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‘We are risking death’: Iranians on Mahsa Amini protests | Iran

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Dozens of people are feared to have died in six days of protests in Iran sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who had been detained by morality police for allegedly wearing a hijab headscarf in an “improper” way.

The official line is that Amini died from heart failure or a stroke, but her family and protesters say she died of injuries sustained from a beating by police. Here, three protesters explain why they have taken to streets despite the dangers they face.

Rona, 20, Tehran

At 6.30pm last night, with the wounds on my body aching and my back black and blue with bruises, I walked through the Valiasr Square. A few metres ahead hundreds of others protesters were chanting: “Death to the dictator.”

In the past few days, the fight on the streets has gone beyond Mahsa Amini’s death. It is now about vengeance; I am here for every minute of my life I have been humiliated for being a woman.

Two months ago, as I stood with other women in protest against the hijab decree, a policeman called me a slut. Although I was fully dressed, he said I was naked. I have had this and worse many, many times. Back then we were just a few dozen women asking for the right to choose how we dressed. I never expected that just a few weeks later things would take such a deadly turn.

Now, as we protest we are risking death. When I heard about Mahsa’s killing, I couldn’t let them get away with it. All our lives we have been policed and silenced, and I want to be free.

So, before they cut us off from the rest of the world, here’s what I want the world to know. We women in Iran aren’t weak. We are like any young women across the world. We love makeup tutorials and Hollywood movies. Yet we can’t walk the streets without being humiliated for wearing what we want.

So that is why I am protesting. As we marched last night we screamed, “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi,” (woman, life, freedom) and all I could picture in my head was how [Ayatollah] Khomeini’s regime will be crushed by every woman and girl on the streets, and every man joining us in protest.

A few minutes after we started marching, the riot police advanced. We gathered trash cans and set them on fire. All of us girls walked straight towards them, unhooking our hijabs, twirling them in the air and throwing them into the flames.

Moments later, they released teargas. They used green laser lights to spot and identify some of us and shot rubber pellets straight at us. I turned around and started running, that’s when I took a hit on my legs.

We dispersed and ran towards the residential buildings when some of the families opened their gates for us. They gave us water to drink and to wash our burning eyes and told us how proud they were to see us fight. By the end of last night, I had blood stains all over my clothes but I was more determined than ever.

It is now Friday and I am getting dressed again to join the protest. Tell the world that we are alive and fighting– at least for now.

Mohsin, 19, Mashhad

On Wednesday night I saw the security forces push a teenage girl on to the road and beat her with batons. I will never forget the force with which they hit her.

Over the past week, the Iranian regime has unleashed unimaginable violence against us. Right now we don’t feel we can trust anyone. We have received alerts that cybersecurity forces are trying to infiltrate our protest groups on Telegram and WhatsApp.

At this point the protests are not just about Masha any more. It’s about freedom of choice, inflation, unemployment and dictatorship; one under which our futures are being erased. The regime killing Mahsa has reminded us about realities of our daily lives. Killing one of our sisters was the final straw.

This is why last night I headed out to join the protesters at about 5pm. When I got there, I was surprised how many young people were there, teenagers as young as 13.

We were about 60 people chanting for freedom. After only a couple of minutes, the police arrived and started shooting rubber bullets at us. We were hit multiple times because there were more than double the number of police. We retreated and ran back towards Bozorgmehr Street. There were police motorcycles parked there. They followed us and used teargas and then grabbed a dozen of us, all minors, and put them in police vans and drove away. We tried to stop them by throwing stones. We don’t know what happened to them. I can only hope they are still alive.

When we were walking away, more security forces appeared out of nowhere and used tasers on us and beat me on my back. I’m still in a lot of pain but I’ll keep protesting until the day they handcuff me. I will do anything for my country and the Iranian sisters that started this revolution.

Yesterday at work, I’d just gone downstairs to get dinner when the police stopped me. They took away my press card and hit me on my knees with batons. They told me, “What news are you going to write? We’ll give you back your card when we confirm you’re a reporter.”

I wasn’t even protesting. Yet even as a journalist I can’t report on what is happening because we are being monitored by our bosses and the police. We have been told we can’t use the word “death” in Mahsa’s case.

I’m locked up in the newsroom. In the past few days, the threats have increased against us. One of my colleagues had to change her number and network carrier because she was notified that they’re monitoring her online activity. This morning they raided the house of journalist Niloofar Hamedi and detained her. We have no knowledge of her whereabouts.

The crackdown on journalists has begun and they could come after me anytime. I am filled with anger, yet I feel helpless. The situation is only about to get worse. There have been incidents in Mashhad, Zanjan and Hamedan where the pro-regime protesters marched in support. I’ve been told there’s a demonstration this weekend. Pro-government Iranians, supported by the regime, will counter the ones protesting for Mahsa. They’ll start after Friday prayers and I fear this will take a deadly turn.

They’re putting people against people! I fear more people will lose their lives and here we are, unable to tell the world the plight of our own.

Names have been changed

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‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development

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Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

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Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says

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VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.



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Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International

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“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

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