Author: Ershad Alijani

Iran’s failed Covid-19 vaccination campaign due to ‘political power struggle’

Iran’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign has been rife with complications: videos shared online show queues up to a hundred metres long as people wait for hours to be vaccinated, with doses sometimes running out long before everyone receives their jab. Others show thousands of people rushing to the border with Armenia in search of a dose. According to our Observer, an Iranian doctor, these predicaments are the result of political rivalries and the failure of Iran’s vaccine strategy. In Iran, a country of 82 million people, only 4.7 million people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while just 2.2 million are fully vaccinated. So far, people 60 years of age and older are the only ones eligible for vaccination. Videos shared online show elderly men and women waiting in line for hours before they can get vaccinated. Many others – mostly young, middle-class Iranians who are not yet eligible for vaccination and don’t expect to receive their vaccines in Iran anytime soon – have found their solution abroad, either in Dubai or Armenia, …

Video of street drug use illustrates Iran’s growing addiction problem

A video posted on Telegram in Iran on May 16 shows dozens of men and women openly consuming drugs on a Tehran street. Some inhale amphetamines while others inject heroin, in a scene that shocked many Iranians. According to our Observers, this video illustrates a growing addiction problem that has become more and more visible in the streets of southern Tehran. The video was taken in Neshati Alley, a street in an impoverished neighbourhood of southern Tehran. Although the exact date the video was taken is unknown, this phenomenon is becoming increasingly more common. According to our Observers, more and more open drug use has taken place in these neighbourhoods over the past two years. Places like Neshati Alley, in the Shush neighbourhood, are known as regular gathering points for drug users, many of them homeless. A 2-minute video recorded on an unknown date in southern Tehran shows men and women openly consuming heroin and amphetamine in the street. This 2-minute video shows a typical scene in one of southern Tehran’s neighbourhoods. People gathered on …

From hospitals to amusement parks, Iranians grapple with surprise power outages

Lifts and amusement park rides grinding to a halt, businesses, and employees left in the dark, hospital equipment stopping suddenly … People around Iran have been experiencing regular power outages since the beginning of May. While the state energy distributor has tried to schedule these outages to align with energy demands, our Observers tell us that power cuts have been more frequent, and lengthier, than planned. Iranians have been reporting daily, prolonged power cuts since early May, leading to widespread inconveniences and dangerous consequences. People have been left without air conditioning, internet connections, water, and even life-saving medical devices. The Iran Grid Management Company (IGMC), responsible for electricity provision in Iran, released a timetable for scheduled power outages around the country, which they say have resulted from insufficient energy production. As Iranian citizens adapt to these inconveniences, the source of the power outages remains unclear. While an IGMC announcement on May 23 cited insufficient energy production levels, energy officials have pointed to several potential causes. Some referenced energy-intensive Bitcoin farms in Iran, while others blamed …

The real scam behind Iran’s underground female MMA fights

On May 27, a video of what appears to be a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fight between two women began to make the rounds on Iranian social media. The match, which took place in the suburbs of Tehran, caught the attention of many. It was the first time that an underground MMA fight – forbidden for women in the Islamic Republic – was caught on tape. But according to our Observer, this video actually shows a widespread scam taking advantage of female MMA hopefuls. Just like underground female bodybuilding competitions or ballet dancing, these female MMA tournaments are kept under wraps but well known among sportsmen and journalists in Iran. Now, for the first time, a video of this phenomenon was released. The video, which according to our Observer was filmed in Shahriar, a suburb of Iran’s capital Tehran, shows two women fighting MMA-style in a boxing ring located in what seems to be a private villa. We hear two other women coaching the fighters as well as a man who advises the referee …

Hiding a symbolic mass grave of political prisoners by forcing a persecuted minority to bury top of it

Members of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i community were shocked when, in April, the government announced that the only place they would be able to bury their loved ones was on top of mass graves containing political prisoners executed in the 1980s. Activists say this policy is an attempt by the government to erase any trace of the mass executions carried out by the Islamic Republic. These photos, which were published on Telegram in April, show about a dozen freshly dug graves, two of which contain bodies, in an overgrown patch in Khavaran cemetery, located to the east of Tehran. But the unassuming field is actually the site of mass graves containing the bodies of political prisoners who were executed in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the majority of them in 1988. These photos show graves recently dug by members of the Baha’i community in Khavaran, a site that already contains mass graves from the 1980s. These photos were taken on April 23 and published on Telegram. According to Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution, …

Beware of fake videos circulating that claim to show a Chinese rocket

Ever since authorities announced that a Chinese rocket would fall back to Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry last weekend, many fake videos of this incident have emerged on social media and have even made their way to international media outlets. According to state media, the Long March 5B re-entered the atmosphere at 10.24am Beijing time on Sunday May 9, 2021. The coordinates put the point of impact in the Indian Ocean somewhere above the Maldives archipelago and south of India. Since then, many images have been circulating on social media, mainly on Twitter, supposedly showing authentic images of the Chinese spaceship falling. At least three of these videos have been identified as fake by the FRANCE 24 Observers team. A video of the Chinese rocket falling? No, it’s a meteor in Australia This video was shared on Twitter by various users, who claim it shows the moment that Long March 5B re-entered the atmosphere. However, this video was actually filmed in 2016. If you look carefully, you can see the date and coordinates on the …

‘There isn’t a single stretcher left’ in Iran as ‘apocalyptic’ wave of Covid-19 hits

Iranians are facing a fourth wave of Covid-19 and it is shaping up to be the worst since the start of the pandemic. According to official figures, there are no beds left in life support units anywhere in Iran. And there are no beds available in any units of the 100 hospitals in Tehran, the capital. With no hope of rapid, widespread vaccination any time soon, healthcare workers are at a crisis point. Around 500 people a day are dying of Covid-19 in Iran, according to official statistics, though the actual number could be higher. The official pandemic death toll has risen to 70,000— a number that, according to Iran’s Scientific Council, has been underreported and could, in reality, be four times higher. READ MORE: Authorities in Iran ‘hiding’ COVID-19 deaths by listing other causes on death reports Last year, the FRANCE 24 Observers team published a series of articles about the way the pandemic had severely impacted the country, but all of the healthcare workers that we interviewed in the past few days said …

Taliban tribunal gives woman 40 lashes for talking to a man on the phone

It only took 80 seconds for two men to rain down 40 lashes on the woman huddled on her knees as a large crowd looked on. The video of the brutal sentence carried out on an Afghan woman was filmed near Herat and posted on Facebook on April 13. It is a painful reminder of the continued operation of Taliban “courts”, even though they have been banned. For our Observer, it also symbolises the failure of the Afghan government. According to our Observers, this footage is from late 2020, though it hasn’t been possible to determine the precise date the incident occurred. This date range was confirmed by the governor of Herat on April 15. The video was first posted online on April 13, sparking widespread shock and outrage. The incident took place in Haftgola located near Herat in the Obe district. A man with a white beard leads the woman, who is covered by a burqa, into the center of a circle formed by local men who are there to witness the punishment being …

Sniper videos a new propaganda tool for the Taliban

The black-and-white videos show ghostly images of men in combat gear sheltering behind ruined walls in the crosshairs of Taliban snipers, who under cover of darkness pick them off one by one. While the Taliban have been known to use thermal-imaging technology for night-time combat for years, the Afghan insurgents are increasingly publishing sniper videos online as part of an apparent propaganda effort. An investigation by the France 24 Observers shows that most of the videos feature thermal scopes that are commercially available for civilian use. The latest video was released on March 11 on one of the Taliban’s official Twitter accounts with an English caption that read, “NV Operations, Balkh Province.” The two-minute video shows the sniper taking two shots at a figure in combat gear sheltering behind a wall. A third shot appears to hit the soldier. Three subsequent shots appear to hit three of his comrades, including a shot fired through a hole in a wall. A similar video published on closed Taliban groups on Telegram in mid-February appeared to show a sniper hitting at least …

Holding exams in the snow: A sign of ‘ethnic discrimination’ in Afghanistan?

Photos have emerged in Afghanistan showing rows of high-school students sitting on the snowy ground to take the annual university entrance exams. The photographs, taken in Daykundi province in the center of Afghanistan, have nothing to do with social distancing due to Covid-19. Students in rural parts of Afghanistan have been taking exams in the snow for years simply because the regions lack infrastructures such as exam halls and even chairs. Residents say the problem is especially acute in regions like Daykundi that are home to members of the long-persecuted Hazara ethnic group. While the season of university entrance exams has not yet officially begun in Afghanistan, in some rural regions officials are holding the exams early, citing logistical problems and lack of manpower. The latest images from Daykundi were posted on Twitter on March 6 by Arif Rahmani, an opposition MP and member of Afghanistan’s Enlightenment Movement, a Hazara rights group that emerged during the 2016 protests over the cancellation of a major electricity project. “The current government exhibits ethnic and tribal discrimination that …