Negotiations between Iran and six world powers concluded in a nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on July 14. Under the JCPOA, Iran agrees not to create a nuclear bomb in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have permanent access to Iran's nuclear facilities to monitor activity, and the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany will continue to meet with Iran's leaders at least every two years to review implementation of the agreement. The European Union sanctions will be lifted either eight years from the date of adoption or when the IAEA verifies Iran's nuclear materials are being used for non-aggressive purposes—whichever is sooner. However, all sanctions will be put back in place if Iran violates the terms of the agreement. Iran must remove two-thirds of its centrifuges, ship all spent fuel from the reactor out of the country, and limit uranium research and development to a single facility. President Barack Obama stated in an address that he plans to veto any legislation from Congress that blocks the implementation of this deal.
At least 500 people have been arrested and the majority sentenced to flogging in Shiraz, southern Iran, for failing to observe the daytime fast during the holy month of Ramadan, authorities announced July 1. At least two sites in the city serving food during daylight hours were shut down by the paramilitary Bassij force. Another 2,699 individuals received verbal warnings and 261 others were given written notices by the Bassij patrols. Anyone in Iran caught eating or drinking in public during daytime in Ramadan may receive 74 lashes in addition to a prison term of up to two months, judicial authorities have threatened. Special patrols are stationed on streets and in public parks to enforce the edict. Public floggings have soared in Iran in recent months, with the actual number of floggings said to be much higher than officially announced. (NCRI, July 1)
The interminable cartoon wars now move back to Iran, where 28-year-old artist Atena Farghadani has been sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison. Her crime? A cartoon that depicts members of parliament as animals—seemingly a ruse to avoid specifically identifying them, so as to avoid trouble. According to Amnesty International, she was charged with "spreading propaganda against the system," "insulting members of parliament through paintings," and "gathering and colluding against national security." The offending cartoon depicted parliamentarians as monkeys, cows or goats as they cast votes for proposed laws that would ban some types of birth control and restrict women's access to contraception.
After two weeks of tense stand-off, clashes broke out between militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) on the Iran-Iraq border May 24, with at least two KDPI fighters reported killed. Fighting was reported in the Iraqi border villages of Kelashin, Khenela and Saqar. The dispute started when a KDPI force deployed to the border on May 10 to establish a base in areas where the PKK was already entrenched. The PKK have now surrounded the KDPI forces in the area. With more than 5,000 militants spread across the area, the PKK is in virtual control of the borderlands between Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The KDPI is the Iranian wing of Iraq's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), loyal to Masoud Barzani. (Rudaw, BasNews, Doğan News Agency, May 24)
UN human rights experts on May 8 condemned the growing number of executions in Iran in recent years. According to the Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran and on extrajudicial executions, Iran has executed about 350 people in 2015 and executed approximately six people per day between April 9 and April 26. This year, Iran has performed 15 public executions, which the experts say "have a dehumanizing effect on both the victim and those who witness the execution, reinforcing the already cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of the death penalty." Iran also executed at least 852 people between July 2013 and June 2014. Many of the crimes for which prisoners were executed were not "most serious crimes," with many executed for drug offenses. The new Islamic Penal Code enacted by Iran in 2013 still permits death sentences for juveniles and for crimes like adultery, and repeated alcohol use. The UN is urging Iran to institute a moratorium on the death penalty and consider abolishing the practice.
Bibi Netanyahu's polarizing speech before Congress today was basically a repeat of his 2012 performance at the UN, but with the level of doublethink considerably jacked up. It is pretty damn terrifying that his relentless barrage of lies and distortions won virtually incessant applause throughout—although it is a glimmer of hope that some dozen Democrats declined to attend. But most of the outrage has been over Bibi's perceived meddling in the US political process (thanks for playing right into the anti-Semitic stereotype, Bibi, very helpful)—not the outrageous dishonesty of his speech. Here's a few choice chuckles from the transcript...
Iran reportedly executed Saman Naseem, a juvenile offender who was 17 years old when sentenced to death, despite international pressure to halt the execution. According to Iran Human Rights (IHR), it is unclear if the execution occurred on Feb. 19 or 20, but Naseem's family was asked to collect his body. Now 22, Naseem was charged in July 2011 with "enmity against God" and "corruption on earth." The juvenile was arrested because of membership in Party For Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) after a battle with the Revolutionary Guards. One member of the Revolutionary Guard was killed and three others injured. Naseem reported he did not have access to a lawyer during the investigations and was tortured prior to confessing. Both UN human rights experts and Amnesty International urged Iran to halt the execution. Iran is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and pursuant to Article 37(a) capital punishment is prohibited for persons below 18 years of age. However, the Islamic Penal Code permits the death penalty for juveniles under certain circumstances.
Pakistani and Iranian forces exchanged mortar fire along their border in the divided region of Baluchistan Oct. 24. Pakistani officials said Iran fired six mortar shells, which landed near the border town of Mashkail. Pakistan is then believed to have fired back. The two countries share a long desert border which straddles Balochistan province in southwest Pakistan and Sistan Baluchistan in eastern Iran. Last week, Pakistan said a Frontier Corps soldier was killed and three were hurt in a clash with Iranian troops who crossed the border, presumably in pursuit of militants. Islamabad lodged a diplomatic protest. Pakistan is accused by Iran of failing to stop cross-border attacks on its forces by Sunni militants. But Baluch militants are also making trouble within Pakistan. On Oct. 23, two were killed in an explosion taregetting a Frontier Corps convoy near Quetta, Balochistan's capital. That same day, a gunman opened fire on members of Shi'ite Hazara minority who were returning from an open-air market in a bus, killing eight. Also that day, Fazl-ur-Rehman, leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) political party, was targeted in a suicide blast in Quetta, although he escaped unharmed. (BBC News, BBC News, The Nation, Pakistan, Express-Tribune, Pakistan, Oct. 24)