From Palestine to Iran: free the land
In Episode 160 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes hideous ironies in the current horrific headlines. Russia was excluded from the official commemorations of Holocaust Day at Auschwitz-Birkenau as it pursues its war of aggression and extermination in Ukraine in the perverse name of "de-nazification." But Israeli flags were of course displayed at the commemoration—even as Israel escalates toward a genocidal solution to the Palestinian question. The fundamental contradiction driving the conflict is the expropriation of the Palestinian people of their lands, and the denial of their self-determination by Israel. The emergence of an explicitly anti-Zionist bloc in the protests against the new far-right government in Israel is a sign of hope. The US, however, is undertaking its biggest joint military exercises ever with the new Israeli regime, despite Biden's supposed rejection of its extremist policies of settlement expansion and annexation—viewing the Jewish State as a strategic ally against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Meanwhile, the oppressive regime in Iran treats minority peoples such as the Kurds, Baluch, Ahwazi and Baha'i much as Israel treats the Palestinians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Iran: oppose death penalty for detained protesters
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)
Iran: uprising spreads to Baluchistan
The nationwide uprising in Iran has spread to the restive eastern province of Sistan & Baluchistan. On Sept. 30, people gathered after Friday prayers in provincial capital Zahedan to protest against the reported rape of a 15-year-old Baluch girl by the police chief of the nearby town of Chabahar. Security forces opened fire, and at least 41 protesters were killed, local rights monitors report. According to Iran Human Rights, this brings the total dead since the uprising began two weeks earlier to 133. Iran Human Rights director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: "The killing of protesters in Iran, especially in Zahedan, amounts to crimes against humanity. The international community has a duty to investigate this crime and prevent further crimes from being committed by the Islamic Republic." (Iran Wire, Jurist)
Pakistan backing Taliban takeover in Afghanistan?
The Taliban on Sept. 6 announced that they have taken the Panjshir Valley from the incipient National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA). In an audio statement from an undisclosed location, NRFA leader Ahamd Masoud pledged to carry on the fight, and called upon Afghans to launch a national uprising against the Taliban. Another NRFA leader, Fahmi Dashti, was reported killed in the battle for the Valley. News sources in India claimed he met his death in a targeted drone strike launched by Pakistan. (Khaama, NDTV, WION, WaPo)
Can Iran nuclear deal be salvaged?
President Joe Biden's pledge to rebuild the Iran nuclear deal is already deteriorating into a deadlock—a testament to the effectiveness of the Trump-era intrigues that sabotaged the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On Feb. 7, Biden and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei each traded "You Go First" statements. Biden was asked on Face the Nation, "Will the US lift sanctions first in order to get Iran back to the negotiating table?" He replied, "No." He was then asked, "They have to stop enriching uranium first?" Biden nodded. On that same day, Khamenei told military commanders and staff: "If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, the US should remove all sanctions in action. After they have done this, we will check if the sanctions have truly been removed. Once this is done, we will resume our JCPOA commitments." (EA Worldview)
Pakistan: Hazara massacre sparks hunger strike
Members of Pakistan's Hazara people have launched a sit-in and public hunger strike after a massacre targeted the Shi'ite minority at a coal-field in a remote area of Balochistan province on Jan. 3. Hundreds have been blocking a major thoroughfare through the provincial capital, Quetta. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was sent in to meet with a delegation of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), the organization leading the sit-in, but his offer of compensation to victims' families was rebuffed as insufficient. In the attack, armed men rounded up miners from worker housing at the Machh coal-field in mountainous Bolan district. Those determined to be Hazara, 11 in all, were marched into the hills and summarily shot. Many had their throats slit or were otherwise mutilated. The local franchise of the "Islamic State" claimed responsibility for the massacre. Families of the victims are refusing to bury their loved ones, but have brought the bodies to the site of the sit-in, demanding the Balochistan government either arrest the killers or resign. (IANS, ANI, Dawn, Al Jazeera)
Pakistani rights activist found slain in Toronto
Pakistani human rights activist Karima Baloch, 37, was found dead in Toronto, Canada, on Dec. 21. Baloch went missing the previous day. The Toronto Police stated that "officers have determined this to be a non-criminal death and no foul play is suspected." But Baloch, from Pakistan's restive Balochistan region, fled her country in 2015 because of threats on her life. As a campaigner with the Baloch Students' Organization, she had harshly criticized the Pakistani military and state over ongoing rights abuses in the region. She continued to campaign for the rights of people in Balochistan while in exile, and the threats against her did not stop after she left Pakistan. Baloch's close friend, Lateef Johar Baloch, told reporters that she had recently received anonymous threats.
Separatists claim Baluchistan massacre
Gunmen killed at least 14 passengers after forcing them off several passenger vehicles on the coastal highway through Pakistan's restive Balochistan province April 18. Some 20 militants apparently stopped vehicles, checked passangers' identification papers, and shot selected ones to death on the roadside. There was initially speculation that those marked for death were ethnic Punjabis, targeted by the region's Baloch separatists. A statement later issued by a previously unknown militant group said those targeted were determined to be members of the military or security forces. The attack was claimed by the Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar, or Baloch People's Liberation Coalition, which is believed to have emerged from factional rivalry between the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Liberation Front (BLF). Pakistan has filed a diplomatic complaint with Iran, accusing it of giving the Baloch militants harbor on its territory across the border. (Khaama Press, AP, RFE/RL, Pakistan Tribune)
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