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Death is 'Ayatollah’s trade'

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The US and EU always look for a common ground of interests towards Iran, in order to negotiate with mullahs. The nuclear programme and Iran’s interference in the region have been two main issues over recent decades. However, every deal with the Iranian regime, JCPOA on the top of them, has failed to live long because of the irresponsible behavior of the Iranian regime. In fact, Iran fails to follow international norms and regulations, writes Ali Bagheri.

But, why does Iran fail to stay in the framework of the international community despite a strong enthusiasm by EU and US towards Iran? The missed factor in EU and US negotiations with Iran is the massive human rights violation by mullahs. All international commitments of the Iranian regime are valid until they can freely oppress the Iranian people.

Therefore, the crisis explodes when the people of Iran organizes nationwide uprisings such as in November 2019, when the Iranian regime had to kill 1500 peaceful protesters in streets. Uprisings in Iran which all is some how conducted to regime change is the moment that makes an international solidarity with Iranians against the clerics in Tehran. This is simply because EU countries same as U.S. got to this conclusion that death is the trade that the Ayatollah wants.

First Curtain: Iranian Protesters since 2017 uprising are under torture and Execution

On 2 September 2020, Amnesty International released a report about massive human rights violations against detainees of 2019 uprising in Iran. The report, entitled Iran: Trampling Humanity – Mass arrests, Disappearances and Torture Since Iran’s 2019 November Protests sheds lights on the unhuman behavior of guards in Iran towards detainees in Iran. Tortures such as: Electric chair, sexual violence against male detainees, blindfolded, flogging, beating with rubber hosepipes, knives, batons and cables, suspended or forced into holding painful stress positions for prolonged periods, deprived of sufficient food and potable water, placed in prolonged solitary confinement, and denied medical care for injuries sustained during the protests or as a result of torture are mentioned in amnesty report that reminds dark age prisons in Europe. Moreover, minorities (11-17) were tortured too.

Torture was used to punish, intimidate and humiliate detainees and also force them to confess against themselves.

The report raised international concerns about human rights violations in Iran. Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Ann Linde expressed her concerns in a tweet stating “Today’s report by Amnesty paints a grim picture of serious human rights violations in Iran following the 2019 protests.” Amnesty Belgium, USA, Spain and Austria condemned the Iranian regime and expressed their concerns regarding the torture in Iran’s prisons.

Unfortunately, the story does not end here. The Iranian regime has a horrible record of execution and force disappearance of dissident prisoners. Recently, Navid Afkari who is an Iranian athlete was sentenced to death for his participation in peaceful protests in 2018 uprisings in Shiraz. This decree received a large opposition in Iran and around the world. Some of the Iranian athletes and many famous athletes from Dana White, the UFC president to wrestlers from all around the world condemned this decree.

In an initiative by Iranian National Sports Champions, members of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) of Iran 48 Iranian sports champions write to the UN Secretary-General, the International Olympic Committee President demanding their urgent intervention to stop the execution of wrestling champion Navid Afkari.

Second Curtain: Human rights violations history as long as the establishment of Islamic Republic including the tragic 1988 massacre

The tragic stories of Navid and all other detainees are not new phenomena in Iran. In fact, the new wave of execution and torture in Iran is the continuation of early martyrs in Iran after 1979 anti-monarchy revolution. This list can be continued to the early days of the establishment of Islamic Republic in Iran. The main question in front of Iranians is not how many people has been tortured or executed by the Iranian regime anymore. The question is who has left? From Writers, to intellectuals, to human rights activists, personalities, to every member of the opposition is in the Iranian regime’s death list.

When the Iranian regime is in a crippling situation, Ayatollah does not hesitate to exterminate whom are not in his favor. Let’s back to 1988. The Iranian regime was in a critical situation. Iran could not continue the war with Iraq anymore. Regime should respond to the society about the people who has been killed in a war that could end 7 years ago. Ayatollah chose the easy way.

More than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly MEK/PMOI supporters, were executed in a few months. They were buried in mass graves and their families were kept uninformed until today. Experts believe brining Massacre 1988 issue on UN General Assembly and keeping the Iranian regime accountable for this crime is the key step to bring criminals to justice. Many of present Iranian officials including present head of judiciary and the minister of Justice have been among death committee members who must be kept accountable.

Last curtain: Coronavirus a silent death in Iranian regime agenda

The Iranian regime recognizes no limits to kill activists, protesters, and opposition members inside and outside the country. However, the Iranian regime does not need opposition to kill and torture them. This regime cannot behave as a normal state, because in its nature it is against the people and civilized society. Therefore, everything can be used as a mean to suppress the people and disperse the society. According to MEK, Iranian opposition group, almost 100,000 have died because of Coronavirus. Many experts inside and outside the country believe the official numbers in Iran is largely underestimated. In order to approximate the epidemic scope in Iran, the key points from Iranian regime officials must be excluded, e.g. Hassan Rouhani, the president of Islamic Republic, in his speech during the Coronavirus task force committee stated that around 25-30 million of Iranians are contaminated.

The coronavirus crisis in Iran should not be compared with the situation in other countries. In Iran, the regime and the virus are on one side and the people are on the other side. In March, Khamenei openly said that he sought to create an opportunity and a blessing out of the coronavirus crisis. He and his president, Hassan Rouhani, pursued the strategy of colossal human fatalities as a barrier against the threat of an uprising and eventual overthrow and to pacify and demoralize the Iranian society, rendering it hopeless and paralyzed.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Islamic republic, has not participated in any public meeting in the past 6 months. The president of Iran always gives a speech in the first day of the school year. This year, although the schools has started as usual, but the president sent a message from his office claiming everything is normal. In some schools, ambulances were seen taking sick students to hospitals.

As it can be seen above, any crisis for the Iranian regime is paid back with blood. When they fail to continue the war, they massacre political prisoners. When they fail to solve economic problems, they massacre people in streets. When they fail to retaliate the elimination of Qassim Soleimani, they shoot down a civilian airliner with 176 innocent passengers.

Finally, when they feel a set of domestic and international crisis that can impact their sovereignty, they leave people unprotected against Coronavirus and by adopting confusing policies bring death to more and more people. In conclusion, death is Ayatollah’s trade and the only task that Ayatollah can accomplish. On the other hand, last solution to end this trade is on the people of Iran to get organized, uprise, and overthrow the regime by themselves and their resistance. When this moment arrives, the international community will support. The moment that Iranians stand, the world will stand with them.

Ali Bagheri PhD is an energy engineer,  from the University of Mons. He is an Iranian activist and an advocate for human rights and democracy in Iran.  

Belgium

Cars and pavements washed away as Belgian town hit by worst floods in decades

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The southern Belgian town of Dinant was hit by the heaviest floods in decades on Saturday (24 July) after a two-hour thunderstorm turned streets into torrential streams that washed away cars and pavements but did not kill anyone, writes Jan Strupczewski, Reuters.

Dinant was spared the deadly floods 10 days ago that killed 37 people in southeast Belgium and many more in Germany, but the violence of Saturday's storm surprised many.

"I have been living in Dinant for 57 years, and I've never seen anything like that," Richard Fournaux, the former mayor of the town on the Meuse river and birthplace of the 19th century inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, said on social media.

A woman works to recover her belongings following heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron
A woman walks in an area affected by heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Rainwater gushing down steep streets swept away dozens of cars, piling them in a heap at a crossing, and washed away cobbles stones, pavements and whole sections of tarmac as inhabitants watched in horror from windows.

There was no precise estimate of the damage, with town authorities predicting only that it would be "significant", according to Belgian RTL TV.

The storm wreaked similar havoc, also with no loss of life, in the small town of Anhee a few kilometres north of Dinant.

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Czech Republic

NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses Czechia's €7 billion recovery and resilience plan

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The European Commission has today (19 July) adopted a positive assessment of Czechia's recovery and resilience plan. This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €7 billion in grants under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). This financing will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Czechia's recovery and resilience plan. It will play a key role in helping Czechia emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Czech plan forms part of an unprecedented co-ordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the Single Market.

The Commission assessed Czechia's plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The Commission's analysis considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms set out in Czechia's plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.

Securing Czechia's green and digital transition  

The Commission's assessment of Czechia's plan finds that it devotes 42% of its total allocation to measures that support climate objectives. The plan includes investments in renewable energy, the modernisation of district heating distribution networks, the replacement of coal-fired boilers and improving the energy efficiency of residential and public buildings. The plan also includes measures for nature protection and water management as well as investment in sustainable mobility.

The Commission's assessment of Czechia's plan finds that it devotes 22% of its total allocation to measures that support the digital transition. The plan provides for investments in digital infrastructure, the digitalization of public administration, including the areas of health, justice and the administration of construction permits. It promotes the digitalisation of businesses and digital projects in the cultural and creative sectors. The plan also includes measures to improve digital skills at all levels, as part of the education system and through dedicated upskilling and reskilling programmes.

Reinforcing Czechia's economic and social resilience

The Commission considers that Czechia's plan effectively addresses all or a significant subset of the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Czechia by the Council in the European Semester in 2019 and in 2020.

The plan provides for measures to tackle the need for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, sustainable transport and digital infrastructure. Several measures aim at addressing the need to foster digital skills, improve the quality and inclusiveness of education, and to increase the availability of childcare facilities. The plan also provides for improving the business environment, mainly through extensive e-government measures, a reform of the procedures of granting construction permits and anti-corruption measures. Challenges in the area of R&D shall be improved by investment geared at strengthening public-private cooperation and financial and non-financial support to innovative firms.

The plan represents a comprehensive and adequately balanced response to Czechia's economic and social situation, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.

Supporting flagship investments and reform projects

The Czech plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects which address issues that are common to all member states in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the twin transition. For instance, Czechia has proposed €1.4bn to support the energy efficiency renovation of buildings and €500 million to boost digital skills through education and investments in upskilling and reskilling programmes for the entire labour force.  

The Commission's assessment finds that no measure included in the plan does any significant harm to the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.

The arrangements proposed in the recovery and resilience plan in relation to control systems are adequate to prevent, detect and correct corruption, fraud and conflicts of interests relating to the use of funds. The arrangements are also expected to effectively avoid double funding under that Regulation and other Union programmes. These control systems are complemented by additional audit and control measures contained in the Commission's proposal for a Council Implementing Decision as milestones. These milestones must be fulfilled before Czechia presents its first payment request to the Commission.

President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today, the European Commission has decided to give its green light to Czechia's recovery and resilience plan. This plan will play a crucial role in supporting a shift towards a greener and more digital future for Czechia. Measures that improve energy efficiency, digitalize public administration and deter the misuse of public funds are exactly in line with the objectives of NextGenerationEU. I also welcome the strong emphasis the plan places on strengthening the resilience of Czechia's health-care system to prepare it for future challenges. We will stand with you every step of the way to ensure that the plan is fully implemented.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “Czechia's recovery and resilience plan will provide a strong boost to the country's efforts to get back its feet after the economic shock caused the pandemic. The €7bn in NextGenerationEU funds that will flow to Czechia over the next five years will support a wide-ranging programme of reforms and investments to build a more sustainable and competitive economy. They include very sizeable investments in building renovation, clean energy and sustainable mobility, as well as measures to boost digital infrastructure and skills and the digitalisation of public services. The business environment will benefit from the promotion of e-government and anti-corruption measures. The plan will also support improvements in healthcare, including reinforced cancer prevention and rehabilitation care.”

Next steps

The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a Council Implementing Decision to provide €7bn in grants to Czechia under the RRF. The Council will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the Commission's proposal.

The Council's approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €910m to Czechia in pre-financing. This represents 13% of the total amount allocated to Czechia.

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “This plan will put Czechia on the path to recovery and boost its economic growth as Europe gears up for the green and digital transitions. Czechia intends to invest in renewable energy and sustainable transport, while improving the energy efficiency of buildings. It aims to roll out greater digital connectivity across the country, promote digital education and skills, and digitalize many of its public services. And it places a welcome focus on improving the business environment and justice system, backed by measures to fight corruption and promote e-government – all in a balanced response to the Czech economic and social situation. Once put properly into practice, this plan will help to put Czechia on a sound footing for the future.”

The Commission will authorize further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the Council Implementing Decision, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms. 

More information

Questions and answers: European Commission endorses Czechia's recovery and resilience plan

Recovery and Resilience Facility: Questions and answers

Factsheet on Czechia's recovery and resilience plan

Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Czechia

Annex to the Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Czechia

Staff-working document accompanying the proposal for a Council Implementing Decision

Recovery and Resilience Facility

Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation

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Belgium

Death toll rises to 170 in Germany and Belgium floods

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The death toll in devastating flooding in western Germany and Belgium rose to at least 170 on Saturday (17 July) after burst rivers and flash floods this week collapsed houses and ripped up roads and power lines, write Petra Wischgoll,
David Sahl, Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam.

Some 143 people died in the flooding in Germany's worst natural disaster in more than half a century. That included about 98 in the Ahrweiler district south of Cologne, according to police.

Hundreds of people were still missing or unreachable as several areas were inaccessible due to high water levels while communication in some places was still down.

Residents and business owners struggled to pick up the pieces in battered towns.

"Everything is completely destroyed. You don't recognise the scenery," said Michael Lang, owner of a wine shop in the town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Ahrweiler, fighting back tears.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Erftstadt in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the disaster killed at least 45 people.

"We mourn with those that have lost friends, acquaintances, family members," he said. "Their fate is ripping our hearts apart."

Around 700 residents were evacuated late on Friday after a dam broke in the town of Wassenberg near Cologne, authorities said.

But Wassenberg mayor Marcel Maurer said water levels had been stabilising since the night. "It's too early to give the all-clear but we are cautiously optimistic," he said.

The Steinbachtal dam in western Germany, however, remained at risk of breaching, authorities said after some 4,500 people were evacuated from homes downstream.

Steinmeier said it would take weeks before the full damage, expected to require several billions of euros in reconstruction funds, could be assessed.

Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and the ruling CDU party's candidate in September's general election, said he would speak to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz in the coming days about financial support.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to travel on Sunday to Rhineland Palatinate, the state that is home to the devastated village of Schuld.

Members of the Bundeswehr forces, surrounded by partially submerged cars, wade through the flood water following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, July 17, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
Austrian rescue team members use their boats as they go through an area affected by floods, following heavy rainfalls, in Pepinster, Belgium, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

In Belgium, the death toll rose to 27, according to the national crisis centre, which is co-ordinating the relief operation there.

It added that 103 people were "missing or unreachable". Some were likely unreachable because they could not recharge mobile phones or were in hospital without identity papers, the centre said.

Over the past several days the floods, which have mostly hit the German states of Rhineland Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia and eastern Belgium, have cut off entire communities from power and communications.

RWE (RWEG.DE), Germany's largest power producer, said on Saturday its opencast mine in Inden and the Weisweiler coal-fired power plant were massively affected, adding that the plant was running at lower capacity after the situation stabilized.

In the southern Belgian provinces of Luxembourg and Namur, authorities rushed to supply drinking water to households.

Flood water levels slowly fell in the worst hit parts of Belgium, allowing residents to sort through damaged possessions. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited some areas on Saturday afternoon.

Belgian rail network operator Infrabel published plans of repairs to lines, some of which would be back in service only at the very end of August.

Emergency services in the Netherlands also remained on high alert as overflowing rivers threatened towns and villages throughout the southern province of Limburg.

Tens of thousands of residents in the region have been evacuated in the past two days, while soldiers, fire brigades and volunteers worked frantically throughout Friday night (16 July) to enforce dykes and prevent flooding.

The Dutch have so far escaped disaster on the scale of its neighbours, and as of Saturday morning no casualties had been reported.

Scientists have long said that climate change will lead to heavier downpours. But determining its role in these relentless rainfalls will take at least several weeks to research, scientists said on Friday.

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