Tag Archives: Iran

Rebels Launch Aleppo Offensive to Break Government Siege

This is the second attempt by rebels to break Assad’s siege. They opened a corridor to the east for the month of August after pro-government forces first applied a blockade in July.

Fierce fighting broke out around the Syrian city of Aleppo Friday as rebels announced a large-scale offensive to break the government’s siege of opposition-held areas.

A reporter inside the city on the pro-government Mayadeen TV channel reported attacks on “all sides” of the city, “from the furthest points north to furthest south.”

Continue reading Rebels Launch Aleppo Offensive to Break Government Siege

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Iran President Rouhani Offers Help to Russia

President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the welcoming ceremony during a summit of Caspian Sea regional leaders in the city of Astrakhan, Sept. 29.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized Western sanctions against Moscow as “the wrong tool” Monday and said his country was ready to provide Russia with any assistance it might require.

“There are different ways of taking countermeasures,” Rouhani told state-run television channel Rossia-24. “You can strengthen relations between neighbors, and in the current circumstances, we are ready to provide assistance of any kind to the people and government of Russia.”

Rouhani announced during last week’s United Nations General Assembly that Iran and Russia were discussing nuclear energy projects. In early August, the countries signed a memorandum of understanding on increasing economic and trade ties in a number of areas, including the energy sector.

Rouhani was in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan on Monday to take part in the Caspian Sea Summit, along with President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. The five littoral states were to conduct negotiations on the legal status of the sea and its vast natural resources.

Iran and the Soviet Union signed treaties on the status of the Caspian Sea in 1921 and 1940, legal documents that remain valid to this day. Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan — whose borders emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union — have not considered themselves bound by these agreements.

Acid attacks on women spread fear in Iran

The failure of Iranian authorities to identify those responsible for a spate of acid attacks against women has raised fears of further attacks and prompted questions about the adequacy of the government’s response.

Up to eight women in the central city of Isfahan have been injured in acid attacks this month, according to local media. While no new incidents have been reported in Isfahan this week, rumours are rife on social media of similar incidents in other Iranian cities, fanning concerns among women that they could be doused with a chemical agent by attackers on motorcycles.

One of the first incidents, according to domestic media citing eye witnesses, took place on October 15, when a young woman driving her car was hit by acid thrown by men who sped away on a motorbike. Local media reports of the other incidents paint a picture of apparently random targeting of young women in different parts of the city on different days.

Setareh, a university student in Isfahan, says: “I tremble with fear as soon as I hear a motorist nearing me.”

According to locals, security measures in Isfahan have been tightened and police patrols increased outside girls’ schools. Some schools in the capital, Tehran, have told parents to accompany their daughters to and from home, while other women say they go out only for necessary shopping and avoid outdoor socialising.

Minoo Mortaazi-Langaroudi, an Iranian women’s rights activist, says: “The acid attacks have jeopardised the psychological, physical and social security not only of women but of all people.”

No individual or group has claimed responsibility and the authorities have failed to offer any leads on who they believe are responsible. In the absence of official explanation, some commentators have pointed the finger at rogue Islamist vigilantes with grievances against women, while others have suggested violent foreign radical groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could be behind the attacks.

The slow response from the government of reformist president Hassan Rouhani and of Iran’s judiciary helped fuel suspicions initially that groups affiliated to hardliners in the regime were behind the attacks, in an attempt to undermine Mr Rouhani and his ability to provide security.

But Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, a reform-minded former vice-president, says the acid attacks “could not have been organised by known domestic groups because there is no benefit in it for them”.

The incidents have also been linked to comments from hardliners in parliament and at Friday prayers exerting pressure on the government to force women to further observe obligatory Islamic covering.

However, many hardliners have condemned the attacks in the face of accusations that their comments about women failing to cover themselves in accordance with Islamic traditions could have provoked their followers.

Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, Iran’s fundamentalist prosecutor-general, who travelled to Isfahan this week, called the attacks “savage” and insisted they could not have been inspired by Islamic teachings.

Members of Mr Rouhani’s cabinet have visited some of the victims in hospital, while the president has urged people not to “question the country’s whole security because of one incident” which he said was “the most heinous act a vicious person can do”.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Isfahan to protest against the attacks, while others have used social media to put pressure on the authorities to catch the perpetrators, and to criticise the arrest of a photojournalist, Arya Jafari, who took pictures of the protests in Isfahan.

Previous incidents of acid attacks in Iran were for personal reasons against both women and men and usually by former lovers. The Isfahan incidents are thought to be the first time acid has been used in Iran in apparently random attacks.

Although assaults with acid are a worldwide phenomenon, it is a particular problem in countries including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Uganda and Colombia. Acid attacks have also been reported in western countries such as the UK and Australia.

According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, a London-based charity, there are about 1,500 acid attacks per year, although the true figure is likely to be far higher. ASTI has estimated that 80 per cent of victims of such attacks are women, while one study in Bangladesh found that nearly 60 per cent were 10-19 years old.

 

Afarin Sajedi’s Portraits of Women Redefine Strength

These colorful, sometimes discomforting portraits by Tehran-based artist Afarin Sajedi present a unique image of strength.

They are the many faces and mixed emotions of modern Iranian women, particularly the pain and joy felt upon leaving the safe walls of home.

She is heavily inspired by Heinrich Boll’s Clown, seen in her use of makeup, while Gustav Klimt’s color palette strongly influences her use of agressive colors like red.

This is also evident in her subject’s costumes worn similarly to traditional hijab headwear.

Some replace their hijab with helmets and plastic bags, while others express themselves by piercing their skin with utensils.

No matter how they are outfitted,  Sajedi’s women hold onto their bold spirit underneath.

Lavrov, Kerry To Hold Vienna Talks On June 30

Sergei Lavrov (left) did not give any information on what ground would be covered in his talks with John Kerry on June 30.

Russia’s foreign minister will meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna on June 30.

Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on June 29 that he will soon depart for Vienna for the talks.

He did not give any details about the discussions.

Kerry and the foreign ministers of Iran, Britain, France, and Germany are in Vienna, together with officials from the European Union, Russia, and China, for talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

Those talks face a June 30 deadline, but top officials have said there could be an extension “for a few days.”

The goal of the talks is an agreement under which Tehran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The six powers want limits on Tehran’s programs that could have a military use. Tehran denies it is pursuing such weapons.

Take A Ride On A New Luxury Train From Hungary To Iran Where A Ticket Costs Up To $40,000

Budapest13

A new luxury train that runs from Hungary’s capital of Budapest to Iran’s capital of Tehran made its first trip on Wednesday, Reuters reports. 

The first branch of the route, connecting Budapest to Istanbul, follows the path of the world famous Orient Express, the early-20th century trip that used to carry Europe’s aristocracy to Turkey.

The new luxury train cars ride on existing railways, leaving from Budapest, heading east toward Turkish Kurdistan and dumping passengers in Iran. A ticket for the two-week trip costs more than $14,000, according to Reuters. 

The route is operated by the private travel agency Golden Eagle, a British company that offers trips on luxury trains across Europe, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. The first train left on Oct. 15, the next one is scheduled for March next year.

The trip covers a total of 4,350 miles across five countries.

The trip covers a total of 4,350 miles across five countries.

The train left Budapest on Wednesday, Oct. 15. Everything from staffs’ uniforms to the design of the cars harkens back to the beginning of the 20th century.

The train left Budapest on Wednesday, Oct. 15. Everything from staffs' uniforms to the design of the cars harkens back to the beginning of the 20th century.

When the first convoy left Budapest, there was even a marching band to salute it.

When the first convoy left Budapest, there was even a marching band to salute it.

The basic ticket costs $14,333, but if you want extras like a private bathrooms and concierge service, the price can shoot up to $40,000, according to Reuters.

The basic ticket costs $14,333, but if you want extras like a private bathrooms and concierge service, the price can shoot up to $40,000, according to Reuters.

Despite the hefty price, the founder of Golden Eagle, Tim Littler, told Reuters that tickets sold out in 10 days.

Despite the hefty price, the founder of Golden Eagle, Tim Littler, told Reuters that tickets sold out in 10 days.

The company had to set up an Australian affiliate in order to apply and obtain travel permits in five different countries, including Iran.

The company had to set up an Australian affiliate in order to apply and obtain travel permits in five different countries, including Iran.

The trip is the vision of two English businessmen: Littler and Howard Trinder, who bought four rail cars from a Hungarian postal service, Reuters said. Refurbishing each car cost $1 million.

The trip is the vision of two English businessmen: Littler and Howard Trinder, who bought four rail cars from a Hungarian postal service, Reuters said. Refurbishing each car cost $1 million.

The dining car is furnished with intimate two-seats tables. Outstanding scenery from the windows is a plus.

The dining car is furnished with intimate two-seats tables. Outstanding scenery from the windows is a plus.

The train also have a full staff of waiters and chefs to accomodate all passenger requests.

The train also have a full staff of waiters and chefs to accomodate all passenger requests.

The piano bar is where passengers can enjoy the vintage atmosphere over a drink while listening to music.

The piano bar is where passengers can enjoy the vintage atmosphere over a drink while listening to music.

For those who prefer a quieter time, the train has private lecture rooms and sofas.

For those who prefer a quieter time, the train has private lecture rooms and sofas.

For an authentic experience, the train is still powered by a coal engine. It doesn’t move very fast.

For an authentic experience, the train is still powered by a coal engine. It doesn't move very fast.

Luxury train travel normally costs between $1,000 and $2,000 a day according to Reuters, meaning the Golden Eagle train is actually sold at an average price. Any interest?

Luxury train travel normally costs between $1,000 and $2,000 a day according to Reuters, meaning the Golden Eagle train is actually sold at an average price. Any interest?

Strange Bedfellows – Middle-East ‘Frenemies’

United Against Islamic State

The enemy of your enemy is your… frenemy; and so it is across the Middle East as the WSJ notes the spread of The Islamic State has united many parties once at odds with each other to become ‘strange bedfellows’.

Strange Bedfellows – Parties that display friction or outright aggression toward one another are finding themselves aligned in a desire to counter Islamic State.

U.S. and Iran
The U.S. and Iran share an interest in fostering an Iraqi government strong enough to fend off Islamic State.

U.S. and Syria
The U.S. and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad share an interest in quashing Islamic State in Syria, even if the regime appears to put a higher priority on fighting other rebel groups.

Israel and Egypt
Israel and Egypt have come together to oppose Hamas, and they now have a similar long-term interest to do the same in confronting Islamic State.

Syria, Kurds, Turkey and Iraq
Turkey and Syria, long fearful of building up the region’s Kurds, have a shared interest in building up the Kurdish Peshmerga to combat a more immediate threat, Islamic State. Iraq has acquiesced.

Turkey and Qatar
Turkey and Qatar suddenly have a shared interest in keeping the Islamist movement they separately helped foster in check before Islamic State absorbs and consolidates it.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq
Saudi Arabia supported Sunnis in Iraq while Iran supported Shiites. They now have an interest in aiding the Shiite-led Iraq government to counter a common threat.

U.S., China and Russia
Russia and China have plenty of disputes with the U.S., but they agree that, as big powers, they are threatened in similar fashion by the expansionist Islamic extremism of Islamic State.

U.S., Egypt, Qatar and Turkey
Egypt’s military ruler sees Qatar, Turkey and the U.S. as hostile to his suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood. They all now fear Islamic State will consolidate the Islamic threat.

U.S. and al Qaeda
The greatest odd bedfellow of all: Islamic State threatens al Qaeda as well as the West, meaning that, in fact, al Qaeda and the U.S. now have a shared enemy.

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