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Three shot dead in riots as Iran regime runs out of water

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At least three people have been shot dead, one of them a police officer, in a week of rioting and protests over water shortages in the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan.

The police officer was killed in the port city of Mahshahr during what county governor Fereydoun Bandari described as “riots.”

In Izeh, local governor Hassan Nobovati said a “young person” was shot dead by “rioters” and 14 police officers were injured.

Authorities in the town of Shadegan said a protester had been shot dead by “opportunists and rioters.”

“The people of Khuzestan are staging nightly protests, protests that have been festering for years,” the reformist newspaper Arman-e Melli said

Videos posted online have shown protests in Ahvaz, Hamidiyeh, Izeh, Mahshahr, Shadegan and Susangerd, with security forces violently dispersing protesters.

The videos show hundreds of people marching, chanting anti-regime slogans, while surrounded by riot police. In some, there is the sound of gunfire.

The reformist Etemad newspaper said the hashtag “I am thirsty” in Arabic was trending on social media to draw attention to Khuzestan’s plight. Khuzestan is home to a large Sunni Arab minority, which has frequently complained of marginalisation.

In 2019, the province was a hotspot of anti-government protests that also shook other areas of Iran.

“There were signs of protests and unrest in the province a long time ago, but the officials, like always, waited until the last minute to address them,” Etemad said.

The regime in Tehran sent a delegation of deputy ministers to Khuzestan last week address the water shortage. On Wednesday, state TV showed a long line of water trucks it said were from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a day after army trucks did the same.

Over the years, blistering summer heatwaves and seasonal sandstorms have dried up Khuzestan’s once fertile plains. Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts.

President Hassan Rouhani said this month that Iran was going through an “unprecedented” drought, with average rainfall down 52 percent compared to the previous year.

This month, rolling blackouts began in the Tehran and several other large cities, in part over what authorities describe as a severe drought and surging demand for power. Rainfall has decreased by almost 50 percent in the past year, leaving hydroelectric power generation dams with dwindling water supplies.

Water worries in the past have sent angry demonstrators on to the streets in Iran. “As nearly 5 million Iranians in Khuzestan are lacking access to clean drinking water, Iran is failing to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to water, which is inextricably linked to the right to the highest attainable standard of health,” the group Human Rights Activists in Iran said.

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Jakarta residents win landmark air pollution case against Indonesian president

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A Jakarta court on Thursday found Indonesian President Joko Widodo and government officials guilty of neglecting their obligation to fulfill citizens’ rights to clean air, in a landmark lawsuit residents hope will force authorities to act on the capital city’s notorious pollution.

Jakarta, home to over 10 million people, is one the world’s most-polluted cities with the concentration of PM2.5 — inhalable microscopic pollution particularly harmful to human health — regularly exceeding World Health Organization norms, often manifold.

The citizen lawsuit was filed in July 2019 by 32 plaintiffs against the president, ministers of environment, home affairs and health, as well as the governor of Jakarta and two leaders of neighboring provinces. The plaintiffs, including activists and people suffering from pollution-related diseases, did not request compensation but tighter air quality checks.

In a hearing that took place after being adjourned eight times since May, the court ruled the officials had violated environmental protection laws and failed to combat air pollution in the capital and its satellite cities that fall under jurisdiction of Banten and West Java provinces.

“We ordered the first defendant (the president) to tighten the national air quality standard that is sufficient based on science and technology to protect humans’ health, the environment, the ecosystem, including the health of the sensitive population,” presiding judge Saifuddin Zuhri said.

The court also ordered the second defendant, the environment minister, to supervise the governors of Jakarta, Banten, and West Java in tightening transboundary emissions.

Transboundary pollution from Banten and West Java contributes to the poor and deteriorating quality of Jakarta’s air. In 2018, national capital witnessed 101 days with unhealthy air, and 172 in 2019, according to the Center on Energy and Clean Air (CREA). The main contributors to PM2.5 pollution are dozens of industrial facilities and coal power plants located less than 100 kilometers from the city.

Jeanny Sirait, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs said they welcomed the verdict, even though the court did not explicitly rule the government had violated the right to clean but only contravened the law by failing to fulfill it.

“This is a breakthrough verdict,” she said. “It is very rare to find judges that have environmental and public interest perspectives.”

One of the plaintiffs, Istu Prayogi, a 56-year-old tourism lecturer who health has suffered due to air pollution said that he was glad for the victory, although slightly disappointed that the officials’ negligence was not classified as a human rights violation.

“We now have a hope for all people to get their rights to clean air fulfilled,” he said. “We have a legal standing to oblige the government to do that, even though they should have fulfilled that in the first place, but this is a court ruling and as a rule-based country, it’s the highest order.”

Another plaintiff and environmental activist Khalisah Khalid said the verdict was also an example that court can be an avenue for citizens who seek justice.

“As plaintiffs and regular citizens, we will continue to monitor the defendants to make changes in the government policies as mandated by the verdict,” she said. “It is for everyone’s interests, health, and safety including our future generations to have a good quality of life.”

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US imposes sanctions on five Al-Qaeda operatives

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The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on five Al-Qaeda supporters working out of Turkey to provide financial services and travel help to the militant group, the Treasury Department said on Thursday.

“These targeted sanctions highlight the United States’ unwavering commitment to sever financial support to Al-Qaeda,” Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.

“We will continue working with our foreign partners, including Turkey, to expose and disrupt Al-Qaeda’s financial support networks.”

The list included Majdi Salim, an Egyptian-born lawyer based in Turkey, who the Treasury identified as a primary facilitator of a range of Al-Qaeda activities in Turkey.

Others were Muhammad Nasr Al-Din Al-Ghazlani, an Egyptian financial courier who used cash transfers to support Al-Qaeda and Turkish citizens Nurettin Muslihan, Cebrail Guzel and Soner Gurleyen.

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Iran dismisses IAEA’s work as ‘unprofessional’

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Iran on Thursday dismissed the UN nuclear watchdog’s work as “unprofessional” and “unfair” shortly before the two sides are due to hold talks aimed at resolving a standoff over the origin of uranium particles found at old but undeclared sites in Iran.

The issue is a thorn in the side of both Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since the particles suggest Iran once had undeclared nuclear material at three different locations, but the IAEA has yet to obtain satisfactory answers from Iran on how the material got there or where it went.

“The statement of the Agency in its report is completely unprofessional, illusory and unfair,” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement to a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.

Gharibabadi was referring to a passage in an IAEA report last week that said the lack of progress was seriously affecting the IAEA’s ability to determine that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful, as Tehran says it is.

Failure to resolve the issue complicates efforts to restart talks aimed at bringing the US and Iran fully back into the fold of the 2015 nuclear deal, since Washington and its allies continue to pressure Iran to give the IAEA answers.

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