Three Iranian teenagers are among 15 people who could face the death penalty over the killing of a pro-government paramilitary force member, the judiciary said Wednesday.
Iran has been rocked by street violence since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code for women.
A group of 15 people was charged with “corruption on earth” over the death of Ruhollah Ajamian, a member of the Basij paramilitary force, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported.
Prosecutors allege Ajamian, 27, was stripped naked and killed on November 3 in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, by a group of mourners who had been paying tribute to a slain protester.
Initially, on November 12, Mizan Online announced charges for 11 people over Ajamian’s killing, including a woman.
But on Wednesday, as the trial opened, it said 15 defendants in the case had been charged with “corruption on earth” — a sharia-related charge that is a capital crime in the Islamic republic.
“Three of the accused are aged 17” and their cases would be dealt with by a juvenile court, the website added.
An Iranian general said on Monday that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest, including dozens of security force members, and thousands have been arrested, among them around 40 foreigners.
More than 2,000 people have been charged with offences, according to the authorities.
At least six people have so far been sentenced to death, their fates now depending on the supreme court which rules on appeals.
The Taliban have banned Afghan women from entering the capital’s public parks and funfairs, just months after ordering access to be segregated by gender.
The new rule, introduced this week, further squeezes women out of an ever-shrinking public space that already sees them banned from traveling without a male escort and forced to wear a hijab or burqa whenever out of the home.
Schools for teenage girls have also been shut for over a year across most of the country.
“For the past 15 months, we tried our best to arrange and sort it out — and even specified the days,” said Mohammad Akif Sadeq Mohajir, spokesman for the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue.
“But still, in some places — in fact, we must say in many places — the rules were violated,” he told AFP late Wednesday.
“There was mixing (of men and women), hijab was not observed, that’s why the decision has been taken for now.”
The news was met with dismay by women and park operators — who invested heavily in developing the facilities.
“There are no schools, no work… we should at least have a place to have fun,” said one mother, who asked to be identified only as Wahida, as she watched her children play in a park through the window of an adjoining restaurant.
“We are just bored and fed up with being at home all day, our minds are tired,” she told AFP.
At the next table, Raihana, 21, who is studying Islamic law at university, shared her disappointment after arriving at the park to spend the day with her sisters.
“We were very excited… we are tired of staying at home,” she said.
“Obviously, in Islam, it is allowed to go out and visit parks. When you have no freedom in your own country, then what does it mean to live here?”
A few kilometers away, the Ferris wheel and most of the other rides in Zazai Park — which offers a spectacular view of the city — have ground to a sudden halt because of a lack of business.
Before this week’s ban, it could accommodate hundreds of visitors on days when women brought their children for family gatherings.
On Fridays and public holidays, even more would flock to the park — one of the few attractions in the city.
On Wednesday, only a handful of men wandered nonchalantly through the complex.
Habib Jan Zazai, co-developer of the complex, fears he may have to close down a business that he has poured $11 million into, and which employs more than 250 people.
“Without women, the children will not come alone,” he told AFP.
He warned such edicts would discourage investment by foreigners or Afghans living abroad, as well as impact revenue collection.
“A government is run by taxes. If an investor is not paying tax, then how can they run?”
Mohammad Tamim, 20, sipping tea in the park during a visit from Kandahar, where he teaches at a madrassa, called the ban “bad news”.
“Every human psychologically needs to be entertained,” he said.
“Muslims need to be entertained — especially after 20 years of war.”
Iranians staged new protest actions Thursday in defiance of a crackdown by the authorities as a rights groups said an 18-year-old became the latest teen killed in clashes in the northwest.
Iran has for over six weeks been gripped by protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested by the notorious morality police — a movement that poses the biggest challenge to the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution.
The clerical leadership under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, has responded with a crackdown that as well as killing dozens has seen 1,000 people charged so far and according to activists risking the death penalty.
With the movement no signs of abating, the problems for the authorities are compounded by the tradition in Iran of holding a “chehelom” mourning ceremony 40 days after a death, meaning each new killing can fuel new protest actions.
Norway-based group Iran Human Rights said large numbers in the city of Karaj outside Tehran were Thursday attending a 40-day ceremony for Hadis Najafi, a 22-year-old woman activists say was killed by security forces in September.
IHR said police had blocked the highway leading to the cemetery to prevent even larger numbers attending.
“This year is the year of blood, Seyyed Ali (Khamenei) will be toppled,” the video showed them chanting.
The Kurdish rights organisation Hengaw reported a sequence of protests had taken place Wednesday in the Kurdish-populated regions of northwestern Iran where Amini hailed from, including the city of Sanandaj which has become a major protest flashpoint.
It said Momen Zandkarimi, 18-year-old from Sanandaj, was killed by direct fire from Iranian security forces.
Due to the pressure from Iranian security agencies who fear his funeral could turn into a protest, his body has been moved to another village for burial, it added.
According to an updated death toll issued Wednesday by IHR, 176 people have been killed in the crackdown on protests sparked by Amini’s death.
Another 101 people have lost their lives in a distinct protest wave in Zahedan in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province.
Of all those killed, 40 were under 18 years of age, it added.
Thousands have been arrested nationwide, rights activists say, while Iran’s judiciary has said 1,000 people had already been charged over what it describes as “riots”.
The trial of five men charged with offences that can carry the death penalty over the protests opened Saturday in Tehran.
“The charges and sentences have no legal validity and their sole purpose is to commit more violence and create societal fear,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, condemning the “show trials”.
Hadi Ghaemi, head of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, warned that courts handing down death sentences would be a “blatant attempt to terrorise the Iranian people into silence”.
Activists condemned as a forced confession a video published by state-run Iranian media of Toomaj Salehi, a prominent rapper arrested at the weekend after backing the protests, in which a blindfolded man saying he is Salehi admits to making “a mistake”.
Freedom of expression group Article 19 said it was “extremely disturbed Iran state media are sharing forced confessions” with the subject “under clear duress”.
He is currently being held incommunicado under the control of intelligence agents in Tehran’s Evin prison, his uncle Iqbal Iqbali told news site Iran Wire.
At least 51 journalists have been detained in the protest crackdown, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Fourteen are confirmed to have been released on bail.
Journalist Yaghma Fashkhami became the latest prominent figure to be arrested, his wife Mona Moafi wrote on Twitter.
There is also growing concern over the wellbeing of Wall Street Journal contributor and freedom of expression campaigner Hassan Ronaghi, who was arrested in September and according to his family is on hunger strike with two broken legs sustained in custody.
On Wednesday, US Vice President Kamala Harris saluted the “bravery” of the women-led protests, as she said Washington would work to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
“Iran has demonstrated through its denial of women’s rights and brutal crackdown on its own people that it is unfit to serve on this commission,” Harris said.
Former governor of Anambra State and Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi has said that Nigeria cannot make sustainable progress if the nation does not begin to prioritize the place of women.
Addressing an audience at the Voice Of Women Conference which held at the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Conference Centre in Abuja on Tuesday, Obi noted that women are pivotal in the transformation of the nation.
“The #VOW2022 Conference and Awards indeed is timely for an agenda to be set towards having an inclusive and accountable Nigeria, from 2023.
“This country cannot make sustainable progress if we continue to leave 50% of the population, which are women behind.
“As Presidential Candidates speak to Nigerian Women from across the country at this event, it is good for the women to listen to what we have to say and then look at what we did before now – our respective antecedents – when we had the opportunity to bring them to the leadership table.
“Women need to vote right, looking at antecedents on inclusivity agenda. Beyond that, they must vote for candidates they can trust on the scales of capacity, competence, character and proven commitment to the yearnings of Nigerian women. Do not accept us based on what will tell you we will do: have we proven it before now?
“I had 40% women in my cabinet in Anambra state because I have found out that women were far more committed and trustworthy. When you need work done and done satisfactory, get a woman to do it and you will not be disappointed,” Obi stated at the conference.
He reiterated his commitment to making sure that if voted as president his government will carry women along, bringing them to the leadership table where decisions are being made, and also allowing them to utilize their potentials for the betterment of Nigeria.
The Co-ordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates on Thursday called a strike in response to the crackdown that Amnesty International says has cost the lives of at least 23 children.
“The Co-ordinating Council declares sit-in strikes for Sunday and Monday. We teachers will be present at schools but will refrain from being present in classes,” it said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.
“We know very well that the military and security forces and plainclothes (officers) have violated schools and educational centres,” it said.
“During this systematic oppression, they have mercilessly taken the lives of a number of pupils and children; from Nika (Shahkarami) and Sarina (Esmailzadeh), to Abolfazl (Adinezadeh) and Asra Panahi.”
The four, all in their teens, were killed by Iran’s security forces during the crackdown on the nationwide protests that has flared since September 16, when Amini died in custody, according to human rights groups.
Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said on Thursday that at least 27 children have been killed by the security forces and that children and teachers are among the thousands arrested in the crackdown.
In its statement, the teachers’ union said “a large number of teachers have been arrested” without being charged.
“The rulers must know that … Iran’s teachers do not tolerate these atrocities and tyranny and proclaims that we are for the people, and these bullets and pellets you shoot at the people target our lives and souls,” it said.
“This is why the Co-ordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates supports the rightful protests of the people across Iran, and condemns the killings and oppression of past weeks.”
It vowed to “continue our protest until the people’s right to protest is recognised, all pupils are unconditionally freed and return to schools, the system stops killing the people and children, and stops answering the people’s rightful demands with bullets”.
After being returned to school, they were beaten again, it said in a statement issued on Monday.
“After that one of the pupils named Asra Panahi unfortunately passed away in hospital and a number of students were arrested,” it said, adding the beating left another pupil in a coma.
State television later aired an interview with her uncle in which he said she died of heart failure.
Ardabil’s parliamentary representative, Kazem Mousavi, was quoted as saying she had “committed suicide by swallowing pills” in a report by the Didban Iran website.
Those accounts raised the ire of retired Iranian football star Ali Daei, who hails from Ardabil and has run into trouble with the authorities over his support for the Amini protests.
In a post to his 10 million Instagram followers, Daei said he did not believe Panahi had died of heart failure and dismissed as “rumours” the MP’s claim that she had taken her own life.
The death of the 22-year-old Amini, after her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress code for women, has fuelled the biggest protests seen in the country for years.
In its statement issued on Tuesday, the teachers’ union slammed the school’s decision to get pupils involved in the “ideological event” without the consent of their parents.
“The council calls on the system and military and security forces to stop their transgressions against schools,” it said.
“This council also calls on the system to stop the killing of innocent people and defenceless protesters.”
In response to Daei’s Instagram post, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website rejected his version of events as “fake news”.
“If Mr Daei has any proof regarding the claims made about the death of the girl pupil in Ardabil, he is expected to present them to the related officials as soon as possible and to follow up on them,” it said.
A coalition of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, said on Monday that the security forces’ crackdown on the Amini protests has killed at least 23 identified children.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Sunday accused his US counterpart of “inciting chaos” after President Joe Biden expressed support for protests in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death in custody.
“The remarks of the American president, who is inciting chaos, terror and the destruction of another country, serve as a reminder of the eternal words of the founder of the Islamic republic, who called America the Great Satan,” Raisi said, referring to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei.
“The enemy’s plot must be countered by effective measures to resolve people’s problems,” Raisi added, according to a presidency statement.
Iran has been rocked by protests since 22-year-old Amini’s death on September 16, three days after she was arrested by morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to dozens of deaths, mostly among protesters but also among the security forces, and hundreds have of demonstrators been arrested.
Biden had said Friday that “we stand with the citizens, the brave women of Iran.
“It stunned me what it awakened in Iran. It awakened something that I don’t think will be quieted for a long, long time,” said the US president.
Earlier Sunday, Iran’s foreign affairs spokesman Nasser Kanani had shrugged off Biden’s comments, saying that “Iran is too strong for its will to be swayed by the interference… by a politician tired of years of failure.”
“We will together defend the independence of Iran,” Kanani wrote on Instagram.
On October 6, the United States slapped sanctions on seven senior Iranian officials for involvement in the crackdown.
The US Treasury last month also placed sanctions on the morality police.
At least 108 people have been killed in Iran’s crackdown on more than three weeks of nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, said Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
The Iranian security forces also killed at least another 93 people during separate clashes in the city of Zahedan, in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, IHR said in a statement.
Protests erupted across Iran on September 16, when Amini died three days after falling into a coma following her arrest in Tehran by the morality police for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The violence in Zahedan erupted on September 30 during protests that were triggered by anger over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police commander in the region.
Human rights groups also voiced alarm on Tuesday over the extent of the crackdown in Sanandaj, the capital of Amini’s home province of Kurdistan in Iran’s west.
“The international community must prevent further killings in Kurdistan by issuing an immediate response,” IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said in Wednesday’s statement.
IHR indicated its investigation into the extent of the “repression” in Kurdistan had been hampered by internet restrictions and warned of an “impending bloody crackdown” on demonstrators in the western province.
“The city of Sanandaj in Kurdistan province has witnessed widespread protests and bloody crackdowns in the past three days,” IHR said, adding that its current death toll for the province excluded those killed in that period.
The Olso-based group said it had so far recorded 28 deaths in Mazandaran province, 14 in Kurdistan, 12 in both Gilan and West Azerbaijan, and 11 in Tehran province.
It said the Iranian security forces had also arrested many children protesting on the streets and at schools in the past week.
“Children have a legal right to protest, the United Nations has an obligation to defend children’s rights in Iran by applying pressure on the Islamic republic,” said Amiry-Moghaddam.
IHR said its toll also excluded six deaths that reportedly occurred during protests inside Rasht central prison in northern Iran on Sunday as it was still investigating the case.
It said workers had also joined in nationwide strikes and protests at Asalouyeh petrochemical plant in Iran’s southwest, Abadan in western Iran and Bushehr to the south.
Hajiya Zakiyya, the wife of the Katsina State Governor, Bello Masari, on Thursday charged pregnant women in the state to embrace antenatal care.
She also advised them to frequently attend healthcare facilities during and after delivery and to embrace the family planning system.
This is part of efforts to underscore the importance of utilizing routine health services, ensuring safe pregnancies and deliveries as well as reducing maternal mortality rate and other related complications in the state.
Mrs Masari during a sensitisation program aimed at improving the uptake of antenatal care services and facility delivery held at the Bindawa Comprehensive Health Centre also donated free Mama kits for the facility to ensure clean and safe delivery.
The kits contain basic materials/supplies that are required during childbirth such as sterile hand gloves, sanitary pads, and plastic cord clamps.
Mrs Masari further acknowledged the support and contributions of traditional and religious leaders, institutions as well as the State Primary Healthcare Agency, and other relevant stakeholders towards improving the health of their communities.
This particular gesture was fully sponsored by the governor’s wife’s Women, Youth, and Children Improvement Support Initiative (WYCISI) in collaboration with the State Primary Health Care Agency.
“It is very sad to hear of the loss of pregnant women or their babies from a preventable cause of death,” she said.
“This has been happening and we all must do our best to see that we significantly reduce these causes of deaths or complications in our communities.
“Routine Immunization, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding of children under-fives within the community are implemented on a periodic basis.
“Communities should therefore take these opportunities and utilize health services for the good of their families.
“We should always remember that when women deliver in health care facilities, special care is available for them and their babies.
“I am extremely happy to see that many women have taken time to grace this occasion. Couples especially men should understand and appreciate the fact that prevention is better than cure.
“I hope that the facility will use them judiciously and continue to encourage our women to deliver in health care facilities through their good work and favourable attitudes.”
In his remarks during the occasion, the Executive Secretary of the State Primary Health Care Agency, Dr Shamsuddeen Yahaya, reiterated the commitment of the present state administration towards improving primary health care services in the state.
He described the sensitisation program as an avenue created to remind people of the availability of high-impact, cost-effective maternal, newborn, and child health services such as antenatal care, postnatal care, and newborn care.
According to him, quite a number of these services are not only available in the facilities closed to the people, but are also provided free of charge.
The agency chief said the state government has also launched Community Health Influencers and Promoters Services program to further improve demand creation on antenatal care and facility delivery.
While recalling that the state government has recently launched the disbursement of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, he said it provided the opportunity to engage more midwives and recruit more healthcare workers in the state.
On her part, the State Immunisation Officer, Hajiya Sahura Muhammad, spoke at length on the importance of hygiene to pregnant women and on how best to protect themselves from killer diseases such as cholera, malaria, hepatitis, and other related illness.
Elsewhere in the Mani Local Government Area of the State, the governor’s wife distributed school uniforms, school bags, writing books, pencils, and other learning materials to 200 pupils of Bagiwa Primary School to encourage parents to support the education of their children.
The aim she said, is to complement the effort of the state government in moving basic education to the next level.
She, however, called on traditional rulers, religious and community leaders, non-governmental organizations, and philanthropists to continue supporting and complementing the government’s efforts toward improving basic education in the state.
In a related development, the governor’s wife distributed clothes and financial assistance to 100 orphans and other vulnerable children across all the political wards in the Kankia Local Government Area of the state.
“As we are all aware, helping the needy is a duty enshrined in Islam.
“Today, I am here in Kankia to give out cash assistance of N5,000 to each of the one hundred orphans shortlisted.
“I hope this small token will bring succor in their lives. Some of the children will also receive clothing as well as some basic items for daily use that include soaps, detergent, and pomade,” she noted.
She urged parents in the state to ensure that their children – between the ages of 1-5 – are immunized against the killer diseases, calling on them to ensure that their wards are enrolled in school immediately they reach school age – that is age five.
“The government of the state has signed a law for compulsory basic education. I am therefore calling on community leaders, traditional authorities, women groups, NGOs, youths, and individuals, to continue supporting government policies and programmes for the development of our state,” she added
At least 82 people have been killed by Iranian security forces in the city of Zahedan in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province since protests erupted there on September 30, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
In a violent crackdown after Friday prayers on September 30, security forces killed at least 66 people, including children, Amnesty said.
Since then, 16 people have been killed in an ongoing clampdown on protests, it added, warning the real toll is likely to be even higher.
With Iran already convulsed by protests over the death of Mahsa Amini who had been arrested by the Tehran morality police, the protests in Zahedan were triggered by anger over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police commander in the region.
Amnesty said that security forces fired “live ammunition, metal pellets and teargas” at protesters, bystanders and worshippers when a group of people gathered for a protest outside a police station after Friday prayers on September 30 in Zahedan.
“Evidence gathered by Amnesty International shows that the majority of victims were shot in the head, heart, neck and torso, revealing a clear intent to kill or seriously harm.”
It added that the firing had come from the “police station rooftop”. At least three children were killed on September 30, it added.
Iranian officials have characterised the unrest as attacks by “extremists” on police stations that left five members of the Revolutionary Guards dead.
But Amnesty said that beyond “a minority” of protesters throwing stones towards the police station, it had found “no evidence” the conduct of protesters posed a serious threat to security forces.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, says it is important for the voices of women to be heard and for them to participate more actively in the development of policies in different sectors as they are major contributors to national development.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this today when he received at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, a delegation of Jam’iyyar Matan Arewa, the association of women in Northern Nigeria.
At the meeting, the Vice President was also presented with the Association’s Icon/Humanitarian Award, in recognition of the VP’s support to the less privileged in society and especially children orphaned by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, particularly through the North East Children’s Trust, an initiative championed by Prof. Osinbajo, which set up The Learning Centre in Maiduguri.
While appreciating the group for the award, the Vice President stated that “it is important that your voices are heard very clearly, it is an economic issue. No country in the world has attained economic development without giving equal opportunities to women. Every wealthy nation in the world that has attained greatness has done so because women in that nation were accorded equal rights and opportunities.”
Urging for more collaboration between government and similar private and civil society organisations in addressing issues related to the welfare of children, and girl-child education, among others, the VP further stated that “it is important that the private sector and civil society organisations such as yours, focused on women, participate more actively in developing policies because you are right there, so it is important to collaborate more.”
The Vice President also mentioned the proposed 35 per cent affirmative action for women to be given elective and appointive positions in government, noting that “there is a need for women to be properly recognized and given the rights in society.”
Prof. Osinbajo highlighted the work being done by the At-Risk Children Programme, ARC-P, a Federal Government led initiative in addressing the challenges faced by the vulnerable in society, especially children and young people, nationwide.
(The ARC-P is led by Mrs Maryam Uwais, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments.)
In her remarks, the President of Jam’iyyar Matan Arewa and leader of the delegation, Hajiya Rabi Musa Saulawa, said the association of Northern women embraces all women in the Northern region regardless of their tribal and religious differences.
She added that it was founded in 1963 to unite Northern women and improve their standard of living socially and economically, and has branches in all the 19 Northern States and the FCT.
Appreciating the VP for his dedication and commitment to humanitarian causes such as the orphans in the North-East, Hajiya Saulawa said, “this is the kind of leadership our nation deserves, where region, tribe or religion does not dictate the direction of government policies and initiatives. It is as a result of this commitment and dedication that Jam’iyyar Matan Arewa, an institution that looks after orphans, has also decided to honour His Excellency with the JMA humanitarian award.”
While also acknowledging the humanitarian work of the wife of the Vice President, Hajiya Saulawa prayed for God’s blessings on the VP and his family.
“Your Excellency, Northern women and children are indebted to you for taking care of our children. All we can do is to pray for you that the Almighty God will bless you and your family abundantly,” she added.