The death of Mahsa Amini—a 22-year-old girl who was on a visit to Tehran with her brother—has caused a furor in Iran against the strict hijab laws, with protests breaking out across several parts of the country. Over the past few days, hundreds of people—especially women—have in fact come together to chant slogans against the Iranian authorities, with some going to the extent of taking off their hijabs in defiance of the local laws. In many places, women have also cut their hair and burned their hijabs as a mark of protest.
On September 13, Amini was arrested by Tehran’s morality police for allegedly not covering her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. And just a couple of hours later, she was hospitalised, falling into a coma. According to Iran’s security forces, Amini suffered a heart attack at the detention centre while receiving educational training on Hijab rules.
Amini collapsed as she attempted to get up from her seat to speak with a police officer at the station. She is then shown being carried away on a stretcher. The Iranian Interior Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, claimed that as per the reports he received, “Mahsa suffered from previous physical problems and she had undergone brain surgery at the age of five.”
Her family, however, disputes these claims, stating that she was absolutely healthy prior to her arrest and saying that the young girl had no history of heart trouble. The family also alleged that she sustained injuries during her time in custody, thereby pointing towards the fact that she might have been physically assaulted.
Even the acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada al-Nashif, stated that reports suggest that the police hit Amini on the head with a baton and banged her head against one of their vehicles. After a photo and video of Amini lying unconscious on a hospital bed with blood oozing from her ear and bruises around her eyes went viral, several doctors confirmed that she had a concussion due to head injuries.
But while the truth about Amini’s arrest and her consequent death continues to remain a mystery, human rights groups such as Amnesty International have been demanding a criminal investigation into the matter. Similarly, Human Rights Watch has demanded the abolition of the Iranian morality police and religious laws that mandate women to wear headscarves. Josep Borrel, the spokesperson for EU foreign policy, went a step ahead and called for those responsible for Amini’s death to be held accountable.
The authorities have nevertheless opened an investigation to determine the cause of Amini’s death. Yet, the protesting Iranians doubt that the probe will be carried out in an objective or transparent manner. This perception predominantly emerges from the fact that this is not the first time that such an “unacceptable” incident has taken place in the Islamic nation.
Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a mandatory dress code was imposed in Iran, which required all women to wear hijab and prohibited them from wearing clothes that exposed their skin or disguised their figure in public. The morality police units—formally known as “Gasht-e Ershad” (Guidance Patrols)—were tasked, among other things, with ensuring that women conform to this “proper” clothing. Punishments for violating the mandate included a fine, prison, or flogging.
Given this ruling, it is safe to say that in Iran, women—for years, perhaps decades—have been deprived of their fundamental right to choose what they wanted to wear or how they wanted to dress. But the Iranian women have not remained silent and have been protesting time and again, demonstrating their opposition against these rules.
In the past few years, these protests have, however, become increasingly visible and louder. But at the same time, the government under Raisi, the religious hardliners in the parliament, and the morality police units have also become stricter, thus coming down harder on women and the protestors.
According to a BBC report from 2018, more than 35 female protesters have been arrested in Tehran alone since December 2017.Police authorities also stated that women who took part in anti-hijab protests were confronted with up to ten years in prison. Furthermore, in April 2018, a female morality police officer in Tehran slapped a woman for wearing a loose headscarf.The incidence—although not uncommon—was filmed and shared on Instagram, receiving more than 3 million views.
Thus, the death of Mahsa Amini has lighted a spark of aggression all over again, with many cities in Iran now engulfed in its flame, a flame that has now started reaching abroad. But whether it results in any concrete action or not remains to be seen. However, the verdict among the public is clear—no woman should be persecuted for choosing what to wear.
Akanksha Khullar is an independent scholar working on gender issues, particularly on understanding the Women, Peace and Security agenda, and identifying how national, regional and international organisations contribute in shaping the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.
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Twitter confirms Elon Musk’s buyout offer
Twitter on Tuesday (local time) confirmed that Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent a letter saying he will go through the deal he signed early this year to buy the platform for USD 44 billion.
“Twitter issued this statement about today’s news: We received the letter from the Musk parties which they have filed with the SEC. The intention of the Company is to close the transaction at $54.20 per share,” the official account of Twitter Investor Relations wrote. After the news broke, that the billionaire is proposing to continue with USD 54.20 per share to buy social media platforms, Twitter’s share price increased to 12.7 per cent before trading was stopped for the second time. On the contrary, Tesla’s shares dropped by about 3 per cent. Musk has been locked in a bitter legal battle with Twitter since announcing in July this year that he was pulling the plug on his USD 44 billion purchase of the company following a complex, and months-long courtship.
Musk had cancelled the deal, claiming that he was misled by Twitter concerning the number of bot accounts on its platform. These allegations were forthrightly rejected by the company. The latest report on the Twitter buyout deal comes ahead of the Delaware Court hearing on 17 October, where the two sides are expected to clash over the multi-billion dollar buyout deal. Earlier, Twitter had sought an order directing Tesla CEO to complete deal at $54.20 per share.
Carolyn Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, Barry Sharpless awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022 to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless.
Bertozzi from Stanford University, US; Meldal from University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Sharpless from Scripps Research, US have been awarded “for the development of click chemistry and bio orthogonal chemistry”.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 2022 #NobelPrize in Chemistry to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K. Barry Sharpless for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry,” the official Twitter feed of the Nobel Prize said in a tweet.
Barry Sharpless became the fifth individual to receive the Nobel Prize for the second time. He follows in the footsteps of John Bardeen, Marie Sklodowska Curie, Linus Pauling, and Frederick Sanger, all of whom received two Nobel Prizes.Prior to this, Sharpless was awarded the chemistry prize in 2001. Barry Sharpless and Morten Meldal have laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry—click chemistryin which molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently. Carolyn Bertozzi has taken click chemistry to a new dimension and started utilising it in living organisms.
Danish Queen Margrethe apologises for stripping grandchildren of royal titles
Danish Queen Margrethe II apologized for stripping four of her eight grandchildren of their royal titles.
The queen said that she was ‘sorry’ for stripping her grandchildren of royal titles. However, she is not changing her mind about the move. The 82-year-old monarch announced in late September that the children of her younger son, Prince Joachim, would no longer be known as prince and princess from next year.
Instead, they will only be able to use their titles of count and countess of Monpezat and will be addressed as excellencies, as their HRH titles will be “discontinued,” according to the royal household. Helle von Wildenrath Lovgreen, press secretary to Countess Alexandra, the former wife of Prince Joachim, said that Joachim and his children were “sad” and “shocked” by the decision, which Queen Margrethe views “as a necessary future-proofing of the monarchy,” according to a statement from the Queen.
“In recent days, there have been strong reactions to my decision about the future use of titles for Prince Joachim’s four children.
“That affects me, of course,” the monarch said in the statement. “My decision has been a long time coming. With my 50 years on the throne, it is natural both to look back and to look ahead. It is my duty and my desire as Queen to ensure that the monarchy always shapes itself in keeping with the times. Sometimes, this means that difficult decisions must be made, and it will always be difficult to find the right moment,” she added.
The Queen said that she made the “adjustment” to allow the junior royals to lead more normal lives, while following a similar decision by other royal families to slim down the monarchy.
“Holding a royal title involves a number of commitments and duties that, in the future, will lie with fewer members of the royal family,” she said.
Crown Prince Frederik, the Queen’s older son, is first in line to the throne. His oldest child, Prince Christian, is second in line.
All four of Frederik’s children retain their titles.
His younger brother, Joachim, lives in Paris with his wife Princess Marie, and has two children, Henrik, 13, and Athena, 10.
The prince also has two older sons, Nikolai, 23, and Felix, 20, from his first marriage to Alexandra, the Countess of Frederiksborg.
While Joachim’s children will lose their royal titles, they will maintain their places in the order of succession.
The monarch said, “I have made my decision as Queen, mother, and grandmother, but, as a mother and grandmother, I have underestimated the extent to which much my younger son and his family feel affected.
That makes a big impression, and for that I am sorry.”
She added, “No one should be in doubt that my children, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren are my great joy and pride. I now hope that we as a family can find the peace to find our way through this situation.”
Pakistan defence sector continues to enjoy grants, subsidies despite economic crisis
As Pakistan always cries for funding in the name of development and disaster management, the so-called defence sector of the country continues to enjoy grants, subsidies and loans despite the financial crunches.
A Canada-based think tank International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), has highlighted the freebies to the elite military of the country. According to it, defence and debt servicing make up about 58 per cent of the budget for 2022-23, which is an increase of 24.3 per cent over the previous year.
While the funds for development expenditure have been cut in Pakistan and subsidies withdrawn for items like petroleum products and electricity, the defence sector continues to enjoy grants, subsidies and loan write-offs to the tune of PKR116 million in the current fiscal year.
The Pakistani Armed Forces also generate additional sources of income through their public sector enterprises and their business welfare models. These have been traditionally exempted from excise and taxation, as per the think tank.
Report says that in 2021-22 alone, PKR26 billion (USO 110 million) worth of tax exemptions were given to military-managed business entities. Apart from these direct expenditures, a large number of military related requirements are cross subsidized and met through funds allocated to other ministries.
IFFRAS reported that Pakistan which has been continuously plunging from one economic crisis to another, the deliberate opaqueness built into the defence expenditure needs to be addressed holistically to ensure economic security.
At present, Pakistan has been witnessing the devastating floods which impacted the country’s economic situation.
USS Gerald R Ford, American aircraft carrier, deployed in Atlantic
Five years after it was commissioned into service, the USS Gerald R. Ford left on its first deployment in the Atlantic region on Tuesday from Norfolk, Virginia.
The US Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier will exercise with allies in North America and Europe in the Atlantic region.
The USS Gerald Ford and the carrier strike group will operate with allies and partners in both the 2nd and 6th fleet areas of responsibility in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea, a US Navy official said. The deployment will be shorter than a standard six-month deployment, the official added.
“This deployment is an opportunity to push the ball further down the field and demonstrate the advantage that Ford and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 bring to the future of naval aviation, to the region, and to our allies and partners,” Carrier Strike Group 12 Commander Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman said in a statement.
Armed forces to stay away from politics, says General Bajwa
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa assured the nation on Tuesday that the armed forces have distanced themselves from politics and want to stay away from it in the future as well. While addressing the gathering during the lunch at Pakistani Embassy in Washington, Pakistan Bajwa said that he will leave after the completion of his second three-year term in two months, Dawn reported. He reminded the nation that reviving the country’s ailing economy should be the first priority of all segments of society, adding that without a strong economy the nation would not be able to achieve its targets.
“There could be no diplomacy either without a strong economy,” said the army chief in his address to an audience which included a large number of Pakistani diplomats. After lunch, Bajwa went to the Pentagon for a meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
According to Dawn citing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Bajwa called on retired General Lloyd James Austin III, Secretary of Defence; Jacob Jeremiah Sullivan, National Security Adviser; and Wendy Ruth Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State. During the meetings, matters of mutual of interest, regional security situations and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed.
The army chief thanked the US officials for their support and reiterated that assistance from “our global partners shall be vital for rescue/rehabilitation of the flood victims in Pakistan”, as reported by Dawn.
US had provided $56.5 million in aid to Pakistan for flood relief and humanitarian assistance this year.
During his meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had expressed his sorrow over the devastation and loss of life throughout the country caused by catastrophic flooding.
“He reaffirmed the US commitment to the people of Pakistan, noting the nearly USD 56.5 million in flood relief and humanitarian assistance provided this year as well as the additional USD 10 million of food security assistance announced today,” read the US State Department press release.
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