Connect with us

Latest

Kurdish exiles back Iran protests but deny organizing them

Avatar photo

Published

on

Kurdish exiles back Iran protests but deny organizing them

SULIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) — Dara Qureshi scrolls through the contacts on his phone, each name an alias for activists across the border in neighboring Iran, where protests have been raging for two weeks.

Qureshi, a member of one of many Iranian Kurdish opposition parties exiled in Iraq, responds to one of them, “Brwa,” who asks how to access Starlink, a satellite constellation operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, after the business magnate promised to allow Iranians affected by state-imposed internet restrictions to use it.

“What is your advice, comrade?” writes the unknown activist. Qureshi makes inquiries, knowing there are only a few precious minutes before the internet will cut out for the person on the other side.

The support that Kurdish exiles like Qureshi have given to protesters in Iran have fueled allegations by Iranian authorities that the protests, which have spread to over 40 cities, were entirely organized and buttressed by foreign elements.

But Iranian Kurdish exiles say their role is small. They say the Iranian government is trying to scapegoat them to divert attention away from the widespread anger fueling protests that erupted nationwide, have brought in multiple ethnic groups and have been focused on the government’s treatment of women.

The protests erupted after a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in custody. Morality police in the Iranian capital, Tehran, arrested her for allegedly not wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf properly.

This week, Iran sharply stepped up its military operations against Iraq-based Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, launching three sets of drone and missile attacks targeting their party bases in northern Iraq, killing at least nine. The strikes drew condemnation from Iraqi officials and the international community. Iran’s ambassador to Iraq was later summoned by the Foreign Ministry.

Iran also has cracked down on others after Amini’s death, announcing Friday that it has arrested nine foreigners over the demonstrations.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

The London-based Amnesty International said Friday it has acquired leaked government documents showing that Iran ordered its security forces to “severely confront” protesters. It said security forces have killed at least 52 people since protests over the Amini’s death began nearly two weeks ago.

Iranian state TV has reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the demonstrations began Sept. 17. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

The Kurdish opposition parties say their reach is limited to majority Kurdish regions in western Iran.

“It’s true the political parties here issued a call for protests, but the ones who went into the street and organized are inside Iran; it has nothing to do with party proclamations,” said Rosaline Kamangir, 32, an Iranian women’s rights activist and a Kurd who is regularly in touch with female protesters inside Iran.

“The organizers are local, and perhaps they see eye-to-eye with the parties, ultimately they are acting based on their own beliefs,” she said.

The opposition groups jointly issued calls for a general strike and protests in the western Kurdish region of Iran after the death of the 22-year-old Amini.

With her family origins in the Kurdish city of Saqqez, Amini’s death has sparked particular anger in Iran’s Kurdish regions. Kurds refer to her by her Kurdish name, Zhina. Iranians often have an official name and another they use more regularly, and Mahsa is a Persian name on her official records.

The Kurdish majority areas are home to a decades-old separatist movement that precedes the 1979 Islamic revolution, and in past decades it has morphed into a low-level guerrilla insurgency that trades fire with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

But the protests have not taken a particularly Kurdish nationalist tone. Instead, as in the rest of the country, Amini has become a symbol of the oppression of women, rallying anger against Iran’s repressive policies. Many women protesters burned their hijabs during the rallies and cut off their hair.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

“I didn’t know Mahsa, but her death pushed me to protest,” said Nisreen, a woman in the Kurdish Iranian town of Bukan. “Her death made me angry. Women in Iran are oppressed, we have no opportunities,” the 34-year-old said, speaking to the AP via WhatsApp on condition her last name not be used, fearing reprisal.

The first protest she attended in Bukan began peacefully, “then the shooting and arrests started,” she said. On one occasion, the person standing next to her was hit.

Opposition parties have clout in her area, she said. “But that is not why I am protesting.”

Every household in Iran’s Kurdish regions knows someone linked to the Kurdish opposition parties in exile or has a family member who belongs to them, activists and residents said.

Banned inside Iran, the main parties based in Iraq are the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iran; Komala, which has Marxist leanings; and the Kurdistan Free Life Party, or PJAK.

“Everyone among us has a relative protesting in Iran, everyone knows someone who has been arrested,” said Kawser Fattahi, 33, a member of Komala, her fingers trembling while holding up a cigarette. Two of her cousins in Iran were taken and haven’t been heard from in a week, she said. Qureshi’s uncle was detained during a protest in Bukan.

Fattahi had been at her Komala party’s headquarters compound in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Koya when it was bombed in one of the Iranian strikes. She spoke to the AP in Sulimaniyah, where she arrived Wednesday.

After the bombings, party members dispersed from their compound and took up residence with friends or in the rugged mountains.

Fattahi left her hometown Bukan in Iran a few years ago, fearing arrest because of her political activities distributing party leaflets.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Her mother and brother are both protesting, she said. The last time she saw them was when they crossed the border illegally to see her some months back.

Like most party members she keeps two phones, one for daily use in Iraq and another, to speak to relatives and party affiliates back home.

Because of the danger in crossing the border from Iraq, the opposition parties’ presence and activities inside Iran have always been limited. Social media is used to encourage supporters to take part in protests and conduct general strikes, said Fattahi.

But now, with widespread internet outages in Iran, their supporters have not been able to access social media.

“Most of our communication requires the internet,” said Qureshi. “And when they call us, it’s always from an unregistered number.”

Kamangir received hundreds of messages a day at the start of the protests in mid-September. Now she receives bursts of updates every two days, she said.

“Today, it’s gone dark,” she said.

Read More

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Latest

Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

Avatar photo

Published

on

Israel hails ‘success’ after blocking unprecedented attack from Iran

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli leaders on Sunday credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct Iranian attack involving hundreds of drones and missiles, calling the coordinated response a starting point for a “strategic alliance” of regional opposition to Tehran.

But Israel’s War Cabinet met without making a decision on next steps, an official said, as a nervous world waited for any sign of further escalation of the former shadow war.

The military coalition, led by the United States, Britain and France and appearing to include a number of Middle Eastern countries, gave Israel support at a time when it finds itself isolated over its war against Hamas in Gaza. The coalition also could serve as a model for regional relations when that war ends.

“This was the first time that such a coalition worked together against the threat of Iran and its proxies in the Middle East,” said the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

One unknown is which of Israel’s neighbors participated in the shooting down of the vast majority of about 350 drones and missiles Iran launched. Israeli military officials and a key War Cabinet member noted additional “partners” without naming them. When pressed, White House national security spokesman John Kirby would not name them either.

But one appeared to be Jordan, which described its action as self-defense.

“There was an assessment that there was a real danger of Iranian marches and missiles falling on Jordan, and the armed forces dealt with this danger. And if this danger came from Israel, Jordan would take the same action,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said in an interview on Al-Mamlaka state television. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday.

The U.S. has long tried to forge a regionwide alliance against Iran as a way of integrating Israel and boosting ties with the Arab world. The effort has included the 2020 Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries, and having Israel in the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and works closely with the armies of moderate Arab states.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

The U.S. had been working to establish full relations between Israel and regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack sparked Israel’s war in Gaza. The war, which has claimed over 33,700 Palestinian lives, has frozen those efforts due to widespread outrage across the Arab world. But it appears that some behind-the-scenes cooperation has continued, and the White House has held out hopes of forging Israel-Saudi ties as part of a postwar plan.

Just ahead of Iran’s attack, the commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Erik Kurilla, visited Israel to map out a strategy.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, on Sunday thanked CENTCOM for the joint defensive effort. Both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are under the CENTCOM umbrella. While neither acknowledged involvement in intercepting Iran’s launches, the Israeli military released a map showing missiles traveling through the airspace of both nations.

“Arab countries came to the aid of Israel in stopping the attack because they understand that regional organizing is required against Iran, otherwise they will be next in line,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel’s military intelligence, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he had spoken with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and that the cooperation “highlighted the opportunity to establish an international coalition and strategic alliance to counter the threat posed by Iran.”

The White House signaled that it hopes to build on the partnerships and urged Israel to think twice before striking Iran. U.S. officials said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would not participate in any offensive action against Iran.

Israel’s War Cabinet met late Sunday to discuss a possible response, but an Israeli official familiar with the talks said no decisions had been made. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential deliberations.

Asked about plans for retaliation, Hagari declined to comment directly. “We are at high readiness in all fronts,” he said.

“We will build a regional coalition and collect the price from Iran, in the way and at the time that suits us,” said a key War Cabinet member, Benny Gantz.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel that hit an Iranian consular building in Syria this month and killed two Iranian generals.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over, and Israel reopened its airspace. Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The foes have been engaged in a shadow war for years, but Sunday’s assault was the first time Iran launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran said it targeted Israeli facilities involved in the Damascus strike, and that it told the White House early Sunday that the operation would be “minimalistic.”

But U.S. officials said Iran’s intent was to “destroy and cause casualties” and that if successful, the strikes would have caused an “uncontrollable” escalation. At one point, at least 100 ballistic missiles were in the air with just minutes of flight time to Israel, the officials said.

Israel said more than 99% of what Iran fired was intercepted, with just a few missiles getting through. An Israeli airbase sustained minor damage.

Israel has over the years established — often with the help of the U.S. — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats, including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and others, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already deeply engaged in Gaza as well as low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image after the Hamas attack in October, what the Middle East’s best-equipped army does next will be closely watched in the region and in Western capitals — especially as Israel seeks to develop the coalition it praised Sunday.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

In Washington, Biden pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would hold talks with allies. After an urgent meeting, the Group of Seven countries unanimously condemned Iran’s attack and said they stood ready to take “further measures.”

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s war in Gaza. In the Oct. 7 attack, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Hamas welcomed Iran’s attack, saying it was “a natural right and a deserved response” to the strike in Syria. It urged the Iran-backed groups in the region to continue to support Hamas in the war.

Hezbollah also welcomed the attack. Almost immediately after the war in Gaza erupted, Hezbollah began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

___

Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Michelle L. Price in Washington; Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan; and Giada Zampano in Rome contributed to this report.

Read More

Continue Reading

Latest

How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

Avatar photo

Published

on

How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

New York lawmakers are proposing rules to humanely drive down the population of rats and other rodents, eyeing contraception and a ban on glue traps as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to battle the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and statewide measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea to distribute rat contraceptives got fresh attention in city government Thursday following the death of an escaped zoo owl, known as Flaco, who was found dead with rat poison in his system.

City Council Member Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program for controlling the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots by using birth control instead of lethal chemicals. Abreu, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said the contraceptives also are more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, is contained in salty, fatty pellets that are scattered in rat-infested areas as bait. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and disrupting sperm cell production in males, The New York Times reported.

New York exterminators currently kill rats using snap and glue traps, poisons that make them bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who runs pest management company Scurry Inc. in New York City with his wife, said the best method he has found when dealing with rodents is carbon monoxide.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide euthanizes the rats slowly, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made from a slab of cardboard or plastic coated in a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on its surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps, because he uses them on other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants get into a house, he uses sticky traps to figure out where they’re most often passing by. It helps him narrow zones of pesticide use “so that you don’t go spray the entire place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill our way out of,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It’s time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two cities in California have passed bans on glue traps in recent years. On the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It ends a really inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and more humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams hired a “rat czar” last year tasked with battling the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served up to rats by mandating all businesses to put trash out in boxes.

While the war on rats has no end in sight, the exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They’re very smart, and they’re very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring but just — not in my house.”

Read More

Advertisement
Submit your 2022 Austin Neighborhood Feedback

Continue Reading

Entertainment

Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

Avatar photo

Published

on

Coachella: Earthquake shakes SoCal desert during music fest

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A small earthquake shook the Southern California desert Saturday near Coachella, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage or injuries were reported.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 3.8, hit at 9:08 a.m. about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Borrego Springs in Riverside County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Coachella. It struck at a depth of about 7 miles (11 kilometers), the USGS said.

A dispatcher with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said there were no calls reporting any problems from the quake.

Read More

Continue Reading