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Hardline judge wins landslide in Iran presidential vote amid low turnout

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(Last Updated On: June 19, 2021)

Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline judge under U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, secured a landslide victory on Saturday in Iran‘s presidential election after a contest marked by voter apathy over economic hardships and political restrictions.

With some 90% of the 28.6 million ballots counted, Raisi’s tally was 17.8 million, interior ministry official Jamal Orfi said, giving him an unassailable lead.

Turnout in Friday’s four-man race was a record low of around 48%.

Appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the high-profile job of judiciary chief in 2019, Raisi was placed under U.S. sanctions a few months later over human rights violations.

Those included the role that human rights group say Raisi played in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1988 and in the violent suppression of unrest in 2009.

Iran has never acknowledged the mass executions, and Raisi himself has never publicly addressed allegations about his role.

Seen by analysts and insiders as representing the security establishment at its most fearsome, Raisi had been widely tipped to win the contest, thanks to Khamenei’s endorsement.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said Raisi’s election win was “a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran“.

“We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction,” she said in a statement.

Outgoing pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani visited Raisi at his office to congratulate him, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would lead Iran well.

“We will stand by and cooperate fully with the president-elect for the next 45 days, when the new government takes charge,” state media quoted Rouhani as saying.

NUCLEAR TALKS

Raisi’s election comes at a critical time.

Iran and six major powers are in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear deal. Then U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have squeezed Iran‘s oil income.

With Iran‘s ruling clerics aware their political fortunes rely on tackling worsening economic hardships, Raisi’s win will not disrupt Iran‘s effort to revive the pact and break free of tough U.S. oil and financial sanctions.

Khamenei, not the president, has the last say on all issue of state such as Iran‘s foreign and nuclear policies.

“We will make every effort in the new government to solve the problem of people’s livelihoods,” Raisi said, according to state media.

Seeking to win over voters preoccupied by bread-and-butter issues, Raisi has promised to create millions of jobs and tackle inflation, without offering a detailed political or economic programme.

Hoping to boost their legitimacy, the country’s clerical rulers had urged people to turn out and vote on Friday, but simmering anger over economic hardships and curbs on freedoms kept many Iranians at home.

Hundreds of dissidents, at home and abroad, had called for a boycott. However, Khamenei said the turnout displayed the clerical establishment’s popularity.

Another deterrent for many pro-reform voters was a lack of choice, after a hardline election body barred heavyweight moderates and conservatives from standing.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Friday: “Iranians were denied their right to choose their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process” – a likely reference to the disqualification of candidates.

Many pro-reform Iranians fear Raisi’s presidency could usher in more repression.

“I am scared. I don’t want to go back to jail again. I am certain that any kind of dissent will not be tolerated,” said Hamidreza, who declined to give his full name. He was jailed for participating in unrest in 2019 that broke out over fuel price hikes and quickly turned political.

Analysts say the election win could increase Raisi’s chances of succeeding Khamenei, who himself served two terms as president before becoming supreme leader in 1989.

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IEA marks Afghanistan’s Independence Day

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

Marking 103 years of independence from Britain, Mullah Mohammad Yaqub Mujahid, acting defense minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), on Friday warned against efforts to divide Afghans.

 “They are trying to divide us along regional, religious and linguistic lines and cause infighting among ourselves so that they achieve their evil goals. We should never let anyone do this. We should be vigilant,” Mujahid said.

He said that Afghans have never accepted occupation and have fought invaders throughout the history. Mujahid said IEA wants to engage with the world but not at the cost of the country’s independence being undermined.

“We want engagement, we want the country to develop, we want the economy to grow, we want political progress, we want to have a strong military like those in the region, but not at the cost of our independence being undermined,” Mujahid said.

He said that IEA will not accept world’s demands which are against Islam.

“We cannot accept anyone’s orders and demands which are against our religion and our national interests,” Mujahid said.

IEA in a statement on the occasion of Independence Day also warned against interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

“The Islamic Emirate, as an independent and fully legitimate government, is committed to honor the esteemed value (independence) and wants relations with countries in the region and the world based on Islamic principles. We hope every invader has learnt a lesson from the past and henceforth will adopt a policy of peace, tolerance and non-interference in the affairs of others,” the statement read.

IEA’s acting prime minister, in a message, called on security forces to behave well with people, have coordination and obey leaders.

Khalil-ur-Rahman Haqqani, acting minister of refugees and repatriation, also warned the opponents not to test Afghans again.

 “The East, the West and their hirelings should not test Afghans. Afghans have already been tested. There is no need to test them again,” Haqqani said.

Some participants called for reopening of girls’ schools.

“One issue they (West) are insisting on is and which people also want is girls’ education. As an elder, I ask the Emirate to resolve the issue, otherwise the Western world will not recognize the Emirate, not even in 20 years,” said Farooq Azam, an adviser for the ministry of energy and water.

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Finance ministry increases customs tariff of mineral exports to 25%

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

The Ministry of Finance says it has increased the customs tariff on unprocessed minerals to 25 percent which was previously five percent.

According to the decision, the customs tariff is set at 10 percent per ton of processed mineral.

However, the officials of Afghanistan Chamber of Industries and Mines (ACIM) said Friday that they are not able to pay the customs tariffs, asking the government to reconsider this decision.

Officials of the finance ministry have added that they set this price according to the position of the country’s exports in the world markets.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s mineral exports have a special place in the global markets, including China, India, Britain, Germany, Turkey, America, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.

In the meantime, officials of ACIM have opposed the decision made by finance ministry, saying that the Tariff Committee of the ministry should increase the tariff based on the calculation of the private sector, adding that because traders will suffer with a 20 percent tariff increase.

Moreover, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) said that as a result of increasing the capacity of mineral processing factories in the country, Afghanistan has been able to export one million tons of minerals this year, adding that if the electricity problems of these mineral processing factories are solved, the export of processed minerals will also increase.

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Afghan weather services issues flash flood warning

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

The Afghanistan Meteorological Department issued a flash flood warning on Thursday, stating that heavy rain and high wind gusts can be expected across a wide section of the country on Friday and Saturday.

The provinces likely to be affected are Badakhshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Panjshir, Takhar, Baghlan, Parwan, Bamiyan, Samangan, Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Ghazni, Zabul, Uruzgan, Daikundi, Ghor, Kandahar and Helmand.

According to the department, between 15 and 70 mm of rain can be expected in parts of the country over the next two days.

Thunderstorms can also be expected in some provinces, including Kabul.

On Thursday, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said in a statement that in the past week – between August 11 and 15 – heavy rainfall caused floods and flash floods across several provinces across the eastern, southern, south-eastern, and central regions of Afghanistan, leading to numerous fatalities.

The latest UNOCHA report states that the number of fatalities has increased to 41 people (11 in Parwan province, 11 in Nangarhar province, and nine in Logar province), while 17 individuals were injured.

Across the impacted areas, heavy rainfall destroyed or damaged almost 790 houses (434 in Nangarhar), affecting more than 3,720 families in total.

Floods have destroyed crops, agricultural land, and the local transportation infrastructure, isolating several communities, UNOCHA stated.

A number of international humanitarian organizations are assisting the local affected population with food, emergency shelter and non-food items, as well as conducting inter-agency impact and needs assessments.

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