despite his deteriorating health, according to his surviving daughter, Maede.

    “They don’t want him to go free only because he insists on his rights and innocence,” Maede Soltani told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) in September 2017, adding, “The judiciary isn’t impartial or independent. The real decision-maker is the Intelligence Ministry.”

    Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh, former staffers of the now defunct CHRI, are also currently being held in Evin Prison. The center’s co-founder, Nobel Peace Laureate and attorney Shirin Ebadi, facing repeated threats that she would also be imprisoned, fled Iran in 2009.

    Mahvash Sabet, a formerly imprisoned Baha’i faith leader said she would “never forget” Soltani’s brave attempts to defend her before she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

    “In one of the court sessions, after a lot of wrangling, our lawyers were given a chance to present a defense. I remember Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, the prominent lawyer who I greatly respect, standing up and rejecting the charges on three grounds,” she said. “Despite their firm belief in Islam, he [attorney Hadi Esmailzadeh] and Mr. Soltani defended us regardless of our beliefs. What mattered to them was that their clients were human beings and citizens of this country, just like them.”

  • Iranian Embassy spying on opponents, German Intel says


    July 26 – The Iranian regime is using its Berlin embassy to spy on the Iranian opposition, according to a report issued by Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV). The regime’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its foreign operations arm, the Quds Force, are also active in Germany, the BfV annual report adds.

    This report, made public by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, comes only a few weeks after Berlin arrested a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat, charging him with terrorism and providing orders to an Iranian-Belgian couple to target the Iranian opposition “Free Iran 2018” convention in Paris through a dangerous bomb plot.

    Assadollah Assadi, the so-called Iranian regime diplomat, was arrested while in Bavaria, western Germany, under a European arrest warrant. While Belgium seeks his extradition for trial on its territory, Assadi is currently on trial in Germany.

    The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security is behind spying operations in Germany, according to the German intelligence report, focusing mainly on gathering information about dissidents in Germany while also extending their operations throughout the Green Continent.

    Back in March of 2017, a Pakistani citizen was convicted by a Berlin court on charges of spying, the report reveals. The individual was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months behind bars.

    Tehran was attempting through a number of its centers and institutions it manages in Germany to influence Shiites from various nationalities living in this country, the German intelligence report adds. The report specifically mentions the Islamic Center and Imam Ali mosque in Hamburg.

    The BfV report also mentions an “ongoing threat” from the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah.

    “We must expect Hezbollah to continue planning terrorist operations outside the Middle East…” the report adds.

  • MULTIPLE VOICES URGE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN IRAN


    26 July-two days after he addressed an event aimed at highlighting the divide between the Iranian government and its people, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo published an editorial in the USA Today in which he further highlighted the theocratic regime’s history of human rights abuses.

    Although the article was more broadly focused on urging democratic nations to safeguard the rights of religious minorities all throughout the world, it began by focusing on the case of Mohammad Salas, a member of the Iranian Sufi community known as the Gonabadi dervishes who was recently executed following a judicial process in which he was reportedly tortured and denied due process while facing accusations of responsibility for the deaths of three policemen during clashes between protesting dervishes and Iranian security forces.

    Pompeo emphasized that the Salas case is only one part of a much larger crackdown on the Gonabadi dervishes, some of whom have apparently died during the period in which hundreds have been imprisoned on the basis of their beliefs. The article went on to state that Iran’s well-publicized religious persecution is by no means limited to the dervishes, but includes either outright attacks or systematic denials of civil rights to “Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, and other minority religious groups simply trying to practice their faiths.”

    Also on Tuesday, Forbes published an article by author and human rights activist Ewelian Ochab in which she outlined the particular tactics of persecution facing one of these groups, the Baha’i. The article reiterated the familiar claim that this faith, with its origins in early 20th century Iran, maybe the most systematically persecuted in the country, even though that persecution is rarely expressed through bloodshed. Ochab characterized the repression of Baha’i religious practice as being subtle but also comprehensive, involving an average of 100 arbitrary detentions per year over the past decade, along with concerted efforts to deny adherents access to education, the means to earn a livelihood, and the same modest legal protections afforded to officially-recognized religious groups.

    The Pompeo and Ochab editorials both concluded with similar calls to action, urging governments and all defenders of human rights to undertake measures that would affirm the defense of religious freedom while putting pressure on Iran and other states with poor records in this area. Ochab specifically observed that “the Baha’i community in Iran demonstrates how the destruction of a minority group can be achieved relatively quietly within a state or region,” and thus underscores the need for pre-emptive action to prevent such an outcome.

    Of course, it is only natural that some observers find more motivation to speak out on such matters when the affected groups are personally familiar to them. So while the Baha’i community, which has only a small global presence, may receive less international attention than its persecution would warrant, it nonetheless stands to benefit from the general attention that is given to Iran’s persecution of religious minorities, as a result of the impact of that phenomenon on global faith communities like evangelical Christians. This may have been evident early this week when members of that community came together with supporters of Iran’s regional adversary, Israel, at an event in Washington.

    The two aforementioned editorials coincided with the two-day conference called “Christians United for Israel.” In two separate reports on the event, Voice of America News highlighted some of the ways in which the event provided an outlet both for international defense of Iranian Christians and for Christian solidarity with the various Iranian activists who have been protesting against the clerical regime during recent months.

    In the first place, VOA pointed out that Israeli officials addressed the assembled evangelicals to affirm that they would continue exerting pressure on Iran over issues including its domestic human rights violations and its institutionalized discrimination against Christians. Although the Iranian constitution technically lists Christianity as an officially-recognized religious minority, legal protections extend only to persons born into Christian communities, even in best case scenarios. Those who convert to Christianity are typically condemned to 10 years in prison, but can also be executed for “apostasy”.

    VOA quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying “Israel stands in complete solidarity with persecuted Christians in Iran.” He went on to invoke calls to action similar to those of Pompeo and Ochab, asking rhetorically, “Why are so many people silent as Christians are jailed … in Iran?” Netanyahu described the attendant persecution as “brutal” and acknowledged that it has resulted in Christians fleeing not only from the Islamic Republic but also from other areas of the region in which Iran exerts influence.

    The same VOA article quoted the renowned evangelical pastor and CUFI founder John Hagee as saying that participants in the conference stand with young Iranians who oppose the clerical regime. “You deserve a bright and predictable future, you deserve fair and free elections, and you deserve better than the iron-fisted dictators that have enslaved your nation,” he said before crediting the current American presidential administration with greater attention to such issues that had been offered by its predecessors.

    Accordingly, the other VOA article emphasized the efforts by four Republican senators to connect concern for Iranian Christians and support of pro-democracy activism to the assertive policies that have been adopted by the Trump White House. Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and John Cornyn each called attention to their own efforts to support that assertiveness, as by introducing legislation that, in Graham’s words, “sides with the Iranian people against the ayatollah and his henchmen.”

    VOA reported that CUFI organizers joined each of these lawmakers in urging attendees to visit Congress on Tuesday and insist upon broader support for measures that are aimed at defending persecuted minorities in Iran while also putting pressure on the regime over the full range of its malign behavior in the region and across the globe.

  • Third Day of Strike by Courageous Truckers Across Iran


    25 July- The strike of truck drivers in different cities of the country continued for the third consecutive day on Wednesday, July 25.

    On the third day, drivers of trucks and heavy vehicles continued their strike in several cities including Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Kerman, Zanjan, Urmia, Abadan, Ahwaz, Karaj, Arak, Shahrood, Qazvin, Hamedan, Malayer, Khorramabad, Naghadeh, Najaf Abad , Mobarakeh, Bandar Abbas, Saveh, Khaf, Semnan, Shahrood, Shahrekord, Farrokhshahr, Zahedan, Bojnourd; Yazd; Bandar Khomeini; Khormoussa; Chazabeh; Jajarm; Garmeh; Sabzevar; Shirvan; Kangavar; Darab; Marvdasht; Jahrom; Zarghan; Faroogh; Chalus; Asadabad; Tuyserkan; Andimeshk; Bandar-Mahshahr; and Qom.

    The mullahs’ regime has resorted to every attempt to break the strike in recent days. In Mashhad, regime’s authorities sold cheap tires at the terminal and advertised it in a bid to deceive the drivers and break their strike. However, the Mashhad terminal was empty and no truck showed up for loading.

    In Sarbandar (Khuzestan province), regime officials used the trucks belonging to Ministry of Transportation for loading goods to confront the strikers. In Shahrekord too, the regime tried to thwart the strike of truck drivers by using trucks associated with government bodies.

    In Kermanshah, intelligence agents and the police tried to force the drivers to break their strike by removing the license plates of the trucks of strikers, but they were faced with the protest of strikers’ families.

    In Bandar Abbas, the regime mobilized a number of moles among the drivers to start loading goods, and desperately tried to show the situation as normal.

    The regime’s attempt to stop the strike of truck drivers went futile. As the drivers resumed their strike, the head of the regime’s transportation union, Mohammad Khanbalooki, claimed that more than 70 percent of truck drivers’ demands had been met and their major problems had been resolved. He said that all the drivers are aware and know that they should not allow their demands to be used as a means by the enemies of the country…most of those who turned the truck drivers’ gathering into turmoil were from the PMOI who had infiltrated among the drivers…. and all truck drivers have been informed of the PMOI’s attempt for misusing this atmosphere…the routes for the truck drivers in country’s roads are open and 90% of truck drivers have received their bill of loading (state websites – July 23).

    The Iranian Resistance salutes striking truck drivers, and calls on brave Iranian youths across the country to show their solidarity with them. It also urges the International Labor Organization and other relevant international bodies and trade unions and syndicates of truck drivers in different countries to support the goals of striking drivers in Iran.

  • Students Arrested During Iran Protests, Now Sentenced to Prison


    22 July – Many Iranian students joined the December/January protests earlier this year, rallying against economic hardship, and chanting slogans against Supreme Leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, calling for the downfall of the theocratic system and longing for Freedom and Democracy.

    According to Iran HRM, Many of these students were subsequently arrested. Now, they are being sentenced to prison terms, and their sentences are being upheld by Iran’s Appeals Courts.

    In Tabriz, northwest Iran, on July 10th, the Appeals Court upheld a two-year sentence against Roya Saghiri, who has publicly opposed compulsory hijab, published her own verdict on Wednesday, July 11, in her Instagram account. Meanwhile, in another legal case, Ms. Saghiri has been condemned to a one-year suspended sentence and ten lashes for “disturbing public order, through participation in an illegal rally”, and “removing her headscarf in public”.

    The court also upheld a six-month prison term for Ali Ghadiri.

    As well, a three-month sentence was also upheld by the Appeals Court against Ali Kamrani, a student of English Literature at Tabriz University.

    Students Sina Darvish Omran and Ali Mozaffari were convicted of the charges of acting against “national security” and waging “propaganda against the state”. They were each sentenced to eight years in prison in June, for the charge of “assembly and collusion against national security.”

    Several students from Tehran University have received harsh sentences, including Leila Hosseinzadeh, a student of anthropology, who was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in March of this year, and theater student, Mohsen Haghshenas, who was sentenced to two years’ incarceration, as well as Sina Rabeiei, a social sciences student, who was sentenced to a year in prison and a two-year ban on leaving the country.

    Fereshteh Tousi, a graduate student of Allameh Tabataba’i University in Tehran, was detained for giving a speech on Student Day 2016. He was sentenced to one and half years in prison and a two-year travel ban. His charge was “propaganda against the regime” because he attended a ceremony marking Students Day on December, 6, 2016, that was licensed from the university.

    The head of the women’s faction in the parliament, Parvaneh Salahshouri, recently admitted that the number of students being prosecuted for attending December 2017/January 2018 protests is much higher than earlier estimates. In an interview with state-run ILNA news agency on July 10th, 2018, she said, “A list has been put together of the students detained in the December 2017 incidents and they number more than 150, so we’re not talking about just 55 or 90 students. Unfortunately, the issue of student detentions is much more extensive.” Salahshouri added, “The Intelligence Ministry is involved in some of the cases against these students and therefore the government and the ministry itself should explain what’s going on here.”

  • Iranian Farmers Protest Water Shortages


    20 July – Farmers in Iran are protesting the government’s failure to deal with the severe drought problem that has left many unable to grow crops to feed the people.

    Just outside the city of Varzaneh, farmers have been gathering on a daily basis, next to a dry canal that once irrigated their farms, to plead for help from the mullahs, while holding up signs that read “How long will you eat your bread made with our blood?”.

    Protester Mostafa Benvidi said: “We are the people. Help the people. At night they go to bed hungry!”

    These protests, which form part of the nationwide Iranian uprising, have only grown in recent weeks despite a violent crackdown by the mullahs. Benvidi, 30, lost sight in his left eye and suffered more than 100 pellet shots in his body as a result of clashes between police and farmers in March, when the farmers held a sit-in strike in Varzaneh.

    In early July, 11 protesters were wounded in Khorramshahr when police broke up a protest by residents over the brown water coming from their taps.

    The people are angry that a drought, which is affecting about 97% of the country and the most sever for 30 years, is being ignored by the mullahs and even exacerbated by their mismanagement and corruption.

    Benvidi said: “Officials just come and promise to deal with the crisis and then just leave.”

    He and his family used to survive on their 3-hectare farm, but they haven’t been able to farm in years because of the water shortage, which means they are reliant on seasonal construction work.

    While most of Iran suffers from drought, the south has been hit particularly hard, but natural disaster has been made worse by a government that diverts water to ethnically Persian areas of Iran and to factories and steel mills rather than farms.

    Reza Khalili, an environmental activist in Varzaneh, said: “The water cycle has been annihilated. The entire water of the river has been allocated to industry.”

    One of the concerning side effects is that with the Gavkhouni wetlands drying up and sandstorms a regular occurrence, more Iranians are being exposed to the dangerous chemicals in the earth, like mercury, lead and cadmium.

    Hamid Safavi, a professor of water resources management and environmental engineering at the Isfahan University of Technology, said: “More social conflict may be on the way. Officials do not have the necessary expertise to manage water resources… [Unless policies change,] we are heading from a water crisis to a disaster. This is not conjecture. It is a certainty.”