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Iran says US attempting to use unrest to weaken country

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2022)

Iran faced more international criticism on Monday over the death of a woman in police custody that triggered nationwide protests after Tehran accused the United States of using the unrest to try to destabilise the country, Reuters reported.

Iran has cracked down on the biggest demonstrations since 2019, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 after she was detained by morality police enforcing the Islamic Republic’s strict restrictions on women’s dress. The case has drawn widespread condemnation.

But the measures have not stopped Iranians from calling for the fall of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the rest of the clerical establishment, read the report.

Canada will impose sanctions on those responsible for the death of Amini, including Iran’s morality police unit and its leadership, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.

“We’ve seen Iran disregarding human rights time and time again, now we see it with the death of Mahsa Amini and the crackdown on protests,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

Activist Twitter account 1500tasvir posted videos it said showed street protests late on Monday in different parts of Tehran, and footage where residents could be heard shouting “Death to Khamenei” from their homes. Reuters could not verify the videos.

Women have played a prominent role in the protests, waving and burning their veils, Reuters reported.

Human rights group Hengaw posted a video which it said showed protesters cheering in Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan province, as women took off their headscarves to protest forced hijab. In a later video, heavy shooting could be heard as streets appeared to be filled with tear gas.

Another video posted on social media purported to show security forces opening fire late on Monday during protests in Sardasht, a town with a large Kurdish population. Reuters could not verify the videos.

Iran said the United States was supporting rioters and seeking to destabilise the Islamic Republic.

“Washington is always trying to weaken Iran’s stability and security although it has been unsuccessful,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a statement.

On his Instagram page, Kanaani accused the leaders of the United States and some European countries of abusing a tragic incident in support of “rioters” and ignoring “the presence of millions of people in the streets and squares of the country in support of the system”.

Also on Monday, Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin to urge Tehran to stop its crackdown and allow peaceful protests. Asked about the possibility of further sanctions on Tehran in response to the violence, a German foreign ministry spokesperson had earlier said, “We will consider all options” with other European Union states.

According to Reuters last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of Amini.

Students from the Dentistry Faculty of the University of Tabriz, with the exception of the emergency department, took part in a strike on Monday and refused to participate in classes, said the activist Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).

The strikes were conducted to protest against widespread arrests of students and forceful encounters with security forces in Iranian universities, it said.

On Sunday, Iran summoned the British and Norwegian ambassadors over what it called interference and hostile media coverage of the unrest, Reuters reported.

The anti-government protests are the largest to sweep Iran since demonstrations over fuel prices in 2019, when Reuters reported 1,500 people were killed in a crackdown on protesters – the bloodiest bout of internal unrest in the Islamic Republic’s history.

At least 41 people have been killed since Sept. 17, according to state TV.

President Ebrahim Raisi has said Iran ensures freedom of expression and that he has ordered an investigation into Amini’s death.

A leading Iranian teachers’ union, in a statement posted on social media on Sunday, called for teachers and students to stage the first national strike since the unrest began, on Monday and Wednesday, Reuters reported.

In a video circulating on social media, the sister of a man killed in the anti-government demonstrations, Javad Heydari, cut her hair on his grave in defiance of Iran’s Islamic dress code. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.

The state has organised rallies to try to defuse the crisis.

Although the demonstrations over Amini’s death are a major challenge to the government, analysts see no immediate threat to Iran’s leaders because the elite security forces have stamped out protests in the past.

Iran has blamed armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents of involvement in the unrest, particularly in the northwest where most of Iran’s up to 10 million Kurds live.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched an artillery and drone attack on Iranian militant opposition bases in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, the second such attack in two days, state media said.

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Ukraine, Russia swap 50 prisoners in PoW exchange

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2022)

Russia’s Defence Ministry and the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration said the two countries had swapped 50 service personnel on Thursday in the latest prisoner exchange between the two sides, Reuters reported.

Earlier on Thursday, the top Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s partly-occupied Donetsk region said Moscow and Kyiv would each hand over 50 prisoners of war.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, reported the release of 50 “protectors of Ukraine” and said that the exchanges of prisoners of war would continue “until the liberation of the last Ukrainian”.

“The defenders of Mariupol and Azovstal have returned, also those captured … in the battles in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia directions,” Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia said it would fly its released prisoners to Moscow for medical checks and rehabilitation, read the report.

Yermak also said an unspecified number of Ukrainian prisoners of war who were released on Thursday had been kept in the Olenivka detention centre.

According to Reuters dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists in the eastern frontline town of Olenivka, near Donetsk, were killed in an attack in July.

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Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at 96

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2022)

Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who led the country for a decade of rapid economic growth after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, died on Wednesday at the age of 96, Chinese state media reported.

Jiang died in his home city of Shanghai just after noon on Wednesday of leukaemia and multiple organ failure, Xinhua news agency said, publishing a letter to the Chinese people by the ruling Communist Party, parliament, Cabinet and the military, Reuters reported.

“Comrade Jiang Zemin’s death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups,” the letter read, saying its announcement was with “profound grief”.

According to Reuters Jiang’s death comes at a tumultuous time in China, where authorities are grappling with rare widespread street protests among residents fed up with heavy-handed COVID-19 curbs nearly three years into the pandemic.

The zero-COVID policy is a hallmark or President Xi Jinping, who recently secured a third leadership term that cements his place as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and has taken China in an increasingly authoritarian direction since replacing Jiang’s immediate successor, Hu Jintao.

China is also in the midst of a sharp economic slowdown exacerbated by zero-COVID, read the report.

Numerous users of China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform described the death of Jiang, who remained influential after finally retiring in 2004, as the end of an era.

“I’m very sad, not only for his departure, but also because I really feel that an era is over,” a Henan province-based user wrote.

“As if what has happened wasn’t enough, 2022 tells people in a more brutal way that an era is over,” a Beijing Weibo user posted.

The online pages of state media sites including People’s Daily and Xinhua turned to black and white in mourning, read the report.

Wednesday’s letter described “our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin” as an outstanding leader of high prestige, a great Marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat and a long-tested communist fighter.

Jiang was plucked from obscurity to head China’s ruling Communist Party after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, but broke the country out of its subsequent diplomatic isolation, mending fences with the United States and overseeing an unprecedented economic boom.

He served as president from 1993 to 2003 but held China’s top job, as head of the ruling Communist Party, from 1989 and handed over that role to Hu in 2002. He only gave up the position as head of the military in 2004, which he also assumed in 1989.

According to Reuters when Jiang retired, it was said by sources close to the leadership at the time that everywhere Hu looked he would see the supporters of his predecessor.

Jiang had stacked China’s most powerful leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, with his own protégées, many of them from the so-called “Shanghai Gang”.

But in the years after Jiang retired from his final post, the military commission chairmanship in 2004, Hu consolidated his grip, neutralised the Shanghai Gang and successfully anointed Xi as a successor, Reuters reported.

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Pakistan suicide blast targeting police kills 3, wounds 28

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2022)

A suicide bomb blast in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta targeted a police patrol on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding 28, police said.

The explosion, claimed by the Pakistani Taliban militant group, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a text message to Reuters, came after the group ended a ceasefire with the government this week.

“A bomb blast that targeted a police patrol wounded more than 30 people, including 15 police,” a police official, Abdul Haq, told Reuters. “Out of them, a policeman, a woman and a child died.”

The patrol had been guarding a polio vaccination team at the time of the suicide blast, he added.

Islamist militants in Pakistan often target polio vaccination teams, in the belief that the immunisation effort is a Western tool to spy on them.

Quetta is the capital of Pakistan’s province of Balochistan bordering Afghanistan and Iran, where both Islamist and separatist insurgents operate.

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