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)
Thousands took to the streets of Isfahan Oct. 22, demanding authorities act to halt a spate of acid attacks on young women in the historic Iranian city. Assailants on motorbikes have thrown acid in the face of at least eight women who were driving in the street with their windows rolled down in recent weeks. Local media say the number of victims could be higher. The attacks have so far claimed one life. Many Iranians believe that women were targeted because they were wearing clothes that could be deemed inappropriate by hardliners—a claim denied by the authorities. The protest was apparently a "wildcat" march, held in defiance of police efforts to close the streets. A similarly demonstration was held across from the parliament building in Tehran. (NCRI, Oct. 23; The Guardian, Oct. 22)
Guerillas affiliated with the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) have for the past days been clashing with Iranian military forces in the area of Shino (Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan province), leaving a senior army commander dead. Iran's official media on Sept. 26 confirmed the killing of the commander, named as Sajad Takhti, by the guerilla force known as the Peshmerga of Iranian Kurdistan. The PDKI also confirmed that one of their fighters has been killed in the area. Fighting is also reported in the Kurdish city of Mariwan (Kordistan province) on the border of Iran and Iraq's Kurdistan Region. (BasNews, Sept. 27)
We've noted reports that Iranian forces have intervened in northern Iraq to help fight ISIS, part of the Great Power convergence against the self-declared "Islamic State." Now Reuters reports that the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, traveled to Baghdad in June to coordinate the military counter-offensive as ISIS seized the north of the country. According to the report, "The plan included the use of thousands of militiamen who were armed and trained by Iran as well as thousands of new recruits who had volunteered after Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, issued a call to arms against ISIS in June." Iran has always been close to the Shi'ite-led regime in Baghdad, but now there also seems to be a rapprochement between Tehran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), traditionally suspicious of each other. The Kurdish Globe reports that KRG President Masoud Barzani met with the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif in Erbil on Aug. 26 to discuss coordinating the fight against ISIS. The independent Kurdish news site BasNews also reported Sept. 1 that an Iranian drone crashed in a village near the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Darbandikhan close to the Iranian border. Tehran's denials that it has forces fighting in Iraq seem increasingly transparent.