Iran vows to reciprocate new EU, UK sanctions
Iran strongly condemned the imposition of a new round of sanctions by the European Union and Britain on Iranian individuals and entities, saying it will soon announce its own list of sanctions against those “human rights violators” and “sponsors of terrorism”.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Tuesday said Tehran reserves the right to retaliate against the hostile move, which targeted a number of Iranian lawmakers as well as judicial, military and cultural officials, according to Press TV.
“The move by the European Union and the British regime shows their lack of mental ability to comprehend the realities in Iran and also their confusion over the Islamic Republic of Iran’s power,” he said.
The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on more than 30 Iranian officials and organizations for what it claimed to be a “brutal crackdown” on and “repression” of recent protests, which were triggered by the death of a young Iranian woman in Tehran last September.
Sweden, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, said the bloc’s foreign ministers had “adopted a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the repression” in their meeting in Brussels.
The United States and Britain also issued new sanctions against Iran on Monday.
Kanaani said the new EU and British sanctions displayed their “desperation and anger” with their recent ignominious defeat in fomenting instability in Iran despite their bids and bearing heavy costs.
The spokesperson noted that the EU and Britain are well aware that the sanctions will have no impact on the Iranian nation’s will to counter foreign interference and plots.
Back in December, the EU foreign ministers agreed to impose new sanctions on a number of Iranian individuals and entities over an alleged crackdown on recent protests and drone deliveries to Russia for use in the Ukraine war.
The 27-nation bloc imposed sanctions on 20 individuals along with entities – including the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting – over alleged human rights abuses, while four more people and as many entities were blacklisted over the issue of drones.
The Western countries’ anti-Iran campaign reached new peaks after the tragic death of Mahsa Amini on September 16. Her death instigated riots, which were immediately picked up by Western-based media outlets and officials, who – without providing any convincing evidence – started claiming that the woman had been “murdered” by police forces.
Iran immediately released the CCTV footage showing the young woman fainting at a police station and being subsequently transferred to a hospital. In the meantime, Iranian authorities conducted an investigation into the incident, concluding that Amini’s death had been caused by an illness, rather than alleged beatings to her head or body.
Religious minorities enjoy rights in Iran
Concurrently with the onset of unrest in Iranian cities over the last three to four months, anti-Iran media, together with overseas opposition groups, have made claims about discrimination against religious minorities in Iran and the violation of their rights.
But a closer examination of the lives of Sunni Muslims, the largest religious minority in Iran, shows that these claims are far from the truth, especially if we compare their conditions under the Islamic Republic and the former Pahlavi regime.
Sunni Muslims, like all other religious minorities, are well-represented in the Iranian Parliament. Currently, 17 seats out of the total 290 seats are reserved for Iranian Sunni representatives, which account for seven percent of the representatives of the Iranian Parliament.
Mohammad Qasim Osmani, a Sunni lawmaker, even got elected to the Board of Directors of the Iranian Parliament during his previous term.
Iranian Sunni lawmakers also have their own fraction, which is quite active and has held many meetings with officials from inside and outside the country including the president.
Jalal Mahmoudzadeh, head of the Sunni fraction, had earlier said that the members of the group have exchanged views and consulted with Sunni members of parliaments of other countries.
Seminary schools and students
During the Pahlavi era, only three seminary schools were exclusively teaching Sunnis in the Iranian southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.
Now, the figure has almost multiplied by ten, thanks to the Islamic Republic. There are about 130 Sunni seminary schools for men, and 450 Sunni seminary schools for women in Iran.
The number of Sunni seminary students has been estimated to be around 14,000. These students receive monthly salaries just like Shia seminary students. But unlike Shia seminary students, who would later be drafted to serve in the military should they decide not to teach religious studies as their occupation, Sunni seminary students are entirely exempt from military service.
While 1,000 Sunni mosques were built before the Islamic Revolution, the number has now reached 12,000. Be they Sunni or Shia, mosques are almost exempt from paying water, electricity, and gas bills in Iran; they are required to pay only one percent of those bills.
Overall, there are 15 grand seminary schools and mosques in Iran, 10 of which date back to the ancient eras and are considered Iran’s historical heritage. Out of the remaining five buildings, three belong to Iranian Sunnis: the Jameh (Grand) Mosque of Shafei in the city of Kermanshah, Baharan’s Mosque in the province of Kurdestan, and the Makki Grand Mosque in the city of Zahedan.
The teaching style in Sunni seminary schools is based on the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence within Sunni Islam.
In the legal realm as well, Iranian Sunnis have their exclusive courtrooms wherein the rulings are issued according to one of their four major schools and upheld by Iran’s Judiciary branch.
The right of Iranian citizens of the Sunni Muslim faith to publish books in Iran is preserved. Sunni publications such as Ehsan, Imam Rabbani, and Kurdistan annually participate in the Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF) and present their religious and non-religious books to the masses.
Sunnis in office
Apart from the Iranian Parliament, Sunnis are represented in the Assembly of Experts for Leadership. Faeq Rostami, Adel Qaderi, and Nazir Ahmad Salami are the Sunni members of the current assembly. Former Sunni member of the assembly, Mamosta Mohammad Sheikholeslam was assassinated by a Takfiri terrorist group in 2009.
Contrary to the claims of the smear campaign, Sunnis have even occupied higher ranks of Iran’s military. For instance, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani is the current Commander of the Iranian Navy. Some military commanders stationed in Sunni cities are adherents of Sunni Islam, too.
Iran’s top Sunni scholars also enjoy a unique position and are regularly invited to hold talks with the authorities in Tehran on behalf of their communities. Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi and Mamosta Mollah Qader Qaderi are two Sunni Muslim clerics that fulfill such a role for the communities of Zahedan and Paveh, respectively. Moreover, more than 10,000 university professors throughout Iran are Sunnis.
What is more, two of Iran’s current ambassadors to other countries as well as Iran’s cultural attaché in Egypt are of Sunni faith.
Head of the Sunni fraction in the Iranian Parliament, Jalal Mahmoudzadeh, has stated that Iranian Sunnis have sacrificed more than 11,000 martyrs for their homeland during the Iraqi-imposed war (1980-1988).
What has been listed is but a fraction of the various areas wherein the presence of Iranian Sunni Muslims commingling with their countrymen of other religious faiths, including the Shia majority, is felt.
US sanctions on Iran oil sector fail: MP
All scenarios and bragging of the US about sanctioning Iran’s crude exports have failed, said the vice chairman of the Energy Committee of Parliament, noting that all of the predicted goals of Iran in the field of oil exports and revenues have been achieved.
Talking to Iran Daily, Qassem Saedi added, “Today, the world is in dire need of fuel and energy while Iran has been known as one of the biggest energy producers in the world since the distant past.”
“Nowadays, all politicians and planners know that the world cannot meet its needs without Iran’s energy reserves, especially now, amid the war between Russia and Ukraine,” the MP said.
Referring to the success of Iran’s energy diplomacy, Saedi stated, “We now have very good oil and energy clients, both in the region and other parts of the world, so that we have no worries about selling oil as our sales are increasing.”
Pointing out that neutralizing sanctions is one of the priorities of Tehran, he said, “The 13th government has implemented effective policies, especially in the field of energy, in more than a year and a half, so that our oil sales reached the target point in the budget bill and in some months we crossed this level.”
Our oil sales have experienced ups and downs, but the overall trend of our exports has been increasing, the lawmaker explained.
“The crude prices are proportional to the market and OPEC oil prices, and the receiving of petrodollars is done with the strategies used in energy diplomacy.”
In the starting days of the Russia-Ukraine war, Washington had told the Europeans that “you should not worry about meeting your gas and energy needs”, while later sold its gas to them at a very high price as practically the Europeans got caught in America’s trap, Saedi noted.
The Islamic Republic, by adopting a powerful policy, is taking its own path towards neutralizing the sanctions, said the lawmaker and added that the United States’ hostile scenarios and sanctions have never succeeded, as they have received strong responses and plans from Iran.
He advised the supporters of the US and European countries not to blindly follow Washington’s policies because the US has always failed to prove its loyalty to its allies.
America always seeks its own interests in relation to its allies, Saedi noted, adding that in the case of the Ukraine war, the US was thinking of selling expensive fuel to Europe, as this is against political norms in the world.
Seven dead as California mourns 3rd mass killing in eight days
A gunman killed seven people at two agricultural businesses in Northern California, plunging the state into mourning again in the wake of its third mass killing in eight days.
Officers arrested a suspect in Monday’s shootings, 67-year-old Chunli Zhao, after they found him in his car in the parking lot of a sheriff’s substation, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said.
Seven people were found dead and an eighth injured at a farm and another location several miles away, the Sheriff’s Office said. Officials believe Zhao worked at one of the facilities and that the victims were workers as well, Corpus said. Officials haven’t determined a motive for the shooting.
California is still reeling from an attack on a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park that killed 11 and cast a shadow over an important holiday for many Asian-American communities. Authorities are still seeking a motive for the Saturday shooting.
The new year has brought a shocking string of mass killings in the U.S. — six in less than three weeks, accounting for 39 deaths. Three have occurred in California since Jan. 16, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. The database tracks every mass killing — defined as four dead not including the offender — committed in the U.S. since 2006.
The killings occurred on the outskirts of Half Moon Bay, a city about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of San Francisco.
Half Moon Bay Vice Mayor Joaquin Jimenez said the victims included Chinese and Latino farmworkers. Some workers lived at one of the facilities and children may have witnessed the shooting, she said. Corpus said it wasn’t immediately clear how the two locations were connected. On Jan. 16, a teenage mother and her baby were among six people killed in a shooting at a home in California’s Central Valley.
'Amal': Play about the dream of a world without war
The international section of the 41st Fadjr Theater Festival is currently ongoing in the theaters of Tehran, with performances from Spain, Jordan, Oman, Russia, Brazil, and Iraq. One of the performances, a play named “Amal” from Iraq, directed by “Javad al-Asadi,” a well-known director in the Arab world, was performed on stage.
Al-Asadi talked about the play in an interview with Iran Daily. He said that the word ‘Amal’ in Arabic literally means hope or wish.
“This show actually refers to human desire. It is the story of a young couple who will soon have a child, but the mother is worried about the future due to the problems she sees in the world of war, crime and bloodshed surrounding her. Therefore, she hesitates to give birth to her child. She believes that if a child is going to be born, it will probably perish in the war or its life will be ruined by drugs.
Or maybe its head will be cut off and the body will be dismembered by ISIS and other terrorists, so it is better for the child not to be born in the first place. But the husband insists that she should give birth to the child and this has created a big challenge for the life of this couple.”
The play examines the issue that preoccupies the couple’s minds, which is if a child enters this world, with the current situation of war and bloodshed and other issues that prevail, will it be able to achieve its dreams?
According to Al-Asadi, the play raises the question in the minds of the audience: How far will this chaotic situation in the world go on, and what fate awaits the children?
“This work was performed on stage for the first time last year at the Baghdad International Theater Festival and won top ranks in almost all categories including acting, writing, directing, stage design and music. In fact, the best Iraqi actors perform in this play, and two Iraqi stars, namely, Haider Juma, in the role of the husband, and Rabab Ahmad, in the role of the wife, have performed exceptionally well in this play,” the Iraqi director told Iran Daily.
The second official performance of this play was held at the Fajr International Theater Festival, and in the future it is going to be performed in many festivals including in Germany and several African countries.
“From now on, we are on a long journey to perform this show in different places,” Al-Asadi said.
In response to the question of how much the idea of this play came from his own personal experience and concerns in Iraq, the director said that the issues examined in Amal are universal issues; they are not limited to a specific geographical location.
“The presence of ISIS in Iraq and the war in this country may have fostered the idea of the play in my mind, but the world today is facing issues such as economic problems, racism, etc., that do not belong to a specific location. Yet, the most important issue that worries the people of the world today is the issue of war and terrorism and the spread of drugs,” he added.
Referring to the role of art in creating closeness and friendship between nations, Al-Asadi said that in this section of the Fadjr festival, theater and art brought everyone together and made them more connected.
“Because of this friendship and unity, we can defeat terrorists and perpetrators of war and bloodshed,” he noted.
According to Al-Asadi, the performance of this play in Tehran may be the beginning of further cooperation between actors and artists in the field of theater in the two countries. Recently, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Ahmed Musa, the head of the Iraqi Cinema and Theater Foundation, and Kourosh Zarei, the secretary of the 41st Fadjr International Theater Festival, for the development of theatrical cooperation between the two countries, which will definitely be implemented in the future and joint performances and productions will certainly be on the agenda of Iran and Iraq.
Tehran to host annual Iranian archaeology symposium
The 20th Annual Symposium on Iranian Archaeology will be held in February 2023 in Tehran, announced the director of the Archaeological Department of the Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism.
“The Annual Symposium on Iranian Archaeology is a big event, which the community of Iranian and international archaeologists look forward to,” said Leila Khosravi, according to IRNA.
She stated that the symposium is an opportunity for archaeologists who research Iran’s cultural sphere to present their scientific findings to be evaluated and judged.
“Also, they can use the critique and suggestions of the other experts,” she added. Khosravi specified that presenting the results of the latest research on Iranian archaeology is an invaluable 50-year-old tradition, and added, “Due to the conditions created by the pandemic, in the past few years the symposium was held virtually without interruption.”