21 Dec – Over 150 Iranian Christians have been detained in the past month and arrests are expected to continue over the Christmas holiday.
Those arrested include Amir Taleipour, 39, and his wife Mahnaz Harati, 36, who were arrested in front of their 7-year-old daughter during a raid on their home in Mashhad. The couple has not been allowed to speak with relatives or lawyers since the arrest.
Sources explain that these arrests in the officially Shia Muslim country normally spike during December when more Iranians are attracted to Christianity, as Iran hopes to intimidate potential converts away from the religion. However, arrests have been especially severe this year, with some speculating that security branches who fear losing money in the new budget are trying to show how effective they can be.
Miles Windsor, advocacy and development manager at Middle East Concern (MEC), said: “The current situation has been described by some as unprecedented. There are a huge number of arrests and detentions. Recently it seems there is definitely a coordinated and determined campaign to decimate the Christian community and to spread fear and intimidation.”
While Shia Islam is Iran’s official religion and bases its laws on the mullahs’ interpretation of Sharia, the constitution recognizes Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity as official religious minorities. However, according to the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, it also specifies the death penalty for “proselytizing”, attempting to convert Muslims, “enmity against God”, and “insulting the prophet [Muhammad]”.
Other Iranian Christians recently arrested include:
• Sisters Shima, 27, and Shokoofeh Zanganeh, 30, who is beaten in prison in Ahvaz on or after December 2, after a raid on their home
• Farzad Behzadi, 30, and Abdollah Yousefi, 34, who was arrested at the same time as the sisters, but whose whereabouts are unknown
• 70 Christians in Karaj on November 30, including Jamshid Derakhshan, 64, whose whereabouts is still unknown
Windsor said that these continuing arrests are increasing fear and limiting the flow of information, noting that most Christian arrestees are falsely charged with vague national security crimes, including espionage. These charges, often followed by sham trials, carry prison sentences of 10-15 years.
He said: “There is no doubt that it’s the Christian faith of these individuals that is the reason behind their arrests and detentions.”
The US State Department yet again listed Iran as a Country of Particular Concern for severe violations of religious freedom earlier this month. Despite the crackdown, Christianity is growing in Iran with estimates of between 800,000 and 1 million Christian Iranians.
- Sunday, December 23, 2018
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22 Nov – Protests at the Haft Tappeh (Tapeh) sugar mill, once a source of national pride that has been struggling financially since it was privatized in 2015, continued as workers stayed with their strike on Saturday, according to reports by labor rights groups in Iran. Periodic strikes and workers’ demonstrations have become a fixture of life at the mill. Workers say they are often not paid their salaries for months at a time and their wages and benefits have been cut since privatization.
Families accompanied the workers as they marched in Shush, southwestern Iran, to draw attention to their demands, ending the march near the governor’s office.
Reports also say that some three busloads of security forces arrived in Khuzestan province, and anti-riot police were stationed in and around the complex on Saturday. In their social media posts, labor organizations worry that the arrival of anti-riot forces signal a plan to break the workers’ strike.
For nearly a year, the Haft Tappeh workers have staged intermittent strikes and protests. They are angry over the mismanagement of the privatized complex, late payment of wages, and lack of production by the factory. They demand an end to the private ownership. They desire a takeover by workers, or a combination of ownership in which they can have a voice in running the business. They say they haven’t been paid since August and are demanding answers about the future of the industrial complex.
The complex was once profitable before it was privatized in dubious circumstances. The Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Mill is the only factory of its kind in Iran. It was built nearly half a century ago during the reign of last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The agro-industrial complex was always lucrative until the Islamic Republic decided to sell it to the private sector in a murky transaction in 2015.
The complex, built on a 2-hectare area, was sold to the private sector for a down payment of roughly two million dollars. It is not clear if any further payments have been made. In fact, its current owner seems to be on the run from the authorities for non-payment of loans from government banks.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Haft Tapeh became part of a large sugar cane plantation. In the course of leveling the land for planting, some of the archaeological remains were destroyed and others exposed.In the 1950s and 1960s, Haft Tepe became part of a large sugar cane plantation. In the course of leveling the land for planting, some of the archaeological remains were destroyed and others exposed.was an archaeological site in Ḵūzestān province, in the southwestern alluvial plains of Persia, its seven hills, a prominent feature of the flat plain, led to it being called the “Seven Mounds”. In the 1950s and 1960s, Haft Tapeh became part of the large sugar cane plantation.
- Saturday, November 24, 2018
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19 Nov – Iran has been condemned by the 3rd committee of the United Nations General Assembly for its blatant human rights violations. Thursday’s condemnation marks the 65th time that Iran has been called out for its human rights record at the international level.
A draft resolution, which was introduced by Canada was adopted by the committee following a vote of 85 to 30. However, 68 countries abstained from voting. There will be a general vote at the UNGA in December.
The resolution warns against the “alarmingly high frequency” of the use of the death penalty — especially against minors, as well as “the widespread and systematic use of arbitrary detention,” poor prison conditions “deliberately denying prisoners access to adequate medical treatment,” and “cases of suspicious deaths in custody.”
Iran does not adhere to international judiciary and human rights norms, stressed the resolution.
Last year a similar resolution gained 81 positive votes to 30 negatives. Four additional states joined other countries who are vocal about their discontent about the human rights situation in Iran.
Iran also lost several traditional United Nations allies. In fact, Brazil and Mexico, in what is believed to be an attempt to distance themselves from the government in Tehran, abstained from the vote this year.
Javaid Rahman, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Iran, presented his report on Iran’s human rights situation to the UN in September. He wrote that he was concerned about continued human rights abuses by Iran. The resolution adopted on Thursday is in reference to Rahman’s report, which has caused worries for the rulers of Iran.
In his yearly report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez discussed his ongoing concern regarding the human rights situation in Iran. The government was angered by Guttierrez’s remarks, and used propaganda to attack the UN authority.
Bahram Ghassemi, spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, called Thursday’s resolution unacceptable. He said that the Islamic Republic is based on “republicanism” and is against “any kind of discrimination or politicization of human rights,” but did not address any of the issues raised by the resolution.
Welcoming the UNGA’s draft resolution in condemnation of the Iranian government ’s human rights violations, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, NCRI president said, “Condemning the systematic and gross violations of human rights by the theocratic system ruling Iran, the UN resolution once again confirmed that the government blatantly tramples upon the Iranian people’s most fundamental rights in all political, social and economic spheres.”
The NCRI pointed out in a statement, other areas that need to be addressed, including “systematically assassinating opponents abroad, and depriving the people of Iran of their rights to decide their country’s fate, to enjoy the rule of law, to have access to fair trials, to have free access to information, and to form independent syndicates and unions for workers, students and government employees.”
- Saturday, November 24, 2018
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17 Nov – Five imprisoned Iranian environmentalists are now facing the death penalty after the ridiculous charges against them were changed from “espionage” to “Corruption on Earth”, according to one of the former lawyers of the accused.
Mohammad Hossein Aghasi told Radio Farda on Sunday, October 21, that the charges were changed after the examining magistrate received a letter from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and that the new charge of “corruption on earth” carries the death penalty under the Islamic Penal Code.
In January, Iranian security arrested eight environmentalists – Niloufar Bayani, Houman Jokar, Sepideh Kashani, Amir Hossein Khaleqi, AbdolReza Kouhpayeh, Taher Qadirian, Sam Rajabi and Iranian-American dual citizen Morad Tahbaz – and accused them of spying for the West, when they tried to monitor an endangered breed of tiger. They were held in temporary custody for months by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Intelligence Organization, with no formal charges brought against them.
The founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iranian-Canadian Professor Kavous Seyyed-Emami, was detained with the eight ecologists, but died in prison shortly after. Iran claims that he committed suicide, but there are serious doubts about that narrative.
TAKEN OFF THE CASE
Aghasi who represented Jokar, Qadirian, and Rajabi, was recently taken off the case by the Iranian judiciary, thanks to an “unfair” and unconstitutional clause in Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Procedure Act, which only allows suspects in national security cases to be represented by lawyers on Iran’s approved list. The list only contains about 20 names and many political cases are being termed national security, meaning that there are not enough lawyers to go around.
While Aghasi doesn’t know what the letter from the SNSC actually said, he speculated that it could be a response to the Prosecutor-General’s enquiry about changing the charges.
Although, Isa Kalantari, the head of Department of Environment (DoE), claims that the new charges have not been officially announced, it’s worth noting that the Iranian
Intelligence Ministry has found no evidence of espionage by the environmentalists, so the government had to find another way to punish them.
MURDER OF ENVIRONMENTALIST
In a related matter, many social media posts were created on October 22 concerning the mysterious murder of prominent environmentalist and human rights activist Farshid Hakki, who was reportedly stabbed to death near his house in Tehran, before his body was burnt.
Abdolreza Davari, the managing director of “Economic Reviews” monthly magazine, where Hakki served as a scientific advisor, tweeted that the news was “shocking” and “tragic” and called for an investigation.
- Saturday, November 17, 2018
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9 Nov – Real estate prices in Iran have risen 83.5% in the past year, according to a report released by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) in early November.
The CBI said that house prices in Tehran are based on the benchmark of 86,100,000 rials per square meter of built-in area in October 2018. That’s $575 based on the global exchange rate as sellers can’t get dollars based on the government’s artificial exchange rate.
This rise is particularly concerning as over the past seven months, when Iran ’s economic crisis was at its worst, the average house price per square meter in Tehran was only 55.5% higher than it had been the previous year.
As with previous CBI reports on the high cost of real estate, the price increase has meant a drop in sales, which indicates a continued recession. In fact, property sales in Tehran had dropped by nearly a third in October, compared with September.
FALL OF THE RIAL
The reason for these high prices and low sales is the massive devaluation of the Iranian currency (the rial), which has been tumbling since the start of the year. Back in February, the exchange rate was 30,000 rials per US dollar. Now, it sits at 150,000, with the exchange rate hitting 200,000 in early October. While this had certainly been helped by the reimposition of US sanctions, the decline began before Donald Trump announced them in May.
In the past month, the average rental fees in urban areas increased by over 12.6%, while in Tehran they increased by 15%. But these rising prices are not just limited to housing, as food is also becoming increasingly expensive. The cost of tomato paste is 227.8% higher than this time last year, while bananas have increased by 186% and tomatoes by over 147%.
Also rising in cost are milk and dairy products due to the ongoing drought and a rise in the cost of packaging, but the dairy producers’ association is still trying to regulate the prices.
While non- industrial manufactured goods have risen 11.5% in the past year, something that will become apparent on retail shelves in coming months. This is due largely to a rise in the cost of imported parts or material, thanks to the exchange rate.
The CBI and the statistical centre are also reporting an 11.5% rise in the inflation rate compared with the previous month, something considered too high by any standard.
- Saturday, November 10, 2018
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9 Nov – The United States has been calling on Iran to stop manufacturing weapons that have the potential of carrying a nuclear warhead. Iran has not paid much attention to the demands and has continued to develop a growing number of long-range ballistic missiles. Furthermore, it has also been firing a number of shorter-range missiles in conflict situations.
A minimum of 17 people were killed and dozens more injured (many of whom were women and children) when Iran fired several Fateh-110 missiles towards Iranian Kurdish dissident groups based in Iraqi Kurdistan.
At the beginning of October, Iran fired further missiles into Abu Kamal, a border town in the eastern part of Syria. This intensive missile attack included the use of Zulfiqar and Qiam-1 rockets that were aimed at Islamic State militants.
While these strikes were being planned and carried out, tensions between Iran and the United States were rising. The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or 2015 nuclear deal as it is known, earlier this year. One set of sanctions had already taken effect, with the rests due imminently.
The strikes in September and October were actually the most intensive missile attacks that Iran has carried out in almost two decades.
Iran has a large and varied missile arsenal – one of the biggest in the region. It has thousands of cruise missiles and short- and medium- ranges ones that have the potential of reaching parts of Europe and Israel.
However, Iran does not have intercontinental missiles that are capable of delivering atomic warheads to much further distances. The United Kingdom, the United States, France, China and Russia have intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be sent across the globe.
But, earlier this year, researchers in the United States exposed a potential secret test-site for ballistic missiles near a town called Shahrud in the desert. An expert from the UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies indicated that Iran believes this secret site will enable Iran to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile in the next five to 10 years.
The Trump administration is working under the theory that sanctions will push Iran into abandoning its ballistic missile program and the development that goes along with it. However, Iran is already under the threat of sanctions and it is not going to give the ballistic missiles up without a fight. Or unless it has some great incentive to do so.
Perhaps it would be more prudent of the Trump administration to ensure that – for now – Iran cannot access or develop the missiles that will do the most damage. Limiting Iran to a certain range is a lot more realistic, and will be received better, than trying to make it abandon everything related to ballistic missiles.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already warned: “If we cannot openly trade our commodities, if we cannot get what we want to get from open, transparent international transactions, we will not lie down and wait to die. We will do it. We will do it through whatever means that is necessary.”
- Saturday, November 10, 2018
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9 Nov – A think-tank based in Washington D.C. – the Institute for Science and International Security issued a report at the end of last month with new information related to the Iranian regime’s nuclear activities, in particular its “nuclear archive”. The report shows that, contrary to what it claims, the Iranian regime did not put an end to its nuclear weaponization efforts after 2003.
A large number of documents have been compiled with regards to Iran’s nuclear activities. The United States has reviewed the documents and declared them as authentic. The documents provide irrefutable evidence that Iran has lied about its nuclear program.
What makes the information even more concerning is the fact that Iran was actively concealing the work being done on its nuclear program while negotiations were taking place for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the 2015 nuclear deal as it is more commonly known.
But what makes the most concerning news was not truthfully reported by the media.
Several press outlets have said that the documents reviewed and reported on by the Institute for Science and International Security are nothing new. Those that share similar views are supporters of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.
When the foreign intelligence agency first made its findings public earlier this year, CNN reported that “documents revealed are nothing new about Iran’s nuclear program, experts say” (May 3rd 2018). News outlets around the world, in particular in the West, then repeated the opinions of the so-called experts quoted here. Yet they did not view the large number of documents that had been presented.
Former spokesperson for the National Security Council (NSC) during former President Barack Obama’s time in office, Ned Price, said that the newly discovered information is not new at all. He claimed that the United States knew everything that was disclosed more than 10 years ago and that the intelligence community had made some of its findings available in 2007. However, ironically, the intelligence information that Price is referring to – the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) – explicitly states that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons development in 2003.
Despite this major contradiction in his claims and statements, many news outlets failed to see that Price’s views are far from accurate. Worryingly, some of the new outlets that failed to carry out their research include the influential New York Times and the Post.
These news outlets, if they had carried out their research, would have been able to verify claims about the NIE’s assessment in 2007. The NIE was described as a “political sensation” that was used by politicians. It has been said that the NIE was just one more example of the Bush administration’s politicisation of intelligence information.
Furthermore, the Iranian President at that time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that the NIE assessment was a victory for Iran because it disrupted any plans for the United States to recommend harsher sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
It is clear that some news outlets print what matches their narrative and ignore any of the facts that would make their reporting accurate and professional.
- Saturday, November 10, 2018
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29 Oct – In a speech on Sunday to officials in charge of cyber defense, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for the stepping up of efforts to fight enemy “infiltration”, according to reports on state television. “In the face of the enemy’s complex practices, our civil defense should … confront infiltration through scientific, accurate, and up-to-date … action,” he told civil defense officials, including those involved in cyber defense.
Western cultural influences, such as entertainment, social media, and the Internet are seen as a threat against Islamic and revolutionary values by officials.
Stuxnet, a virus which was deployed nearly ten years ago by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies was used against a uranium enrichment facility. At a news conference marking Iran’s Civil Defense Day, Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Agency, was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Sunday as saying, “Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems.” He said that his country is in the process of cutting off internet access, launching instead a national network as the November deadline for the US re-imposed sanctions draws near.
Observers believe the move to be an effort by the Islamic Republic to control the possible protests due to further deterioration of economic and living conditions.
“After November 4th, with the start of the second round of US sanctions, we will move on to the national network of information that will respond to the basic services of the people,” Fars news agency quoted Jalali as saying.
Jalali added that in sites and apps on social media, Iran is facing threats. He said, “They are tools in a psychological warfare against Iran on the cultural, political, secyrity and economic levels.” He added, “The threat of the complexed social media is our top priority and we are dealing with it as a threat to national security,” and warned,“United States wants to instigate the Iranian people against the government through media, phones and internet.”
The popular protests that began at the end of last year and continue to erupt, have Iranian authorities scrambling to uncover activists and contain protests, in which social media applications and networks, play a major role.
Abulhassan Firouz Abadi, head of the Supreme Council for Cybersecurity, along with other Iranian officials, like Abdul Samad Khoram Abadi, head of the Internet Crime Investigation Committee, and TV and Radio Authority chief Abd Ali Askari, have all been classified under recent US sanctions for their role in human rights violations, as well as blocking and monitoring the Internet, imposing surveillance on peaceful activists, and suppressing recent protests.
The Iranian government is attempting to replace the foreign and international applications with national ones — replacing Telegram with Soroush — but some Iranian lawmakers and activists have protested this, because Iranian citizens don’t trust national apps, as they are under the control of the Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Unit and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp.
Last month, Firouz Abadi, head of the Supreme Council for Cybersecurity, threatened to block Instagram as he did Telegram, if the company does not provide details on the users in cooperation with the Iranian government. However, according to a survey done between May 20th through June 20th of this year, even with the block on Telegram, 79 percent of Iranian users continued connect to it through other mediums.
In fact, 46.7 percent of Iranian social media users connect to international and foreign apps, compared to the 3.9 percent who use national applications. Some 14.1 percent of Iranians use both mediums.
- Wednesday, October 31, 2018
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31 Oct – Iran’s economy continues to plummet, which has led to a growing economic crisis — unprecedented rates of unemployment, poverty, and inequality plague the country.
On May 5th, state-run Eqtesad website published a story titled “Broken backs under the weight of unemployment” that said, “Two-thirds of the Iranian people live under the poverty line! Maybe this statistic has not been written anywhere but it is a sad truth that rarely any official dares to reveal.”
A report was published by state-run ILNA news agency on October 23rd that quoted a member of Iran’s expediency council, who said that “nearly 70 percent of the factories, workshops, and mines in the country are bankrupt or have closed down.”
After four decades of economic mismanagement, this economic catastrophe has staggering dimensions. It is now considered by officials to be one of the major national security challenges the Iranian government faces.
State-run Etelaat newspaper wrote on September 26th, “As a warning to policymakers, one should pay attention to the fact that if the economic situation of the country has been the main motivating force of recent protests; if the protests are analyzed as a reaction to a 10-percent inflation and 12-percent unemployment rate, it’s inconceivable how harsh the responses would be if the inflation rate reached multiples of ten and accompanied by a twin crisis of banks and currency and added to extreme increases in the unemployment rate. Therefore, policymakers should pay attention to the fact that the recent economic turmoil, which nothing has been done to contain it despite continuous warnings by economic experts, can have a variety of consequences.”
The Research Center of Islamic Legislative Assembly has access to classified information of the Foreign Ministry, Intelligence Ministry, and the Defense Ministry of Iran. It primarily works for members of the Iranian parliament, their committees and staff, creating scientific and credible reports about the socio-economic situation of the country.
After expressing grave concerns about the deeply rooted unemployment crisis, the research center told Mehr news agency on September 2nd, “Considering the unemployment rate among the young, women, and university graduates in different provinces and remembering the protests in winter 2017-2018 is a warning that reveals the necessity of change in Iran’s economic path more than ever before.”
According to the center, the increase in unemployment rates is very alarming. They warn that, “the unemployment rate of 15-to-29-year-old women in Kurdistan, Kerman, Ardebil, and Kermanshah provinces is more than 84, 79, 78, and 76 percent [respectively].”
Iranian outlets reported that Masoumeh Aghapuralishahi, an Iranian MP and board member of the economic commission, as saying on September 14th, “We are beyond the unemployment flood. I predict that by the end of October, there will be a tsunami of unemployment. We have put so much pressure on manufacturers on different levels, including in procuring raw materials, that the production cycle is facing problems.” She adds, “By doing these things, instead of an Islamic economy, a kleptocracy is implemented.”
“The unemployment tsunami has happened in Iran’s economy a relatively long time ago and the more complex economic situation in a recent month has just revealed it more clearly,” Tejarat Farda website wrote on September 29th.
ISNA news agency quoted the chief of the Kar (labor) parliamentary group as saying on August 29th, “Currently, in Iran, one in every six-person works. Nearly 20 million young persons aged between 15 and 29 are unemployed. Unemployment rates among 15 to 29-year-old males and females are 21 and 40 percent (respectively).”
The country’s single most important source of income will be greatly affected by the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, are only a few days away.
Decades of mismanagement and the Iranian government’s tendency to curb and control dissent through subsidies along with brute force, makes it impossible to predict the security implications ahead, for Iran.
- Wednesday, October 31, 2018
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25 Oct – The UN independent expert on human rights in Iran called on the mullahs on Wednesday to ban the death penalty for juveniles.
Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, told a General Assembly human rights committee: “I appeal to the Iranian authorities to abolish the practice of sentencing children to death, and to commute all death sentences issued against children in line with international law.”
It’s illegal under international law to execute juveniles and it also contravenes the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Iran has signed up to.
JUVENILE DEATH ROW
In 2018 alone, five individuals convicted of murder when they were minors have executed in Iran. Zeinab Sekaanvand, who was accused of killing her husband when she was 17, was executed three weeks ago.
Rehman said: “Claims that she was coerced into confessing to the killing, had been beaten following her arrest and was a victim of domestic violence were reportedly not adequately examined during her trial.”
Despite amendments made to the Islamic Penal Code in 2013 that allow judges to give alternative sentences for juvenile offenders in certain circumstances, executions continue unabated in Iran.
Rehman said that “numerous” other juvenile offenders were on death row in Iran.
Rehman took up his post in July, but the Iranian authorities have not yet allowed him to visit the country in order to observe the human rights situation for himself, saying that they reject his mandate entirely.
Rehman has expressed serious concerns about human rights in Iran, especially the fate of arrested protesters and the rights of women.
Iran has been awash with protests since December, when the failing economy, high unemployment, the rising cost of living, sparked massive social discontent.
Shortly after the demonstrations began, at least 50 people were shot dead in the streets and 8,000 were arrested and threatened with the death penalty.
Rehman said: “I remain concerned about the fate of those arrested during the protests, and call upon the government to ensure that all those imprisoned for peacefully exercising their freedom of opinion and expression are released.”
While the rights of women and girls also need vast improvements, with one particular issue highlighted this year being the mandatory veiling of women.
Rehman said: “Any form of coercion on women violates their rights. So, enforcement and forced dress code, thereby, is contrary to international human rights law.”
- Wednesday, October 31, 2018
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