In Episode 211 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the potential for escalation to world war as Joe Biden retaliates for a deadly drone strike on US forces by an Iran-backed militia with air raids on 85 targets in Iraq and Syria. The same militias that have been attacking US forces in Iraq and Syria have also brutally repressed protesters in Iraq, and fought for the genocidal Bashar Assad regime in Syria. Tehran's paramilitary network has also carried out deadly repression of protests within Iran itself. The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, now also coming under US bombardment, are responsible for war crimes against the Yemeni people and repression of their popular movements. It is necessary to oppose Biden's widening of air-strikes against Iran's paramilitaries, but also to oppose the Islamic Republic, equally a force of regional reaction.
Iran Jan. 17 carried out missile and drone strikes against targets of the Jaish al-Adl militant group in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Pakistan called the assault, which resulted in the death of two children, an "unprovoked violation" of its airspace. The unprecedented strikes, attributed to the Revolutionary Guards, are seen as a response to the recent deadly suicide bombing by the Islamic State in Iran. (Times of India) Pakistan retaliated the next day with strikes on villages in Iran's Sistan & Baluchistan province, reportedly killing seven, including four children. (WION, CNN)
More than 50 were killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack in Pakistan's Balochistan province Sept. 29 as people gathered to celebrate the festival marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Mawlid an-Nabi. Those targeted in the blast at the town of Mastung were overwhelmingly members of the Baluch ethnicity. The attack is believed to have been carried out by the local ISIS franchise, Islamic State-Khorasan. That same day, at least five were killed in a separate blast at a mosque in Hangu, outside Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. (BBC News, Al Jazeera, AP, NWorld, UAE)
With the protest movement in Iran now in abeyance, Tehran's national Police Command announced July 16 that the feared "morality police" will resume patrols enforcing the mandatory wearing of the hijab by the country's women. Formally known as the Guidance Patrols (Gasht-e Ershad), the force created in 2006 was that which arrested Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, last September. Her death in custody three days later sparked the uprising that has now lasted for 10 months. The patrols were suspended for review as the protests mounted last December. Article 638 of Iran's Islamic Penal Code states that: "Women who appear in public without prescribed Islamic dress (hejab-e-shar'i), shall be sentenced to either imprisonment of between 10 days and two months, or a fine of between 50,000 and 500,000 rials." (Jurist, BBC News, MEE)
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran on April 6 urged the international community to demand the release of Toomaj Salehi, a popular rapper who has become a prominent voice of Iran's protest movement. Salehi was arrested in October, and charged with "corruption on Earth," which carries the death penalty, as well as "propaganda against the state," "collaboration with hostile governments," and other offenses punishable by up to 10 years in prison. No date has been set for the trial. Toomaj has been segregated from all other inmates in Dastgerd Prison, a maximum-security facility run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The independent Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) on Jan. 16 released statistics finding that 522 protestors, including 70 children and youths, have been killed in Iran since the start of the national uprising in September. Authorities have arrested 19,400 people, including 168 children and youths. Of those detained, 110 are "under impending threat" of a death sentence. Four protestors have already been executed. Human Rights Watch additionally reported that authorities have fired assault rifles on protestors, and have subjected those in detention to torture, mistreatment and sexual abuse. (Jurist)
Sixteen UN-appointed human rights experts called on Iranian authorities Nov. 11 not to indict people on charges punishable by death for participating in peaceful demonstrations. "We urge Iranian authorities to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests and reiterate our call to immediately release all protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for the sole reason of exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of opinion and expression," the experts said in a statement. (UN News) Since then at least five people have been sentenced to death on the charge of moharebeh ("enmity against God") in connection with the anti-government protests that have been raging for two months. A popular Kurdish rap artist, Saman Yasin, is among those facing execution. Days before the UN statement, 227 members of Iran's 290-member parliament approved a resolution demanding that the judiciary "deal decisively" with "rioters"—taken to mean imposing the death penalty. (BBC News, Iran International, Reuters, Arab News)
The national uprising in Iran continued to spread over the past week, with petrochemical workers walking off the job at the major Asalouyeh plant on the Persian Gulf coast of Bushehr province—shortly followed by a similar wildcat strike at Abadan refinery in the neighboring restive province of Khuzestan. Videos posted to social media show workers at the Asalouyeh complex chanting "This year is the year of blood, Seyed Ali Khamenei is done!" and "Down with the dictator!"—both references to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. (Iran International) Security forces fired on protesters in Sanandaj, capital of Kordestan, another traditionally restive province, killing at least five. (BBC News) Lawyers in Tehran gathered in front of the Iranian Central Bar Association to protest the repression, and were themselves dispersed by tear-gas. (Jurist) In scenes across the country, schoolgirls held protests in which they removed their hijabs in defiance of authorities. In the southern city of Shiraz, Fars province, dozens of schoolgirls blocked traffic on a main road while waving their headscarves in the air and shouting "Death to the dictator!" (BBC News)